UNHCR condemns Israeli settlements

Palestinian communities and Israeli settlements are divided by the separation barrier in east Jerusalem (Photo: Eoghan Rice).

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted five resolutions regarding violations of Palestinian rights by Israel, settlement constructions in the occupied Palestinian territories, and the Israeli occupied Golan Heights in Syria.

The Council “reaffirmed the inalienable, permanent and unqualified right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and reaffirmed its support for the solution of two States living side by side in peace and security”.

The resolutions “demanded that Israel immediately cease and reverse all settlement activities” and that “Israel cease all practices and actions that violated the human rights of the Palestinian people or the character, status and demographic composition of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

A resolution on ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of international law in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, was also passed.

While the Unites States voted against all resolutions, an overwhelming majority of the 47-member council passed the resolutions on alleged Israeli human rights abuses. The US was, according to UN documents, “disappointed that the council continually singled out Israel for criticism without fully acknowledging the violent attacks directed against its people, nor the obligations and difficult steps required of both sides.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson threatened to withdraw from the Human Rights Council earlier this month.

The UK, while supporting two of the votes, broke with the other European countries and put the UNHCR “on notice” for bias and “selective focus” on Israel. “If things do not change, in the future we will adopt a policy of voting against all resolutions concerning Israel’s conduct in the Occupied Syrian and Palestinian Territories,” a statement explaining the UK’s voting said.

Danny Danon, Israel’s Permanent Representative to the UN, accused the UNHCR on Twitter of having “become the most notorious branch of the [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] BDS movement.” The ambassador said “Palestinian violene and incitement” was the real impediment to peace, not the settlements considered illegal under international law and by numerous UN resolutions.

A United Nations (UN) agency published a report 15 March stating that Israel has imposed a system of apartheid in order to maintain racial domination over the Palestinian people. The report caused an immediate outcry and UN Under-Secretary General Rima Khalaf resigned after pressure from the UN forced the agency to withdraw the report.