Human Rights Council holds general debate on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories

UN – Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner   /  4 October 2023

The Human Rights Council today held a general debate on its agenda item seven on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.

State of Palestine, speaking as an entity concerned, said it was regretful that some politicized the work of the Council due to the wishes of the occupying power.  Today there were more than six million refugees from the State of Palestine, and thousands of people had been killed by Zionist gangs.  The Israeli occupation practices which started in 1967 were becoming more ferocious and barbaric against the State of Palestine.  All States needed to confront this methodology in light of the increasing religious Zionist powers in Israel.  This year commemorated 56 years of Israel as the occupying power.  Civilians, journalists and health workers were being targeted, with 248 people killed this year, and many administrative detention orders issued.  The international community needed to shoulder its historic and legal responsibility to put an end to the occupation. 

Syrian Arab Republic, speaking as a country concerned, pointed to the prolonged apartheid-based colonialism that violated all the norms developed in the field of international human rights and humanitarian law.  Settlement, which was the main feature of the occupation, was designed to consolidate it and violate the principle of the inadmissibility of the occupation of territory by force, created by enabling a coercive environment, including the theft of natural resources, displacement, intimidation and repression, and the creation of a geographic situation that prolonged the occupation.  The occupation of the Syrian Golan was against international law and tantamount to a war crime.  The activities in the occupied Syrian Golan and the occupied Palestinian territory depended on the impunity provided by its main sponsor, the United States, and other Western countries that supported it and covered up the main crimes. 

The President of the Council noted that Israel was not present in the room.
In the general debate, some speakers expressed serious concern over violations of international human rights law in the occupied Palestinian territory.  Deprivation of the right to self-determination, extrajudicial killings, restrictions on freedom of movement and assembly and illegal settlements were some of glaring manifestations of human rights violations of the Palestinian people.  The situation on the ground continued to deteriorate, as violations of international law by Israel, the occupying power, and settlers persisted. 

Palestinian civilians, including children, continued to be subjected to daily and continuous killings, in addition to the policy of incursions and attacks on Palestinian villages, towns and cities by the Israeli occupation forces and settler herds.  Speakers were also concerned about the forced eviction and displacement of many Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, which could amount to the war crime of forcible transfer.  Colonization, confiscations, house demolitions and forced displacement were illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

A number of speakers also expressed grave concern at the continuing Israeli settlement and related activities, including the expansion of settlements, the expropriation of land, the demolition of houses, and the confiscation and destruction of property, which had changed the physical character and demographic composition of the occupied Palestinian territories and the occupied Syrian Golan.  The occupying power continued to establish colonial settlements, which aimed to forcibly replace Palestinian landowners with new immigrants, in complete defiance of international law, in addition to continuing to enact and legislate more racist colonial laws.

Some speakers said these actions affirmed that the Israeli Government continued to commit the crime of settlement expansion and the deepening of “apartheid”, with the aim of closing the door to any opportunity to materialise a Palestinian State on the ground.  They opposed these settlement activities by the Israelis, as well as all projects aimed at annexing parts of the West Bank.  Speakers condemned the continuation of settlement policies and practices in the occupied Syrian Golan, including plans announced in late 2021 to establish and expand new settlements, and the doubling of the number of settlers in the occupied Syrian Golan within five years.

A number of speakers called for an immediate end of all human rights violations, including Israel’s policies aimed at perpetuating the decades long illegal occupation.  The Council and the international community needed to do more to bring an end to the grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws in the occupied Palestinian territory and hold perpetrators accountable. 

Some speakers urged the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to allocate necessary resources and support to both the Commission of Inquiry and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories.  Speakers also urged the High Commissioner to release the annual update of the database of business enterprises operating in the occupied Palestinian territories, as mandated by resolution 31/36 and 53/25.

Many speakers emphasized their commitment to strengthening efforts, including active engagement in international initiatives, aimed at ending the Israeli illegal occupation.  The international community needed to continue providing political, economic and humanitarian support to assist the Palestinian people and to bolster their resilience and efforts aimed at achieving their legitimate national aspirations, including their inalienable right to self-determination and freedom in their independent State of Palestine.

A number of speakers rejected the refusal of some States to participate in the general debate on item seven, as the work of this item reflected the commitment of the international community to address Israel’s long-standing racist practices and policies against the Palestinian people, in accordance with international values and obligations.  It was important to keep item seven on the agenda of the Council, as it was a vital instrument when it came to documenting violations against the Palestinian people by Israel, the occupying power. 

Some speakers said the allegations directed at Israel had been noted for their perceived bias, with item seven standing as the sole item on the Council’s agenda addressed to a specific country.  The Council had been established to promote and protect universal human rights, yet it had a long legacy of disproportionate focus on Israel, exemplified by the item seven discussion.  The Council and the United Nations were continuing a steady drumbeat of demonization of the world’s only Jewish State.  The disproportionate focus, targeting and singling out of Israel, highly discredited the Council and the United Nations as a whole.  Agenda item seven was ineffective and needed to be removed. 

A number of speakers said today’s session to demonize Israel was simply rhetoric and had a negative impact on Jewish communities around the world.  Jews faced continuous verbal and physical anti-Semitic abuse, regularly linked to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and were attacked by perpetrators who used anti-Israel rhetoric and called for the death of the State of Israel.  A speaker also drew attention to the remains of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, which were being kept within the Gaza Strip, along with Hisham al-Sayed and Avera Mengistu, two Israeli civilians with disabilities, who continued to be held in captivity by Palestinian leaders.

Some speakers echoed their unwavering support for the realization of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people and reiterated the call for ending the Israeli occupation.  Speakers reaffirmed support for the two State solution according to the pre-1967 borders, based on a free and secure State of Palestine.  They reaffirmed their longstanding solidarity with the Palestinian people and reiterated their support for the realization of their legitimate national aspirations and inalienable rights, including self-determination and freedom in their independent State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Speaking in the discussion were Côte d’Ivoire on behalf of the African Group, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Venezuela on behalf of a group of countries, Pakistan on behalf of a group of countries, Azerbaijan on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement,  Oman on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Libya on behalf of the Group of Arab States, Luxembourg, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Chile, Malaysia, South Africa, Bangladesh, Maldives, Pakistan, Morocco, Cuba, Algeria, Senegal, Bolivia, Sudan, China, Brunei Darussalam, Sovereign Order of Malta, Iraq, Bahrain, Libya, Jordan, Kuwait, Türkiye, Egypt, Russian Federation, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Namibia, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Yemen, Djibouti, Nigeria, Venezuela, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Oman, Mauritania, Ireland, Lebanon, Iran, League of Arab States and Colombia.

Also speaking were State of Palestine: Independent Commission for Human Rights, as well as the following non-governmental organizations: Defence for Children International, Jerusalem Institute of Justice, International Foundation Witnesses Ashoora, World Jewish Congress, Jameh Ehyagaran Teb Sonnati Va Salamat Iranian, B’nai B’rith, Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man, Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy, Palestinian Return Centre Ltd., Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, Union of Arab Jurists, Palestinian Center for Human Rights, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Stichting Global Human Rights Defence, Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations, Human Rights and Democratic Participation Center “SHAMS”, Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling, BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, International-Lawyers.Org, Institute for NGO Research, Servas International, United Nations Watch, International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, European Centre for Law and Justice, Centre Europeen pour le droit, le Justice et les droits de l’homme, Youth Parliament for SDG, and Association Ma’onah for Human Rights and Immigration.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here.  All meeting summaries can be found here.  Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s fifty-fourth regular session can be found here.

The Council will this afternoon start a general debate under agenda item eight on follow-up to and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.