Photo: Che Guevara visiting Gaza Strip during 1959. Credit: Wikimedia Commons - Photo: 2016

2017 Int’l Year to End Israeli Occupation of Palestine?

By J Nastranis

NEW YORK (IDN) – The UN General Assembly is coming under strong pressure to declare 2017 as the International Year to End Israeli Occupation of Palestine, particularly in the aftermath of the July 2016 report by the Middle East Quartet – comprising the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

Ambassador Feda Abdelhady-Nasser, Deputy Permanent Observer at the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations, told the Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) on August 4 that Gaza would be uninhabitable by 2020 if its humanitarian situation was not addressed.

The abhorrent state of affairs had deprived people of livelihood, medical care and any normalcy of life. “It is an unjust and highly toxic situation,” she said, briefing the Committee on latest developments.

The Quartet’s characterization of Israeli actions as a response to Palestinian actions – rather than as decades-long policies – was “offensive”. Also offensive was its characterization of Palestinian actions as terrorism, she said, while failing to label Israel’s actions as such, despite comments acknowledging that fact by Israel officials.

2017 as the International Year to End Israeli Occupation of Palestine would mark the fiftieth anniversary of Security Council resolution 242 (1967), and the seventieth anniversary of Assembly resolution 181 (1947).

The demand comes within days of 134 nations from around the world comprising the Group of 77 (G77) and China, stressing the urgency of achieving “without delay” an end to Israel’s 49-year occupation of the Palestinian Territory.

The Group submitted at the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) coordination and management meeting in New York on July 25  a draft resolution on the “Economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan”, which it wants to be included in the agenda of its substantive session of 2017.

On behalf of the Group, Chulamanee Chartsuwan, Thailand’s Ambassador and deputy permanent representative to the UN in New York stressed that negative trends had worsened, causing a deterioration of economic and social conditions.

“This includes high rates of unemployment, rampant poverty levels, widespread displacement and homelessness, numerous health-related problems, and rising aid-dependency for the most basic of needs.”

She added: “The figures recently confirmed in this regard by the World Bank should be cause for alarm – more than 43% unemployment in Gaza, and even higher for youth unemployment, a socio-economic calamity by any measure.”

Backed by the G77 and China’s draft resolution, Abdelhady-Nasser urged the Committee to support her proposal for the International Year to End Israeli Occupation of Palestine and called for actions by States and the UN towards ending the occupation and supporting realization of Palestinian rights, including to self-determination and independence. “No programme budget implications were anticipated for such a resolution,” she assured.

The proposal had been endorsed by the International Conference on the Question of Jerusalem held on May 3 and 4, 2016 in Dakar, Senegal, she added. The Conference was attended by 42 Member States, two Observer States, three intergovernmental organizations, three UN system entities, and 34 local and international civil society organizations.

Abdelhady-Nasser said the situation in Occupied Palestine, including East Jerusalem, was critical as a result of Israel’s ongoing destructive practices against Palestinians. Ground conditions were fragile and tensions were high. A political horizon was absent despite various initiatives, including by France and the Middle East Quartet.

Despite all the peace efforts aimed at reaffirming the two-State solution, the Palestine diplomat said, Israel had pursued policies and actions contradictory to that goal and had rejected peace. It had persisted with “the colonization of Palestinian land”, breaching the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Rome Statute and United Nations resolutions. “It continues to confiscate Palestinian land, destroy Palestinian property, exploit Palestinian resources and forcibly displace Palestinian families.”

Settlement building had not ceased “for a single minute”, she said. Rather, its use of lethal military force was the central means by which Israel was entrenching its foreign illegal occupation. Moreover, settler violence continued to wreak havoc on Palestinian lives.

The international community had been unable to hold to account Israel, the occupying power. The Security Council was paralysed, and lacked the will to follow its moral and legal responsibilities. The same applied to the Quartet.

She had expected the report to have made bold recommendations to address challenges. Yet, it was “simply another attempt to manage the conflict, rather than reaffirm the parameters for a solution within a set timeframe, with needed international support”.

Israel had repeatedly failed to reciprocate, rejecting the French initiative to establish an international support group and lay the foundations for a conference. A joint communiqué had been put forward on June 3 in Paris and efforts were ongoing, but Israel had been uncooperative. Palestinians, meanwhile, had reaffirmed their cooperation in that effort and appealed for steps to advance it.

The Palestine observer delegation would continue to appeal for bold steps to be taken based on international law and United Nations resolutions, Abdelhady-Nasser assured, adding that Palestinians would continue to pursue that path in the Assembly’s upcoming session, and sought the Committee’s support in that regard.

In the ensuing discussion in the Committee, speakers decried the inability of the Security Council, General Assembly and wider international community to end the occupation of Palestinian territory after nearly 50 years, with Venezuela’s delegate supporting the call for 2017 to be recognized as an International Year.

Jerry Matthews Matijila, South Africa’s Permanent Representative to the UN said, it Abdelhady-Nasser’s report indicated that the situation was worsening daily and that Palestinian land was shrinking all the time.

For South Africa, that was a major concern. Land was an emotive issue that people would go to war over. If the Palestinians had indeed lost 80 per cent of their motherland, “it means we have a very big crisis on our hands”. Taking the Palestinian question to as many corners of the world as possible would contribute to raising awareness about resolving the issue as speedily as possible.

However, it appeared that the sum total of activities had not shaken the occupation. If the Security Council, big countries or numerous initiatives could not stop the occupation, then what must be done?  That question needed to be revisited at some stage, because everything humanly possible had already been done.

Other speakers proposed ideas for changing the calculus. Indonesia’s delegate advocated use of social media, such as Twitter, to raise awareness in places like Ohio. “I’m thinking outside the box,” he said, asking delegates for ideas on how to capitalize on the momentum generated last year with the raising of the Palestinian flag at United Nations Headquarters. That event was covered around the world.

Namibia’s delegate said interest following the Committee’s recent Geneva meeting could help find ways to bring people together. “We have been concerned with this issue for our entire lives”, she said. Namibia and others were examples of countries that had achieved sovereignty despite the odds.

Ecuador’s representative said the issue of Palestine was a political one which had to be resolved by the General Assembly and the Security Council. That it was unresolved was a “blot” on the United Nations reputation. The Committee’s role was to support all initiatives and it should encourage Israeli public opinion to take positive steps, as well as work with the Palestinian public. [IDN-InDepthNews – 06 August 2016]

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Photo: Che Guevara visiting Gaza Strip during 1959. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

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