by Ayman Ahmed (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 51, No. 2, Sha'ban, 1443)
The annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) into human rights violations in Palestine and other occupied Palestinian territories, is a damning inditement of zionist Israel. Authored by Michael Lynk, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, the report concludes that it “satisfies the prevailing evidentiary standard for the existence of apartheid.”
Michael Lynk is Professor of International Human Rights Law at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. He introduced his report to the Human Rights Council on March 24. It covers the period between November 1, 2020 and October 31, 2021. It addresses issues relating to accountability for alleged violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law committed by all relevant duty bearers in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). These include the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
The report also examines measures taken against human rights defenders and civil society actors documenting violations and advocating for accountability by all duty bearers. In October 2021, Israel outlawed six Palestinian human rights organizations, accusing them of aiding and abetting “terrorism”.
The present report draws on human rights monitoring conducted by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the OPT and information from government sources, other UN entities and non-governmental organizations. OHCHR requested Israel and the State of Palestine to provide information, by November 15, 2021, on any accountability measures adopted during the reporting period in relation to alleged violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law committed in the OPT.
The State of Palestine responded on November 24. Israel, true to its contemptuous nature, did not respond despite being the most egregious violator of human rights.
The UN report follows on the publication of similar findings of Israeli “apartheid” by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Al-Haq, Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights, and Israeli human rights organizations B’Tselem, Yesh Din, and many other international and regional human rights organizations.
The UN report found that the human rights situation for Palestinians deteriorated during the reporting period. There was a marked escalation of violence, including a major eruption of hostilities between Israel and Palestinian groups (Hamas and Islamic Jihad) in Gaza from May 10 to 21, 2021.
Israeli occupation forces increased the use of live ammunition in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, together with intensification of settler-related violence. These patterns resulted in an increase in the number of Palestinians killed and injured. Israeli occupation forces killed 315 Palestinians, including 197 men, 41 women and 77 children, and injured 17,597 Palestinians, including at least 527 women and 1,472 children, during the reporting period.
In the context of Israeli attacks on Gaza, OHCHR monitoring continued to indicate insufficient respect for international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict. Beyond direct hostilities, OHCHR documented numerous cases that raise concerns about Israel’s respect, as the occupying power, for international humanitarian law in the context of occupation and by all duty bearers with regard to their international human rights law obligations.
Many incidents of the use of force raised serious concerns that its use was excessive, in some cases amounting to the arbitrary deprivation of life, including extrajudicial execution. The UN report found a climate of impunity of Israeli soldiers that has persisted since 1967.
The international staff of OHCHR remained outside the OPT during the reporting period due to the non-issuance of visas by Israel. The Middle East’s self-proclaimed “sole democracy” is neither willing to investigate such egregious crimes through its own system, flawed as it is, nor allow outside observers to investigate its criminal conduct.
Referring to Israel’s 11-day onslaught on Gaza from May 10 to 21, 2021, the UN report describes it as the “most significant escalation in hostilities between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza since 2014.” According to the UN, “261 Palestinians were killed, including 153 men, 41 women and 67 children (23 girls and 44 boys). At least 130 of those killed were civilians. About 2,200 other Palestinians were injured, including about 685 children and 480 women.”
True, there were Israeli casualties as well. The report listed “Ten Israeli citizens and residents (five men, three women and two children) were killed by rockets and mortars launched by armed groups in Gaza and, according to Israeli sources, 710 others were injured.”
Together with casualty numbers—by no means insignificant as far as Palestinian losses are concerned—“OHCHR documented a number of incidents in which Israeli attacks, having resulted in significant civilian casualties and damages to civilian objects, might have violated international humanitarian law principles of distinction, proportionality and feasible precautions.”
As at October 31, 2021, OHCHR did not learn of any criminal investigation opened into the conduct of Israeli occupation forces during their assault on Gaza in May 2021. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reported that it had submitted 57 criminal complaints to the Military Attorney General of Israel and 295 civil complaints to the compensation office of the Ministry of Defense of Israel in relation to incidents involving the killing of 101 Palestinians and the injury of another 100 during the hostilities in May 2021. According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, the Military Advocate General of Israel had indicated that 11 of those complaints had been referred for further examination to the General Staff Mechanism for Fact-Finding Assessments, established in 2014.
OHCHR expressed serious concern that, despite preliminary examinations carried out by Israel in some cases, the findings regarding possible violations have been shielded from public scrutiny and do not appear to have yet triggered the opening of criminal investigations or any other meaningful accountability steps.
The UN report cites an artillery attack on May 13, 2021 against a residential neighbourhood and agricultural area adjacent to the Israel-Gaza fence, near Bayt Lahya. Six Palestinians were killed, including a 17-year-old girl and a 9-month-old infant, and several others were injured. The report said, “The incident raises serious concerns of its compatibility with the prohibition of indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks under international humanitarian law.”
Despite such clear evidence of Israeli crimes, western regimes still have to gall to defend this racist entity.