In a letter to members of the US House of Representatives: Human Rights Organizations Urge Members to Take Action against Israel's Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory

In Arab Countries, International Advocacy Programby CIHRS

Dear Representative,

We are a group of Palestinian, regional, and international human rights organizations, and we write to thank you for your leadership in advocating for Palestinian human rights. We urge you to continue to take further action to counter the U.S. policies and declarations relevant to the Palestinian population and the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), which flagrantly contravene international law. We further ask that you continue to speak out against human rights abuses in the OPT and elsewhere, and to ensure that the US is abiding by its obligations under international law, including in its relationship with Israel.

As members of Congress, you have a unique opportunity to challenge U.S. policies that have enabled, supported and facilitated Israel’s prolonged occupation of Palestinian territory, persistent human rights abuses, and serious violations of international law. President Trump’s one-sided pro-Israel policies have allowed the Israeli government to accelerate its forcible transfer of Palestinians and entrench its settler-colonial agenda in the OPT notably through its illegal settlement enterprise, while depriving Palestinians of their internationally-recognized, most basic human rights with impunity.

We urge you to continue to speak out against human rights violations and push for U.S. policies that protect and advance the rights and freedoms of the Palestinian people through respect for international law. In this context, we would like to bring your attention to some key human rights issues:

Legal Status of Jerusalem and Forcible Transfer

The city of Jerusalem is the historic economic, political, and cultural capital for the Palestinian population, and has been subject to a targeted campaign by Israel to rid the city of its Palestinian residents since 1948. As recognized by the international community, and reflected in the UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, Israel does not have any sovereign rights over the city. Most recently, UN General Assembly resolution ES-10/L.22 on the Status of Jerusalem, adopted on 21 December 2017, reaffirmed prior UN Security Council Resolutions, by holding “any decisions and actions which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void.”  In full contempt of international law, and of this resolution, in May 2018, the United States moved its Embassy to Jerusalem and declared the city the “capital” of Israel.

As part of its policies in deepening its control over the city and ensuring a demographic majority, Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem live with a precarious, revocable status as “permanent residents,” and have been treated as mere visitors in their own city. This discriminatory status does not confer full citizenship rights to Palestinians in Jerusalem and places their presence in the city perpetually at risk. Since 1967, Israel has continuously expanded its criteria of revocation of the residency status in order to accelerate the forcible transfer of Palestinians in Jerusalem. Between 1967 and 1995, 3,150 residencies were revoked for “settling outside Israel including the West Bank and Gaza” or for becoming a resident or citizen of another country.[1] Starting in 1995, Palestinians in Jerusalem were required to prove that their “center of life” is in Jerusalem, enabling Israel to revoke the residency rights of more than 11,300 Palestinians. In total, and since 1967, the residencies of 15,000 Palestinians were revoked as a result of such arbitrary policies, with numbers expected to rise with the adoption of the “breach of allegiance”[2] law in 2018, which has vague criteria that could be widely applied to any Palestinian from Jerusalem.

We recommend that you:

  • Call for the US government to return its embassy to Tel Aviv and revoke its proclamation naming Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
  • Call on the US government to urge the Israeli authorities to end measures and policies that result in the forcible transfer of Palestinians from their own land, as has been the case in Jerusalem.

Palestinian House and Property Demolitions in the OPT

The Israeli occupying authorities continue, at an accelerating rate, to demolish homes and displace Palestinians residing in the OPT, particularly in East Jerusalem and Area C, whether for administrative pretexts or as a method of collective punishment. In July 2019, they conducted extensive demolitions in the town of Sur Bahir in occupied East Jerusalem under the pretext that the homes pose a “security threat” for their proximity to the Annexation Wall, which in and by itself is illegal under international law[3] and was imposed on the residents of the Palestinian town.[4] Notably, the homes in Sur Bahir are located in areas classified as Area A, which means they fall under the control of the Palestinian Authority, as designated by the Oslo Accords. The demolished homes had already obtained all needed building permits from the Palestinian Authority. Israel has utilized such unlawful policies and practices to alter the demographic makeup by reducing the Palestinian presence and increasing its illegal settler population in the OPT.

Palestinians are faced with the increasingly expanding Israeli settlements, built illegally on stolen Palestinian lands with government-sponsored policies to move Israeli civilians inside the OPT, in total contempt of international law and longstanding US policy. Parts of the occupied West Bank have already been de facto annexed, and recently, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his promises to formally annex parts of the West Bank; “I am laying the groundwork for applying Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley as our eastern defensive wall, and after that, over all the settlements, and over other vital areas.[5]

We recommend that you urge the US government to:

  • Call on Israeli authorities to end the policy of demolishing Palestinian homes and property, which result in the displacement of the occupied Palestinian population in the OPT, and allow for settlement expansion.
  • Urge Israeli authorities to rescind its planning and zoning regime targeting Palestinians which restricts and often prohibits Palestinians from building and renovating their buildings and property.
  • Pursue policies that ensure accountability for Israel’s illegal settlement industry.

Corporate Involvement in Israel’s Illegal Settlement Enterprise

Businesses contribute significantly to the sustainability and expansion of Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise, which amounts to de facto annexation of Palestinian territory. As a result, these companies are not only contributing to human rights violations and grave breaches of international humanitarian law, but also profiting off them.

We urge you to speak out against the illegal activities of these companies and their involvement in the settlement enterprise:

  • Continue to support H. Res. 496, which reaffirms Americans right to engage in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad.
  • Urge the US government to support the release of the UN Database of companies operating in the illegal Israeli settlements.
  • Call on the US government to respect and implement differentiation between the OPT and the State of Israel, in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2334.
  • Support policies regarding Israel’s illegal settlement industry that are inline with the United States’ 2016 National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct.[6]

No time has ever been more critical to act for Palestinians than now, and it is our hope that you will utilize the tools at your disposal to support the Palestinian quest for justice and freedom and to advance the rights and freedoms of the Palestinian people. We look forward to working with you on these issues.

Notice (*) “This letter was sent to 30 congressional members”

Sincerely,

Al-Haq

Al-Quds Community Action Center

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)

Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem

Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC)

Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)

US Campaign for Palestinian Rights


[1] Al-Haq, “Punitive Residency Revocation: The Most Recent Tool of Forcible Transfer,” 17 March 2018, available at: https://www.alhaq.org/advocacy/6257.html.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Advisory Opinion, [2004] ICJ
[4] State of Palestine Negotiations Affairs Department, “The Carving of Est Jerusalem into Segregated Bantustans: The Case of Sur Bahir,” 16 July 2019, available at: https://www.nad.ps/sites/default/files/07162019_2.pdf
[5] See The Times of Israel, “Netanyahu: After Jordan Valley and Settlements, I’ll Annex Other Vital Areas,” 16 September 2019, available at: https://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-after-jordan-valley-and-settlements-ill-annex-other-vital-areas/
[6] See Responsible Business Conduct: First National Action Plan of the United States of America, 16 December 2016, available at: https://2009-2017.state.gov/documents/organization/265918.pdf


 

Photo: Magne Hagesæter


 

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