Israel’s Violations of International Law in East Jerusalem
Israel has blatantly violated international law in its treatment of Palestinians. The international community’s complicity with Israel’s policies and actions has helped maintain Israel’s occupation of Palestine for more than 50 years. The Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA) works to point out Israel’s disrespect for international law and the international community’s failure to hold Israel accountable for its well-documented systematic human rights abuses. Here’s what you need to know and what you can do so that together we can rise up.
The Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA) was founded in March, 1987. It is an Arab non-profit institution/think tank located in Jerusalem/Al-Quds with a financially and legally independent status. It is not affiliated with any government, political party, or organization. PASSIA seeks to present the Palestinian Question in its national, Arab, and international contexts through academic research, dialogue, and publication.
PASSIA works to achieve its goals through the implementation of the following regular programs: Research and Studies, Roundtable Meetings, Interfaith Dialogue, Training and Education in International Affairs, Civil Society Empowerment, and the Question of Jerusalem, in addition to occasional special projects. PASSIA is involved with and contributes to a variety of networks, cooperates with numerous regional and international institutions, and participates regularly in local, regional, and international conferences.
PASSIA endeavors to assure that research undertaken under its auspices be specialized, scientific, and objective and that its symposia and workshops, whether international or intra-Palestinian, be open, self-critical, and conducted in a spirit of harmony and cooperation.
Like all nations, Israel is subject to international law and therefore bound by its regulations in several ways. However, despite the fact that there is a broad international consensus that Israel as an occupier has systematically and constantly violated international law, it was able to do so unabated and with impunity like no other country.
For over fifty years, Israel has held East Jerusalem under belligerent military occupation. East Jerusalem is officially recognized as an inseparable part of the illegally occupied West Bank, requiring Israel to adhere to the responsibilities of an occupying power as defined by the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Israel’s construction and expansion of settlements and its separation wall, along with its expropriation of Palestinian land, demolition of Palestinian homes, revocation of their residency rights, and the entire separate-and-unequal regime under which Palestinians live in East Jerusalem are illegal under international law, but have been in place for over half a century.
While violations of international law and the commission of war crimes by the State of Israel are frequently mentioned in the context of the ongoing military occupation, people are often not fully aware of what this “international law” actually refers to or where and why it is being violated. Thus, PASSIA recently published a bulletin to shed some light on this problem by surveying the international law regulations currently being violated by Israel and Israel’s duties following from it, be it as a state party to treaties, as a subject of United Nations (U.N.) resolutions, or otherwise. It further stresses third states’ responsibility to enforce them and explains the Palestinian (and others) criticism of the international community for using aid and development to hide their inaction in facing up to Israel’s blatant human rights violations.
In Jerusalem these violations are manifested in international law. East Jerusalem is occupied territory, thus the Fourth Geneva Convention applies and Israel has no legitimate authority over it by virtue of having taken control of it militarily. The international community rejects Israel’s claim to both West and East Jerusalem as its “eternal undivided capital” and has consistently denounced Israeli attempts to change the status of the city.
Hisham Mahmoud ‘Abd al-Ghani Hussein, 42, resident of Qalandia
Hisham Mahmoud ‘Abd al-Ghani Hussein, 42, resident of Qalandia, stated in testimony given on 27 July 2016 to B’Tselem:
Until about a month ago, I lived with my family in a rental in Qalandia. My wife and I decided to build a home that we could leave to our children, on land I inherited from my family close to other members of the family – uncles, aunts, and cousins – most of whose homes were built with permits before the Israeli occupation. I didn’t try to get a permit, because the Jerusalem Municipality and the Civil Administration in Beit El don’t give building permits in the area.
We moved into our new home on 24 June 2016. The night before cease work orders were posted on 11 homes, including mine, on the grounds of construction without permits. They did not present us with the order in person, but stuck it on the rear wall of the house. We didn’t even know it was there. On the night of 24 July 2016, they again posted orders on the homes. We learned that it is very difficult to appeal these demolition orders, and within 24 hours the Israeli security forces came and demolished our home.
We didn’t have a chance to remove anything from the house. We started to take some furniture out, but within 10 minutes the security forces began to shoot stun and gas grenades into the stairwell. My brother Ibrahim and I dragged the fridge out, but we didn’t manage to get it downstairs. When we smelled the gas, we left the fridge on the stairs and ran out. Then they moved us away from the scene. We all went to my aunt’s home, which is nearby. The bulldozers began to demolish the building. I felt like I was suffocating and couldn’t breathe properly, and I had a strong sense of frustration. My heart broke from the pain and the tears flowed down by themselves. I looked at my children and my heart broke. I’d worked all my life to save money so I could build my dream home – for me and for them.
They destroyed our dreams in front of my children – they were there and saw their house, their dream, destroyed by the occupation forces. These were very difficult moments. I don’t have the words to describe what we experienced. I lost over NIS 550,000 (nearly $160,000 USD) I had invested in the shell and the finishing work. Everything was lost and turned into rubble. Even the furniture was destroyed along with the house – the living room, sofas, mattresses, a television, a cooktop, the fridge, kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets – everything.
Originally published by B’Tselem at https://www.btselem.org/jerusalem/20161114_qalandia_demolitions; edited slightly for publication purposes.
We urge you to reach out to local, national, and international elected officials, agency leaders, and influential people. Get creative in thinking about who might be interested and bring new interest to the cause. Here are some suggestions you can draw on in crafting your letters, emails, tweets, posts, and Instagrams:
Draft sample letter. You might start with something like:
Israel has violated well-documented U.N. resolution after resolution, contravened numerous international (humanitarian) law obligations and treaties, and ignored an International Court of Justice advisory opinion. When a state persists in seriously breaching norms of international law, it is not only the state itself that fails to meet its obligations. The entire international community, including XXXX (respective country), then forsakes its duty to hold that state accountable for its actions. That is exactly what is going on in the case of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
Here is a list of international laws Israel is violating. Include one or two in your communications:
a) Treaties signed by Israel has ratified or acceded to and therefore binding:
- The Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.
- International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination emphasized its concern about “policies and practices which amount to de facto segregation.”
- The U.N. World Heritage Convention. The UNESCO world heritage committee regularly criticizes Israel for its constant aggressions against the Old City of Jerusalem and its holy sites.
- The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The U.N. human rights committee criticized a number of breaches including punitive house demolitions and discriminatory planning regimes.
- The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural rights raised concerns about severe restrictions on the freedom of movement in the occupied Palestinian territory, lack of social security and services in East Jerusalem, and insufficient access to safe water in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
- The Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Committee against torture showed concerns on issues ranging from degrading treatment on checkpoints, acts of violence by settlers, postponement of return of bodies, access to lawyers, and the treatment of juvenile detainees.
- The Convention on the Rights of the Child. The committee monitoring the implementation of the treaty has disregarded the obligations in Gaza and cases of settlers’ violence against children. The committee also deemed the separation barrier and the Gaza blockade as forms of collective punishment, heavily impeding the development of children.
b) Customary Law and General Principles:
- The Hague Convention IV
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
- The Fourth Geneva Convention
Language you can use to hold Israel accountable:
- “are you familiar with all the international law violations relating to Israel”
- “why do we [respective country] allow this international law violation?”
- “Sanctions and other measures are enforced on countries that violate international law, but why are those measures not imposed on Israel?”
Possible talking points:
- Something like “we want you to stand up to take responsibility and act immediately to pressure Israel to abide by international law”
- “we do not tolerate illegal measures contributing to the injustice and suffering of the Palestinian people”
- “if we remain silent we share the responsibility for the ongoing occupation”
- “please explain on what grounds we do not live up to our third party responsibility when it comes to issues related to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine?”
You can send these letters via regular mail or email, or get creative, delivering letters in person, or communicating via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Share your letters publicly and include a link to this page of the Kumi Now website along with the hashtags #KumiNow and #Kumi14.
“Violence” by Jean Zaru
Conflicts can only be resolved politically and legally, on the basis of parity of rights and the global rule of law. All, without double standards, should adhere to UN Security Council resolutions and international law, including the Geneva Conventions. No state is above the law. To resort to violence as an instrument of change should be rejected. However, that should by no means lead us to suppose that we should hold a passive attitude to the circumstances that confront us.
Our road to renewal and to a just peace is to be “truth-tellers.” The “cover-up” is the tool of our contemporary culture. Half-truths and lies fill government halls, institutions, and the media. As Jeremiah declared, “They all deceive their neighbors, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongues to speak lies” (Jer. 9:5). It is our duty to tell the truth, to uncover our scars and wounds. This requires great courage, yet it is the way by which we disarm the principalities and powers whose lies and deceit are fed by silent cooperation.
From “Violence” by Jean Zaru, a Palestinian Christian woman who is a Quaker and pacifist, in her book Occupied with Nonviolence.
Resources from PASSIA:
- Dictionary of Palestinian Political Terms: http://www.passia.org/terms/
- PASSIA Bulletins: http://passia.org/publications/category/12?sort_by=newest
- Factsheets: http://passia.org/publications/257
- Maps Center: http://passia.org/maps/37
- Palestine Directory: http://www.passia.org/directory/
- Palestine Personalities: http://www.passia.org/personalities
“International Law: Israeli Violations and Third Party Responsibility” from PASSIA: http://www.passia.org/publications/107
“Legal Status & Treatment of Palestinians in Jerusalem” from PASSIA: http://www.passia.org/publications/108
“PASSIA Annual Report 2017: The Year that Was”: http://www.passia.org/publications/286
- “What are Israel’s Violations of International Law?” From NowThis World: https://youtu.be/WeVbg-6fDTA
- “Israel Approves New Settlement; Violates International Law” from Al Jazeera English: https://youtu.be/gfrSLDtE0IY
- Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths by Karen Armstrong
- Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore
- Overlooking the Border: Narratives of a Divided Jerusalem by Dana Hercbergs (published October 2018)
- “Jerusalem History: Animation” from Emek Shaveh: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljwo3fh46VM
- “(Under)mining the Status Quo” from Emek Shaveh: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JpZWVMF4umM
- “Israel & Palestine: A Very Short Introduction” from Jewish Voice of Peace: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y58njT2oXfE
- “Jerusalem-Al-Quds 2037” from Ir Amim: https://youtu.be/zB0sPcGhU2Q
- “How to Share Jerusalem” from J Street: https://youtu.be/M29FCrP5GFY
- “Muslims and Christians Once Peacefully Coexisted in Jerusalem” from Smithsonian Channel: https://youtu.be/gz_wIacRi7s
- “Jerusalem: Three Religions, Three Families” from Faith Matters and DW English: https://youtu.be/3inhQffPlAI
- “Trump Unsuccessfully Bullies UN Members to Vote Against Shared and Peaceful Jerusalem” from Jewish Voice for Peace: https://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/trump-bullies-un-members-vote-shared-peaceful-jerusalem/
- “Jerusalem: A City on Edge” from Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling: http://www.wclac.org/english/etemplate.php?id=1532
- “Jerusalem: A City Divided” from Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling: http://www.wclac.org/english/etemplate.php?id=1379
- “Jerusalem & Its Changing Boundaries” from PASSIA: http://www.passia.org/publications/287
- “Legal Status & Treatment Of Palestinians In Jerusalem” from PASSIA: http://www.passia.org/publications/108
- Jewish Voice of Peace: https://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/
- Emek Shaveh: https://alt-arch.org/en/
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