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Denying Recognition of the State of Palestine is an Act of Collective Punishment
11، Nov 2023

On 6 November 2023, Al-Haq, a Palestinian NGO, based in Ramallah, sent letters to all members of the Norwegian Parliament to urge full support for  Motion 237 S in advance of the vote on 14 November. Motion 237 S includes the recognition of Palestine as a State, Norwegian ratification of the UN Apartheid Convention and a law to ban goods and services from companies that operate in occupied territories in breach of international law. 

It recently came to our attention that some Committee members have suggested refraining from recognising Palestine as a State due to the ongoing situation, more specifically the Hamas attacks on the 7th of October. We are concerned that members of the Standing Committee of Foreign Affairs, including members from the Labor Party, the Center Party and the Liberal Party, referred to:

[T]he serious acts of terrorism in the conflict between Hamas and Israel. The terrorist attack by Hamas against Israeli civilians is very serious and shows a brutal escalation of a conflict that has characterized the region for a long time. These members point out that Israel, according to international law, has the right to defend itself. These members will nevertheless emphasize that the principle that civilians must be protected must be invariable. These members will point out that Hamas is not synonymous with the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority. In the opinion of these members, Hamas is responsible for the terrorist attacks on 7 October 2023. These members believe that it would not be right to recognize Palestine as a state as the situation is now.

We urge the members to reconsider their stance. The current deterioration of the situation on the ground cannot be understood without taking into consideration the decades-long system of oppression imposed on the Palestinian people, as recently recognised by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who stated that the Hamas attack “did not happen in a vacuum”.

As Palestinian civil society, we continue to witness and document the continuation of Israel’s subjugation of the Palestinian people. Israel’s structural regimes of settler-colonialism, apartheid and occupation are maintained through systematic and widespread human rights violations. These international crimes severely undermine the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to full external self-determination, a non-derogable jus cogens norm of international law and their collective right of return.

The right of the Palestinian people to full independence has been held on ‘sacred trust’ by the international community for the Palestinian people since the Palestine Mandate. UN General Assembly resolution 77/208 (2022) not only “[r]eaffirms the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right to their independent State of Palestine” but also “[u]rges all States and the specialized agencies and organizations of the United Nations system to continue to support and assist the Palestinian people in the early realization of their right to self-determination”. We ask that Norway support this call. 

The last two years have seen a sharp escalation in violence towards Palestinians across the occupied territory. We have witnessed increased forced displacements of Palestinian communities, military raids and settler attacks leading to an alarming rise in killings and maiming of Palestinians, the highest recorded since 2005. Simultaneously, there has been a widespread pattern of arbitrary arrests and unlawful detention of Palestinians across the West Bank. According to OCHA, “1,105 people from 28 Communities – about 12 percent of their population – had been displaced from their areas of residence since 2022”. In July 2023, UN Special Rapporteurs warned that “Israel’s continuous annexation of portions of the occupied Palestinian territory, [is] now focusing on large swathes of the West Bank”. 

Since the October 7th, the already increasing subjugation and violence have reached unprecedented heights. In Gaza, as of November 2nd, an alarming 9,061 Palestinians have been killed and 22,911 injured by Israel’s unnecessary, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, with the majority being women and minors. Approximately 1.4 million people have been internally displaced in the Gaza Strip, mainly forced to evacuate from north to south while at least 45 percent of Gaza’s housing units have been partially or completely destroyed. The evacuation order to ethnically cleanse the northern Gaza Strip has been condemned as a war crime and crime against humanity by UN Experts, and a warning of genocide has been sounded. In the West Bank, 132 Palestinians have been killed by armed settlers or the Israeli military since October 7th, while over 5,000 Palestinians have been arrested, doubling the number of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. In addition, 12 communities have already been forcibly displaced with more under immediate threat.

In light of the above, we once again urge the members of the Committee to support the adoption of Motion 237 S. The situation on the ground has only deteriorated in recent years and is currently worsening catastrophically. As an organisation dedicated to the promotion and protection of Palestinian human rights, Al-Haq has welcomed previous steps taken before the Norwegian Parliament in favour of the recognition of Palestinian statehood. Today, following 75 years of settler colonialism and apartheid, 56 years of belligerent occupation, and the current mass atrocities committed against the Palestinian people, the time for recognition is overdue. 

Israel is increasing the fragmentation of the Palestinian territory into settlement enclaves threatening its very territorial contiguity and radically altering the Palestinian demography with colonial settlers. The recognition of the State of Palestine is a crucial step towards ensuring the realisation of the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people as a whole and recognising and protecting the existence of the People and their territory.