The 1974 UN General Assembly Resolution 3314 prohibits the imposition of “any military occupation, however temporary” and affirms the right to self-determination, freedom and independence of peoples forcibly deprived of that right. Yet while Western news media and politicians frequently and consistently express concern for the security of Israel, they never acknowledge the right to security for the Palestinian people. UN Resolution 3314 also notes the right of Occupied peoples to “struggle . . . and to seek and receive support” to achieve liberation.
In 1982, this right was reaffirmed in another UNGA Resolution, 37/43, acknowledging the lawful entitlement of Occupied people to resist Occupation forces by any, and all, lawful means. The Resolution also underlined “the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle”. In particular, Section 21 expressly condemned “the expansionist activities of Israel in the Middle East and the continual bombing of Palestinian civilians, which constitute a serious obstacle to the realisation of the self-determination and independence of the Palestinian people”.
Right of Return of Palestinian Refugees
Israel is a belligerent Occupying power that has fenced-off Gaza, for use as a ghetto. The refugees, that Israel created and is responsible for, are demanding that their UN-recognised Right of Return be respected. Palestinian refugees have also been ousted by Israel into refugee camps elsewhere in Palestine and beyond. Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that: “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.” Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights clearly states that: “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country”.
And yet after 70 years, the plight of Palestinian refugees and their descendants continues to constitute one of the largest and longest-standing unresolved refugee crises in the world. There are 7.54 million refugees in addition to 720,000 internally displaced persons. Nearly 5.3 million are registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). The Right of Return is universally-recognised in international refugee law, human rights law, the law of nationality, and the law of state responsibility. It is also provided for in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 13). The Right of Return became binding (customary status) in 1948 when the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 194(III) affirming the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and to obtain restitution and compensation. Resolution 194 has been reaffirmed by the UN more than 135 times and Israel’s membership of the UN was made conditional on its implementation of the Resolution.
Palestinians in Gaza are protected persons under the Geneva Conventions, as are those living under direct Israeli military Occupation, and each of the four 1949 Geneva Conventions defines the rights of protected persons that must be respected. UNRWA Commissioner-General, Pierre Krähenbuhl, has sent out an emergency call for help to save Gaza’s health system from Israel’s blockade and daily acts of violence, and boost UNRWA’s ability to provide care for released patients and preparedness for the many amputees that will require long-term assistance. Mental health care in Gaza is also in dire need. Of course, if the world community were to sanction Israel and demand that it respect the Fourth Geneva Convention, there would be less need for such appeals.
Palestinians, like all other people resisting foreign Occupation, have no choice. The Occupier desires complete subservience to its rule and that means an end to freedom of expression and identity. Tragically, the United States has voted against a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for the protection of Palestinian civilians.
Living under Zionist oppression
For those of us who have never had to endure the grim reality of life under a regime of constant malevolent oppression, the challenge to the imagination is extreme. But we must try to understand. What follows are just a few examples of the daily terrors and humiliations that Palestinians endure to satisfy the dictates of Zionism.
Desecration and vandalism
In 2015, Israel announced its intention to seize part of the Bab Al-Rahma Cemetery in Occupied Jerusalem, to build what it calls a ‘national’ park trail. Last month, Israel’s Nature And Parks Authority (INPA) began digging up Palestinian graves there. The ancient Cemetery is of great religious significance, sheltering the graves of Ubada ibn as-Samit and Shadad ibn Aus, companions of the Prophet Muhammad. At the weekend of 9/10 June, Occupation police injured several Palestinian protesters who were calling for a halt to Israel’s ideologically-driven vandalism. Imagine the justifiable outrage and headlines that would greet such desecration of a Jewish cemetery. But it would appear that, as far as the mainstream corporate news media are concerned, Zionist vandalism of Palestinian cemeteries is seen as unremarkable which, in one sense it is, because Israel routinely violates holy sites – both Muslim and Christian.
Palestinian children’s plea for international action
Palestinian children rallied last Monday, calling on the international community and global leaders to intervene and prevent the threatened destruction of their school by Israeli forces. The children, whose ages range between 8 and 16 years, receive their education at the Tyre School, funded by the Italian Government. It is the only school for Bedouin children from Al Khan Al Ahmar and neighbouring communities. On 24 May, the Israeli High Court ruled in favour of Israeli military action to demolish the school and other property, as well as the placing of the entire community liable to forcible transfer. Over 200 homes and property are to be destroyed and there are, in addition, 46 more Bedouin communities in the West Bank that the United Nations considers to be at risk of forcible transfer. Forcible transfer (ethnic cleansing) is defined as a war crime under international law.
Persistent Israeli Army persecution of Hebron families
At 8:30am on 7 June, without warning, the Israeli Army invaded the Zahda family home in Shuhada Street, Hebron, and forced Sami Zahda, his wife and their two sons, aged three and four years, into a back room. The soldiers then seized the family’s mobile phones and sealed the front door while the family were still inside. International observers reported that the only exit available was too dangerous for the family to use. Palestinian family homes in Hebron have been passed down over centuries but the Israeli Occupation is ideologically committed to the eventual clearance of Palestinians from Shuhada Street. Palestinian families with homes on the street are not allowed on the street itself but must use alleyways, rooftops and back entrances. The imposition of Zionist rule saw the racial segregation of Shuhada Street begin in 1994. While the settlers taunt remaining Palestinian residents and throw stones at them, heavily armed soldiers, at will, invade Palestinian homes in order to instill such fear and hopelessness as to force them to give in, abandon their homes and move elsewhere.
Israeli Army exercises
On 3 June, a herd of Palestinian cattle detonated an Israeli Army landmine on pastoral land in the West Bank Northern Plains, killing five of the animals. The shepherd, Fayez Yousef Daraghma, escaped unharmed. After the explosion, Israeli soldiers rushed to the scene and took prisoner five Palestinian shepherds. The Israeli Army has planted many landmines in the area as part of Israel’s agricultural and pastoral sabotage policy that includes bulldozing and setting fire to crops, and the destruction of olive trees. The Israeli Army frequently conducts live-fire training exercises, including the use of shells in the area, as well as in other West Bank districts. Many Palestinians, including children, have in the past been killed by Israeli Army ordnance, with hundreds injured.
In February this year, Israeli tanks invaded another part of the same area and conducted military exercises, causing extensive damage. The head of the Agricultural Department in the West Bank, Engineer Majdi Odah, said Israeli Army tanks had destroyed almost 100% of the local produce. Israeli Army exercises also frequently destroy irrigation pipelines, with devastating consequences. While Israel is denying Palestinian communities the right to develop basic infrastructure, its military commandeers fertile land, rich in water resources, both for military purposes and the construction and expansion of illegal settlement colonies. In January this year, the Israeli Army, while conducting training exercises near Tubas, shot a Palestinian child in the head.
Last year, two children, Omar Ismael Qweider (aged 8) and his cousin, Mohammad Mahmoud Qweider (aged 10), from a Bedouin community in the Negev, were killed by abandoned Israeli Army ordnance that exploded in the village of Zarnouk. Mahmoud Abu Qwaider, the father of Mohammad, told a local TV Channel, “We live in constant danger and fear”, adding that the Israeli Army uses explosives and live fire in the midst of the community. A few days after the children had been killed, Israeli soldiers and police invaded the village and issued destruction orders on two homes.
Israeli Army and population control
Palestinian families are regularly forced out of their homes to facilitate Israeli Army exercises. Since 1967, Israel has been pursuing various measures aimed at eventual annexation of the territory. It does this by preventing the development of Palestinian areas, systematically destroying homes in Bedouin communities, denying them access to water and strictly restricting Palestinian freedom of movement. The Israeli human rights movement, B’Tselem says, “. . . frequent evacuations force residents to put their lives on hold. B’Tselem calls on Israel to “. . . immediately stop the temporary evacuation of Palestinian communities in the West Bank for the purpose of military training, and must cease all other actions taken in an attempt to force Palestinians out of the area”.
The daily toll of Occupation
The Israeli military Occupation and settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem continues to take its daily toll. Here are just a few more examples of life for Palestinians in the West Bank, taken from recent In Occupied Palestine daily newsletters:
Occupation settler racist agricultural sabotage: Hebron – 15:30, Israeli settler fanatics invaded Palestinian farmland in the Baloutat Aweis area, destroyed 700 grapevines and spray-painted anti-Arab graffiti on the surrounding walls.
Israeli Army attack in support of settler violence – 3 wounded and 3 beaten and injured: Nablus – 18:05, a gang of Israeli settlers, supported by Israeli troops firing live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades and tear gas canisters, raided Orif village and attacked several residents, injuring three people: Salim Jameel Shehadeh (aged 73), Obada Mohammed Shehadeh and Raed Mahmoud Sabah. Israeli Army fire wounded another three people: Bahjat Mustafa Ahmed Safadi, Bilal Yousef Safadi (aged 16) and Anas Malik Mahmoud Sabah.
Settler mob invades Palestinian family home: Hebron – a gang of Israeli settlers invaded a house near the Abu Rish checkpoint, smashing windows, removing gates and raising the Israeli flag inside the home.
Israeli Army land theft for settlement growth: Nablus – the Israeli Army issued an order allowing an Israeli Occupation settlement to rob an al-Sawiya villager, Hamad Saleh Mahmoud Hijazi, of five dunams (half a hectare) of his farmland, in order to enlarge the illegal settlement.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
This year will see the 70th anniversary (10 December 1948) of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” On 15 May, UN human rights expert, Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory, called on the Israeli Government to “immediately cease its lethal assault against protesters at the Gaza fence, who appear to pose no credible threat to Israeli military forces on the Israeli side of the fence”. The Special Rapporteur condemned Israel’s excessive use of force towards largely unarmed demonstrators which, by 15 May, had already left 58 Palestinians dead and almost 2,800 wounded. He expressed grave fears of a rising toll should Israel continued to fail to honour its “obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law.”
Michael Lynk called for “true accountability for those in military and political command who have ordered or allowed this force to be once again employed”, adding “I must reiterate that international human rights law sets strict prohibitions on the use of force” and noting that “lethal force against demonstrators is prohibited unless strictly unavoidable in the case of an imminent threat to life or threat of serious injury”. The UN Human Rights Rapporteur also deplored the apparent disregard by Israeli forces for the rights to freedom of expression and assembly. He reminded the world that: “The killing of demonstrators in violation of these rules, and within the context of Occupation, may amount to wilful killing, a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, as well as a war crime.” Yet, in the face of such universal condemnation and despite warnings from the International Criminal Court, Israel continues to deploy snipers with shoot-to-kill-and-maim orders against civilians. This video taken on 8 June, shows the moment a defenceless and harmless Palestinian protester was shot by an Israeli sniper.
300 signatories, including rabbis and 10 Israel Prize laureates, condemn Israel’s war crimes
This month, over 300 of the world’s elected officials, legal scholars, academics, artists, faith leaders and activists signed an open letter in solidarity with the Palestinian people, condemning Israel’s plans to forcibly transfer thousands of Palestinians living in farming-shepherding communities in the Occupied West Bank. Signatories include 90 lawmakers, including from the EU and UK parliaments. Other notable signatories include ten Israel Prize laureates, film director Ken Loach, artist Ai Weiwei, author Alice Walker, academic Noam Chomsky and several musicians. Dozens of rabbis have also signed the letter denouncing Israel’s ethnic cleansing. The letter states that forcible transfer – by direct physical force or by creating a coercive environment that makes residents leave their homes – is a war crime.
A timely call for justice
On 5 June, in an uplifting statement read out to supporters at a demonstration in London in support of the Palestinian Right of Return, the British Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, noted “the outrageous and indiscriminate brutality being meted out, under orders from the Netanyahu government” against protesters in Gaza. Corbyn went on to deplore “the silence, or worse, support, for this flagrant illegality, from many Western governments, including our own, has been shameful”. The Labour leader called for our leaders “to demand an end to the multiple abuses of human and political rights Palestinians face on a daily basis, the 11-year siege of Gaza, the continuing 50-year Occupation of Palestinian territory and the ongoing expansion of illegal settlements”.
In his address, Corbyn reminded the world that: “We cannot turn a blind eye to these repeated and dangerous breaches of international law”. And in a reference to one of New Zealand’s ‘traditional allies’, commented: “The UK Government’s decision not to support either a UN Commission of Inquiry into the shocking scale of killings of civilian protesters in Gaza, or the more recent UN resolution condemning indiscriminate Israeli use of force – and calling for the protection of Palestinians – is morally indefensible. Britain, which is a permanent UN security council member, and has a particular responsibility . . .”
New Zealand’s role in defence of international law
Every country, including New Zealand, that supported the original plan to surrender Palestine and its people to the ambitions of Zionist ideology, has a responsibility for their security and the restoration of UN-recognised Palestinian human rights.
If our ‘traditional allies’ continue to support Zionism and condone Israel’s disrespect for the most fundamental provisions of international law, then we must part company with them and place the safeguarding of Palestinian human rights as a priority. A recent Palestine Solidarity Network Press Release draws attention to the NZ Super Fund’s investing in Israeli banks that profit from the illegal construction of Jewish-only settlements in the Occupied Palestinian West Bank. Human Rights Watch has provided evidence of the complicity of these banks in the construction of Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law. The NZ Government has the powers to direct the Super Fund to end this investment and, in view of the Israeli Defence Minister’s recent determination to accelerate the construction of further illegal settlements in the Occupied West Bank, the matter is urgent.
Jeremy Corbyn’s appeal to reason and humanity challenges the shameful commitment to Zionist ambition exhibited by the leaders of the US, Britain and Australia. Selfishness, racism and greed must never be allowed to supplant the hard-won achievements of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the universal respect for equality, human rights and justice. We should heed the warnings of people like Corbyn and the UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur, Michael Lynk, before it is too late. Put humanity before ideology.