CIHRS is deeply concerned that the 67th anniversary of al-Nakba (the Palestinian Catastrophe) has passed with very little done on the ground to ensure justice and peace in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Al-Nakba commemorates the war waged on the Palestinian people between 1947-1949. It remembers the confiscation of more than 87% of Mandate Palestine, the destruction of more than 400 towns and villages, and the displacement of more than 700,000 Palestinians. Today there are 5 million Palestinian refugees scattered around the world.
In 1967, Israel illegally annexed Jerusalem, and occupied another 22% of Palestine, creating the longest system of military occupation known in recent history, reaching nearly five decades.
The coincidence of numbers in 2015, (48 years of occupation since 1967, 67 years since the Nakba of 1948) is also a coincidence of facts. The discriminatory demographic policies and practices of the state of Israel, whether through forcible displacement of the population, extensive land and property confiscation, home demolitions and Judaization, in view of the control of one “ethnicity “ over the maximum surface of land, have remained uninterrupted for the last 67 years.
Israel continues its violations of international law, including preemptory norms prohibiting acquisition of territory by force, and the denial of self-determination, as well as grave breaches of international human rights and humanitarian law, and the non-implementation of hundreds of UN resolutions, makes it today one on the most lawless states in the international arena.
Israel’s daily de facto annexation of large portions of the OPT, renders the possibility of an independent state of Palestine on 1967 borders a mere illusion, and by extension any possibility for meaningful long standing peaceful resolution to the conflict.
Indeed, the complicity of the Israeli regime, in its three branches, legislative, executive and judicial, in maintaining its discriminatory system is also undeniable. On 5 May 2015, two Israeli Supreme Court decisions validated the destruction of the village of Um- Alhiran in Al-Naqab and the village of Susya in Hebron hills (Area C of the West Bank). This is an example of the broader policies carried out against Palestinians regardless of their geographical location or status.
Israel’s lack of political will to engage in a constructive peace building process has been cemented with the election of a new Israeli government that includes members who have openly incited against Palestinians. During his campaign, the Israeli Prime Minister warned of “the drove of Arabs going to the polls,” referring to the 20% Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, and made the electoral promise that under him, there shall be “no Palestinian state.”
Over the years, Israel has benefited from almost total impunity for its continuous crimes against the Palestinians. This impunity gives Israel a green light to maintain its illegal blockade on the Gaza Strip. For more than seven years, Israel has kept almost 1.5 million Palestinians, 70% of whom are refugees who were displaced following al-Nakba, in an open-air prison. The people of Gaza face an alarming and deteriorating humanitarian crisis made worse by Israel’s repeated attacks on the Strip, which has resulted in thousands of civilian deaths.
The persistent lack of concrete measures of accountability, as outlined in the outcome of the UN mandated “Goldstone Report” (which investigated the aftermath of “Operation Cast Lead” and which found serious evidence of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity) had in most probability led to Israel’s latest offensive in Gaza last summer.
Palestinian refugees are also denied their basic rights to nationality, self-determination, as well as their basic social, economic and cultural rights in refugee camps in different countries. Most urgently today, refugees in Syria have either faced a second wave of displacement or are locked in horrid conditions in the Yarmouk Camp.
Despite the widespread violation of Palestinian rights, the international community continues to exert pressure on Palestinian negotiators to grant Israel further concessions in terms of territory and give up on the right to return, ignoring policies of judaization and the erasure of the historic pluralistic identity of Jerusalem. The policy of double standards in international politics on the Palestinian cause has not only made “Palestine” over the years a symbol for the structural deficiencies in international law, it has provided additional challenges for the realization of a long-lasting and just political solution to the conflict.
On the occasion of al-Nakba, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies makes the following recommendations:
- To the governments of Arab States: Take a strong position in favor of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and implement a serious strategy enabling an environment for just paradigms and parameters leading to a sustainable solution for Palestinians.
- To the UN member states, bodies and agencies: Uphold obligations in realizing the basic principles of human rights law, as provided by the UN declaration of Human Rights, and the UN charter and hold Israel accountable to its continuous crimes and violations against the Palestinian people. We also call upon the Security Council to give its recommendation in favor of the Palestinian request for admission as a full member of the UN.
- To the UN envoy on the Middle East and members of the Quartet: Ensure that the mandate to reach a peace agreement is held in conformity with international law rules and principles, and that any political solution that is negotiated and carried out respects this legal framework.
- To the High Contracting Parties of the 4th Geneva Convention: Uphold obligations in regard to the protected people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory; take serious action to remove the illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip; call on Israel to halt the practice of land confiscation and settlement construction in the West Bank; and preserve the City of Jerusalem from the de facto changes that occur due to illegal Israeli annexation.
- To regional organizations, the AU, EU, and the various inter American frameworks: Take serious steps to hold Israel accountable, and do not facilitate any form of cooperation that might further undermine the rights of the Palestinian people and violate principles of international law.
- To the Palestinian leadership: Pursue accountability efforts against Israeli perpetrators; call for the immediate return of refugees particularly those in Syria, and fulfill its role as representative of the interests and rights of all Palestinians as provided by the PLO Charter 1964.
This year, CIHRS participated in the commemoration of the 67th Anniversary of al-Nakba. On 14 May, it held an event at its Cairo office with a screening of the documentary film “Memory of the Cactus,” produced by Al-Haq, followed by a brief discussion on the situation in the OPT. The film provides details of three Palestinian villages that were destroyed and colonized in the aftermath of the 6 days war in 1967. Mohammad Khaled al-Azar, first consul at the embassy of Palestine in Egypt and its media and cultural officer, attended the commemorative event and spoke of the historic tragedy of the Palestinians, and the need for change.
This post is also available in: Arabic