Volume XXXV, Bulletin No. 8
on action by the United Nations system and
relevant to the question of Palestine
The Bulletin can be found in the United Nations Information System
on the Question of Palestine (UNISPAL) on the Internet at:
NON-ALIGNED MOVEMENT FOREIGN MINISTERS ACCESS TO THE WEST BANK
On 5 August 2012, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry made a statement on the decision by the Government of Israel to bar Non-Aligned Movement Committee on Palestine Foreign Ministers access to the West Bank, the text of which is reproduced below.
I regret the decision by the Government of Israel to bar the Foreign Ministers of Bangladesh, Cuba, Indonesia and Malaysia access to the West Bank to attend the extraordinary meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement Committee on Palestine on 5 August, in Ramallah.
Denying the Palestinian Authority the ability to engage with members of the International Community in Area A, is yet another step that contradicts the credibility of the Oslo arrangements, which affirm the Palestinian right of self-government. I call upon the Government of Israel to reconsider its decision.
II. HUMANITARIAN COORDINATOR VISITS THE SOUTHERN HEBRON HILLS
On 16 August 2012, the Office of the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory in Jerusalem issued a press release, the text of which is reproduced below.
The United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Maxwell Gaylard, led a visit of representatives of the international humanitarian community today to Jinba in the southern Hebron Hills. Almost 1,000 people living in this and seven other nearby communities are at risk of forced displacement due to the designation of the area by the Israeli authorities as a “firing zone” for military training.
Mr. Gaylard, together with representatives of humanitarian donor countries, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations, expressed serious concern regarding the dire humanitarian situation faced by residents of the area. “These are already some of the most vulnerable families in the West Bank – forcibly displacing them from their homes and lands would have a serious immediate and long-term impact on their physical, socioeconomic and emotional welfare” said Mr. Gaylard.
Approximately 18 per cent of the West Bank has been designated by the Israeli authorities as “firing zones”. Most of these are located in Area C, over which Israel retains full control of security and planning. Some 5,000 Palestinians, mostly Bedouin and herders, live in localities now designated as firing zones and many face serious restrictions on their freedom of movement, on their access to basic services including health and education, and are also subject to settler violence and harassment by soldiers. Since 2010, over 800 Palestinian civilians have been displaced from these areas by demolitions of their homes and property. Humanitarian organizations have also faced serious difficulties in providing humanitarian assistance to these communities, with relief items confiscated and demolition orders issued against humanitarian donor-funded structures, such as the school in Jinba.
The humanitarian community reiterates its call to the Government of Israel to immediately halt demolitions of Palestinian homes and property and to establish a fair and equitable zoning and planning system. Israel, as an Occupying Power, has an obligation under international law to protect Palestinian civilians and to administer the territory in a manner that ensures their welfare and basic needs. The destruction of private property is prohibited, except where rendered absolutely necessary by military operations. Forced displacement of civilians is also prohibited except if the security of the population or imperative military reasons so demand.
Further information is available from www.ochaopt.org/documents/ocha_opt_firing_zone_factsheet_august_2012_english.pdf or by contacting Judith Harel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ON THE SITUATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST, INCLUDING THE PALESTINIAN QUESTION
On 22 August 2012, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, briefed the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. Excerpts of the briefing are reproduced below (S/PV.6824).
As we approach the one-year mark since the Security Council was presented with the Palestinian application for membership in the United Nations, we must work to ensure that the occasion is used in a constructive manner to encourage progress towards meaningful dialogue. Last September, the Middle East Quartet put forward a framework for negotiations (see SG/2178) that required systematic progress on core issues. The Quartet envoys have remained in close contact with the parties and one another, including in Geneva on 14 August, in order to assess the situation and the Quartet’s future steps. While direct exchanges have continued, in an effort to agree to terms that would create an environment conducive to talks, we are concerned that we have not yet seen the progress necessary for sustained negotiations that could lead to successful outcomes.
At the same time, Israeli and Palestinian Authority representatives have been meeting to identify ways to enhance Palestinian Authority revenue capture by reducing illegal trade and tax evasion. On 31 July, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz signed an agreement. New measures include the introduction of advanced technologies aimed at improving monitoring of the flow of Palestinian imports through Israel and the construction of pipelines for transferring petroleum products directly from Israeli ports. Implementation of the measures is expected to begin in January 2013. In another positive development, 6,000 new permits are expected to be approved for Palestinians to work in Israel, bringing the total to 30,500. These are welcome steps that follow others reported previously, and we encourage continued positive gestures.
The Ad Hoc Liaison Committee is expected to meet on 23 September in New York, just before the general debate. While in the short term the international community may not be in a position to succeed in helping the parties bridge their political differences, it is critical that all those countries that are committed to helping the Palestinians achieve their legitimate aspirations for statehood focus their attention now on addressing the difficult fiscal and economic situation of the Palestinian Authority. The United Nations has joined many countries in praising the institution-building efforts that the Palestinian Authority has undertaken in recent years under the leadership of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad. Those who suffer from financial shortages in the Palestinian Authority are first and foremost the Palestinian people.
A central aspect of the Palestinian Authority’s continuing fiscal crisis is a decrease in foreign aid and the failure of donor countries to fulfil financial pledges to the Palestinian Authority in a timely manner. As a result, the Palestinian Authority has faced difficulties in paying full salaries to its employees on time. The Ministry of Health has also launched an appeal for support in addressing a severe shortage of essential medicines and drugs at the central medical stores.
The fiscal crisis is being compounded by a decrease in economic activity. The first quarter of 2012 saw the economy contract by 3 per cent compared to the previous quarter, mainly due to slowdowns in construction and agriculture. Unemployment increased to 24 per cent. A recent World Bank report on Palestinian economic sustainability noted that reversing that negative economic trend would require greater efforts to enable economic activity throughout the West Bank and Gaza, including through a further easing of restrictions in order to allow the private sector to develop.
Private-sector-led economic growth is the key to decreasing the Palestinian Authority’s dependence on foreign aid, as is slowing the growth of its spending. The World Bank highlighted the centrality of economic growth for Palestinian State-building; without it, State-building progress could be at increased risk. We repeat our urgent call on donors, particularly Gulf countries, to help tackle the Palestinian Authority deepening deficit problems. All countries that tirelessly promote the Palestinian cause in international forums will have an opportunity at the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting to demonstrate in a tangible, practical way their support for the Palestinian people and for the institutions of a Palestinian State to enable them to thrive.
The reporting period witnessed continued settlement construction. On 12 August, Israeli authorities announced the approval of a housing project within the settlement of Maale Adumim, east of Jerusalem. A total of 150 housing units will be demolished and replaced by 750 new housing units. On 16 August, Israeli authorities published a tender for 130 housing units in the East Jerusalem settlement of Har Homa. As the Quartet has stated on numerous occasions, any Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations and will not be recognized by the international community. Any settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, is contrary to international law and should be brought to a halt.
Operations by Israel security forces in the occupied West Bank declined this month. Citing security, there were 141 operations resulting in 116 Palestinians injured, including nine children and six women. Two Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers were injured by Palestinians. A total of 81 of the Palestinian injuries and many of the 123 arrests of Palestinians that took place during the reporting period occurred during demonstrations against the barrier, which deviates from the Green Line in contravention of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (see A/ES-10/273). The United Nations recalls that the right to peaceful protest must be upheld and that all protests should be kept strictly non-violent.
Cases of settler violence persisted, with 17 incidents that led to injuries or property damage, including an attack on 16 August in Hebron, when a Molotov cocktail hit a Palestinian taxi, injuring six members of the same family. A Palestinian teenager from East Jerusalem was attacked and seriously injured by Israeli youth on 16 August. We note the condemnation of that attack by Prime Minister Netanyahu and senior Israeli officials. Such acts of violence are of serious concern and Israeli authorities must work to prevent such incidents from recurring.
During the reporting period, no displacement was recorded as a result of demolitions. However, a total of 13 structures supporting the livelihoods of people were demolished for lack of building permits. Additionally, orders were issued against dozens of other structures, including at least 24 stop-work, demolition and evacuation orders issued against structures, including residences, in the Jordan Valley area and the Hebron and Tubas governorates. Israeli authorities have further stated their intention to evict from their homes approximately 1,000 Palestinians living in the southern West Bank, as the area has been designated a “firing zone” for military training.
We continue to be concerned by the ongoing policy of demolitions and forced evictions implemented by the Israeli authorities in Area C and East Jerusalem, and we will pursue our dialogue with Israeli authorities in that respect. I am also worried about the continuous restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities on the provision of humanitarian access to Palestinian civilians affected by, or at risk of, demolitions and forced evictions in Area C of the West Bank. Since the beginning of 2011, the Israeli authorities have demolished a total of 162 items and structures in Area C that were funded by humanitarian donor countries, including temporary shelter assistance, water cisterns and animal sheds. Demolition orders have been issued, but not yet implemented, against 142 others. Additionally, since the beginning of 2012, there have been at least 15 incidents in which relief items were confiscated by the Israeli authorities.
Four Palestinian prisoners in Israeli administrative detention continue to be on hunger strike. There are concerning reports that the detainees are being mistreated, while one of them is reportedly on his eighty-seventh day of a hunger strike. We call on the Israeli authorities and the detainees to find an agreement that would permit the immediate ending of their hunger strike and for the prisoners to be well treated, in line with international law.
As Muslims celebrated the month of Ramadan, restrictions remained on access to prayer at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Israeli authorities did, however, ease access for a large number of West Bank Palestinians to visit East Jerusalem and Israel, for example by lowering the age of those permitted to enter for prayers from 50 to 40 years of age.
Let me now turn to the serious events that took place on 5 August in the Sinai at the border with Israel. Terrorists attacked an Egyptian security post near Kerem Shalom, killing 16 Egyptian border guards as they broke their Ramadan fast. The attackers subsequently breached the Israeli border, in what appears to have been an attempt to kill Israelis. Israeli security forces intercepted the attack, and Egyptian authorities have stepped up their efforts to prevent a recurrence of such attacks and to increase security in the Sinai.
The Secretary-General strongly condemned the terror attack. Coming nearly a year after a similar incident in the south Sinai that resulted in both Israeli and Egyptian deaths, that latest attack is a sobering reminder of the need for all of us to remain focused on maintaining and strengthening regional peace and security.
In a related development, Egyptian authorities immediately closed the Rafah crossing with Gaza following the 5 August attack as part of a security operation that also involved the dismantling of a number of tunnels. In the meantime, the crossing has been periodically reopened to permit travel for humanitarian cases. The potential undue humanitarian impact of the developments in and around Gaza this month should be considered as well. Given the already difficult conditions of Gazans, the basic rights of the people of Gaza must be protected, including the ability to move in and out of Gaza for legitimate religious, educational, work, medical and other purposes, and to ensure the continued availability of basic living essentials, including for development. On 15 August, one Grad missile fired from the Sinai landed near Eilat, in southern Israel.
The events in the Sinai, as well as the continued rocket fire from Gaza, one Israeli air strike and five IDF incursions, underline the fragility of the situation in Gaza. The Israeli air strike took place on 5 August when the IDF targeted two alleged militants riding a motorbike in Rafah, killing one and injuring the other. A short escalation followed, which included the firing of mortars and Qassam missiles into the area of Kerem Shalom. One Palestinian civilian was injured during the IDF incursions. In all, 35 projectiles were shot from Gaza into Israel during the reporting period, including one Grad missile and other shorter-range projectiles. We strongly condemn the indiscriminate firing of missiles from the Gaza Strip. Israel must also show maximum restraint.
To revive the Gazan economy, restrictions related to the closure of the Gaza Strip have to be relaxed, allowing for trade between Gaza and the West Bank, Israel and other countries. As was noted in last month’s briefing (see S/PV.6816), United Nations reconstruction work is having a positive, but short-term, impact on employment. We are working with the Government of Israel to approve United Nations projects on a regular basis: $360 million worth of projects has been approved, and projects worth $85 million are currently pending approval. We also continue to urge the Government of Israel to allow the unrestricted import of key building materials, in order to allow for the more effective implementation of reconstruction work in Gaza. It is worth noting that most of those materials continue to be readily available in the Gaza Strip from the illegal tunnel trade. The recent release of 20,000 tons of construction materials for the private sector in Gaza is a welcome move, and we encourage Israel to further ease the present restrictions. In addition, we urge donors to continue to fund United Nations reconstruction work in Gaza through the Palestinian Authority-United Nations Trust Fund.
Palestinian factions remain deadlocked on the way forward towards reconciliation, especially with regard to the implementation of previous agreements. The sequence of elections remains a central point of division. The Palestinian Central Elections Committee initiated a voter registry update in the West Bank from 5 to 9 August ahead of the local elections scheduled for 20 October 2012. We continue to support efforts to promote reconciliation through Egyptian auspices, under the leadership of President Abbas and within the framework of the commitments of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the positions of the Quartet and the Arab Peace Initiative.
The lack of unity is also having an impact on the Palestinian population. In one example, between 16 and 27 July, Gazan applications for outside medical treatment were not processed owing to a dispute between the de facto authorities in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority over the composition of the medical referrals committee. The dispute was resolved on 26 July thanks to efforts by civil society and professional health workers.
Despite the current stagnation in the negotiating process and the obstacles to be overcome, it is clear that the two-State solution remains the best available and most realistic option for the Israelis and Palestinians. It is the view of the United Nations that not only the parties themselves but all Member States have the responsibility to consider their actions and their language in the light of that goal. All Member States can ask themselves a simple question as to whether a certain course of action brings the Israelis and Palestinians closer to a two-State solution or makes that goal even harder to achieve in practice. Language that calls for the destruction of one of the parties is unacceptable and undermines the ability of the Palestinians to achieve their stated goal of an independent State living side by side in peace and security with Israel. The Secretary-General has been clear that all leaders in the region should use their voices at this time to lower rather than escalate tensions.
In conclusion, allow me to underscore that regional developments add urgency to the need to overcome the persisting stalemate in the Middle East peace process. The United Nations remains committed to work for a comprehensive resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict on the basis of Security Council resolutions, the Madrid principles, including land for peace, the road map, and the agreements previously reached between the parties. While prospects for peace seem to grow dimmer we, as the United Nations, continue to hope that leaders on both sides will recognize and seize the historic opportunity that is now before them to start seriously working towards the goal of reaching a peace agreement that meets the legitimate aspirations and fulfils the rights of the people on both sides.
IV. SECRETARY-GENERAL ADDRESSES THE GOVERNMENT OF ISRAEL ON APPLICABILITY
OF THE FOURTH GENEVA CONVENTION IN THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORY
On 24 August 2012, the Secretary-General issued a report on the applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the other occupied Arab territories (A/67/332), the text of which is reproduced below.
1. The present report is submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 66/77, the operative part of which reads as follows:
The General Assembly,
2. On 10 July 2012, the Secretary-General addressed a note verbale to the Government of Israel, in which he requested, in view of his reporting responsibilities under the above-mentioned resolution, that the Government inform him of any steps that it had taken, or envisaged taking, concerning the implementation of the relevant provisions of that resolution.
3. No reply had been received at the time of the preparation of the present report.
4. By a note verbale dated 10 July 2012, sent to all permanent missions, the Secretary-General drew the attention of all the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (Fourth Geneva Convention) to operative paragraph 3 of General Assembly resolution 66/77. The Secretary-General requested, in view of his reporting obligations under that resolution, information regarding any steps that the High Contracting Parties had taken or envisaged taking concerning the implementation of the resolution.
5. No reply had been received at the time of the preparation of the present report.
V. UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR FALK ISSUES STATEMENT ON ISRAELI COURT RULING IN THE CASE OF RACHEL CORRIE
On 30 August 2012, the Office of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories issued a statement, the text of which is reproduced below:
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, Richard Falk, condemned this week’s ruling by an Israeli judge blocking a civil suit filed by the family of a young American activist killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza, in 2003. This is his statement:
“On 28 August, the Haifa District Court in Israel dismissed a civil damages law suit initiated by the family of Rachel Corrie, a young American peace activist, who, on 16 March 2003, was killed by an Israeli armed bulldozer in the Rafah region of Gaza. Judge Oded Gershon ruled that her death was ‘a regrettable accident,’ blaming the victim for her own death because ‘any thinking person’ would have stayed away. The judge’s decision represents a defeat for justice and accountability, and a victory for impunity for the Israeli military.
Rachel Corrie was protesting the demolition of the home of the Nasrallah family in Rafah, where she had been a volunteer for the International Solidarity Movement. The court ignored the testimony of several eyewitnesses that, while non-violently protesting the demolition, Corrie was in the direct line of vision of the bulldozer driver and was wearing a bright florescent orange vest that made her clearly visible at the time of her gruesome death. Judge Gerson accepted the Israeli military’s declaration that all of southern Gaza was ‘a war zone’, in which security concerns were paramount and in which Israeli military commanders asserted that merely by being present, persons ‘made themselves a target’.
The judge ruled that there were no grounds for imposing any penalty on Israel, exonerating both military and political officials, from those on the ground in Gaza driving the bulldozers and commanding the troops, to the highest levels of decision-making. In so doing, Judge Gershon seemed to endorse the view of a reportedly high-ranking officer who told the court that there are “no civilians in war”.
Such a shocking rationale flies directly in the face of the Geneva Conventions, which impose on an occupying power an unconditional obligation to protect the civilian population. Additionally, by article 10 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, a humanitarian aid worker such as Rachel Corrie is specifically entitled to protection by occupying forces and the house demolition itself seemed an unlawful encroachment on article 147, which prohibits targeting civilian property, in this case a home belonging to a civilian pharmacist, his wife and children.
This is a sad outcome, above all for the Corrie family that had initiated the case back in 2005, but also for the rule of law and the hope that an Israeli court would place limits on the violence of the State, particularly in relation to innocent and unarmed civilians in an occupied territory.
Israeli governmental institutions have consistently embraced impunity and non-accountability in responding to well-documented violations of international humanitarian law and in many cases Israel’s own criminal law. It is impossible to separate the outcome here from a pattern of similar results exonerating military actions and the political leaders who ordered them, in Israeli investigations of the killing of Palestinian civilians during the Operation Cast Lead attack on Gaza or the commando assault in 2010 on Turkish ships filled with activists bringing humanitarian supplies to the blockaded people of Gaza.
The Corrie family has announced their intention to appeal this verdict to the Israel Supreme Court. But it becomes a mockery of justice to leave their application to the partisan mercies of the Israeli judicial system. Even the U.S. ambassador to Israel told the Corrie family that Israel’s military investigation, which Judge Gerson had approved, was not ‘thorough, credible and transparent’. Has not the time finally arrived where the States parties to the Geneva Conventions should act to fulfil their duty under article 1 ‘to respect and ensure respect’ for the obligations of the treaty ‘under all circumstances’?”
Download Document Files: 13-20777f.pdf 13-20777s.pdf
Document Type: Bulletin, French text, Monthly Bulletin, Publication, Spanish text
Document Sources: Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP), Department of Political Affairs (DPA), Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR), Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)(See also - Committee on Palestine), Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Secretary-General, Security Council, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the OPT, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO)
Subject: Access and movement, Casualties, Fourth Geneva Convention, Hebron, Humanitarian relief, Inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, Incidents, Legal issues, Middle East situation, Palestine question
Publication Date: 30/08/2012