Settlement Violence Continues as Israel Rejects UNHRC Probe

Israeli settlement violence against Palestinians continues unabated as Israel refuses to cooperate with a settlement fact-finding mission of theUnited Nations Human Rights Council.

The United Nations’ Human Rights Council decided on Thursday 23 March to dispatch a fact-finding mission on Israeli settlements. This mission would be the first international probe into the impact of settlements in the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan on Palestinian rights. The resolution was adopted with 36 votes in favor and 10 abstentions. While Spain and Italy called for abstention, the United States was the only one to vote against the draft resolution.

This resolution on Israel’s settlement policy was one of 41 texts adopted by the Human Rights Council in its nineteenth regular session. Other resolutions dealt with a wide range of issues, including extending the mandates of the Special Rapporteurs on Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Myanmar.

During the session, the council paid special attention to the situation on Syria and extended the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on there, requesting the Commission to conduct and continuously update a mapping exercise of gross violations of human rights since March 2011.

Despite the wide range of issues discussed by the Human Rights Council, the United States and Israel criticized the body,  claiming it disproportionately focused on Israel’s action. Moreover, although settlements in the Palestinian and Syrian occupied territories are a blatant violation of international law, and seen as criminal acts by the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, US political counselor Charles O. Blaha told the Council that “it was inappropriate to prejudge final status issues that could only be resolved through bilateral negotiations between Israel and Palestine”.

Blaha further claimed that this was a “one-sided resolution that launches an international investigation of Israel”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the UN decision, dubbing the Human Rights Council “hypocritical”. Netanyahu added that “this is a council that should be ashamed of itself. The UN Human Rights Council has no connection to human rights”.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman decided “to cut all ties with the UN Human Rights forum”. The Foreign Ministry added that the council is being used as a tool to further unilateral political steps instead of promoting human rights.

Since the beginning of this year, 26 Palestinians have been injured in attacks by settlers. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OCHA), Israeli settler violence continued in the week of the 14 to the 20 of March.

OCHA reports that settlers physically assaulted and injured three Palestinians in the Old City of Hebron, and near the settlements of Shave Shomoron (Jenin) and Yitzhar (Nablus). In another incident, settlers attacked Palestinian shepherds while they were grazing their sheep near Mikhmas village (Jerusalem), reportedly killing one of the sheep. Also, settlers reportedly uprooted or cut down at least 260 olive trees belonging to the villages of Mas-ha (Salfit) and Duma (Nablus). This brings the total number of trees and other plants vandalized by settlers since the beginning of the year to over 1,400.

However, infringement of Palestinian human rights related to Israel’s settlement activities is not limited to settler violence against persons or property; it is part of a systematic policy implemented by Israel to restrict the Palestinian presence in areas designated for settlement expansion in the West Bank (Area C) and East Jerusalem.

According to OCHA, in the first two months of 2012, Israeli authorities demolished 120 Palestinian-owned structures (76 of these in February), including 36 homes. This forcibly displaced 229 people, some 60 percent of whom are children, and adversely affected 450 others. On average, over 25 percent more people have been displaced per month in 2012 than in 2011 and 125 percent more than in 2010. Over 95 percent of displacement in 2012 occurred in Area C. At least seven of the incidents resulted in the destruction or damage to structures funded by international donors. About half of the people displaced in the West Bank so far this year were in the Hebron Governorate.

The United States claims that “The US position on settlements is clear and has not changed: We do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity. ” as noted by Charles Blaha. Yet Dan Shapiro, the United States Ambassador to Israel, said Monday that he understands Israel’s decision to sever its ties with the UN Human Rights Council, following the decision to probe its settlements policies.

* This article was published by the Alternative Information Center (AIC)



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