As some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails marked 30 days of a “freedom and dignity” hunger strike, Israel continued to ignore their most basic demands and intensify its abuse and collective punishment, the Palestinian Rights Committee heard today.
“Despair among the prisoners is rising,” warned Feda Abdelhady-Nasser, Deputy Observer for the State of Palestine, during a meeting of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
She called on the Committee to issue a statement conveying solidarity with the non-violent movement launched by prisoners to protest Israel’s illegal occupation and the degrading conditions in Israeli prisons. The international community must continue to place pressure on Israel to abide by international law and relevant Security Council resolutions.
Such a message from the Committee and the international community would send a strong signal of support, she said, underscoring that the hunger strike continued to inflict much suffering on the prisoners themselves and their families. Meanwhile, Israel continued to ignore the protestors’ elementary demands, including an end to solitary confinement. She also noted the declining health and heightened frustrations among prisoners’ families.
Against the backdrop of rising tensions, and the recent visit of President Mahmoud Abbas to Washington, D.C., the rights of the Palestinian people continued to be denied, she said. In Gaza, some 2 million Palestinians remained under Israel’s blockade, which continued to inflict collective punishment. The Committee must persist with the demand to alleviate the dire situation.
In the West Bank, Israel’s illegal colonization and flagrant violations of international law continued with impunity, she said, pointing to the construction of thousands more settlement units, continued building of the separation wall and the demolition of Palestinian homes. Such flagrant violations would not be possible if the Security Council enforced its resolutions based firmly on international law.
Referring to the recent Secretary-General report on United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) financing, she urged Committee members to support ways to end the severe funding shortfall. The Agency must be able to meet the needs of the millions of Palestinian refugees displaced throughout the region. The Agency could be funded through enhanced voluntary contributions, expanding the donor base and the possible establishment of trust funds, she added.
Speaking later in the meeting, the representative of the League of Arab States expressed concern regarding the hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners.
Also today, Fodé Seck (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee, outlined activities since its last meeting. He said they included a briefing for staff and observers on 22 February and a meeting with the Secretary-General on 22 March. During the latter event, the Committee bureau conveyed to the Secretary-General the importance that his report on the implementation of Security Council resolution 2334 (2017) be substantive and in writing.
He said the Secretary-General reiterated his full support to the Committee, stated his strong preference for a two-State solution, and reaffirmed the illegality of Israeli settlements. On 24 March, the Security Council held its monthly briefing on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, and on 10 April, the Committee agreed on the draft programme for the United Nations Forum to mark 50 Years of Occupation, to be held on 29 and 30 June in New York.
Malta’s representative then presented two reports in his capacity as the Committee Rapporteur on the United Nations Roundtable on the Question of Palestine, held on 4 February 2017 in Managua, Nicaragua, and on the delegation visit to Mexico City, Mexico, on 7 February, as well as on the United Nations Capacity Building Workshop on Sustainable Development Goals for Staff of the State of Palestine, held on 27 and 28 April 2017 in Beirut, Lebanon.
The representative of Nicaragua said his country was proud to have hosted the historic seminar in February, which was the first time that the whole Central American Palestinian diaspora had come together for such an event. He recalled that the seminar represented an important opportunity for the Committee to learn about the historical bonds between the people of Palestine and Nicaragua.
Lebanon’s representative expressed great pleasure to have hosted the capacity-building workshop in collaboration with UNRWA. She noted that the workshop had generated significant attention and follow-up activities by both the Palestinians and Lebanese.
Indonesia’s representative said the capacity-building workshop that had been held in Lebanon was of particular relevance and similar activities should be considered.
The speaker for Bangladesh stressed the importance of capacity-building for the Palestinian people in their pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals. All countries were striving to reach their development targets, but for the Palestinian people, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was of particular importance.
Ms. Abdelhady-Nasser also stressed the importance of South-South cooperation for capacity-building, and highlighted that the Committee could have an important role to play in mobilizing such support.
The Committee then approved the provisional programme of the United Nations Forum to mark 50 years of occupation, to be held on 29 and 30 June 2017 in New York. Under the title “Ending the Occupation: The Path to Independence, Justice and Peace for Palestine”, discussions on the first day would focus on political issues, while the second day’s meetings under “Ending the Occupation: Creating the Space for Human Rights, Development and a Just Peace” would focus on civil society.
On 29 June, the Forum would highlight the need to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine, including Jerusalem, while also providing a platform for the discussion of ideas and concrete steps for ending the occupation. On 30 June, the Forum would focus on mobilizing international support for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people through cooperation with civil society organizations, while also providing a platform for interaction and strategic coordination among Israeli, Palestinian and other civil society organizations worldwide.
Turning to the International Conference on the Question of Jerusalem, to be held on 20 and 21 July 2017 in Baku, Azerbaijan, the Committee approved the provisional programme for the conference, which would be held jointly with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The conference would seek to inform about the realities of life for the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation in East Jerusalem, while also exploring the question of the City in the context of the two-State solution and the current developments and international environment. Furthermore, it would aim to present ideas and proposals about how the international community, especially Organization of Islamic Cooperation member States, could provide concrete support to the Palestinian population in Jerusalem, with a focus on economic recovery and development, particularly in the tourism sector.
The Committee also took up the quarterly reports of the Secretary-General on implementation of Security Council resolution 2334 (2016), expressing its desire for such reports to be produced in writing, be substantive in nature and clearly show whether the parties were in compliance, and in case of non-compliance, to contain concrete mechanisms to ensure full, effective enforcement of the resolution. The Committee stood ready to provide input to the reports of the Secretary-General, particularly considering the far-reaching implications of illegal Israeli settlements for the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and the achievement of a fair and lasting peace between Israel and Palestine on the basis of the two-State solution.