Letter to ECOSOC Calling for Immediate Action for Protection for the Palestinian People

US compliance with, and the apparent indifference of official Europe to the gradual increase of Israeli gross violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories in recent days, has been interpreted as a "green light" for assault by Israel's right-wing government headed by Ariel Sharon. In the past three days, at least 34 homes of Palestinian families, most of them refugees, were destroyed in and around the refugee camps of Rafah (Gaza) and Shu'fat (Jerusalem, West Bank), and dozens more are slated for demolition in the Ramallah area. Residents of al-Arroub camp and the town of Beit Ummar (Hebron), unable to leave their communities since the closure for Palestinians of the main Bethlehem-Hebron highway, have become targets of Israeli gunfire. More homes were damaged and some 20 persons injured by renewed Israeli shelling of the town of Beit Sahour (Bethlehem) and Hebron; numerous Palestinian villages as well as Hebron have been invaded by Israeli "special units" and regular army forces destroying Palestinian defense positions, arresting people, and setting up new Israeli army posts. Four Palestinian civilians, among them a newborn baby, have died at Israeli checkpoints in the past five days, and on Thursday, 5 July, International Red Cross trucks loaded with emergency food aid for the besieged community of Yatta (Hebron) were prevented access by the Israeli occupation army.

According to the Foreign Report published by Jane's Information Group in London on 11 July, the current Israeli assault is part of a blueprint entitled "The destruction of the Palestinian Authority and disarmament of all armed forces", which was presented by Israeli chief of staff Brigadier General Shaul Mofaz. The plan envisages a military operation of up to one month, by the end of which PLO chairman and PA president Arafat would either have left or been forced to leave the West Bank and Gaza Strip. His closest allies would be either dead or also out of the area. The Palestinian armed forces, estimated at some 40,000, would be disarmed, and either dead or in detention camps. Estimated Israeli casualties would be measured in the hundreds, Palestinian losses would be in their thousands. Israeli military and political analysts confirmed yesterday that the current Israeli measures in the 1967 occupied territories are to be seen as "phase one of the three-phase modular plan" approved earlier by the security cabinet.

At this point, only a determined international intervention by means of monitoring and protection forces mandated to ensure respect for international law and human rights conventions in the Israeli occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip can stop the Israeli assault. Against this background, 53 NGOs, networks, unions, and concerned individuals have sent yet another appeal for immediate international protection to the United Nation's Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) currently in session in Geneva (2-22 July). The Council, composed of 54 member states who take decisions by simple majority vote, is the highest UN body mandated to promote respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.

The current NGO appeal was initially submitted to Martin Belinga-Eboutou, President of ECOSOC and UN Ambassador of the Republic of Cameroon, by BADIL Resource Center on 3 July, in order to add emphasis to an earlier call for ECOSOC action issued by the UN Committee for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR). In a letter (11 May 2001), issued following its April-May session, CESCR explained that, due to the its limited enforcement capacity, implementation of the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in crisis situations may require action by the Council (ECOSOC) and added: "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 occupied Palestinian territories." (See also BADIL press release E/34/2001).

Now that ECOSOC is in session, NGOs, unions, and concerned individuals world-wide request the Council to follow up on the recommendations issued by CESCR and to adopt the following set of immediate actions:

1. ECOSOC to Issue a Call for an international protection presence in the occupied Palestinian territories along the lines of earlier calls made by numerous other UN bodies and agencies, as well as international human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. ECOSOC, in its overall supervisory capacity for the UN human rights system, is particularly well situated to issue such a call.

2. Call for reactivation of the Secretary General's (every four months) reporting requirement under Security Council Resolution 681 (of 1990) which expressly mandates the UN Secretary-General to monitor the situation of the population of the occupied Palestinian territories and to submit a report to the General Assembly every four months on this topic. The Secretary-General submitted the first such report pursuant to S.C. Res. 681 in April 1991 (S/22472). The process was temporarily discontinued because of the start of the "Oslo process."

3. Call for convening of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to Ensure Israel's Compliance with the Convention, especially since the overwhelming majority of the High Contracting Parties currently support convening of such a conference at the present time.

4. Renew the Mandate Issued by the Commission on Human Rights in Its "Fifth Special Session" for all special UN Rapporteurs and special representatives to Make Immediate "Country Visits" to the Occupied Palestinian Territories to File Official Reports, especially since none of the eight Special Rapporteurs requested has yet undertaken such a mission. ECOSOC is urgently requested to urge Israel to grant permission for such visits.

5. Mandate an Official ECOSOC Study of Appropriate and Implementable Forms of "Protection" for the Population of the OPTs, including the Study of the "ROOT CAUSES" of the Conflict Prevailing in the Occupied Palestinian Territories: Such a study would necessarily have to address Israel's massive, ongoing violation of the rights of the Palestinian refugees, who (along with their counterparts, the "internally displaced" Palestinians inside Israel) number over 5 million persons and consequently comprise between two-thirds and three-quarters of the entire Palestinian population worldwide. Israel's violation of the international law-guaranteed rights of the refugees to return, restitution and compensation in the context of a "durable solution" to their refugee exile situation is based purely upon discriminatory grounds and categorically prohibited by international law.

In addition, a study of "root causes" would necessarily also have to include a study of Israel's belligerent military occupation, in violation of the Palestinian people's fundamental human right to self-determination, as well as Israel's settlement policy, which is in complete violation of international law.

The appeal to ECOSOC was endorsed by the following:

Abu Sitta, Dr. Salman, researcher (Kuwait);
AIDUN Group (Lebanon);
AL-AWDA The Palestine Right to Return Coalition (USA);
AL-AWDA Palestine Right to Return Coalition-UK (London, UK);
Al Baz, Dr. Ismail, water biologist (Berlin, Germany);
Al-Haq: Law in the Service of Man (Ramallah, Palestine);
Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights (Jabalya Camp, Palestine);
Aref, Dr. Aref A., president, Mawaris American Technologies (Delaware, USA);
Asean Network for Palestine: Mohideen Abdul Kader, coordinator (Malaysia);
BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights (Bethlehem, Palestine); CEPAL Canadian-Palestinian Educational Exchange: Jalbout Maysa, president (Canada);
CESR Center for Economic and Social Rights (New York, U.S.A.);
Children and Youth Center-Shatila: Mahmoud Abbas (Shatila Camp, Beirut, Lebanon);
CIHRS Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (Cairo, Egypt);
COHRE Center on Housing Rights and Eviction (Geneva, Switzerland);
Confederation Generale due Logement (Paris, France);
CSCA Arab Cause Solidarity Committee (Madrid, Spain);
Deir Yassin Remembered (USA);
Democratic Palestinian Cultural Forum: Nader Al-Salam (Beirut, Lebanon);
Democratic Women Organization: Khalidat Hussein (Lebanon);
EL NADIM Center for the Management and Rehabilitation for Victims of Violence (Cairo, Egypt); Family Hardship Cases Committee-Lebanon: Mona Waked;
FIDH International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (Paris, France);
General Union of Palestinian Jurists-Lebanon: Souheil El-Natour (Beirut, Lebanon);
Habitat International Coalition, Housing and Land Rights Committee (Middle East/North Africa); Hagopian, Dr. Elaine C., Professor Emerita of Sociology, Simons College (Boston, USA);
Hewett, Anthony, former UN officer (Jerusalem, Palestine);
High Committee for the Defense of the Right of Return: Ahmad Yousif, member of secretariat (Amman, Jordan);
Husseini, Jalal, reseracher (Geneva, Switzerland);
ICCP - International Coordinating Committee for NGOs on the Question of Palestine: Don Betz, chair (USA);
INMA' Social Development Society: Dejani, Tagreed (Lebanon);
Jabara, Abdeen, attorney (New York, USA);
King-Irani, Laurie, Ph.D. (Annapolis, Maryland, USA);
LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment (Jerusalem, Palestine);
Martyrs' Follow Up Committee: Majda Faissal (Lebanon);
MIFTAH - Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (Jerusalem, Palestine);
MSRI Malaysian Sociological Research Institute (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia);
Murray, Dr. Nancy, Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights (Boston,USA);
National Lawyers Guild, Texas-Oklahoma Chapter (USA);
Noumoff, Dr. S. J., McGill University (Montreal, Canada);
Organisation Mondiale contre la Torture (Geneva, Switzerland);
Palestinian Right of Return Committees in Denmark and Europe: Issa, Dr. Mahmoud (Copenhagen, Denmark);
Palestinian Writers and Journalists Union-Lebanon: Fathy Klaib;
PCHR Palestine Center for Human Rights: Dr. Raji Sourani, director, (Gaza, Palestine);
Sayigh, Rosemary, researcher (Beirut, Lebanon);
Shihadeh, Dr. Musil, representative of American group in Egypt (Cairo, Egypt);
TERAS: Mohamed Azmi Hamid, executive director;
The Egyptian Center for Housing Rights (Cairo, Egypt);
Third World Network: SM Mohamed Idriss, coordinator;
Union of Palestinian Youth-Lebanon: Leila Al-Ali;
Waltz, Dr. Viktoria, lecturer, University of Dortmund (Germany);
Yamouri, Najat, Vice President, Moroccan Support Committee for Girls Education (Rabat, Morocco);Ziad, Tariq, engineer (UK);

* Full text of this appeal to ECOSOC (pdf)

* For more on international protection and protection of refugee camp areas see BADIL Occasional Bulletins, nos. 1, 2, and 6.