On 29 November 2006, the international community observes the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. As a Palestinian organisation dedicated to the protection and promotion of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), Al-Haq takes this opportunity to emphasise that the root cause of the pervasive violations of human rights and humanitarian law in the OPT is the almost 40-year-old Israeli occupation. Both Israel and the international community have repeatedly failed to meet their international legal obligations with regard to the OPT. Consequently, the full realisation of the fundamental rights of Palestinians, including the right to self-determination, remains as distant as ever.
Israel continues to systematically violate, with impunity, international humanitarian and human rights standards in the OPT, as demonstrated by the recent incursions into Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip. Since 29 November 2005, Israeli military operations in the OPT have resulted in the deaths of 562 Palestinians, including 44 women and 86 children, and injured many more. Many of those killed were civilians not participating in hostilities. There are no justifications under international law for Israel’s clearly disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force against Palestinians, or for the continuing occupation of the OPT in violation of binding UN Security Council resolutions.
Israel, the Occupying Power, furthermore disregards its obligation to provide for the basic welfare of the occupied population, as illustrated by the recent drastic deterioration of the Palestinian economy and related shortages of food, water and medicine. Approximately two thirds of the Palestinian population now live below the poverty line, many of them children deprived of their basic needs. To aggravate matters, over 150,000 civil servants, upon whom at least one quarter of the Palestinian population depend for support, have only been paid a fraction of their wages since March 2006. This is a direct result of Israel’s retention of Palestinian tax and customs revenues and major donors’ withdrawal of financial aid to the Palestinian National Authority. As noted by John Dugard, the Special Rapporteur on the OPT, “the Palestinian people have been subjected to economic sanctions - the first time an occupied people have been so treated.”
International solidarity with the Palestinian people can be best expressed by ending the aforementioned economic sanctions and ensuring respect for international law. In this regard, Israel’s ongoing construction of the Annexation Wall, development and expansion of settlements, and sustained efforts to annex vast tracts of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in open defiance of international law as reflected in the International Court of Justice’s 2004 advisory opinion, must be brought to an immediate end.
At a time when the civilian population of the OPT finds itself denied the fundamental protections of international law, pressure must be exerted on every member of the international community to urgently and unequivocally stand in defence of the rights of the Palestinian people and find the political will to oppose Israel’s persistent violations. Adherence to international law, the ending of the occupation and the meaningful and effective exercise of the right to self-determination by the Palestinian people are essential to achieving a just and durable solution to the conflict.