Civil Society and the Question of Palestine

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21 November 2019

Middle East

  • On 21 November, Gisha Executive Director Tania Hary addressed the United Nations Security Council in New York at a briefing on the situation in the Middle East. In her intervention, she stressed the heavy damage caused by the sweeping access restrictions Israel imposes on Palestinians, particularly in relation to movement between Gaza and the West Bank, as part of the separation policy. She also weighed in on the current discourse around the West Bank settlements, generated by the US Government’s announcement that it no longer views them as a violation of international law, emphasizing that “the isolation of Gaza” must also be seen as “a primary obstacle [to peace].”
  • On 19 November, Al-Haq and the Palestinian NGO Network and the 146 members of the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network (PNGO) in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip issued a statement declining to accept all funds from Airbnb and to call upon humanitarian groups across the world to join them in solidarity, stating that Airbnb agreed to continue listing vacation rentals on “lands stolen from Palestinians”, while recently announcing that the profits from these transactions would be donated to humanitarian groups. The NGOs said that Airbnb “cannot whitewash its role in the illegal occupation of Palestinian land through corporate charity.”
  • On 19 November, Peace Now, issued a statement following the announcement by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to dropping the US stance on settlements in which the NGO said: “This is a direct assault on the two-State solution and a deliberate choice to pave the way for more aggressive settlement actions by the caretaker Netanyahu government toward the annexation of occupied territories and to solidify a permanent, undemocratic one-state reality.”

North America

  • On 18 November, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) stated that the announcement by Secretary of State Pompeo was “the latest atrocity in the Trump administration’s farcical peace plan: Moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, defunding UNRWA, embracing Netanyahu’s plans of massive annexation of Palestinian land […].” JVP said the announcement was an attempt to undo decades of international consensus on the illegality of the settlements.
  • On 18 November, Americans for Peace Now (APN) stated it opposed Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as they represented “the chief physical obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace.” APN added, “The more settlements expand and proliferate, the more difficult it will become to negotiate the establishment of a Palestinian state and to evacuate settlements whose existence is incompatible with a two-State solution.”
  • On 18 November, Amnesty USA issued a statement in response to the United States Secretary of State’s announcement that the US will not consider Israeli settlements in the West Bank as illegal under international law. Amnesty stated that the announcement “does not and will not change the law which is crystal clear: the construction and maintenance of settlements in the Occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, breaches international law and amounts to war crimes.” Amnesty also said that the announcement goes against the US’s legal obligation to respect and ensure respect for the Geneva conventions.

United Nations

  • On 20 November, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov delivered a statement at the Security Council briefing on the situation in the Middle East. He regretted the announcement made on 18 November by the US that it no longer viewed settlements as inconsistent with international law and reiterated that the UN position remained “unchanged”. He reiterated that the situation in Gaza required a political solution, that militant activity could not continue to undermine the chances for peace and development and Israel could continue its policy of closures. Further, in addition to internal Palestinian political developments, Mladenov spoke of demolitions and seizures of Palestinian-owned structures across the West Bank including East Jerusalem, the retroactive legalization of new settlements by the Israeli government, the continuing settler-related violence and the impasse regarding the transfer of Palestinian fiscal revenues.
  • During the same briefing on the situation in the Middle East in the Security Council meeting, on 20 November, the overwhelming majority of its members reaffirmed their long-standing position that Israeli settlements are contrary to international law and constitute an obstacle to peace.  They further underlined that unilateral measures risk destroying the viability of the peace process and the two-State solution, and that they would not recognize any changes to “the pre-1967 lines without agreement of the parties.”
  • On 20 November, UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People unanimously endorsed four drafts resolutions for adoption by the General Assembly on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine, during its 397th meeting at UN Headquarters. Briefing the Committee, Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle Eats Peace Process and Humanitarian Coordinator McGoldrick said that humanitarian assistance for the people of Gaza was severely underfunded; he described the impact on the health sector and noted that psychological problems, gender-based domestic violence, drug dependence and suicide rates were all up.
  • On 19 November, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) stated, at a press briefing, “As part of the UN Secretariat, we continue to follow the longstanding position of the United Nations that the Israeli settlements are in breach of international law. A change in the policy position of one State does not modify existing international law, nor its interpretation by the International Court of Justice and the Security Council.”
  • On 19 November, the spokesman for the UN Secretary-General said at a press briefing that the Secretary-General regularly reports on Security Council Resolution 2334, which remains “our guiding light”. The resolution states that Israeli settlements activities are flagrant violations under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just and lasting comprehensive peace.
  • On 15 November, the UN Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) approved eight draft resolutions concerning Israeli practices in the occupied Arab territories and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The Committee voted to extend the mandate of UNRWA until 2023. The resolution approved last Friday affirms that Palestine refugees continue to have essential needs – that in the absence of a just and lasting solution to their plight – UNRWA continues to meet through its programmes and service delivery.

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.