Dismantling Israel’s illegal occupation is a sine qua non for Palestinian right to self-determination: UN expert

UN headquarters in New York (Carlo Allegri - Reuters)

UN Human Rights – Office of the High Commissioner  /  October 27, 2022

NEW YORK – Israel’s occupation is illegal and indistinguishable from settler-colonialism, which must end as a pre-condition for the Palestinians to exercise their right to self-determination, the UN’s independent expert on the occupied Palestinian territory said today.

“For over 55 years, the Israeli military occupation has prevented the realization of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people, violating each component of that right and willfully pursuing the “de-Palestinianisation” of the occupied territory,” said Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, in a report to the General Assembly.

Albanese’s report found that the Israeli occupation violates Palestinian territorial sovereignty by seizing, annexing, fragmenting, and transferring its civilian population to the occupied territory. The occupation endangers the cultural existence of the Palestinian people by erasing or appropriating symbols expressing Palestinian identity and violates Palestinians’ ability to organize themselves as a people, free from alien domination and control, by repressing Palestinian political activity, advocacy and activism.

“This is, in essence, proof of the intent to colonize the occupied territory, and manifests Israel’s policies of domination through the “strategic fragmentation” of the occupied territory,” the expert said.

According to the report, the international community’s political, humanitarian, and economic approaches to resolving the Israel/Palestine “conflict” have failed without exception.  

“These approaches conflate root causes with symptoms and serve to normalize Israel’s illegal occupation instead of challenging it. This is immoral and renders the regulatory and remedial function of international law futile,” Albanese said. 

The report calls for “a paradigm shift”, which entails moving away from the narrative of “conflict” between Israel and the Palestine and recognizing Israel’s “intentionally acquisitive, segregationist and repressive settler-colonial occupation.”

Albanese urged the international community to formally acknowledge and condemn the settler-colonial nature of the Israeli occupation, demand an immediate end to the illegal occupation, and call on Israel to withdraw its military presence and support to Israeli civilians in the colonies. She cautioned all States against making withdrawal subject to negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

“Meaningful discussions on a political solution for Palestine can only begin when the illegal occupation is dismantled once and for all,” the expert said. 


Francesca Albanese was appointed the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967 by the Human Rights Council at its 49th session in March 2022 and has taken up her function as of 1 May 2022. She is an Affiliate Scholar at the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University, as well as a Senior Advisor on Migration and Forced Displacement for a think-tank, Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD). She has widely published on the legal situation in Israel and the State of Palestine and regularly teaches and lectures on international law and forced displacement at universities in Europe and the Arab region. Ms. Albanese has also worked as a human rights expert for the United Nations, including the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.