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Lobby for International Protection for the Palestinian People-- Background: Resolutions of the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) United States Voting Record in the UNCHR

The violent Israeli repression of the most recent Palestinian uprising ("Al-Alqsa Intifada") has resulted in a renewed Palestinian call for international protection of the Palestinian people, i. e. an effective intervention by the United Nations aimed at enforcing abidance with international humanitarian and human rights standards both in the historical conflict and in the future search for a solution. The Palestinian call for international protection reflects a growing concern and consensus about the fact that the failure of the seven-year-old Oslo "peace process" is a direct result of the deliberate sidelining of international rights standards and the United Nations. 

Recently, the fifth Special Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the main human rights body in the United Nations, re-affirmed the validity of Palestinian-Arab concerns and claims; Resolution E/CN.4/S-5/L.2/Rev., adopted on 19 October 2000 (see reference below), established an international commission of inquiry into Israeli war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other violations of human rights. This resolution was consequently welcomed and adopted by the Extraordinary Summit of Arab States held in Cairo on 21-22 October.

A sustained and concerted effort by experts, human rights activists, and lobbyists for Palestinian rights is required in order to re-establish the role of international law and United Nations mechanisms in the quest for just and durable solutions of the Israeli-Palestinian/Arab conflict. One of the first and most obvious obstacles to overcome is the deep and widespread public ignorance and misinformation about existing international standards applicable to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a situation which is a direct result of the marginalization of the United Nations system in all Israel- and United States-led "peace efforts" in the Middle East. Future public awareness raising for Palestinian rights and the need for international protection of the Palestinian people should be based on UN resolutions, especially resolutions of the UN Commission on Human Rights, and highlight the role of Israel's supporters - foremost the United States - in persistently voting against the application of international human rights standards to the Palestinian case.


Israel's occupation has been determined as:

a) A Violation of the UN Charter, 4th Geneva Conventions, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
The CHR Resolution of 19 October 2000 reaffirms that Israel's military occupation is  a violation of the UN Charter, the Fourth Geneva Conventions (12 August 1949) and their 1977 Protocols, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This framework has been reaffirmed by the CHR since the early 1970s. (CHR Res. No. 3 XXVII, 22 March 1972, Res. No. 2 XXXII, 13 February 1976, a.o.)

b) War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity:
The CHR Resolution of 19 October 2000 reaffirms that Israeli violations in the 1967 occupied territories are war crimes. The Commission first recognized Israel's systematic and grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Conventions as war crimes in 1972 (CHR Res. No. 3 (XXVIII), 22 March 1972, a.o.)

c) A threat to international peace and security (Chapter VII intervention):
In 1976 the Commission reaffirmed that Israel's military occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, was a threat to international peace and security. In 1984, the Commission issued its first of several requests to the UN General Assembly, through the Economic and Social Council, to recommend to the UN Security Council the adoption against Israel of the measures referred to in Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, including sanctions and international armed intervention to end Israel's threat to peace and acts of aggression (CHR Res. No. 1984/1 A/B; 20 February 1984).

The Commission has, moreover, reaffirmed the LEGITIMACY of RESTISTANCE to ISRAEL'S OCCUPATION and the inalienable right of the Palestinian people, along with the peoples of Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, and of all peoples under colonial or alien domination or foreign occupation to self-determination, national independence, territorial integrity, national unity, and sovereignty without external interference. (CHR Res. No. 3 XXXIV, 14 February 1978). The Commission also reaffirmed the legitimacy of struggle against occupation by all available means, including armed struggle. (CHR Res. No. 3 XXXV, 21 February 1979). This included recognition of the intifada as a legitimate means of resistance. (CHR Res. No. 1989/19, 6 March 1989).

Finally, the Commission on Human Rights has declared that ALL PEACE AGREEMENTS that VIOLATE PALESTINIAN RIGHTS (including the right to return) are NULL AND VOID. In response to the first (1982) Camp David Agreement, the CHR issued the following resolution: 

    "[The Commission on Human Rights] Reaffirms the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted, and calls for their return in the exercise of their right to self-determination;

    Rejects those provisions of the [Camp David] accords which ignore, infringe upon, violate or deny the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including the right of return, the right to self-determination and the right to national independence and sovereignty in Palestine, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, and which envisage and condone continued Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967;
    Strongly condemns all partial agreements and separate treaties which constitute a flagrant violation of the rights of the Palestinian people, the principles of the Charter and the resolutions adopted in the various international forums on the Palestinian issue;
    Declares that the Camp David accords and other agreements have no validity in so far as they purport to determine the future of the Palestinian people and of the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967;" (CHR Res. No. 2 XXXVI, 14 February 1980)

Following the beginning of the Madrid/Oslo process the Commission once again reaffirmed the necessity that all agreements be consistent with relevant UN Resolutions and international law. (CHR Res. No. 1192/4, 14 February 1992).

2. The UNITED STATES VOTING RECORD in the Commission on Human Rights

United States claims to be an "honest broker" in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian people are clearly refuted by its voting record in the CHR. In resolutions on the Middle East adopted by the Commission between 1968 and 1998, the US voted 79 times (7 votes only recorded by number in favor/against, though voting pattern indicates the vote against the particular resolution was cast by the US) against resolutions pertaining to the human rights of the Palestinian people. The US voted in favor of only 10 resolutions over the 30 year period, 6 of which were adopted without vote in the Commission, and 2 adopted unanimously. The two remaining votes in favor concerned resolutions expressing support for the Madrid/Oslo peace process. The US abstained from a total of 5 resolutions.

The United States voted against resolutions deploring the denial of the right of return, deportation, confiscation of Palestinian land, settlement construction, desecration of religious sites, torture, beating of pregnant women causing miscarriage, closing of kindergartens and schools, and the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the UN Charter, and international law. In particular, the US voted against Resolution No. 1983/3, 15 February 1983 condemning the massacre of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila refugee camps and Resolution No. 1987/2 A/B, 20 February 1987 condemning Israel's "iron fist" policy to break the bones of children throwing stones during the first intifada.

In the Economic and Social Council, the UN body which may initiate studies and reports concerning international economic, social, cultural, educational, health and related matters and submit recommendations for promoting observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, the United States has voted against the majority of resolutions pertaining to the Palestinian people. This includes resolutions calling for the lifting of restrictions and provision of assistance to the Palestinian economy, freedom of movement for Palestinians, and calling upon Israel to comply with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international law.

For additional documents relevant for lobbying for international protection of the Palestinian people (Report of the UN Special Rapporteur and the complete text of UN resolutions; US voting record on UNCHR resolutions, a.o.) see BADIL's website.