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22 Mar, 2014 11:27

'Colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing': UN rapporteur on Palestine blasts Israel

'Colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing': UN rapporteur on Palestine blasts Israel

The UN Special Rapporteur on occupied Palestine accused Israeli authorities of conducting colonialist policies that constitute forms of apartheid and ethnic cleansing in the occupied territories in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Speaking at a news conference at the UN European headquarters in Geneva on Friday, the UN Special Rapporteur on occupied Palestine, Richard Falk, accused Israel of pushing Palestinians out of East Jerusalem and creating unbearable conditions for the minority to force them to immigrate.

Falk, an ethnic Jewish expert in international law and professor emeritus at Princeton University, told journalists that Israeli policies have “unacceptable characteristics of colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing.”

In the present situation where talks between Israel and Palestinian authority remain in deadlock, the acceleration of Israeli settlement construction in the occupied territories is causing Palestinians to lose their faith that a state of their own could ever be created.

“Every increment of enlarging the settlements, or every incident of house demolition is a way of worsening the situation confronting the Palestinian people and reducing what prospects they might have as the outcome of supposed peace negotiations,” the UN Special Rapporteur said.

Richard Falk (AFP Photo / Cem Turkel)

Speaking about Israel de facto annexing parts of the Palestinian territory, Falk was actually citing a report on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, prepared by his group and presented in January.

The report maintains that Israeli policies in the West Bank are effectively denying the Palestinian right to self-determination by means of “apartheid and segregation.”

“To sustain indefinitely an oppressive occupation containing many punitive elements also seems designed to encourage residents to leave Palestine, which is consistent with the apparent annexationist, colonialist and ethnic-cleansing goals of Israel, especially in relation to the West Bank, including East Jerusalem,” the report said.

For that purpose, the Israelis use bureaucratic processes, such as “revocation of residency permits, demolitions of residential structures built without Israeli permits (often virtually impossible to obtain), and forced evictions of Palestinian families,” which is a definite violation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, said the report.

In Jerusalem alone, over 11,000 Palestinians had lost their right to live in the city since 1996, only because Israel has been imposing residency laws in favor of Jews, making it possible to revoke Palestinian residence permits, Falk reported.

A crane is seen next to homes in a Jewish settlement near Jerusalem (Reuters / Ammar Awad)

“The 11,000 is just the tip of the iceberg because many more are faced with possible challenges to their residency rights,” he said.

Along with the eviction of the Arab population from Jerusalem, Israel is actively constructing new settlements to "change the ethnic composition" of East Jerusalem, Falk said.

Israel captured both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a result of the so-called Six-Day War in the Middle East in 1967. Captured East Jerusalem was later annexed as part of Israel’s indivisible capital, though this move has never been recognized internationally.

At the same time Palestinians are trying to establish a state of their own in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the only land left to them as of now. The capital of their state they plan to put in occupied East Jerusalem.

Palestinians refuse to recognize the state of Israel in its present borders, whereas Israel says Palestinian refusal serves the main obstacle to the creation of Palestinian statehood.

Israel has consistently denied any allegations of persecuting Palestinians, shifting the blame on their Palestinian opponents, they accuse of anti-Israeli violence that is permanently disturbing the peace in the Jewish state.

A bulldozer demolishes a house in Jabel Mukaber, a Palestinian village in the suburbs of East Jerusalem February 5, 2014. (Reuters / Ammar Awad)

This week US President Barack Obama addressed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, pointing out the necessity to break the stalemate with Israel before the deadline for a framework deal, initiated by the US Secretary of State John Kerry, expires on April 29.

According to Professor Richard Falk, any peace negotiations between Israel and Palestinians are usually undermined by the sharp rise of Israeli settlement activities. At the same time the general attitude of the Israeli political establishment towards direct peace negotiations with Palestinians has suffered a serious change, Falk noted, as many Israelis are now seeing even entering such negotiations as betrayal of their national interests.

"A few years ago it would be hard to imagine that there was something to the right of [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu,” Falk said, pointing out that as of today a gradual shift to the right has taken place. "And there is a strong internal Israeli opposition to any sense that the Palestinian people, in any diminished way, deserve a state of their own,” he concluded.

In the face of the end of his six-year term as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, Richard Falk is expected to address the UN Human Rights Council on Monday, before the body names his successor.