On 9 March, Al-Haq on behalf of partner organizations, delivered an oral statement under interactive dialogue with Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights as part of its engagement with the Human Rights Council 49th Session. The statement addressed Israel’s apartheid policies and practices targeting the Palestinian people’s cultural rights, particularly, Israel’s bombardment of cultural heritage sites in the Gaza Strip during its May 2021 military offensive, resulting in the erasure of Palestinian heritage and impeding the Palestinian people from protecting their culture, and realizing their right to self-determination. The statement built on Al-Haq’s most recent report, titled “Cultural Apartheid: Israel’s Erasure of Palestinian Heritage in Gaza.”
The oral statement read as follows:
49th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Interactive Dialogue under Item 3
Joint Oral Intervention[i]
Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man
NGO in special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council
Date: 8 March 2022
Cultural apartheid, Israel’s erasure of Palestinian heritage
Mr. President, Ms. Special Rapporteur,
Israel has maintained its apartheid regime including through targeting, erasing, appropriating and/or exploiting Palestinian cultural heritage, as it’s integral to people’s identity, and social cohesion, and contributes to the exercise of their right to self-determination.
In the West Bank, the Israeli occupying authorities control archaeological sites, which are under continuous threat by Israel’s expanding settlement enterprise.
In the Gaza Strip, Israel’s 14-year-old blockade, coupled with its indiscriminate and disproportionate bombings of cultural sites, have prevented Palestinians from protecting their cultural heritage, including through archeological excavations. In May 2021, Israeli bombardment on Gaza damaged cultural heritage sites including the oldest known seaport in Gaza, the second oldest mosque in Palestine, and sites on UNESCO’s Tentative List. The bombardment also targeted open lands on Gaza coastline overlying a Roman city, previously bombed in 2012, 2014, and 2018, leaving a multitude of large craters.
We call on Member States to:
- Recognize Israel’s unlawful destruction of Palestinian cultural heritage as an element that enables it to entrench its apartheid regime;
- Call on the UN Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights to visit Palestine, and report on Israel’s violations of Palestinian cultural rights; and
- Call on the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and the UN Commission of Inquiry to include attacks on cultural property in their investigation as amounting to war crimes, and the crime against humanity of apartheid.
Please see video statement here.
[i] Joining organizations:
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy- "MIFTAH", Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling, The Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.