April 14, 2012
Since June 1967, Israel maintained total domination over Occupied Palestine.
Lawlessly, it includes controlling essential resources, air space, Gaza's coastal waters, borders, who's allowed to cross them, political, economic, and financial activities, internal movement, public assembly and speech, Palestine's population registry, private property by seizures or demolition, and, of course, land.
Priority one is stealing it. Palestinians are forcibly dispossessed and displaced to expand settlements and for other development. Israel wants all valued parts as well as Jerusalem as its exclusive capital.
Overall, settlements, closed military zones, Jewish commercial areas, and others earmarked for development account for over 40% of West Bank land.
Since 1967, Israel established 121 settlements. Another 100 unauthorized outposts exist. In addition, Israel calls 12 annexed Jerusalem neighborhoods settlements. Settler enclaves also exist in Palestinian East Jerusalem.
Yet international law is clear. Fourth Geneva's Article 49 states:
"The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies."
Moreover, in July 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled:
"Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and an obstacle to peace and to economic and social development." In addition, they've "been established in breach of international law" on sovereign Palestinian territory.
On March 22, Haaretz headlined, "UN human rights body to probe Israel's settlement activities in West Bank," saying:
The 47-member Human Rights Council (HRC) overwhelmingly approved a resolution to investigate what long ago should have been condemned. Russia and China were among 36 states voting yes. Ten nations abstained. America alone voted no.
The measure also called for Israel to disarm settlers and enforce criminal sanctions to protect Palestinians and their property. A three-member team will be named at a later date.
HRC is "charged with evaluating the effects of Israeli settlement construction on Palestinian human rights in the West Bank and East Jerusalem."
The text of its decision states:
It will "dispatch an independent international fact-finding mission, to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council, to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem."
The decision also called on Israel "not to obstruct the process of investigation and to cooperate fully with the mission."
Netanyahu called the HRC a "hypocritical council with an automatic majority against Israel."
Israel's Geneva ambassador, Aharon Leshno-Yaar, said "I am still stunned by the hypocrisy of the Human Rights Council. This council itself is adding fuel to the fire and fanning the flames which it should be trying to put out. Today will not be remembered as a great day for this council."
Israel's Foreign Ministry said:
"The Palestinians must understand that they can't have it both ways: they can't enjoy cooperation with Israel and at the same time initiate political clashes in international forums. Had the Palestinians wanted to solve the settlements issue, they would resume without delay a direct and unconditional negotiation on all core issues within the framework of a comprehensive agreement."
Palestinian UN ambassador Ibrahim Khraishisaid said "when we see that Israel hasn't stopped taking over our lands, we must act. If this situation continues, how will we be able to apply a two-state solution? The occupying power is violating international land....one day there will even be limits on the air that we breathe."
Syria's ambassador called settlement construction "piracy."
Washington called the decision "one-sided and biased."
For 45 years and counting, Israel occupied Palestine lawlessly. It dominates by state terror. Palestinians have no rights. Oppression is official policy. So is stealing all valued land and resources.
So far, it's gotten away with it. Investigations won't help, but if thoroughly pursued with follow-through it's a good start perhaps.
As expected, Israel responded provocatively by severing ties with the HRC. According to Haaretz on March 27, ambassador Leshno-Yaar hadn't yet gotten instructions on how to proceed.
Diplomats in Jerusalem and Geneva "were embarrassed by their inability to answer questions about the decision from reporters and foreign diplomats."
Israel's not an HRC member. It doesn't matter either way. An unnamed "senior source" said "we will not allow visits from HRC members to Israel, and our ambassador has been instructed not to even answer phone calls from them."
"The Human Rights Council secretariat and the commissioner, Navi Pillay, led the move to establish the investigative committee on settlements, which is why we will not work with them anymore or appear before the council."
Austria and Belgium were the only EU nations voting yes. Israel responded by summoning their ambassadors to the Foreign Ministry for reprimands. Israel's Deputy Director-General for Europe Rafi Shotz said:
"You assisted the politicization of the Human Rights Council and enabled a decision that will make only worsen relations between Israel and the Palestinians."
Israeli lawlessness is egregious and longstanding. When criticized, it responds provocatively or like Captain Renault expressing shock about gambling at Rick's from the film Casablanca - as Emile hands him his winnings and he thanks him.
It also retaliates against Palestinians unable to contest its abusive power. On March 25, Haaretz headlined, "Israel mulls ways to penalize PA in wake of UN human rights probe," saying:
Sanctions are being considered, including freezing tax revenues to deprive the PA of vital funds needed to provide basic services. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz support the move.
Senior Foreign Ministry officials and others close to Netanyahu said HRC panel members are barred from entering Israel. Expect their investigation to proceed anyway.
Al Haq welcomed it, saying:
Israel's refusal to cooperate "begs the question of what (it's) afraid the fact-finding mission will reveal."
No matter. International support is essential. It's mostly needed to implement recommendations "without delay." Otherwise expect another futile exercise like so many previous ones.
Words without teeth are worthless. Israel’s further emboldened to dominate ruthlessly, act violently, obstruct justice, prevent Palestinian self-determination, and assure peace process hypocrisy continues.
For decades, Israel remained unaccountable. It "benefit(s) from a climate of impunity, while the international community" yawns and does nothing. It's high time that changed.
A Final Comment
On March 27, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, reported on human rights in Palestine during the HRC's 19th session.
Her findings sharply criticized Israel for violating Fourth Geneva obligations. It states nations "responsible for violations of international humanitarian law (must) make full reparation for the loss or injury caused."
Pillay acknowledged Israel's lawlessness and unaccountability, especially with regard to Gaza.
No compensation amount can make up for decades of egregious crimes of war and against humanity, as well as millions of Palestinians harmed. Their nightmare continues daily.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.