Al-Haq Calls on ICC Prosecutor to also Investigate Israeli Attacks on Palestinian Cultural Property

The mosque of Al Bireh, near Ramallah, was set on fire by Jewish settlers. (Photo: via Twitter)

The Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq called on the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the UN Commission of Inquiry to include Israeli attacks on cultural property in Palestine in their investigation of Israeli war crimes, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.

On March 9, Al-Haq, on behalf of partner organizations, delivered an oral statement under interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights as part of its engagement with the Human Rights Council 49th Session.

The statement addressed Israel’s apartheid policies and practices targeting the Palestinian people’s cultural rights, particularly, Israel’s bombardment of cultural heritage sites in the Gaza Strip during its May 2021 military offensive, resulting in the erasure of Palestinian heritage and impeding the Palestinian people from protecting their culture, and realizing their right to self-determination.

“Israel has maintained its apartheid regime including through targeting, erasing, appropriating and/or exploiting Palestinian cultural heritage, as it’s integral to people’s identity, and social cohesion, and contributes to the exercise of their right to self-determination,” Al-Haq said in its oral statement.

“In the West Bank, the Israeli occupying authorities control archaeological sites, which are under continuous threat by Israel’s expanding settlement enterprise,” it continued.

“In the Gaza Strip, Israel’s 14-year-old blockade, coupled with its indiscriminate and disproportionate bombings of cultural sites, have prevented Palestinians from protecting their cultural heritage, including through archeological excavations. In May 2021, Israeli bombardment on Gaza damaged cultural heritage sites including the oldest known seaport in Gaza, the second oldest mosque in Palestine, and sites on UNESCO’s Tentative List. The bombardment also targeted open lands on Gaza coastline overlying a Roman city, previously bombed in 2012, 2014, and 2018, leaving a multitude of large craters.”

Al-Haq called on the Member States to “recognize Israel’s unlawful destruction of Palestinian cultural heritage as an element that enables it to entrench its apartheid regime.”

It also called the UN Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights to visit Palestine and report on Israel’s violations of Palestinian cultural rights, and on the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and the UN Commission of Inquiry “to include attacks on cultural property in their investigation as amounting to war crimes and the crime against humanity of apartheid.”

Al-Haq said its statement built on Al-Haq’s most recent report titled “Cultural Apartheid: Israel’s Erasure of Palestinian Heritage in Gaza.”

(WAFA, PC, Social Media))

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