The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) condemns the escalating and aggressive Israeli attacks in Jerusalem targeting the Palestinian people. Israel’s apartheid regime is on full display for the world to witness, with exceptionally disturbing images and reports coming out of Jerusalem. The international community, and especially Israel’s closest allies in Europe and North America, must take long-overdue effective measures to hold Israel accountable for its widespread and systematic violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law; and to bring Israel’s impunity to an end.
The systemic violence and anti-Palestinian incitement underpinning Israel’s apartheid regime has escalated in recent weeks. The attacks by the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) targeting worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque compound from 7 May included the use of tear gas, sound bombs, and rubber-coated metal bullets, resulting in hundreds of injured Palestinians.
Israel’s disproportionate retaliatory response to the indiscriminate shelling of Jerusalem by Palestinian factions is a clear threat to peace and security and constitutes a war crime under international humanitarian law. Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip have resulted in civilian deaths, including children. CIHRS condemns indiscriminate attacks on civilians.
On 10 May 2021, an Israeli settler drove a car into Palestinians walking near the Lion’s Gate near Al-Aqsa mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem, resulting in injuries. Recently, Israeli settlers set fire to olive trees on land owned by Palestinians in the village of Burin, in the occupied West Bank. In April, hundreds of Israelis marched through the Old City of Jerusalem attacking Palestinians and shouting “Death to Arabs”. These are only the latest of many examples of regular and frequent attacks by settlers targeting the Palestinian people; and in an environment of impunity, such attacks are not only enabled but supported by the Israeli government and the IOF.
As part of Israel’s policy of demographic manipulation, ethnic cleansing, and population transfer to remove Palestinians and replace them with Jewish Israelis, eight Palestinian refugee families in Sheikh Jarrah, forcibly displaced in 1948 and denied the right to return to their land and property, are currently under imminent threat of eviction and displacement from homes they have lived in for nearly 70 years, which were built as part of an agreement between the Jordanian government and the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA).
Israel’s forced eviction orders against the Palestinian families stem from claims made by the settler organization Nahalat Shimon International under the inherently discriminatory 1970 Legal and Administrative Matters Law, which unlawfully grants Jewish Israelis the exclusive right to pursue claims to land and property allegedly owned by the Jewish population in East Jerusalem before the establishment of the State of Israel.
Since 1948, Israel has established an apartheid regime through strategic fragmentation of the Palestinian people, where Palestinians cannot meet, group, live together, or exercise their collective rights, including the right to self-determination. For decades, Israel has institutionalized – through its laws, policies, and practices – an apartheid regime of racial domination and oppression over the Palestinian people, which maintains Jewish Israeli superiority through myriad human rights violations, including killing, mass arbitrary arrest, torture, collective punishment, denial of the right of return, and the oppression and silencing of opposition to apartheid.
Israel’s ongoing escalations against Palestinians in Jerusalem in the context of its widespread and systemic attacks against the Palestinian people since 1948 form the basis of its apartheid regime, which amounts to a crime against humanity. All states of the international community bear a moral and legal responsibility to cooperate to bring this unlawful situation to an end. In this regard, CIHRS calls on the international community to:
- Recognize the reality of Israel’s imposition of an apartheid regime over the Palestinian people as a whole and take immediate and direct effective measures – including but not limited to sanctions, an arms embargo, and travel bans – to ensure that they, as members of a global community subject to international law, do not contribute directly or indirectly to the continued maintenance of apartheid;
- Reconstitute the UN Special Committee against Apartheid and the UN Centre against Apartheid to address Israel’s apartheid regime. These bodies were instrumental in building international support for collective action by states in order to overcome apartheid in South Africa;
- Support international justice and accountability mechanisms, including the ICC investigation into the Situation in Palestine, activate universal jurisdiction mechanisms to suspected perpetrators of international crimes in their own jurisdictions, and pursue the implementation of accountability resolutions adopted by the UN Human Rights Council as well as the recommendations of previous UN investigatory mechanisms on Palestine;
- Call for a Special Session of the UN Human Rights Council to urgently address the deteriorating human rights situation.
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