By Stephen Lendman
On October 18, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights offered an "Alternative Report" response to Israel’s submission, sent to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR).
Submitting to the UN, Aharon Leshno Yaar, Israel’s Permanent Representative to Geneva said "Israel was proud of its long-lasting recognition of the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family," omitting to explain he means only Jews, no others, especially Muslims. State belligerence for over six decades proves it. PCHR reviewed recent facts, documenting them in its report. Previous articles discussed them it detail, but they bear repeating. By so doing, peace and self-determination for a beleaguered people may come sooner.
PCHR addressed each article, detailing Israel’s noncompliance, presenting indisputable, convincing evidence. In its July 9, 2004 "Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory," the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that:
"In the exercise of the powers available to it on this basis, Israel is bound by (ICESCR provisions)." Throughout its history, however, Israel has grievously violated all international laws, committing crimes of war and against humanity repeatedly, the latter virtually daily in the Territories.
After its 2005 disengagement, Israel claims Gaza was no longer occupied. Therefore, it no longer had ICESCR or other treaty obligations. False on both counts, the ICJ stating that: "the State’s obligations under the Covenant apply to all territories and populations under its effective control."
Israel has controlled Gaza since 1967, today under a medieval siege, little changed after Israel’s bogus June easing. The UN Security Council, General Assembly, Special Rapporteur (for Palestine), and the ICRC all said Israel has control. Therefore, it’s bound by all international law provisions.
ICEESC’s Article 1: Right to Self-Determination
"All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development."
Israel, however, denies Palestinians that fundamental human right, what the ICJ calls "one of the essential principles of international law."
The Court also stated:
"The principle of self-determinatin of peoples has been enshrined in the United Nations Charter and reaffirmed by the General Assembly in resolution 2625 (XXV)" under which "Every State has the duty to refrain from any forcible action which deprives peoples….of their right to self-determination."
PCHR’s report "show(ed) through an article-by-article analysis of the ICESCR that Israel’s longstanding belligerent occupation of (Palestine) prevents (its people) from freely determining their political status or pursuing their economic, social and cultural development."
According to international law and numerous UN resolutions, Israel’s occupation is illegal, especially with regard to self-determination.
ICESCR’s Article 6: Right to Work
"States recognize the right to work, which includes the right of everyone to the opportunity to gain his living by work which he freely chooses or accepts, and will take appropriate steps to safeguard this right."
Occupation and closure restrict this right. Palestine’s economy depends heavily on Israel for jobs, now largely restricted or denied. Gaza’s siege and West Bank/East Jerusalem free movement restrictions also greatly impede it. As a result, unemployment and poverty are high.
In 1992, 30% of Palestinians worked in Israel. In 1996, it was 7% while unemployment rose to 32.6%. In 2003, it was 41.3%. In December 1998, about 23% of Palestinians lived in poverty, defined as having incomes of $650 or less annually, starvation wages by any standard. Before the second Intifada and 2007 closure, Gaza depended more heavily than the West Bank on Israel for employment. In December 1995, 36% of Gazans were impoverished. By end of 2003, it was 64%.
West Bank/East Jerusalem Palestinians are also impeded by free movement restrictions. More on that below. Moreover, by controlling borders, Israel can decide what gets in or out, including people, goods and services.
Under siege, Gaza’s economy was devastated. Unemployment rose dramatically. From 2007 – 2009, OCHA reported the loss of 120,000 jobs, amounting to 55% of the workforce. Moreover, 95% of Gaza’s industry closed or suspended work. The other 5% operates at from 20 – 50% of capacity. Poverty thus rose to 65%, but under the annual $650 guideline, it’s much higher.
All areas of Gaza’s economy have been affected, including agriculture and fishing, both decimated under Israeli restrictions.
Besides other sectors, Gaza’s textile industry was destroyed. At least 40% of furniture products, 70% of clothes and textile items, and 20% of food sector items were sold outside Gaza before closure. Over 45,000 workers lost employment in these sectors alone.
Moreover, construction is at a complete standstill because basic materials are banned, including cement, iron, paint, and all others. In addition, for lack of fuel, factories producing construction related items have closed. Included are 13 floor tile facilities, 30 for concrete, 145 for marble, and 250 for bricks. Thousands more workers were affected.
Under ICESCR provisions, however, Israel is obligated to let Palestinians seek employment freely. Closure and movement restrictions impede or prevent it.
Article 10: Right to Family
"The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize that:
1. The widest possible protection and assistance should be accorded to the family, which is the natural and fundamental group unit of society, particularly for its establishment and while it is responsible for the care and education of dependent children."
However, Israel restricts or denies family reunifications. In May 2002, Government Decision No. 1803 temporarily suspended residency rights through reunifications. In 2003, the Knesset enacted the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order No. 5763), limiting residency or Israeli citizenship rights. It denies Occupied Territory (OT) Palestinians who marry citizens or permanent residents legal authorization to live in Israel with their spouse. Israel’s High Court upheld the law, dismissing a collective NGO 2006 challenge.
"Significantly, the law only applies to Palestinians," not Israeli Jews who marry foreigners who aren’t Muslims. For their part, Palestinians have few options, one is to break the law and live in fear of being arrested, detained or deported.
Residency rights of East Jerusalemites have also weakened, PCHR believing it’s to force them out to let Israel Judaize the entire city. Yet in 1967, East Jerusalem Palestinians got permanent residency status as opposed to citizenship. In 1974, the law was amended, letting the Interior Ministery revoke it from Palestinians with Jerusalem ID cards under certain circumstances. For example, if they lived outside the city for over seven years; if they got residency rights or citizenship elsewhere, or if they were called a danger to Israeli security, a broad classification endangering anyone for any reason or none at all.
In 1995, the Interior Ministry introduced a new "center of life" policy whereby East Jerusalemites must prove residency constantly or be forced out. It must come through rental agreements, home ownership documents, tax receipts, school registration, receipts of medical treatment, or other means. Implemented without notice, Palestinians living outside the city temporarily lost residency. As a result, since 1995, revocations have increased significantly.
The Separation Wall is another means by stealing Palestinian land, in some cases destroying entire neighborhoods or communities. Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been affected. Once construction is completed, so will many more.
Family reunification in the West Bank and Gaza are also impeded, despite the Oslo Accords transferring control of a Palestinian population registry to the PA. Under its terms, Israel must be informed of all registry changes to update its records. However, since 2000, it’s failed to do so. As a result, families incorrectly listed are infiltrators, subject to deportation, fines, or imprisonment. As of 2007, 120,000 family reunification requests remained pending, all vulnerable to expulsion or worse.
In April 2010, Israel passed Military Orders 1649 and 1650.
MO 1649 expanded the definition of infiltrators and increased penalties for those convicted. MO 1650 requires all West Bank residents to have Israeli issued permits. Otherwise, they’re infiltrators, subject to prosecution under the new orders. Yet, they’re hard to observe since Israel hasn’t updated its registry. As a result, potentially thousands of West Bank residents face immediate deportation or worse, forcing them to live in fear.
Under ICESCR provisions, they’re also prevented from enjoying "the natural and fundamental group unit of society." Israel’s policy, in fact, denies them the rights to both family and self-determination, gross violations of international law.
Article 11: Right to an Adequate Standard of Living
"The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions."
Israeli policies violate this provision grievously. Expropriating land is one of many ways. Since 1967, over half of Palestinian land was stolen – more than 73% in the West Bank. In multiple ways, the right to adequate housing is also violated – through demolitions and dispossessions, besides land theft and conflict-related destruction.
Cast Lead alone destroyed 2,114 houses, comprising 2,864 housing units, affecting 3,314 families and 19,592 individuals. Another 3,242 houses with 5,014 units were partially destroyed or made uninhabitable. Affected were 5,470 families and 32,250 individuals. In addition, 16,000 houses were moderately damaged, affecting thousands more people.
Under siege, reconstruction is hampered or impossible. As a result, thousands must live in tents, in rented apartments or with relatives. Post-conflict, an estimated 86,000 new homes are needed, unattainable under Israel’s blockade.
Home demolitions also continue relentlessly so Jews can seize Palestinian land and property. Since 1967, about 25,000 structures have been affected, denying Palestinians their right to housing and their rightful land ownership.
West Bank and East Jerusalem demolitions are, in fact, increasing, hundreds since 2009 as well as pending orders for more. Currently, Palestinians comprise 30% of East Jerusalem’s population, forced to live on 7% of city land in highly concentrated neighborhoods. Even in areas where building is technically allowed, virtually no permits are issued, including to make repairs, enlarge existing properties, or facilitate a growing population. Violating the law results in demolitions and/or fines.
West Bank confiscated land is used for settlements, their infrastructure, commercial development, open spaces, or military use. In East Jerusalem, it’s for settlers. In recent years, encroachment has increased dramatically, on 121 settlements and another 99 outposts. Moreover, despite a so-called moratorium, construction continued unimpeded. Now it’s proceeding faster, Israel hell-bent to grow its settler population (now around 500,000 in the West Bank and East Jerusalem) at the expense of dispossessed Palestinians, losing out without redress.
Thousands of new units are approved, many slated for immediate construction. Under Israel’s 2000 Master Plan for Jerusalem, settlement expansion and other land expropriation will continue toward full Judaization of the city.
Add to this violations of the right to food. In the West Bank, restricted access to range land and water have made 80% of communities in Israeli-controlled Area C (about 60% of the West Bank) food insecure, compared to 25% in the West Bank overall. In Gaza, however, it’s much worse, affecting about 75% of the population. Everything is in short supply, including the most basic items like wheat, flour, rice, oil, fruits, vegetables, fish, and much more. As a result, prices have risen sharply, exacerbating an already dire situation, Israel having declared economic war on Palestine, in Gaza most of all.
Water denial is also grievous throughout the Territories even though "International cooperation requires States parties to refrain from actions that interfere, directly or indirectly, with the enjoyment of the right to water in other countries. Any activities undertaken should not deprive another country of the ability to realize the right to water for persons in its jurisdiction." In Occupied Palestine, the problem gets worse, not better, Israel flaunting its obligation.
In the West Bank, Israel uses 73% of aquifer water, all belonging to Palestinians, denied access to what’s theirs. It’s led to a sharp decline in living conditions. In Israeli-controlled areas, obtaining permits to repair or upgrade infrastructure face lengthy delays or denials. As a result, farmers can’t water their fields, have it available for animals, or have access to it for their families. In Area C especially, water insecurity prevails.
Overall, tens of thousands of Palestinians in dozens of communities have no water network connection. Many others get inadequate supplies, and pay four to ten times the average cost for water supply service. Israel’s Separation Wall exacerbates the problem, its construction having destroyed dozens of wells and hundreds of cisterns, as well as 35,000 meters of water pipes. Moreover, Israel will have full control of the richest, most important Western Aquifer, along the Green Line inside the West Bank, when construction is completed.
During Cast Lead, Israel destroyed water installations, the construction ban preventing vital repairs or rebuilding. Inadequate fuel for electricity hampers facilities needing it, including wastewater treatment ones. Unable to run regular cycles, an average of 20,000 cubic meters of raw sewage is dumped into the Mediterranean daily. In some areas, it’s 70,000 – 80,000 cm at times, as well as other disposal in cities like Rafah, Beit Lahia and Khan Younis. Water contamination is thus a major problem. About 90% of Gaza’s from its coastal aquifer is polluted under siege, unfit to drink or use for agriculture. "This is very clearly a criminal policy….violat(ing) ICESCR but also constitutes collective punishment."
Article 12: Right to Health
"The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health."
From conflict and under siege, they’ve declined markedly for Gazans, both access and quality. The war damaged 15 of 27 hospitals, 43 of 110 health care centers, and 29 of 148 ambulances. Nothing can be rebuilt or properly repaired. In addition, Israel prohibits medicines, medical equipment, and spare parts, including what’s vital to save lives.
Around 110 medicines and 123 types of medical equipment are unavailable for import. In coming months, supplies of 76 other medicines will run out. As a result, acute shortages exist, Gazans denied their right to proper care. Moreover, electricity shortages cause regular blackouts, and without spare parts, Gaza Power Plant repairs aren’t possible. As a result, patients face grave risks because vital services aren’t available or may have to shut down at critical times.
In addition, under siege, free movement in and out is prevented, including for medical personnel and patients needing critical care Gaza facilities can’t provide. Patients have, in fact, died waiting for permission to use Egyptian, Israeli, or better West Bank or East Jerusalem facilities.
Besides life threatening and other illnesses, chronic or acute, the UN Special Rapporteur reported that "96% of the population of Gaza suffers from depression and that such mental deterioration is itself an indication of a failure by the Occupying Power to discharge its basic duty to safeguard the health of civilians living under the occupation."
Article 13: Right to Education
"The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to education. They agree that education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity, and shall strengthen the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. They further agree that education shall enable all persons to participate in a free society."
For most other rights, realizing them depends on education. It’s "the primary vehicle by which economically and socially marginalized adults and children can lift themselves out of poverty and obtain the means to participate fully in their communities."
Israel, however, impedes or denies it through various means, including movement restrictions, a classroom shortage, and relentless persecution, arresting over 6,000 children since 2000 and intimidating the entire Palestinian population.
Moreover, especially in Gaza, shortages of books and basic supplies exist. Foreign travel is also restricted or denied. In addition, military operations and displacements take their toll, including raids on hundreds of schools and eight or more universities, arresting students, teachers, professors, and/or other staff. Further, destroyed or damaged Gaza schools haven’t been rebuilt or repaired.
A Final Comment
PCHR concluded saying its report isn’t exhaustive, "but provides an overview of some of the grave human rights abuses suffered by Palestinians…." It urges CESCR to take "appropriate steps toward ending Israel’s repeated violations of the economic, cultural and social rights in" Palestine. It also calls for ending Gaza’s siege, and for international support to demand it, so far not forthcoming.
Moreover, Israel is seriously and repeatedly in breach of all the above enumerated rights, basic ones under ICESCR and other international laws. It puts a lie to saying it’s "proud of its longstanding recognition of the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family."
It’s one of many brazen Israeli lies. Only other offenders and uninformed people can accept them. For the truth, ask Palestinians, especially Gazans, suffocating under Israeli harshness, slow-motion genocide by any standard.
– Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org and visit his blog at: sjlendman.blogspot.com.