1. QUANTIFICATION of Palestinian Losses
In the face of ongoing aggression by the Israeli military and settlers against the Palestinian people, lobbying efforts continue for the deployment of an international protection force in the occupied West Bank, eastern Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip under the auspices of the United Nations despite Israeli opposition. Urgent action is required by the United Nations in order to stop the massive Israeli assault on the basic rights of the Palestinian people since the beginning of the uprising (Al-Aqsa Intifada) in late September.
"If we thought that instead of 200 Palestinian fatalities, 2,000 dead would put an end to the fighting at a stroke," stated Israeli Prime Ehud Barak on Israel Radio, "we would use much more force." (Quoted by AP, 16-11-00)
In eight weeks, 250 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli occupying forces (including 14 Palestinians inside Israel) and nearly 10,000 have been injured by live ammunition (19%), plastic and rubber bullets (41%), gas (31%). Of those killed, 86 are children (18 years and under). Sixty-six of the children were killed by live ammunition, approximately a third of whom were shot in the head. During the first week of the uprising some 2,860 Palestinians were injured and 69 killed. Since that time, around 25 Palestinians have been killed and some 1,000 injured each week by Israeli occupying forces.
To date the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli occupying forces is 4 times greater than during the first two months of the intifada that began in December 1987, and equal to the total number of Palestinians killed between December 1987 and June 1988. While the Israeli military continues to claim that its soldiers only fire when their lives are in danger, investigations by several international human rights organizations have concluded, based on the number and type of injuries and fatal wounds, that Israeli soldiers are firing at Palestinian demonstrators with intent to injure and kill. This conclusion is further supported by the fact that Israeli occupying forces are outfitted with sophisticated protection gear, including flak jackets that can stop an M-16 and an AK-47 bullet at any range and armored jeeps, while most Palestinian demonstrators are unarmed.
The Palestinian people have also suffered enormous material damage after more than two months of shelling and heavy machine gunfire on residential and commercial areas. This includes attacks using American-made munitions and military hardware. In the past two months, the US granted Israel an additional several million dollars of financial aid, some of which will surely go towards the purchase of an additional 100 armored jeeps and 1,300 advanced flak jackets earmarked for purchase by the Israeli military in the last week. Meanwhile US arms manufacturers continue to supply Israel with the same weapons systems used against Palestinian civilians, including a recent sale of Appache attack helicopters built by McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems, and a new $200 million contract between Lockheed Martin and the Israeli company Raphael for a new anti-tank missile, first tested in live action on Palestinian residential areas in Beit Jala.
Since the beginning of the uprising more than 400 Palestinian homes (excluding the recent attack on Gaza on 20-11-00) have been damaged by Israeli shelling, heavy machinegun fire, and helicopter launched missiles. Damage includes the complete destruction of homes, shattering of glass in windows and doors as well as solar heating systems, structural damage to roofs and exterior/interior walls, puncturing of water tanks, and damage to movable property inside homes. Based on the average number of persons per housing unit in the Palestinian territories, the damage to private property affects some 3,000 persons.
Public property, including PA administrative and police offices, radio stations/towers, schools and hospitals have also been targeted by the Israeli military. According to the PA Ministry of Education, Palestinian schools have suffered more than $400,000 damage in the last eight weeks. Forty-one schools, providing education for some 20,000 students, have been closed or unable to operate because of Israeli military order, siege, curfews or because they are located in areas unsafe for children and staff. Some $10 million in damage has been done to the Palestinian industrial infrastructure. Approximately 14 mosques have been damaged by Israeli attacks since the end of September. Significant damage has also been done by the Israeli military and settlers to the Palestinian agricultural sector. The PA Ministry of Agriculture estimates that more than 25,000 olive and fruit trees have been destroyed and 2,400 dunums of land bulldozed.
Based on the average daily loss of $8.5 million (UNSCO) during the first three weeks of the uprising the total loss, excluding loss of life and damage to physical assets, during the past two months has reached some half a billion US dollars. The inclusion of damage to movable and immovable property, as well as lost income from damage to Palestinian transport vehicles at Israeli military checkpoints and the destruction of agricultural crops, would raise this figure significantly. These figures are sure to rise with the decision this week by the Israeli cabinet to impose an economic siege on the PA. It is impossible to put a value on the non-material losses sustained by Palestinians since the beginning of the uprising.
2. CLARIFICATION of the MANDATE for UN Protection Forces
The absence of a rights-based approach towards a political settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and Israeli non-compliance with all UN resolutions pertaining to the conflict (especially UNGA 181, 194 and UNSC 242) and international humanitarian, human rights, and refugee law has lead to the current uprising in the occupied Palestinian territories and inside Israel. The mandate of a UN protection force must therefore clearly relate to these underlying problems and concomitant solutions: Israeli withdrawal from all of the West Bank, including eastern Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, realization of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, and implementation of the right of return for Palestinian refugees and displaced persons.
Critical concerns regarding the mandate of a potential UN protection force have been raised in the context of statements made the United States and the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Both have stated that an international protection force cannot be deployed in the occupied territories without the consent of the government of Israel. This view requires immediate clarification in light of the international framework outlined above and the consistent and repeated demand by the United Nations (Security Council, General Assembly, Commission on Human Rights, Economic and Social Council, a.o.) for Israel to withdraw from the territories occupied in 1967.
According to international humanitarian law, a military occupier can never attain de jure sovereignty over occupied territory. Consequently, the de jure sovereignty over the occupied Palestinian territories which vested in the Palestinian people with the 1919 League of Nations Covenant - which is the fundamental legal basis of the Palestinian people's collectively-held right of self-determination in those areas - can never be overridden by the lesser order of military control exercised by Israel. Israeli consent for the deployment of UN forces in the occupied Palestinian territories incorrectly implies recognition of the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation as well as the American position that the territories are disputed rather than occupied. Regardless of the issue of Israeli consent, UN forces can be deployed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, a measure previously recommended by the UN Commission on Human Rights.
Secondly, and related to the status of the occupied territories, is the intervention mandate of any UN protection force. The mandate must clearly reflect and allow for what the United Nations has already recognized as the legitimacy of struggle against occupation, foreign domination, and colonialism. The source of the current unrest in the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, is not the Palestinian street. The source of the problem has always been, and continues to be the illegal Israeli occupation.
Finally, a UN protection force must have a mandate to move throughout the occupied Palestinian territories, investigate and publicly disseminate violations of Palestinian rights, and have the authorization, backed up by appropriate resources, to intervene to protect the Palestinian people under occupation, especially vulnerable groups such as children, refugees, the Palestinian community in occupied Jerusalem, and Palestinians living in remote rural areas facing ongoing attacks by the Israeli military and settlers.
"Impartiality for UN operations must […] mean adherence to the principles of the [UN] Charter: where one party to a peace agreement clearly and incontrovertibly is violating its terms, continued equal treatment of all parties by the UN can in the best case result in ineffectiveness and in the worst may amount to complicity with evil. No failure did more to damage the standing and credibility of the United Nations peacekeeping in the 1990s than its reluctance to distinguish victim from aggressor."
(Report of the Panel on the UN Peace Operations)
Letters and faxes directed to Secretary General Kofi Annan requesting clarification of the United Nations position towards the occupied territories should be directed to:
c/o Office of the Spokesman
United Nations S-378
New York, NY 10017
Sources: Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, PA Ministries of Agriculture and Education, Defense for Children International-Palestine, Palestine Red Crescent Society, The Independent, Ha'aretz, Yediot Aharanot
For additional information on Israeli repression, Palestinian rights and international protection see: Intifada2000