Yesterday, the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted a historic resolution establishing a standing Commission of Inquiry to address Israel’s latest and ongoing violations against the Palestinian people on both sides of the Green Line while also addressing the root causes of Israel’s settler colonialism and apartheid. This resolution was adopted during a Special Session requested by Pakistan, on behalf of the state members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and other UN members and observers.
“We welcome the passage of this historic resolution. Yet once again, EU countries failed to uphold international law and accountability when it comes to potential crimes committed by Israel, including the crime against humanity of apartheid. Such blatant double-standards are shameful and deeply undermine any possibility for justice,” said Nada Awad, UN Advocacy Rep. of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS). Awad underscored the important role played by Palestinian human rights defenders and global civil society in spurring action at the HRC:
“This historic resolution comes following years of work by courageous Palestinians and human rights defenders around the world, who have urged the international community to address the root causes of the human rights crises faced by the Palestinian people, one defined by a long-term project of settler colonialism and apartheid.”
Speaking before the HRC, Maisaa Abo El-Ouf, a Palestinian of Gaza spoke of her experience being trapped under the rubble when her home was bombed by Israel. The destruction of the building killed 43 Palestinians, including her two sisters, and injured 120 others. She called for action by the HRC: “My sisters were not numbers, we are not political pawns – we are people trying to survive and live decent lives. Human beings, women and children, with hopes and dreams. I plead with you to push for justice, and to hold the perpetrators accountable and stop Israel’s crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people.”
Following a call for action by civil society, more than 3000 individuals and organizations from over 77 countries signed a petition calling on UN member states to vote in favor of the resolution establishing an ongoing UN Commission of Inquiry into systemic violations targeting the Palestinian people on both sides of the Green Line. Individuals and organizations also wrote to their Ministries of Foreign Affairs and missions in Geneva to urge them to support the resolution.
For the first time in its history, the HRC addressed human rights violations and discriminatory policies committed and enacted by Israel against the Palestinian people in both the OPT and Israel. The resolution acknowledged the grave human rights situation faced by Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line, an approach adopted in order to respond to Israel’s policies and practices aimed at fragmenting the Palestinian population, one of the main tools used to implement its apartheid regime. During the session, a panel consisting of Palestinians in Jerusalem, Gaza and Israel addressed the latest Israeli attacks within the context of institutionalized racial domination and oppression.
Muna el Kurd testified to the apartheid policies targeting Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah where her family, along with seven others, are at imminent risk of forced eviction. She spoke of Israel’s repression of the demonstrations against their displacement, the Israeli closure of her neighborhood as well as settler attacks against the Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah. These policies and tactics of intimidation occur in the context of Israel’s demographic policies and practices designed to favor settler colonialism in Jerusalem. She insisted that the role of the HRC should not be limited to “expressing concern” but must also ensure effective measures are taken to end impunity and ensure accountability for crimes committed by Israel.
Mohammad Barakeh, chairman of the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, spoke of the unified Palestinian stance against Israel’s policies targeting Palestinians, met by Israel’s collective punishment of the indigenous Palestinian population, with more than 1700 Palestinians arrested and Palestinian homes raided, amongst the arbitrary practices aimed at intimidating Palestinians. He further addressed the institutionalized nature of Israel’s domination, citing Israel’s Nation-State Law from 2018, which inscribed in the fundamental law of Israel that the right to self-determination is unique to the “Jewish people. ”
Speaking from Gaza, Issam Younis, Commissioner General of The Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR), noted that “recent events are only a symptom. The problem is that for 73 years, the Palestinian people have endured systematic, institutionalized, and long-established laws, policies, and practices that aim to impose and maintain a settler-colonial regime of racial domination and oppression over Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line.” He addressed member states saying: “You have a choice to make because of the systemic impunity your governments grant to Israel.”
In his intervention, Professor Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, spoke on behalf of the coordination committee of special procedures, reiterating that “The simple reality is that the occupation has become as entrenched and as sustainable as it has because the international community has never imposed a meaningful cost on Israel for acting as an acquisitive and defiant occupying power.” He highlighted that “respected human rights organizations are now calling this apartheid”. In her address to the Council, the High Commissioner for Human Rights also insisted “[…] it is clear that unless the root causes of this violence are addressed, it will sadly be a matter of time until the next round of violence commences [..]”.
During the debate, UN member states addressed Israel’s institutionalized regime of racial domination and oppression over the Palestinian people and the need to address the root causes. For the first time, a resolution adopted by the HRC on Palestine calls on third states to refrain from transferring arms when assessed that these arms would be used to commit serious violations of international law.
 24 in favor, 9 against and 14 abstentions
 Ensuring respect for international human rights law and international humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel.
 Member States: Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Burkina Faso, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Eritrea, Gabon, Indonesia, Libya, Mauritania, Mexico, Namibia, Pakistan, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Uzbekistan and Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)
Observer States: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Benin, Brunei Darussalam, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Suriname, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Yemen and the State of Palestine
The holding of the session was later also supported by Peru, Chile, Philippines, Luxembourg, Ireland and the Netherlands.
Photo: National Demonstration For Palestine in London, UK – 22 May 2021 – by Loredana Sangiuliano / SOPA Images/Sipa USA
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