On Human Rights Day: Al Mezan calls on the international community to ensure respect for human rights and accountability the occupied Palestinian territory

Every year on 10 December nations across the globe celebrate Human Rights Day. On this day in 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which laid the foundation for international human rights law. This day features global efforts for the promotion of human rights.

This year’s Human Rights Day comes at a time of increased barriers for the Palestinian people who are continuously subjected to severe, continued violations of their fundamental rights and freedoms by Israel, the occupying power, including systematic and institutionalized discrimination and an intent to dominate that amounts to apartheid.

One of the key features of Israel’s apartheid regime is the confiscation of Palestinian land, including through the de facto illegal annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the destruction of civilian objects, such as residential buildings and farmlands, across the whole occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), including the Gaza Strip. At the same time, the Israeli government continues to unlawfully establish and expand settlements in the oPt.

To retain its control and domination over Palestinians, Israel maintains a consistent pattern of manifested use of excessive and lethal force against them, as well as demographic manipulation and forceful displacement of the Palestinian population. The Israeli occupying authorities also raid Palestinian cities and villages, especially in Jerusalem, where its policies of confiscation and demolition of land and houses, the imposition of fines, the excessive use of force and settler violence disrupt Palestinian life daily.

In the Gaza Strip, for the latest 14 years, Israel has unilaterally imposed a comprehensive blockade and closure, that constitutes a form of unlawful collective punishment of the protected civilians residing in Gaza. In particular, the closure and its associated regime that severely restricts the freedom of movement of both people and goods enables Israel to control all aspects of life in the Gaza Strip and to cripple the provision of basic services, such as healthcare, water, electricity and sanitation services. 

Medical patients in dire need of healthcare available only outside Gaza are not exempted from the repercussions of the ongoing Israeli closure and apartheid regime, as the discriminatory Israeli permit regime, which violates rules of international law, hinders their access to medical care in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Israel, and third States. The closure also results in a progressive humanitarian catastrophe and unprecedented economic turmoil due to high rates of unemployment and poverty—which are likely to worsen due to the global economic crisis resulting from the pandemic.

In May 2021, during Israel’s full-scale military offensive against the Gaza Strip, Israeli attacks killed 240 Palestinians, of whom at least 151 were civilians, while another 1,979 sustained injuries, including 636 children. Israeli forces carried out numerous attacks marked by the indiscriminate targeting of civilian houses and infrastructure, ultimately destroying and damaging entire buildings, homes and industrial facilities. Further, the offensive inflicted significant damage on vital infrastructure, including paved roads, water and electricity networks and sewage systems. Against this backdrop, the Palestinian Ministry of Health took the necessary precautionary measure of imposing a lockdown to tackle the pandemic.

In addition to tightening the closure, Israel has recently finished building a concrete wall isolating the Gaza Strip from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory and the outside world, further restricting the freedom of movement of more than two million residents. Reportedly, the wall separating Israel from Gaza is 60 kilometers long and extends along the perimeter fence to the Mediterranean Sea, thereby imprisoning more than two million Palestinians in a strip of land that can be likened to a South African bantustan.

To further silence those who stand against its apartheid regime, in October 2021 Israel designated six Palestinian human rights organizations as ‘terrorist’ according to its Anti-Terror Law of 2016.

On this Human Rights Day, Al Mezan reaffirms its strongest condemnation of Israel’s daily practices that hinder Palestinians’ enjoyment of their basic rights enshrined in the UDHR, including their inalienable and collective right to self-determination. As reaffirmed in our recent report, ‘The Gaza Bantustan—Israeli Apartheid in the Gaza Strip’, Israel’s practices against the Palestinian people as a whole amount to the crimes of apartheid and persecution.

Accordingly, Al Mezan calls on the international community to uphold its legal and moral obligations towards the Palestinian people in the oPt and ensure accountability for alleged violations of international law. The international community must also assert pressure on Israel to end its occupation of Palestine, to lift the unlawful closure of the Gaza Strip, and to dismantle its its apartheid regime against the Palestinian people as a whole.

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