25th Session of the UN Committee for Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights
Distr. LIMITED E/2001/... 11 May 2001
Substantive session of
Geneva, 2-27 July 2001
Item ... of the provisional agenda
SOCIAL, HUMANITARIAN AND HUMAN RIGHTS QUESTIONS: REPORTS OF SUBSIDIARY BODIES, CONFERENCES AND RELATED QUESTIONS: HUMAN RIGHTS QUESTIONS
Letter by the
Chairperson of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to the
President of ECOSOC
1. The voluminous material from United Nations as well as NGOs' sources [Commission on Human Rights mechanisms; Adalah: Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel Association of Forty (Israel), Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights (Bethlehem, Palestine), Boston University Civil Litigation Program (USA), Habitat International Coalition, Housing and Land Rights Committee (Middle East/North Africa), LAW Society for the Protection of Human Rights and Environment (Jerusalem, Palestine), Organisation Mondiale contre la Torture (OMCT), Palestinian Center for Human Rights (Gaza, Palestine)] made available to the Committee at its 25th session (23 April-11 May 2001) under the Follow-up procedure with respect to its consideration of the initial report of Israel in 1998, confirm that the present situation of the Palestinian population in the occupied territories (OPT) of West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza Strip is dire. In the light of the on-going crisis and State party's continuing refusal to apply the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to, and report on the OPT, the Committee makes reference to rule 64 of its rules of procedure. This rule provides that the Committee may make suggestions and recommendations of a general nature on the basis of its consideration of reports submitted by States parties and the reports submitted by specialized agencies, in order to assist the Council to fulfil, in particular, its responsibilities under articles 21 and 22 of the Covenant.
Accordingly, the Committee wishes to draw attention of the Council to its
self-explanatory letter addressed to the State party (see Attachment) as well as
to the nature of the situation relative to the monitoring functions of the
Committee with respect to implementation of the Covenant in "crisis
situations", which may require action by the Council under articles
21 and 22 of the Covenant:
-While discharging its monitoring and reporting functions, the Committee remains limited in the enforcement aspect required to maintain the integrity of the Covenant in such a situation;
-The "…international measures likely to contribute to the effective progressive implementation of the Covenant" (article 22 of the Covenant) required to uphold the integrity of the Covenant in such a case therefore fall within the purview of other bodies of the international system ;
-In view of the Committee's responsibility to uphold the Covenant and effectively monitor the implementation of the rights recognized therein, the Committee would be remiss not to underscore the need for protection measures for the population in the OPT. The Committee adds its recognition of these facts as a matter of course in its monitoring work, and with particular reference to the tragic loss of life and limb, the senseless destruction of property, and the deliberate starving and economic strangulation of the Palestinian people by the Occupying Power;
-The Committee recognizes with special appreciation the recommendations of the UN Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the Commission on Inquiry, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights mission report, reliable information from other source and eye witness accounts; and the Committee notes that these recommendations for effective measures for protection and upholding human rights, in particular economic, social and cultural rights, remain outstanding.
Please accept assurances of my highest consideration.
Virginia Bonoan Dandan
Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
11 May 2001
S.E. M. Yaakov Levy
Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations Office and
Specialized Agencies at Geneva
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights acknowledges with appreciation the receipt of additional information to Israel's initial report as requested by the Committee in its Concluding Observations.
However, the additional report was submitted beyond the date requested by the Committee and as a result the additional information could not be translated into the required working languages in time for its consideration on 4 May 2001 during the Committee's 25th session.
Your Excellency will recall that in its Concluding Observations in relation to the initial report of Israel, the Committee requested the submission of additional information in time for its 24th session in November-December 2000. The Committee wishes to emphasize that some of the additional information in particular where it concerns the occupied territories was requested "in order to complete the State party's initial report and thereby ensure full compliance with its reporting obligations" (para. 32). The Committee therefore regrets that this current delay in submitting the additional information has resulted in another postponement of its consideration to the forthcoming 26th session of the Committee in August 2001.
The Committee reiterates the legal position shared by other treaty bodies that Israel's international treaty obligations as with this Covenant, apply to territories within its internationally recognized borders as well as other areas under its jurisdiction and effective control, including Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The State party's argument that jurisdiction has been transferred to other parties is not valid from the perspective of the Covenant, particularly in view of Israel currently besieging all the Palestinian territories it occupied in 1967. In response to Your Excellency's letter of 19 April 2000, the Committee reaffirms the principle that political processes, domestic legislation, scarcity of resources, or agreements with other parties do not absolve a State from its obligations to ensure the progressive realization of economic, social and cultural rights as provided for by the Covenant.
At its 25th session, the Committee had at its disposal a variety of recent reports including those of the Commission of Inquiry (E/CN.4/2001/121 of 16 March 2001), of the Special Rapporteur (E/CN.4/2001/30 of 21 March 2001) and of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (E/CN.4/2001/114 of 29 November 2000), as well as the letter of the Permanent Representative of Israel addressed to the High Commissioner for Human Rights (E/CN.4/2001/133 of 23 February 2001). In light of these and other available reports, the Committee reiterates its deep concern over accounts that Israel's recent actions in the occupied territories in violation of international human rights law and humanitarian law have resulted in gross violations of the economic, social and cultural rights of Palestinians. The Committee regrets that the ongoing conflict has resulted in the loss of Palestinian and Israeli lives. The Committee is particularly concerned about the lack of protection for Palestinian civilians in the OPT and the renewed maltreatment of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel. Among a number of issues, the Committee expresses grave concern about the following situations, which have serious implications for the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights:
violation of the Palestinian people's right to self-determination through the
continuing occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
• State party's continuing expropriation of Palestinian national resources including land and aquifers for exclusive Jewish control.
• The expropriation and devastation of vast areas of Palestinian lands by Israelis in the occupied territories resulting in grave hardships particularly for farmers and agricultural workers.
• Continued establishment and expansion of illegal Jewish settlements throughout the occupied territories of East Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza Strip including those straddling the "green line".
• The destruction of Palestinian homes, mosques, churches, hospitals, public buildings, power plants and commercial establishments through various means including heavy weaponry.
• Closures imposed solely on Palestinians, impeding access to health care, education, economic activities pertaining to employment and livelihood, and to the integrity of the family and the right to take part in cultural life through religious expression.
• The prevention by the State party military and security forces of medical aid and personnel from ministering to injured Palestinians and the attack of clearly marked medical vehicles and personnel.
• Discrimination in law enforcement practices, including the disproportionate use of force and procedures against Palestinians in the occupied territories and Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Your Excellency, the Committee welcomes the recent submission of additional information by Israel and appreciates this opportunity to address the situation of the Covenant within its territories. The Committee looks forward to a constructive dialogue with State party's delegation on 17 August 2001 when it considers the additional information already submitted by State party.
Please accept assurances of my highest consideration.
Virginia Bonoan Dandan
Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural
Delivered Before the
25th Session of the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural
Session 23 April 2001
Presented by: Jamil Dakwar, Advocate
Members of the Committee – I thank you for the opportunity to address you again on behalf of Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. I first appeared before this Committee at its November/December 1998 session at which it reviewed Israel’s initial report. I presented Adalah’s statement regarding Israel’s non-compliance with the Covenant inside Israel vis-à-vis Palestinian citizens of the state on a wide range of issues including: racism and hate speech, economic rights, employment rights, language rights, education rights, women’s rights, and land and housing rights. In the Concluding Observations at the end of that session, the Committee raised questions and requested additional information from Israel. In November 2000, during the Committee’s 24th session, Adalah submitted a second document in the form of a detailed Interim Report. This report focused on three main issues. Two of these issues relate to the Committee’s request for additional information: the Denial of Recognition and Services to the Unrecognized Arab Villages and the Use of “National Institutions” to Control the Land for the Exclusive Benefit of Jews. The third issue that Adalah raised was the Gross Violations of Human Rights and Failure to Ensure Equality of Treatment for Palestinian Citizens of Israel in the Current Crisis [October 2000]. We disseminated copies of this Interim Report through the Secretariat, which can be referred to for detailed background and information. It is our understanding that all members of the Committee have this document.
Today, I will discuss Israel’s violation of its reporting obligations under the Covenant and the continuing effects of the Intifada inside Israel on Palestinian citizens. I will also give you a brief update of the Israeli Supreme Court’s Qa’dan decision of 2000, which relates to the issue of the control of land by national institutions. Lastly, I will share our experience so far with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Commission on Human Rights.
Israel’s Violation of its Reporting Obligations under the Covenant:
We would like to emphasize our alarm at Israel’s continued failure to fulfill its reporting obligation under the Covenant and to the Committee. Despite repeated requests by the Committee for information, Israel has failed to provide the documentation requested. For example, Israel has failed to answer questions by the Committee in its Concluding Observations of November/December 1998 and at its October/November 2000 session. The information requested in your 1 December 2000 letter relates to the realization of economic, social, and cultural rights in the Occupied Territories including East Jerusalem, and the unrecognized villages and Jahalin Bedouin community in Israel. These areas remain central issues of concern.
Adalah learned on 19 April that Israel might submit answers to questions raised by the Committee during this current session. As of this writing, despite our requests, we have not been able to obtain an official copy of this document. We were also told that no information would be provided to the Committee about the Occupied Territories.
Israel’s Failure to uphold its Obligations under the Covenant:
1. The Intifada and Palestinian Citizens of Israel:
In October 2000, Israeli police killed 13 Palestinian citizens of Israel and injured hundreds more during street demonstrations, which took place in Palestinian towns and villages throughout the country. At least 700 Palestinian citizens of Israel were arrested both during and following these protests. These events and the ongoing events in the Occupied Territories are popularly known as the “Al-Aqsa Intifada.” It is imperative to note that during the protests, the Israeli police including border police and anti-terror special forces, did not aim to protect the legitimate right of all citizens to demonstrate. In addition, it is clear that police presence in these towns and villages was seen as a provocation and led to an escalation of violence since those demonstrations without police attendance ended peacefully.
government-appointed Commission of Inquiry (“the Commission”), chaired by
Supreme Court Justice Theodore Or, was established by former Prime Minister Ehud
Barak on 8 November 2000 to investigate these events. To date, the Commission
has held three weeks of hearings and heard more than 70 testimonies focusing on
incidents in the Arab villages of Jatt, Umm al-Fahem, and Sakhnin. Testimonies
and physical evidence presented before the Commission to date have revealed the
As the representative of the families of the 13 Palestinian victims appointed by the High Follow-Up Committee for the Arab Citizens in Israel, Adalah continues to struggle for legal status before the Commission and ensure that the overall process remains open to the families. Adalah collected 90 testimonies of eyewitnesses to the events, as well as physical evidence, which it submitted to the Commission in January 2000. [Adalah’s Report on the Submission to the Commission, Adalah’s Press Release on this Submission, and the Statement of the High Follow-Up Committee for the Arab Citizens in Israel to the Commission are attached]
This Commission is the
only body investigating the circumstances of the killings of Palestinian
citizens. We expect the work of the Commission to last until at least the end of
2001. However, there are ongoing efforts to delegitimize its work and halt the
continuation of proceedings by members of the new Likud government in Israel in
response to two attacks by bereaved family members on testifying police
officers. These emotional outbursts highlight the inadequacy of the Commission
hall, which forces families of the victims to sit next to police officers and
directly in front of officers who admit to firing the fatal shots. Rather than
remedy this situation with a larger hall, the new Minister of Public Security,
Uzi Landau, as well as other right-wing Members of Knesset and high-ranking
police officials, have openly called for the hearings either to be closed or
cancelled. Mr. Landau has even publicly declared that he is not bound by the
conclusions of the Commission, because the decision to establish the Commission
was based on the political motives of the previous government. Adalah has
repeatedly pushed for the hearings to remain open to the public in order to
preserve the Commission’s mandate as a public commission of inquiry. It is
imperative that international bodies, such as this Committee, monitor the work
of the Israeli Commission in order to ensure that the proceedings are open,
fair, and just, and that the Commission assigns responsibility and holds
government and police officials accountable.
The Intifada and its aftermath highlight the Palestinian minority’s vulnerability vis-à-vis the state, stemming from the perception that they constitute both a security and demographic risk. In October and November, Israeli police and governmental utility companies (telephone, electricity, water) refused to enter some Arab villages to answer calls for assistance. Those utility companies that finally agreed to enter these villages sent technicians accompanied by armed guards. In addition, in November, the Defense and Public Security Ministries compiled a list of 45 “especially sensitive” Jewish towns in Israel to be fortified with firearms and communication equipment, fences, electric gates, observation posts, and preparation of alternative entrances and exits. All of these sites neighbor Arab towns and villages in Israel. This list, which will be included within a new deployment plan for the protection of settlements inside the “green line” was brought to a special ministerial committee for final approval.
Further, in addition to the closures which prevent Palestinians from the Occupied Territories from entering Israel, since the outbreak of the Intifada, all Israeli citizens, both Palestinian and Jewish, are prohibited from entering the Occupied Territories. Those that violate this prohibition are subject to criminal prosecution. This ban has a greater impact on Palestinian citizens of Israel, who have more family and business ties in the West Bank and Gaza, or students attending West Bank universities.
The Right to Work:
In our November 1998 Statement to the Committee, we raised the following issues with respect the employment rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel:
These issues remain core matters of concern to the community and have not been adequately remedied despite two new bills guaranteeing Arab representation in the Board of Directors of government companies and the civil service. Implementation of this affirmative action plan remains a problem. It is also evident that the economic situation of Palestinians in Israel, already serious, has deteriorated since the beginning of the Intifada. Palestinian businesses were boycotted during this period leading many to speculate about a resulting chronic economic crisis in the Arab sector. Additionally, many Arabs were laid off from Jewish-Israeli owned companies, often only because they spoke Arabic around customers. Since the outbreak of the Intifada, Israel has experienced a widespread economic slowdown. The effect of the slowdown is much more pronounced in the Palestinian community and has affected the unemployment levels of Palestinians in Israel. Ministry of Labor and Welfare statistics draw attention to the fact that Palestinian towns in Israel have the highest unemployment rates in the country. As of July 2000, at least 25 Palestinian towns had the highest levels of unemployment, ranging from 10.70 to 22.40%. A comparison of figures for July 2000 (before the Intifada) and March 2001 (five months after the Intifada) reveal that 26 of the 38 Arab localities with chronic unemployment problems or 71% experienced an increase in unemployment after the start of the Intifada. By comparison, 6 of the 8 Jewish localities in this category or 75% actually experienced a decrease in unemployment rates for this period. [A translation of this data, in English, is attached as Appendix 4]
In July 2000, after publication of these unemployment statistics, the government prepared a special plan to support 11 localities with chronic unemployment problems. Given the gravity of the unemployment situation in the Arab sector both before and after the Intifada, it is particularly alarming that the government’s plan includes only one Arab locality, Tel Sheva in the Negev, out of all those identified for this support. When the issue was raised that in fact the 11 localities with the highest rates of unemployment are Arab, the government’s response to this disparity was two-fold: First, that socio-economic conditions were not the only considerations taken into account for this plan although no specific criteria was provided. Second, Arabs have a special budget, which is included in the 4-year development plan (totaling NIS 4 billion) for the sector to fight inter alia unemployment. However, the recently approved 2001 budget does not incorporate the promised four-year development plan for the Arab community. Moreover, this development plan was not devised based on a comprehensive needs survey and economists have argued that the Arab sector is actually in need of NIS 14 billion to remedy present economic conditions.
The Right to Housing:
Housing also remains an issue of concern faced by Palestinian citizens of Israel, due to discrimination in Israeli land and planning policy. As such, we have provided to the Committee under separate cover the second volume of Adalah’s legal journal, Adalah’s Review, dedicated to the issue of land. Our November 2000 submission discussed the Qa’dan case, which involved a Palestinian family who filed a successful petition to the Supreme Court in 1995 in order to be permitted to live in the Jewish Agency-established settlement of Katzir. The Court’s decision in March 2000 did not provide an immediate remedy to the situation, which would allow them to apply to move into the settlement. However, for the first time, the Supreme Court ruled that the State is prohibited from allocating state land based on national belonging or using “national institutions,” to perform these discriminatory acts on its behalf. Once the Qa’dan family applied, they were told that they do not meet the undisclosed criteria, which prompted the Association for Civil Rights in Israel representing the Qa’dans, to file a motion of contempt. The judge dismissed the motion early this month but recommended that Katzir reveal its selection criteria. After more than 5 years, the Qa’dan family has yet to be allowed to purchase land and build a home in Katzir.
Another case brought before the Supreme Court, which reaffirms the limited scope of the Qa’dan judgment, involves a Palestinian family who were denied the right to purchase land in the Solelim Jewish settlement, near Nazareth, based on the specified criteria of membership in the International Zionist Labor Movement (Histadrut) and the completion of national or military service. They filed a petition to the Supreme Court in August 2000 and are awaiting judgment. (H.C. 5601/00, Ibrahim Doweri v. Israel Lands Administration, filed 8/00)
I would like to direct the Committee’s attention to what has been our experience thus far with both the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Commission on
? In October 2000, an Adalah board member delivered a statement to the UN Commission on Human Rights Emergency Session on Israel/Palestine. Pursuant to the 19 October Resolution of this session, an International Inquiry Committee was established to investigate human rights abuses by the Israeli government against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. Its mandate excluded an investigation of human rights abuses perpetrated against Palestinian citizens of Israel during the Intifada.
? In November 2000, Adalah and other Palestinian NGOs in Israel met with UN High Commissioner Mary Robinson. The group briefed her on the situation inside Israel and gross human rights violations against Palestinian citizens. However, we were disappointed to see that the High Commissioner’s Visit Report dedicated 6 paragraphs (about 1 page of 20) to the situation of Palestinians in Israel. The report does not condemn the Israeli government’s gross violation of human rights against Palestinian citizens or demand that Israeli human rights violators be held accountable and brought to justice. Not one of the report’s “conclusions and recommendations” specifically addresses illegal police actions, excessive use of lethal force, or denial of due process rights as pertains to Palestinian citizen of Israel.
? In February 2001, Adalah and other Palestinian NGOs in Israel met with members of the UN Human Rights Inquiry Commission. At this meeting, Adalah submitted extensive documentation of the human rights concerns of Palestinians in Israel including our submission to the UN Commission on Human Rights in October, the report on our January 2001 submission to the Israeli Commission of Inquiry, and associated statements and press releases. Despite our best efforts, the Falk Report makes no mention of Palestinian citizens of Israel. Consequently, there is no condemnation of the Israeli government’s actions.
As a result, there seems to be no recourse available to Palestinian citizens of Israel with either the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights or the UN Commission on Human Rights. This matter is particularly alarming given that the office of the UN Commission on Human Rights remains the foremost international forum in which to raise concerns of gross human rights violations perpetrated against civilians, particularly minorities, by their governments.
Lastly, we understand that the Committee at its upcoming 4th May session will review Israel’s compliance with the Covenant concerning the economic, social, and cultural rights of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. We would like to take this opportunity to urge the Committee to also consider and monitor, Israeli violations of the Covenant against Palestinian citizens of Israel. We appreciate the gravity of the current situation in the Occupied Territories, nevertheless it is our view that the concerns of Palestinians on both sides of the “green line” are interconnected and inter-related. They cannot be viewed in isolation. One must also recognize the impossibility of separating civil and political rights from economic, social, and cultural rights, as they are indivisible. For example, without ensuring the fundamental right to life, the rights to health, education, work, gender equality, etc. are meaningless. With those issues in mind, we urge the Committee to take immediate action:
Memorandum to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights at their 25th Session regarding Israeli violations of Palestinian Rights
23 April 2001
To the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights:
We, the undersigned NGOs, would like to thank the Committee for its important work in monitoring Israel’s compliance with its duties under the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. We represent organizations with varying mandates, reflected in our reports to the Committee, but we are united in our commitment to using the UN treaty-body system to address abuses of Palestinian human rights. This letter serves to summarize the grave violations of Palestinian economic, social and cultural rights across the “green line” during the current intifada. For more information and background on paritcular topics please see individual NGO reports.
We are gravely concerned with Israel’s refusal to uphold its covenanted duties and also its refusal to comply with the procedures of this Committee. Israel has once again failed to provide the "additional information" requested by the Committee first in December 1998 and again in November 2000, and has failed to submit its second periodic report.
Meanwhile, the human rights crisis in Palestine is escalating. Throughout the UN system, there has been clear condemnation of Israel’s human rights abuses against the Palestinian people and clear consensus that the crisis must be resolved in accordance with international law and human rights. However, the UN has been unable to compel Israel to acknowledge, let alone respect, international law and human rights and this, in turn, has created a credibility crisis for the Organization.
ESCR violations cross the green line
Israeli violations during the second intifada derive from an intensification of Israeli policies and practices which systematically preference Jews and disadvantage non-Jews, primarily in the areas of citizenship and residency rights, as well as in the ownership and distribution of land, housing and other services, and which have been implemented over the past 53 years, since the founding of Israel. The Committee must clearly articulate the fundamental incompatibility between Israel’s discriminatory laws and true principles of democracy, which require equality of treatment for all a government’s citizens. Moreover, Israeli policies and practices during the current intifada have led to grave violations of Palestinians’ economic, social and cultural rights on both sides of the "green line," both inside Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).
Therefore, while we urge the Committee to support the findings and recommendations of the Human Rights Inquiry Commission (E/CN.4/2001/121), the Special Rapporteur (E/CN.4/2001/30) and the High Commissioner for Human Rights (E/CN.4/2001/114), we are very concerned that the Human Rights Inquiry Commission made no mention of the human rights abuses of Palestinian citizens inside Israel and that the High Commissioner’s report dedicated only one page out of twenty to the situation inside Israel. Nor did any of these reports focus on the situation of the estimated 250,000 “internally displaced” Palestinian citizens of Israel, who have remained barred for over 52 years from returning to their families’ homes of origin inside Israel and whose lands and properties have been confiscated by Israeli laws, in violation of international law.
The Committee must now fill this vacuum of accountability and condemn Israeli violations of the economic, social and cultural rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel during the current intifada. This intifada has clearly demonstrated that violations of Palestinian human rights on both sides of the green line are interconnected.
For example, the military blockade which has been placed upon the OPT has strangled the internal Palestinian economy by barring workers and goods from the OPT from entering Israel. However, Israeli citizens, both Palestinian and Jewish, are also prevented from entering the OPT. This restriction on freedom of movement has mostly affected Palestinian citizens of Israel who are unable to visit family, conduct business and reach places of study in the OPT.
Furthermore, the Committee has received grave reports of violations of the right to health for Palestinians in the OPT due to closure, siege, destruction of health facilities, and targeting of medical personnel and ambulances. Inside Israel, during the early October demonstrations, ambulances were deliberately prevented by Israeli police from providing aid to injured Palestinians. Nine of the thirteen Palestinians inside Israel who were killed by Israeli police were denied autopsies.
In October and November, Israeli police and government utility companies (telephone, electricity and water) refused to provide assistance to some Palestinian villages in Israel. Furthermore, Palestinian businesses in Israel were boycotted after the beginning of the intifada and many Palestinians were laid off from Jewish-Israeli owned companies, often only because they spoke Arabic around customers. Unemployment rates in 26 of the 38 Palestinian areas with chronic unemployment problems experienced an increase in unemployment after the start of the intifada. The intifada has led to clear violations of the rights to work, health and an adequate standard of living for Palestinians in Israel.
ESCR violations in the OPT
In the OPT, grave violations of economic, social and cultural rights result from the strict Israeli military blockade imposed on the OPT and the destruction of civilian infrastructure and property. In his March 21 report the Special Rapporteur stated that "Israeli officials have openly admitted a strategy of restricting the Palestinian economy with the intent and purpose of effecting social control." All residents of the OPT’s are barred from entering Israel, where a great percentage had formerly been employed. As a result of this deliberate strategy to target the residents of the OPTs economically unemployment has tripled and poverty has increased by 50%. Additionally, more than 3,000 structures have been partially or totally destroyed, at least 25,000 olive and fruit trees have been uprooted and more than 11,000 dunums of land have been bulldozed. The practices of house and property demolitions have increased during the intifada. Many poor Palestinian families have run out of basic food and water supplies. The economic plight of Palestinian refugees, as is highlighted in the following section, is particularly severe and devastating.
While Israel has justified its policies of siege and destruction on grounds of "security," this argument has been soundly rejected throughout the UN human rights system, most recently by the Special Rapporteur in his report of 21 March 2001 and the Human Rights Inquiry Commission in their report of 16 March 2001. The Special Rapporteur confirms that house and property demolitions violate the Fourth Geneva Convention’s prohibitions against collective punishment (art. 33) and illegal acts of destruction (art. 53), as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (art. 25). As for closures, the Human Rights Inquiry Commission states that "To claim a security justification for policies that inflict such pronounced harm imposes a heavy burden of persuasion on the claimant, in this case the Government of Israel. The closures seem to have a mainly punitive character quite unrelated to security."
intifada has had a disproportionate effect upon Palestinian refugees, who make
up more than 50% of the population in the OPT, and who represent the poorest
sector of this population. By definition having no access to their own land from
which to earn a subsistence basis of living, their situation is exacerbated by
the chronic deficit problem faced by UNRWA since the beginning of the Oslo
process, necessitating a regressivity in critical services. UNRWA emergency food
rations distribution have shot up to an incredibly high 85% of the registered
refugee population since the beginning of the intifada (previously only 10% of
the refugee population had been receiving emergency food rations).
Due to their vicinity to Israeli military installations, settlement and by-pass roads, many refugee camps have become regular targets of Israeli attacks by heavy weapons, with damage already in the millions of dollars. As of 10 April 2001 alone, Israel demolished 30 homes and their contents as well as a five-story apartment block in Khan Yunis refugee camp (Gaza), leaving some 500 Palestinian refugees homeless. Damage to family homes caused by indiscriminate Israeli shelling are especially large in the densely built-up refugee camps, where makeshift constructions are less resistant to attacks by heavy Israeli ammunition and missiles. The population density in West Bank and Gaza Strip refugee camps is as high as 30,450 refugees per square kilometre in some areas. The vulnerability of Palestinian refugees is further exacerbated by the absence of an international protection regime.
Conclusion and Recommendations
In closing, the Israeli policies documented here are deliberate acts of state that discriminate against Palestinians and regressively impact their enjoyment of the full range of economic, social and cultural rights.
We urge the Committee to condemn in the clearest possible terms, Israel’s continued and intensified violations of economic, social and cultural rights on both sides of the green line and to state definitively that violations of economic, social and cultural rights cannot be justified on security grounds. Furthermore, we urge the Committee to express grave concern over Israel’s occupation of the OPT and Israel’s failure to respect the right of Palestinians to self-determination, as recognized in article 1(1) of the Covenant, as both an individual and collective right. Not only is Israel violating the individual right of self-determination to Palestinian citizens of Israel, internally displaced Palestinians inside Israel and Palestinian refugees, but also the collective right of self-determination of those Palestinians whose “homes of origin” lie within the OPTs, including the 1967 refugees who Israel continues to bar from returning there.
Committee must call for an immediate lifting of the military and economic siege
of the OPT, and to call for an immediate end to land expropriation, settlement
building, house demolitions, razing of agricultural land and destruction of
We look forward to working further with the Committee on this issue.
Adalah, The Legal Center for the Arab Minority Rights in
Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man
Arab Association for Human Rights
The Association of Forty
BADIL, Resource Center for Palestinian Residency & Refugee Rights
Center for Economic and Social Rights
Habitat International Coalition, Middle East and North Africa
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights