By J Nastranis
UNITED NATIONS (IDN) – Fifty years after Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip, it continues to control these areas through repression, institutionalized discrimination, and systematic abuses of the Palestinian population’s rights.
Many of Israel’s abusive practices have been carried out in the name of security. Palestinian armed groups have carried out scores of lethal attacks on civilians and launched thousands of rocket attacks on Israeli civilian areas, also in violation of international humanitarian law.
But activities to mark 50 years of Israeli occupation of Palestine and support the two-State solution took the centre stage in recent efforts to quell tensions, especially in Jerusalem, and create conditions for mutual respect, the Palestinian Rights Committee heard on August 8, 2017.
Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer at the UN for the State of Palestine, recalled that the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People – official name of the Palestinian Rights Committee – had organized six activities in June commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Israeli occupation, from movies and discussions to a special Security Council meeting attended by Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, and another intergovernmental event.
The Committee, along with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), also organized the International Conference on the Question of Jerusalem on July 20-21 under the theme, “Jerusalem and the International Community: Providing Political and Economic Support” in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Mansour welcomed the adoption by the Committee and the OIC of the Baku Communiqué condemning the closure of Al-Aqsa Mosque, which took place during the conference, demanding the removal of obstacles against worshippers and requesting the international community to respect the historical status quo.
In Côte d’Ivoire, the Committee added provisions to the declaration on supporting OIC efforts to stabilize the finances of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Palestinians demanded the removal of obstacles to Al-Aqsa Mosque and el Haram esh-Sharif, Mansour said, stressing: “We do not accept any excuses for closing places of worship.”
He said Israel had removed the obstacles after 12 days of confrontation, precipitated by occupation authorities, while Palestinians peacefully prayed outside the Mosque.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres would visit the State of Palestine and Israel from August 28 to 30, spending a day in Ramallah to meet with Palestinian leaders, high-tech companies and civil society groups. On August 30, he would visit Gaza, during which Mansour hoped he would see the brutality of the occupation and the Israeli settlement programme. He supported the Secretary-General’s position that there was no “Plan B” to the two-State solution.
Against that backdrop, Committee Chair Fodé Seck (Senegal) said it had convened a forum at United Nations Headquarters from June 29 to 30 to mark 50 years of Israeli occupation, featuring an event titled, “Ending the Occupation: The Path to Independence, Justice, and Peace for Palestine”, and a civil society forum on “Ending the Occupation: Creating the Space for Human Rights, Development, and a Just Peace”.
Further, from July 3 to 7, the Committee sponsored a Policy Fellow from Al-Shabaka to lecture in a course titled “Palestine, Half Century of Occupation: A Legal, Political, and Human Approach” in Madrid. A Committee delegation attended the forty-fourth session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, from July 10 to 11, while the Security Council held its quarterly open debate on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, on July 25.
Committee Rapporteur Carmelo Inguanez (Malta) added that participants at the commemorative Headquarters events in June had outlined measures for ending the occupation and realizing a two-State solution, among them, an immediate stop to Israel’s annexation of Palestinian lands, along with multilateral negotiations and partnerships with civil society.
Civil society groups from the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza and Israel, had stressed the need for accountability in efforts to reverse negative trends. Policy recommendations on Gaza included going beyond support for emergency operations to sustained international engagement, shifting from a humanitarian to a human rights framework of analysis and action, and addressing the situation in Gaza as a political rather than a security issue.
Civil society also recommended putting into practice operational paragraph 5 of resolution 2334 (2016), which called on States to distinguish between the territory of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.
Turning to the Baku conference, Inguanez said experts had warned that tensions between Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem had reached a breaking point. The only solution was to end the occupation and institute a period of “divorce” in which each side respected the attachment of the other to the land and its holy sites. Participants had called for a strong show of Islamic solidarity with Palestinians in East Jerusalem, he said, while calls also had gone out for an international meeting to mobilize foreign investment for Palestinian infrastructure in the city.
Taking the floor again, the Committee chair Seck described the capacity-building programme for staff of the Palestinian Government. The Committee and the Division for Palestinian Rights had organized two activities in April: the United Nations Capacity-Building Workshop on Sustainable Development Goals and South-South Cooperation, held in Beirut, and an online training course on climate change diplomacy.
The Division was preparing the Geneva and New York segments of the annual training courses and participants had already been competitively selected.
Preparations were also under way for three Palestinian civil servants to attend a training programme on United Nations Catalytic Support to South-South and Triangular Cooperation in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Division was preparing the second edition of a training course on water conflict management in Ramallah, tentatively scheduled for November 2017.
He said the Committee planned to provide financial support for three Palestinian civil servants to visit Geneva to observe the sixty-eighth session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in October. More than 20 Palestinian civil servants had been trained in 2017 and another 20 would be trained during the rest of the year 2017.
Going forward, he said the Committee would adopt its annual report to the General Assembly in a meeting scheduled for September 6, while the next Bureau retreat would take place in early October.
On November 2, the Committee would host a lecture marking the100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, and on November 28, the Rapporteur would attend a cultural event in Paris marking the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
Further, the Committee had sent a letter to the Secretary-General on May 18, stressing that his quarterly report on the implementation of Security Council resolution 2334 (2016) should be substantive, in writing and demonstrate whether parties were complying with the resolution.
Commenting on those activities, Mansour, Permanent Observer at the UN for the State of Palestine, said the growing number of training programmes for Palestinians stemmed from the fact that the State of Palestine had joined all human rights treaties and conventions. It would be useful for Palestinian cadres to participate in State party conferences related to those accords, he said. “We want to prove that we are a responsible State and carrying our portion of the humanity agenda.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 21 August 2017]
Photo: The 383rd meeting of the Committee took place on 8 August 2017. Over 36 Committee Members/Observers were in attendance in addition to several civil society organizations.
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