Al-Haq, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights call on the UN Security Council to address root causes and protect the Palestinian people from Israeli attacks. As Member States of the UN Security Council (UNSC) convene to discuss the events unfolding on both sides of the Green Line in Palestine, which started on 7 October 2023, Member States must consider Israel’s 75-year settler-colonial apartheid regime, 56-year illegal occupation, and 16-year unlawful blockade and closure of the Gaza Strip as the root causes of the Palestinian plight. UN Member States hold primary responsibility for the violence in Palestine through their inaction and complicity in Israel’s systematic and widespread violations, and must protect the Palestinian people against Israeli retaliatory attacks.
On 7 October 2023, Palestinian armed groups in the occupied Gaza Strip carried out a number of military operations. Israel has been waging war against the Gaza Strip since its illegal occupation in 1967, and for over 16 years has declared the entire Gaza Strip a “hostile entity”, imposing a land, air and maritime closure, and subjugating Palestinians therein to measures of collective punishment, in violation of international law. In this time, Israel has carried out at least six massive military offensives since 2008, which have rendered the Gaza Strip uninhabitable. Between 2010 and 2019, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) recorded 3,624 Palestinians and 203 Israelis killed, and 103,207 Palestinians and 4,642 Israelis injured, in the decade.
While third States are fast condemning the military actions of Palestinian armed groups, UNSC Member States need to be reminded of the number of missed occasions they had to prevent the escalation of violence. For decades, since it established its illegal occupation, Israel has failed to uphold its duties as Occupying Power, has entrenched its settler-colonial apartheid regime, prevented the Palestinian people from exercising their right to self-determination and return, and has been committing systematic and widespread human rights violations, amounting to international crimes, against the Palestinian people.
The past two years have been marked as the bloodiest of Israeli violence since the second Intifada. Between January 2022 and 30 September 2023, Israeli occupying forces (IOF) and settlers killed 426 Palestinians, including 89 children from the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT)*. As of 19 September 2023, Israel arbitrarily arrested 5,200 Palestinians, including 170 children, and 1,264 Palestinians are currently held arbitrarily under administrative detention. Between 2022 and 30 June 2023, OCHA recorded 1,449 settler attacks, while Israeli occupying authorities demolished 436 Palestinian homes, forcibly displacing 1,660 Palestinians, half of whom are children.
The International Court of Justice, in its Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (2004), called on third States to uphold their international obligations, including through non-recognition of Israel’s wrongful acts, including the obligation to not contribute to the internationally wrongful acts and the obligation to cooperate to bring the illegal acts to an end. Two decades later, the Wall not only still stands, it has been expanded to appropriate more Palestinian land, creating facts on the ground which have become a fait accompli, de facto annexation. Meanwhile, third States have largely turned a blind eye to their obligations to bring to an end any impediment resulting from the construction of the wall, as well as other violations, which operate to deny the exercise by the Palestinian people of its inalienable right to self-determination.
The failure by third States to uphold the ICJ’s advisory opinion, as well as the numerous UN resolutions, has resulted in Israel’s aggressive and unrestrained construction of illegal settlements, its entrenchment of a discriminatory apartheid regime underpinned by impunity for international crimes. For decades, Palestinians have been calling on the international community to take concrete and meaningful actions, beyond statements of condemnation, to put an end to these violations, including imposing sanctions, arms embargoes and countermeasures against Israel. The international community’s lack of political will to hold Israel to account only emboldens Israel to continue committing crimes against the Palestinian people as a whole.
The ‘Question of Palestine’ remains the permanent responsibility of the UN. As previously reaffirmed by the UN General Assembly (UNGA), “the United Nations has a permanent responsibility towards the question of Palestine until the question is resolved in all its aspects in a satisfactory manner in accordance with international legitimacy”. Notably, the UN General Assembly decision to partition Palestine under Resolution 181 (II) into an ‘Arab’ and a ‘Jewish’ state completely disregarded the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination. When Israel sought membership in the UN in 1949, it promised to respect all relevant UN resolutions. However, Israel has failed to implement every relevant UN resolution, including UNGA Resolution 194 (III) of 11 December 1948, which requires Israel to fulfill the right of return of Palestinian refugees, displaced persons, and exiles, UNSC Resolution 478 of 1980 prohibiting Israel from altering the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and UNSC Resolution 2334 of 2016 demanding Israel to immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.
We remind UNSC Member States of their obligation to protect the two million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, who are at risk of retaliatory Israeli violence. So far, Israel has launched airstrikes, killing hundreds of Palestinians and wounding thousands, bombing residential buildings, has cut off electricity and asked Gaza residents to leave the besieged Strip, which, given the practical impossibility of such, may amount to threats to commit war crimes against civilians. We once more reiterate our call to the UN Security Council to refer Israel’s continuing acts of aggression, including its illegal occupation of the Gaza Strip for investigation to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.
Sixteen consecutive years of Israeli closure and repeated military attacks have driven Gaza into the brink of collapse and produced disastrous socio-economic conditions. Given the current status of Gaza’s crippled infrastructure, that does not allow it to cope with long periods of hostilities, Netanyahu’s reprisals will have far reaching and grave consequences for the medical response, and may arise in grave breaches including wilfully causing great suffering to the civilian population. Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship are also at risk of retaliatory Israeli Police and settler violence, and punitive mass arrests.
Given Israel’s decades-long illegal occupation and apartheid, the Palestinian people as a colonized people have a recognized right to exercise full external self-determination and independence from colonial, foreign domination and alien subjugation, as reaffirmed in UNGA Resolution 1514 of 1960 and Resolution 3246 of 1974.
Accordingly, Al-Haq, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights call on the Member States of the UNSC to:
1. Recognize and condemn Israel’s illegal occupation, settler-colonialism, and apartheid regime as the root causes underpinning the continuous waves of conflict in the territory;
2. Demand Israel’s immediate, unconditional and total withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territory, as required in UN resolutions since 1967;
3. Call for the dismantling of Israel’s settler colonial apartheid regime on both sides of the Green Line;
4. Take concrete steps to ensure the protection of the Palestinian people, particularly in the Gaza Strip, facing retaliatory Israeli attacks;
5. Sanction Israel’s illegal occupation, apartheid and acts of aggression through the application of an arms embargo, economic sanctions and countermeasures against Israel.
*According to Al-Haq’s documentation.