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Open Letter: Palestinian Civil Society Organizations Call on the UN General Assembly to Urgently Adopt Resolution on Ceasefire
26، Oct 2023

Adopt the draft resolution 

Our organizations, Al-Haq, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reiterate the urgent need to call for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and the demand that Israel comply with its obligations under international law, including by lifting the 16-year land, sea, and air blockade, and withdrawing all military forces from the illegally occupied Palestinian territory, as mandated under numerous UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolutions.*

Tomorrow, the UNGA will be asked to vote on a draft resolution prepared by Jordan on behalf of the Arab Group of UN Member States. Amongst other demands, this draft resolution calls for an immediate ceasefire, the rescission by Israel of the evacuation order given to civilians of north Gaza that is tantamount to forcible population transfer and ethnic cleansing, and the unhindered provision of sufficient goods and services to civilians in the Gaza Strip, including restoration of access to food, water, fuel, and electricity. In doing so, the resolution stresses the imperative under international humanitarian law to not deprive a civilian population of their basic needs for survival. The draft resolution also emphasizes “the importance of preventing further destabilization and escalation of violence in the region and, in this regard, calls on all parties to exercise maximum restraint and on all those with influence on them to work toward this objective”. As Palestinian civilians in Gaza, including a million children, are trapped under siege in dire conditions under almost constant bombing, where they have no access to safe shelter, food, water, electricity, or fuel, these demands to uphold international law are urgent.

 Consider revoking Israel’s seat in the UNGA 

Our organizations further consider that Israel’s flagrant and persistent violations of international law and the principles outlined in the UN Charter, including its maintaining of an apartheid regime over the Palestinian people, calls into question its continued membership in the UN General Assembly. The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing, Balakrishnan Rajagopal, raised the issue of unseating Israel from the UNGA on 25 October, 2023, citing the 1974 decision to effectively bar apartheid South Africa from exercising membership rights in the General Assembly. Such an action has precedent and is in line with the UN Charter. In particular, Israel’s admission to UN membership through UNGA Resolution 273 was made conditional on Israel honoring its obligations under Resolution 181 with respect to the status of Palestine and Jerusalem, and Resolution 194 on the return and repatriation of Palestinian refugees, two resolutions which Israel has consistently refused to fulfill since 1948 and therefore, is in violation of its terms of membership in the UN. Given Israel’s continued flagrant violations of international law, including those conditioning its membership to the UN, and its continued illegal occupation, aggressions on the Gaza Strip, annexation of Palestinian territory, imposition of a settler colonial apartheid regime – under international law the UNGA is within its rights under the UN Charter to vote to unseat Israel from the UNGA and should do so.**

Trigger UNGA Resolution 377A(V) and impose sanctions

In light of the veto block paralysis at the UN Security Council (UNSC), the UNGA is convening a UN General Assembly Emergency Special Session on 26 October 2023, in accordance with Resolution 377A(V). Al-Haq, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights call on the UNGA Member States and regional organizations, including the European Union, African Union, and Arab League, to use all mechanisms at their disposal to ensure that sanctions and countermeasures are placed on Israel. 

A UNGA Resolution 377A(V) ‘Uniting for Peace’ resolution becomes necessary, when the UNSC, because of the lack of unanimity of its permanent members, fails to exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. It can be used for example, where the United States has veto blocked all UNSC resolutions for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. Amid Israel’s ongoing aggressive and indiscriminate military onslaught, the UNGA can seize itself of the matter. 

Under the ‘Uniting for Peace’ resolution, the UNGA can also make recommendations for sanctions and further UN actions to bring Israel in line with its obligations under international law. Under the doctrine of countermeasures, the UNGA can recommend that third States adopt sanctions coordinated by the UNGA to pressure a cessation of the breach by an offending State. We remind that UN Member States can and must adopt sanctions against Israel demanding it desist from its acts of aggression on the Gaza Strip, forced population transfer, indiscriminate razing and destruction of civilian homes and infrastructure, collective punishment, apartheid and intent and incitement to genocide, and to pressure Israel to rescind its illegal acts as called for in numerous UNGA resolutions.

Genocide incitement and the obligation of Member States to prevent genocide 

Palestinians are in grave danger of mass ethnic cleansing. Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, has warned that the international community must take action to protect the population in Gaza from further atrocities “before we reach a point of no return”. Since 7 October, and as of 25 October, more than 6,547 Palestinians have been killed, including at least 2,704 children, more than 17,439 injured, and over 1.4 million people have been forcibly displaced as a result of Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip. On 12 October, the Israeli military issued an evacuation order for 1.1 million Palestinians in north Gaza to move south within 24 hours, amid airstrikes that killed and wounded families following the evacuation orders and amidst ongoing attacks throughout the south. Nowhere is safe for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Hospitals and UN schools, where families seek shelter, have been targeted by Israeli airstrikes repeatedly, including the recent strike on the al-Ahli Hospital. 

Our organizations are particularly concerned that Israeli cabinet ministers and military commanders have issued genocidal statements, calling for water, food and electricity to be cut off from the Palestinian people, which they have acted upon. On 15 October 2023, over 800 scholars and practitioners of international law, including prominent Holocaust and genocide studies scholars, signed a public statement warning of the possibility of genocide being perpetrated by Israeli forces against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. On 19 October a joint statement by UN Experts warned, “There is an ongoing campaign by Israel resulting in crimes against humanity in Gaza. Considering statements made by Israeli political leaders and their allies, accompanied by military action in Gaza and escalation of arrests and killing in the West Bank, there is also a risk of genocide against the Palestinian People”.

A ceasefire, a rescission of the evacuation order amounting to forced displacement, and a lifting of the closure on the Gaza Strip is necessary to protect the civilian population from mass ethnic cleansing and an impending genocide. Third States not only have an obligation to intervene to protect the Palestinian population against genocide. Third State responsibility is also “incurred if the State manifestly failed to take all measures to prevent genocide which were within its power, and which might have contributed to preventing the genocide”.

In light of the above, we urge UN General Assembly Member States, including third States, to:

1. Call for an immediate ceasefire, the unimpeded access of fuel and humanitarian aid, including water, food, and medical supplies, into the Gaza Strip to alleviate the humanitarian crisis; and for Israel to allow the immediate and unconditional transfer of patients from Gaza to receive healthcare treatments, including lifesaving treatments;

2. Call on Israel to immediately and unconditionally withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territory, and to reverse its forcible transfer order, removing over 1 million Palestinians from the north to the south of the Gaza Strip in what is effectively an undisguised land grab;

3. Recommend and coordinate Third States to apply sanctions and countermeasures against Israel, including ending trade, diplomatic relations and ending two-way arms trade dealings with Israel, to bring to an end its aggressive acts in breach of international law, including its  56-year illegal military presence in the occupied Palestinian territory;

4. Address the root causes underpinning the ongoing Israeli military aggression, including Israel’s apartheid regime since 1948, as a tool of its settler colonialism, and the denial of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people, including their right to return; Rescind the UN General Assembly membership rights of apartheid Israel, for its flagrant breaches of Resolution 181 with respect to the status of Palestine and Jerusalem, and Resolution 194 on the return and repatriation of Palestinian refugees, two resolutions which Israel has consistently refused to fulfill since 1948;

5. Refrain from assisting in maintaining such an illegal situation of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and cooperate to bring the illegal conduct to an end, and call for full accountability for international crimes; In light of the ongoing atrocities against the Palestinian people under Israel’s full effective control as Occupying Power, ensure the responsibility of the international community to protect when a State is manifestly failing to protect its populations; 

6. That the General Assembly carry out its responsibility to rebuild: to provide, particularly after a military intervention, full assistance with recovery, reconstruction, and reconciliation, and address the root causes underlying Israel’s successive military offensives on the Gaza Strip; In this vein, call on Israel to lift its 16-year-old illegal blockade and closure on the Gaza Strip, and end its illegal occupation as a continuing act of aggression since 1967, in breach of the UN Charter;

7. Call for the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to immediately issue arrest warrants for the cases of apparent international crimes committed by Israeli authorities and military personnel, as identified by the submission of the Prosecutor to the Pre-Trial Chamber. International impunity from the prolonged delay in issuing the arrest warrants is fueling more aggressive and unconstrained rounds of hostilities, with mounting civilian casualties.


*UNGA Res A/RES/36/147E Res (16 December 1981); UNGA Res A/RES/36/226A (17 December 1981); UNGA Res A/RES/37/123F (20 December 1982); UNGA Res A/RES/38/180D (19 December 1983); UNGA Res A/RES/39/146A (14 December 1984); UNGA Res A/RES/40/168A (16 December 1985); UNGA Res A/RES/41/162A (4 December 1986); UNGA Res A/RES/42/209B (11 December 1987); UNGA A/RES/43/54A (6 December 1988).

**Alden Abbott, Filiberto Augusti, Peter Brown & Elizabeth Rode, The General Assembly,

29th Session: The Decredentialization of South Africa, 16 HARV. INT'l. L. J. 576, 579 (1975) documenting South Africa precedent and stating that Art. 12(1) has never been applied as strictly as its language might suggest.