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Israeli settlements engine of occupation, trample on human rights law: UN experts

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A general view shows ongoing construction work in the Israeli settlement of Givat Zeev, near the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, on October 28, 2021.(Photo by AFP)

UN experts have condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East al-Quds as “the engine of the occupation,” saying the Tel Aviv regime’s illegal construction activities “trample”on human rights law.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Michael Lynk and Balakrishnan Rajagopal, the UN special rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory and on adequate housing, denounced Israel’s plan to build thousands of new settler units.

In recent weeks, Israel has approved plans for more than 1,700 new units in the East al-Quds settlements of Givat Hamatos and Pisgat Zeev, they said.

It is also advancing schemes for an estimated 9,000 units in Atarot settlement, as well as approximately 3,400 in the West Bank’s E1 area.

The rights experts also noted that the occupying entity is seeking to construct almost 3,000 units in a number of West Bank settlements, highlighting reports that the regime is planning to retroactively legalize several outposts. 

“The United Nations has repeatedly stated that the Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory are a ‘flagrant violation under international law’, and it has demanded that Israel cease its settlement expansion and remove its settlements,” they said.

The illegality of the Israeli settlements is one of the most widely-accepted issues in modern international law, they added. “As well, the Israeli settlements are a presumptive war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and should be treated as such by the international community.”

The rapporteurs further characterized Israeli settlements as “the engine of the occupation,” and responsible for a wide range of rights violations against the Palestinian people. 

The breaches include “land confiscation, resource alienation, severe restrictions on freedom of movement, mounting settler violence, and racial and ethnic discrimination. Most seriously, the purpose of settler implantation – rupturing the relationship between a native people and its territory – is the denial of the right to self-determination, which is at the very core of modern human rights law,” they explained.

“The very raison d’être of the Israeli settlements in occupied territory – the creation of demographic facts on the ground to solidify a permanent presence, a consolidation of alien political control and an unlawful claim of sovereignty – tramples upon the fundamental precepts of humanitarian and human rights law.” 

Additionally in their statement, the UN rights experts welcomed criticism of the Israeli settlement expansion plans, including by the US and the European Union, though stressing “criticism without consequences means little in these circumstances.” 

They urged the international community to support the ongoing investigation into Israeli settlements by the Prosecutor’s Office at the International Criminal Court. 

They also called on UN member states to ensure that corporations and institutions under their jurisdiction have no involvement in aiding, assisting or investing in the Israeli settlements.  

“An occupying power that initiates and expands civilian settlements in defiance of international law and the Rome Statute cannot be serious about peace,” the special rapporteurs said. “Equally, an international community that does not impose accountability measures on a defiant occupying power contrary to international law cannot be serious about its own laws.”

Most of the international community considers Israeli settlement construction illegal under international law and an obstacle to the so-called two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Nearly 700,000 Israelis live in illegal settlements built since the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East al-Quds.

The UN Security Council has in several resolutions condemned the Tel Aviv regime’s settlement projects in the occupied Palestinian lands.

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