On Friday, 6 September 2019, Al-Marsad – Arab Human Rights Centre in Golan Heights, Cornell Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic and Al-Haq sent a joint submission to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (the “Committee”) ahead of the State of Israel’s periodic review under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (the “Covenant”). The submission, focusing on the systemic and manifestly unlawful exploitation of renewable and non-renewable energy resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and the occupied Syrian Golan, sheds light on Israel’s extensive failures, as Occupying Power, under the Covenant and international humanitarian law to protect and refrain from infringing on the economic, social and cultural rights of the occupied Palestinian and Syrian people in the OPT and Golan, primarily the right to self-determination and permanent sovereignty over natural resources.
For more than 50 years, Israel, as Occupying Power, has devised a myriad of methods to deepen and expand its territorial control. Israel has systematically implemented these measures to hamper the economic, social, and cultural rights of the Palestinians and Golani Syrians, while favouring the interests of Israel, its citizens, its economy, and corporate entities, notably in occupied territories. The submission specifically highlights the role of business enterprises in the unlawful exploitation of natural resources in both occupied territories, thus infringing on the social, economic and cultural rights of the occupied populations therein. For example, the submission highlights the ongoing involvement of Afek Oil and Gas, Noble Energy and Delek Drilling in the unlawful exploitation of natural oil and gas reserves, violating their responsibilities under international law.
In addition, the submission notes the prevalence of violations in the renewable sector throughout the occupied territories, particularly the proposed erection of 31 wind turbines by Energix Renewable Energies in the occupied Syrian Golan. These turbines, which are estimated to occupy a quarter of the remaining agricultural land available to Golani Syrians, are expected to cause serious health risks, in breach of Article 12 of the Covenant, as well infringing upon the local Golani Syrian peoples’ cultural relationship with the land, as protected under Article 15. Further, the submission notes the activities of Clal Sun, First Solar, PADCON, SMA Solar Technology, and ABB Group in the construction of solar fields in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The construction of these solar fields accompanies a de facto prohibition on the development of renewable energy projects by Palestinians, as well as the demolition and confiscation of pre-existing solar fields by the Israeli authorities, resulting in various infringements on the rights guaranteed in the Covenant, thwarting attempts to utilise renewable resources, thus stunting their respective economies, in violation of the Article 11 right to an adequate standard of living, and amounting to discrimination, prohibited under Article 2.
The cases presented in the joint submission are emblematic of the wider situation depicting Israel’s extensive and unlawful exploitation of natural resources in occupied territories and serve to provide an account of corporate involvement and complicity in the prolonged Israeli occupation and systemic violations of the economic, social and cultural rights of Palestinians and Golani Syrians.
In light of the above, the following recommendations were made to the Committee:
- Call on Israel to fulfil its obligations under international human rights law, notably its obligations under the Covenant, and international humanitarian law in the Golan and OPT;
- Condemn Israel’s failure to safeguard Palestinians’ and Syrians’ rights as guaranteed by the Covenant, notably the right to self-determination and permanent sovereignty over natural resources, among others;
- Condemn Israel’s discriminatory application of laws and regulations in the areas under its control, especially laws and regulations that prohibit Syrians and Palestinians from controlling, accessing, and developing their natural resources;
- Call on Israel to ensure the genuine consent of the occupied populations in the OPT and Golan before engaging in any projects that extract their resources, including by holding extensive and effective consultations;
- Call on Israel to establish policies, while it insists on maintaining its unlawful occupations, that allow Syrians and Palestinians within their respective homelands, in line with international law, to freely develop their natural resources and foster natural resource-based industries;
- Call on Israel to stop providing incentives that allow for and facilitate the expansion of illegal settlements in occupied territories;
- Call on Israel to cease its encouragement and authorization of Israeli and multinational commercial enterprises’ activities in occupied territories under circumstances that violate Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law. Further, Israel must regulate, in line with international law, the operations and activities of Israeli and multinational corporations in the occupied territories;
- Call on Israel, as a U.N. Member State, to respect the work, independence, and impartiality of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, including U.N. Human Rights Council resolution 31/36 (2016);
- Call on Israel, as an Occupying Power, to comply with the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in relation to business activities in the OPT and Golan;
- Condemn Israel’s attempts to silence opposition to its policies and practices that violate rights under the Covenant through such mechanisms as “anti-BDS” laws;
- Call on Israel to guarantee the right of human rights defenders in occupied territories to exercise free speech, including their right to criticize the policies and practices of the Israeli government and other private entities that violate the rights enshrined in the Covenant.
To read the full submission, click here.