Case Before International Court of Justice Will Expose Israel’s Prolonged Illegal Policies, Permanent Observer Tells Palestinian Rights Committee
Presenting Study on Legality of Israeli Occupation,
Former Special Rapporteur Stresses ‘These Are Powerful Findings’
Highlighting the international community’ paralysis and lack of progress to hold Israel accountable for its actions, the Permanent Observer reported on preparations for the case being brought before the International Court of Justice that exposes Israel’s prolonged illegal practices and policies that deny the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, as the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People approved its annual report today.
The Palestinian people are outraged by the lack of progress in putting an end to their tragedies, declared Riyad H. Mansour, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine. According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the number of Palestinians killed this year has already exceeded the number of those killed in 2022; this includes 44 children. Yet, the Secretary-General in his report on children in armed conflict did not list Israel as a country violating children’s rights, he said.
“The current Israeli Government is the most extreme rightist Government in the history of the Governments of Israel,” he observed. It includes fascist ministers considered by the Israeli legal system as promoting terrorism. One such minister who has advanced a racist manifesto also announced that his and his family’s right to remain alive is greater than the right of the Palestinian people to circulate in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Further, the current Government is expediting annexation, particularly to the majority area — the so-called Area C — which constitutes about 60 per cent of the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, he continued. Palestinians are facing the demolition of homes, displacement of families and threats against Masafer Yatta and other areas in the Occupied Territory, as well as against holy sites in occupied East Jerusalem, from extremist elements.
Moreover, the settlement enterprise is being intensified and the besieging of the Gaza Strip continues, threatening the 2 million people who live in that “manmade huge prison”, he said, adding: “This is the reality on the ground that we are struggling against.” He decried the paralysis of the international community, including the Security Council, that reiterates principled positions but does not take practical steps to hold Israel accountable and force it to honour its commitments under the Charter of the United Nations and in accordance with resolutions and international law. “The Palestinian people will never surrender, will never raise white flags,” he stated, noting that a number of them are taking issues into their own hands.
His delegation is engaged in the follow-up and preparation of documentations for submission before the International Court of Justice, he also reported, voicing appreciation for the 58 countries who submitted opinions to the Court in support of the argument that exposes Israel’s prolonged illegal practices and policies denying the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination. A rebuttal to the International Court of Justice is being prepared before 25 October to reject the few submissions that are trying to point to a political process that is under way and in which the Court should not interfere.
Noting his delegation’s participation at the forthcoming session of the General Assembly, he voiced hope that the Committee and its members will be at the forefront to advance the cause of the Palestinian people to attain their inalienable rights. “Maybe soon we will see some light at the end of the tunnel,” he said, voicing hope that maybe soon the State of Palestine will become a full member in the United Nations system as its 194th Member State.
As the floor opened for comments, Pedro Pedroso (Cuba), Committee Vice-Chair, standing in for the Rapporteur of the Bureau of the Committee, called the tacit extermination of the Palestinian people and denial of their rights, evicting them from their land in “a process of ethnic cleansing”, unacceptable. However, “here we’re just acting as if it’s business as usual,” he stated. The world is not aware and the media does not report what is happening in Palestine — and neither does the United Nations and the Security Council. “And yet when it comes to other situations, we talk about those every day,” he stated. Committee members have a moral duty “to turn things around”, he stressed.
Egypt’s representative commended the Committee for its efforts, noting attempts to mobilize international support for the Palestinian people and their cause, “the main priority for the Arab people”. His country is working to maintain stability in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and end the violence against Palestinians, end all unilateral Israeli actions seeking to change the territories’ legal status, liberate the movement of goods and people and mobilize support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), he said.
Jordan’s representative stressed the need for the international community to stop the dangerous escalation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Israeli incursions into Palestinian cities, seizing of lands and displacement of people. His country continues to exercise its historic role as custodian of the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem and take all measures to maintain the historic and legal status quo, he said, affirming that a just and lasting peace requires the end of the occupation and establishment of an independent Palestinian State along the 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Tunisia’s representative highlighted serious violations committed by Israel, calling for an end to its occupation. The Palestinian cause will remain a top priority for his country, including guaranteeing their inalienable rights, he emphasized.
Michael Lynk, former Special Rapporteur, then briefed the Committee on the study it commissioned regarding the legality of the Israeli occupation, underscoring that “no one can say the subject has been treated lightly or thinly”. While many features of the 56-year-old Israeli occupation are illegal in themselves, the study’s central aim is to answer the question of whether the occupation itself is illegal and — if so — to outline the consequences for Israel, the international community and the United Nations. The concept of illegal occupation is not a new idea in international law. The United Nations has stated that South Africa’s rule over Namibia, Portugal’s rule in Guinea-Bissau and Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories are illegal occupations.
He noted that the study highlights three peremptory norms that can determine if an occupation has become illegal, including whether the occupying Power has moved to annex any part of the occupied territory; whether that Power has breached the right to self-determination of the people under occupation; and whether that Power has instituted policies of discrimination or apartheid in the occupied territory. A breach of any of these norms would indicate that an occupation has become illegal; a breach of all three would be conclusive evidence of such illegality. The study concludes that Israel — as the occupying Power — “is in gross violation of all three of these norms and is, therefore, a bad-faith occupier”.
He also noted that the study finds many parallels between the situation in the State of Palestine today and South Africa’s apartheid rule over Namibia 50 years ago. Due to the illegality of its occupation, Israel is obliged to withdraw from the Occupied Palestinian Territory immediately, completely and unconditionally. Further, Israel is responsible for reparations. The international community must move away from the “land-for-peace” paradigm and towards Israel’s complete withdrawal to the 1967 lines.
“These are powerful findings,” he stressed, noting that the study addresses the questions that will be put before the International Court of Justice. It will also resonate in political, diplomatic and intellectual circles around the world because it is one of the most comprehensive reports on occupation, decolonization and self-determination ever published by the United Nations, he added.
Mr. Mansour thanked Professor Lynk for his valuable work, noting that the study is yet another tool for Member States to intensify their efforts in support of the Palestinian people’s struggle to end the occupation. He urged the Committee members and all colleagues to disseminate the document to their Governments, universities and law schools for their benefit or further contributions.
Mr. Pedroso then presented the draft annual report of the Committee (document A/78/35), covering the events related to the Question of Palestine, as well as the work of the Committee between 1 September 2022 and 31 August 2023. Describing the contents of the report’s seven chapters, including the Committee’s recommendations in Chapter VII, he said the Committee urged Israel to halt and reverse annexation, home demolitions, settlement expansion and forced displacement of Palestinians, including women and children. It further called on Israel to revoke punitive measures against the Palestinian Authority, end the disproportionate use of lethal force, respect the status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem and lift the blockade of Gaza.
He also said that the Secretary-General was requested to continue to use his good offices in support of a two-State solution. Finally, the Committee urged regional organizations to take a politically active role to end the Israeli occupation, further calling on Member States to support UNRWA and to carefully review Israel’s use of counter-terrorism legislation against Palestinian civil society organizations with a view to delegitimizing and undermining its activities.
Indonesia’s representative stressed the need for increased political visibility of Palestinians’ fight in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and mobilized pressure by the international community to stop the occupying Power’s apartheid policies and systemic violations of international law. “Almost every day or every other day we speak about violations of the Charter on other crises or conflicts, but rarely do we mention the situation in Palestine,” he underscored, stressing the need to continue pushing for concrete steps to achieve just and lasting peace for the Palestinian people.
The Committee then approved its draft annual report for submission to the General Assembly, which is scheduled to be presented during its consideration of the “Question of Palestine” on 28 November.
Following the announcement by Cheikh Niang (Senegal), Chair of the Committee, that eight civil society organizations requested accreditation, the Committee approved the request for accreditation by the Palestine Land Society, as recommended by the Bureau.
Turning to the Committee’s activities, Mr. Niang recalled the Commemoration of the seventy-fifth Nakba anniversary in May, the meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of the State of Palestine in April, meetings with UNRWA – the Commissioner-General in June and the Chief of Staff in July — and a conference on Jerusalem in July.
He also reported that the Committee submitted a statement to the quarterly Security Council open debate on the Middle East in July. On 22 August, the Bureau in its meeting with the Secretary-General advocated for his visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territory as soon as possible, for increased protection to the Palestinians, and pressed for the urgency of providing a political horizon to resolve the question of Palestine. The Secretary-General reiterated the Organization’s support for the two-State solution and said he looked forward to visiting in the near future.
Encouraging all to participate in upcoming Committee activities, Mr. Niang highlighted a documentary film screening and panel discussion on 12 October about “revisiting Tantura and the events of 1948”, featuring the director and an Al Haq representative. A November event will cover the documentary The Killing of Shireen Abu-Akleh. This year’s commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People will be held on 29 November and will include the inauguration of the traditional exhibit in the General Assembly Lobby, a reception, and another side event in United Nations Headquarters with the Committee’s civil society organization partners, he said.
The Division for Palestinian Rights has continued disseminating a quarterly newsletter on the activities of the Committee, a monthly bulletin with all United Nations documents on the question of Palestine, and a weekly NGO Action News with information on the work of organizations in Palestine, Israel, and elsewhere. The social media channels and mailing list managed by the Division have also played a crucial role in disseminating information, he added.