This month marks 50 years of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the “world’s longest-sustained military occupation in modern history,” according to the ICRC. Israel today controls these areas through systematic rights abuses: unlawful killings, forced displacement, abusive detention, unjustified restrictions on movement and the development of settlements and accompanying policies that institutionally discriminate against Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas have also carried out serious violations, including arbitrary arrests and torture.
In light of the disturbing levels of non-implementation of UN recommendations by both Israel and Palestine, particularly in relation to accountability, noted in the High Commissioner’s report, the international community should take more active measures to hold parties to their obligations under international law. In particular, states should oppose settlements and refrain from actions that support settlements and their infrastructure, and all businesses, consistent with their human rights obligations, should end commercial activity in and with the settlements. To facilitate this, we urge the Office of the High Commissioner to establish the settlement business database without further delay. The OHCHR database would provide important guidance for identifying which businesses are operating in or with settlements and would be a useful tool in helping all states fulfill their responsibilities outlined in UN Security Council Resolution 2334.
The humanitarian crisis in Gaza also demands this body’s attention. Israel has kept Gaza mostly closed for the last decade—its restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza affect nearly every aspect of everyday life, separating families, restricting access to medical care, electricity, water and educational and economic opportunities and perpetuating unemployment and poverty. As of last year, Gaza’s GDP per capita was 23 percent lower than in 1994. Seventy percent of Gaza’s 1.9 million population rely on humanitarian assistance. The international community should insist that Israel permit the free movement of people and goods to and from Gaza, subject to, at most, individualized security screenings and physical inspection.
The debate on the item number under which issues relating to the Occupied Palestinian Territories are addressed should not detract attention from the need to act on these pressing human rights concerns.