Civil Society and the Question of Palestine

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19 March 2020

Middle East

  • On 19 MarchB’Tselem issued a press release “Abuse of Palestinians overrides fear of COVID-19”. The NGO criticized the continuing abuse of Palestinians in al-‘Esawiyah in Jerusalem by Israeli police, including “false arrests of minors” and argued that Border Police and Special Patrol Unit officers” invade the crowded neighborhood daily, even at night, and more so on weekends, for no apparent reason and initiate friction with the residents.” B’Tselem warned that the police conduct was jeopardizing public safety and violating the medical guidelines on social isolation.  
  • On 18 March, Gisha – Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement provided an update on travel through Erez and Rafah crossings into Gaza, which is “still severely limited due to Coronavirus measures,” while Kerem Shalom Crossing, Gaza’s only commercial crossing for transit of goods, is operating as usual. Gisha highlighted that any decisions to limit access must be based on legitimate concerns for public health” and that “Israel must allow humanitarian access under the widest possible interpretation of the term given the circumstances.”  
  • On 18 March, Peace Now published its “Settlement Construction Report 2019”, highlighting an increase of 25% in yearly construction average under the current U.S. Administration. Peace Now reported that there were 11 new outposts established throughout the West Bank including in the vicinity of E1, East Jerusalem and Khan Al-Ahmar and 1,917 new housing units began construction in 2019. Peace Now’s Settlement Watch annual construction report for 2019 revealed that these constructions were “largely focused in isolated settlements and in areas that are highly problematic in terms of a two-State solution.”  
  • On 17 March, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) issued a press release to demand that health and humanitarian standards are applied to COVID-19 quarantine centers in the Gaza Strip. PCHR highlighted the importance of precautionary measures at the Gaza Strips’ border crossings of Rafah and Erez and the necessity of quarantine for Palestinians returning from abroad for the sake of public safety. It also called for the Ministry of Health to uphold health and safety standards at the centers and for the international community and World Health Organization (WHO) to pressure Israeli authorities to allow the entry of medical supplies and equipment necessary for Coronavirus medical examination. 
  • On 16 March, Addameer – Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association denounced the conditions of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons and detention centers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Addameer stated that prisons are over-crowded, rooms and cells are small and lack proper ventilation, and the Israeli Prison Services are yet to take clear preventive measures. 
  • On 15 MarchAdalah – The Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel reported that 475 lawyers in Israel are demanding that Israel Bar Association (IBA) rescind its request to submit an amicus curiae legal opinion to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in advance of its pending deliberations on the pressing question of territorial jurisdiction in relation to the “Situation in Palestine.” The lawyers contended that the IBA decision was “strictly political in motive and intended to support the Israeli government’s positions entrenching occupation.”  
  •  On 8 March, B’Tselem published the report “Overcoming the Odds: Five Women, Five Stories of Entrepreneurship and Ingenuity. Gaza, 2020” to share the voices of five women and their stories of “coping with an impossible reality forced upon them,” on the occasion of International Women’s Day.  



  • On 18 March, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) informed that it had submitted amicus curiae observations to the ICC arguing that the Court had competency to exercise its jurisdiction over the whole of the Palestinian territory, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. The ICJ emphasized that failure to accept jurisdiction in respect of the State of Palestine, a State Party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, would run counter to the Stature’s object and purpose of combatting impunity for serious crimes under international law. 


United Nations

  • On 19 March, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territory Occupied since 1967 Michael Lynk urged Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to live up to their international legal responsibilities by ensuring that the right to health is fully provided to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Special Rapporteur warned that these authorities’ protective measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 included significant restrictions on movement and travel, cancellation of public gatherings, creation of quarantine areas and closure of educational and religious institutions.  
  • On 19 March, UNRWA Acting Commissioner-General Christian Saunders addressed an open letter to the Palestine refugee community in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, reassuring them that the Agency is being responsive and proactive addressing the evolving challenges of COVID-19. The Acting Commissioner-General informed that an emergency taskforce was established to discuss the planning, management and communication of the response. He also provided an update of UNRWA Health Centers that continue to operate to provide core health services and follow host governments recommendations toward reducing the transmission of COVID-19.  
  • On 19 March, UNRWA announced, following official communication by the office of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and consultations with the Agency’s Advisory Commission, that Mr. Philippe Lazzarani had been appointed as its new Commissioner-General.  


This newsletter informs about recent and upcoming activities of Civil Society Organizations affiliated with the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. The Committee and the Division for Palestinian Rights of the UN Secretariat provide the information “as is” without warranty of any kind, and do not accept any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, or reliability of the information contained in the websites linked in the newsletter.