‘Palestine-Israel Peace Long Overdue’

By Jaya Ramachandran – Geneva

Some two months after the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas transmitted Palestine’s application for membership to the United Nations to the Secretary-General, high-ranking UN officials have reiterated the need for a just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine, which also ensures the rights of Palestinian Bedouin people.

Recalling that sixty-four years ago on November 29, the General Assembly adopted a resolution, dividing the territory known as "mandatory Palestine" into two States; one Jewish, one Arab, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a message, "the establishment of a ‎Palestinian State, living in peace next to a secure Israel, is long overdue".‎

Ban led a chorus of UN officials on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, which has been observed annually on November 29 since 1977, marking 30 years of the partition of the Palestinian state in 1947.

"The need to resolve this conflict has taken on greater urgency with the historic ‎transformations taking place across the region," Ban said and called on "the Israeli and Palestinian ‎leadership to show courage and determination to seek an agreement for a two-State ‎solution that can open up a brighter future for Palestinian and Israeli children."

Such a ‎solution must end the occupation that began in 1967, and meet legitimate security ‎concerns, he added. "Jerusalem must emerge from negotiations as the ‎capital of two States, with ‎arrangements for the holy sites acceptable to all. And a just and agreed solution must be ‎found for millions of Palestinian refugees scattered around the region," Ban stressed.

Palestinian Bedouin Communities

Expressing his solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle for self-determination, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, Richard Falk, called urgent attention to the plight of the Palestinian Bedouin people of the occupied West Bank. "The recent unprecedented pressure by Israeli authorities and settlers to expel Palestinian Bedouin communities from Area C is deplorable, illegal and must cease."

Falk, a U.S. national, was designated in 2008 by as the UN Human Rights Council as fifth Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights on Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. The mandate was originally established in 1993 by the UN Commission on Human Rights.

The UN rights experts said in recent months, approximately 2,300 Bedouins who reside in 20 impoverished communities in the hills east of Jerusalem have been informed by the Israeli authorities that they must leave the area, as part of a plan to expel Bedouin communities living in Area C, where Israel exercises total control. Reports indicate that the relocation plan may be implemented in early January 2012.

Falk stressed that "[t]he proposed relocation of the Palestinian Bedouins, without the free and informed consent of the communities, amounts to forced transfer of protected persons under international humanitarian law." International law prohibits the forced transfer of civilians living under occupation, unless temporarily required for their own security or military necessity. "The Israeli authorities’ expulsion of the Bedouins would meet none of these conditions," he said.

Besides, the destruction or confiscation of private civilian property, including homes, as well as the transfer of settlers into occupied territory, is prohibited. Israel, as the Occupying Power, is obligated to protect the residents of the occupied territory and to administer the territory for the benefit of the residents. The establishment and expansion of settlements is a direct breach of these obligations, Falk reminded Israel.

"The proposed transfer of Bedouin communities raises a number of concerns under human rights law, especially with respect to forced eviction and forced displacement," noted the Special Rapporteur. Forced evictions transgress the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Israel is party. Israel’s claim that the Covenant does not apply in the occupied territory has been rejected by all human rights treaty oversight bodies, he said.

The Palestinian Bedouins are the most deprived ethnic group in the occupied territory, residing in the Area C of the West Bank. More than 80 percent of the Bedouins are registered as 1948 refugees originally from the Negev. Over 66 percent are children. The communities have all lost access to land due to settlement expansion.

Most have demolition orders against their homes. None have access to the electricity network and only half are connected to the water network. Despite receiving humanitarian assistance, 55 percent of Bedouin communities in Area C are food insecure. The communities are located in an area intended for further Israeli settlement expansion, as set forth in the E1 plan that envisages a major expansion of the unlawful Ma’ale Adumim settlement, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said.

If implemented, these plans, along with the continued construction of the Separation Wall, seriously encroach upon Palestinian growth and development prospects. They also further cut territorial contiguity between the northern and southern parts of the West Bank, creating two nearly separate areas.

Even more shockingly, Israel proposes to relocate these Bedouin near Jerusalem’s principle garbage dump. The garbage dump pose would a serious health hazard to the communities, and would make it impossible for them to carry on their traditional lifestyles based on herding and nomadic agriculture.

Falk concluded “[t]he forty-four yearlong Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands continues to manifest itself in deprivation and denial of basic rights of Palestinians. Every year, on this International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, we are reminded of Israeli authorities’ invidious schemes to permanently empty Palestine of Palestinians. This prolonged human catastrophe must be brought to an end once and for all. Only then can the rights of Palestinians can be realized."

Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro called for translating solidarity into positive action as she addressed UN Headquarters’ observance of the Day, which also featured remarks by a number of senior UN officials.

UNGA President Concerned

"The international community must help steer the situation towards a historic peace agreement," she told the meeting. "Failing to overcome mistrust will only condemn further generations of Palestinians and Israelis to conflict and suffering."

General Assembly President Nasser Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, a Qatari, told the gathering that everything must be done to alleviate the daily suffering of the Palestinian people. "The humanitarian situation on the ground is a source of great concern," he said.

Speaking on the occasion of General Assembly Item 37, "Question of Palestine", Al-Nasser said: "This year, and today in particular, the General Assembly has a special responsibility to renew and reaffirm its commitment to finding a just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine. It is my conviction that the General Assembly has a role to play."

He added: "We should continue to work collectively for the attainment of a just and comprehensive negotiated peace settlement in the Middle East. A peace settlement that results in two viable, sovereign and independent States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security within recognized pre-1967 borders."

Stating that in the short term, there is need to "take steps to alleviate the daily suffering of the Palestinian people," he urged the 193 member states to solidify their valuable contributions to the work of United Nations Relief and Works agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which together non-governmental organizations and civil society at large, has "played a critical role in alleviating the suffering of the growing Palestinian refugee population." They have done so under extreme political and financial conditions.

– This article was provided by IDN-InDepthNews, Analysis That Matters. Visit: www.indepthnews.info.

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