Immediate, effective and concrete measures to end Israeli oppression of Palestinians

(FIDH)

Open Letter

International Federation for Human Rights  /  May 26, 2021

DECLARATION

Five immediate, effective, and concrete measures to put an end to the Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people

While the international community welcomes the ceasefire agreement reached by the warring parties, which saved lives after 11 days of deadly clashes, there remains an urgent need to end the impunity and address the root causes of this cycle of violence.

In view of the very heavy toll of aggressive Israeli attacks on Palestinians, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and its member organizations call on the international community to take immediate, effective and concrete measures to put an end to the Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people, to violations of international law and to possible war crimes.

With the de facto annexation already underway for many years through various Israeli policies, including, inter alia, continuous appropriation of Palestinian land and property, and the establishment and expansion of Israel’s illegal settlements, it is important that the international community’s response addresses the root causes of the Palestinian struggle with a view to ending impunity for these crimes.

The recent escalation broke out after the looming expulsion of eight Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in Jerusalem. These families are refugees themselves. They were settled in Sheikh Jarrah area in coordination with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), after they were forcibly expelled from their hometowns during the Nakba of 1948. Inherent in its settler-colonial and apartheid regime, Israel’s policy of fragmentation, dispossession, demographic manipulation, and population transfer to evict Palestinians and replace them with Israelis, continues to be carried out with impunity. This repeating cycle of violence is a result of the protracted impunity granted to Israel for its violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights laws, which we fear will escalate further and repeat itself in case of de-escalation, should there never be consequences for committing violations of international law.

During 11 days, Israel has disproportionately escalated its attacks on Palestinians. In flagrant violation of international law, Israeli occupying forces and settlers have invaded Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and used excessive force against worshippers, demonstrators and bystanders.

Israeli air strikes in Gaza have killed more than 230 Palestinians so far, including at least 62 children and 34 women, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza. Since the Israeli air strikes on Gaza began, at least 2,400 Palestinians have been injured, and this number is expected to rise as paramedics continue to conduct search operations. More than 58,000 people have been displaced by the hostilities in Gaza and many are seeking shelter in UNRWA schools as Israel prevents humanitarian aid from entering the Gaza Strip. Public property protected under international humanitarian law, such as medical clinics, media outlets, the Legislative Council, schools and cultural centers, and infrastructure such as water, electricity, and roads, amongst others, have also been targeted, which could constitute serious violations of international law and may well amount to war crimes.

At the same time, twelve Israeli civilians, including two children, have been killed by rockets fired from Gaza by Palestinian armed groups into Israeli urban areas. It is to be underlined that intentionally directing attacks against civilians, and intentionally launching disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks constitute violations of international humanitarian law.

In such context, the actions undertaken within international justice and accountability mechanisms, including the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation on the Situation in Palestine, are an essential barrier to the cycle of violations. It is necessary here to recall that, last April, representatives of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah sent a letter, endorsed by more than 190 organizations, to the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC, asking to include urgently the imminent forced displacement of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah as part of the open investigation.

Today, it is necessary to ensure that violations of international law are not repeated and do not go unpunished. We therefore call on the international community to take five immediate, effective and concrete steps to end the cycles of violence and impunity and protect the Palestinian people:

  • Call on States to declare an embargo on the direct and indirect supply, sale or transfer of all arms and munitions to the belligerent parties;
  • Publicly and actively support accountability efforts, including the ongoing investigation by the ICC into international crimes committed in Palestine (including the Gaza Strip and the West Bank);
  • Call for the establishment of an independent investigation into violations of international humanitarian and human rights law be it in Palestine (including in Gaza and the West Bank) or in Israel; and
  • Take targeted sanctions against those responsible for human rights violations and serious breaches of international humanitarian law, encouraging the international community to take a firm stand in this regard;
  • Urge Israel to comply with its legal obligation to lift the blockade of Gaza and to end its discriminatory laws and practices as well as its settlement activities in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.