Saturday, 15 June. 2024
Your Key to Palestine
The Palestinian Initiatives for The Promotoion of Global Dialogue and Democracy

All of Palestine, including the 1948 occupied territories, the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, were under wide-scale Israeli military attacks in addition to the ongoing and grave human rights violations of Palestinian civilians everywhere. This wave began with Israeli occupation forces and settler attacks on Palestinian civilians in places of worship, including in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Aqsa Mosque, in addition to arrests and attempts to expel families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem. This was followed by the repression of peaceful marches in the West Bank and Palestinian cities inside the Green Line, culminating in an 11-day Israeli military bombardment of the Gaza Strip from May 10-21, which targeted Palestinian civilians, infrastructure, health facilities and centers and medical teams, in addition to the media, press offices, education facilities and farmland.

In regards to the crime of settlements via the expropriation of Palestinian land and the expulsion of the indigenous people to replace them with foreigners, there is no overlooking the systematic crimes committed by settler groups under the full protection of and coordination with Israeli occupation authorities. In Jerusalem, settlers opened fire on Palestinians in what looked like a military parade, in clear daylight, in the town of Shufat, injuring three youths. A similar scene played out in Hebron, where a settler shot and killed a Palestinian woman. Over and above the crime of settling on occupied land, settlers have killed and attacked Palestinians and their properties for years, committing war crimes for which Israel and its leaders are responsible.

Legal background

This newest wave of incidents included a large number of grave human rights violations, beginning with the threat of forced displacement of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah. This is also a war crime and crime against humanity in accordance with Articles 7 and 8 of the ICC Rome Statute, whereby an occupying authority displaces the legitimate civilian population from its occupied territories.

International law is adamant in that the city of Jerusalem is considered occupied territory, confirmed by the advisory decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the separation and annexation wall. Based on this, the description of this land in international law as occupied means the law in effect is the law of the state to which this land belongs. In this case, this means the state of Palestine, whereby Palestinian courts have the right to adjudicate in any legal case within its territorial jurisdiction, in accordance with Article 64 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Hence, there is no legitimacy to Israeli courts in political decisions, which are considered a part of a system that legitimizes and reinforces settlements and colonization in the occupied Palestinian territories. On the contrary, Israeli judges should be tried for legalizing international crimes such as forced displacement, settlements and collective punishment. In addition, the UN Security Council condemned all legal and de facto changes carried out by Israeli occupation authorities in East Jerusalem, of which Sheikh Jarrah is a neighborhood.

Position of international human rights law

In regards to international human rights treaties, Israel ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In light of this, the ICC deemed the ICCPR in force in terms of the actions taken by a country in exercising its legal jurisdictions outside of its territory. This means it is applicable to East Jerusalem, which is occupied territory over which Israel is the occupying power. The same applies to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The International Declaration of Human Rights protects the right of ownership, in Article 17/2 . Likewise, Article 5 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) stipulates the prohibition of racial discrimination due to race, nationality or ethnicity in the granting of rights, including those pertaining to the right of ownership. Moreover, the two international conventions both prohibited discrimination in Article 2 of each treaty respectively.

Position of International Humanitarian Law

Article 46 of The Hague 1907 Regulations states that the occupying power must respect the lives and private properties, which cannot be “confiscated”. The Hague Regulations are considered customary international law, which limits the powers of the occupying authority; hence, all countries have a legal obligation to respect these binding regulations, including Israel.

As for the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in time of war, which Israel ratified on July 6, 1951, it is obligatory in the case of all the occupied Palestinian territories as a whole, including Sheikh Jarrah. This was confirmed by the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2004. Furthermore, in December, 2001, the high contracting parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention adopted a statement stipulating that “the ICRC has always affirmed the de jure applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the territories occupied since 1967 by the State of Israel, including East Jerusalem.”

Article 53 of the same convention states: “Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.” Hence, the occupying power should not carry out the full or partial “expulsion” of the civilian residents in occupied Sheikh Jarrah given there is no legal justification related to the security of the population or which is “absolutely necessary by military operations.” Rather, their expulsion is aimed at ethnic cleansing and illegal settlements, which comprise a war crime.

In addition are the violations against religious and holy sites and the hindrances to freedom of worship. Christian worshippers were prevented from safely reaching the Church of the Holy Sepulcher during Easter and were assaulted en masse by Israeli police. Similarly, worshippers in the Aqsa Mosque Compound were attacked and beaten by Israeli police.

Furthermore, the Hague Regulations of 1899 and 1907 are applicable to the Aqsa Mosque and all Muslim and Christian places of worship as are the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention Regulations and Protocols, given that these sites are part of East Jerusalem, which was occupied by Israel in 1967. Also, the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of 1954 is applicable. Moreover, Article 27 (4) of the fourth annex of the 1907 Hague Convention stipulates the necessity of military forces, if besieged, to use “all means so as not to harm buildings with the purpose of worship, arts, sciences, charitable activities, historical artifacts or the spiritual heritage of peoples.” Moreover, Article 56 of the 1954 Hague Convention stipulates the prohibiting of “seizure or sabotage of places of worship…and historical buildings.” Article 53 of the Additional Protocol I and Article 16 of Additional Protocol II of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention states “it is prohibited to commit any acts of hostility directed against historic monuments, works of art or places of worship which constitute the cultural or spiritual heritage of peoples.” Also, the 1954 Hague Convention obligates any occupying power to preserve cultural and religious properties and considers any attacks on them a war crime.

The Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip clearly targeted civilians and civilian targets. According to the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention and Additional Protocol I of 1977, Article 52 stipulates that all civilian objects must be protected; Article 147 of the agreement prohibits the illegitimate destruction of properties, considering this a grave violation. Furthermore, Article 25 of the 1907 Hague Protocol on the rules of land warfare stipulates that: “The attack or bombardment, by whatever means, of towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings which are undefended is prohibited”. Likewise, Article 8, Paragraph B of the ICC Rome Statute considers the targeting of civilians and civilian facilities during war as a war crime within the jurisdictions of the Court.

In addition to this is the extreme violence and crimes perpetrated against the Palestinians inside the 1948 areas, over and above the institutionalized system of discrimination against them for years. This includes discriminatory laws and legislation, which constitutes the crime of “racial discrimination” according to the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. These are also tantamount to the crimes of persecution and apartheid in accordance with the ICC Rome Statute.

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