The undersigned human rights organizations assert that the violent incidents in the occupied Palestinian territories (East Jerusalem) and their repercussions on the situation in the Gaza Strip are a logical consequence of the racial segregation and discriminatory policies entrenched by Israel through its laws, alongside Israel’s brutal repression of peaceful protests that erupted in response to its forced eviction policy against Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem.
The organizations add that the evictions carried out by the Israeli authorities in Sheikh Jarrah and other old neighborhoods in East Jerusalem are a clear and explicit violation of international law, which may amount to war crimes, as explained by the spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, in a statement earlier this week.
The organizations emphasized that the laws relied on by Israel to evict Palestinians from their homes, namely the Absentees’ Property Law of 1950 and the Legal and Administrative Matters Law of 1970, are of an explicitly discriminatory nature.
According to international law, Israel as the occupying power must respect private property in occupied territory and cannot confiscate it, and must respect the laws in force in the country, as underscored by Colville in the aforementioned statement.
The organizations stress that Israel’s forced eviction of the residents of the Sheikh Jarrah and other neighborhoods is East Jerusalem contravenes international law. Israel cannot impose its own set of laws in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, to expel Palestinians from their homes. The Absentee’s Property Law of 1950 prohibits Palestinians from recovering the property they lost in the war with Israel from 1947-1949 while the 1970 Legal and Administrative Law allows Israeli Jews to reclaim property they lost during the war itself, amid repeated evictions of Palestinian families under these laws over the years. Israel’s illegal imposition of this legislation in the occupied territories raises deep concerns about impunity and lack of accountability.
Colville, speaking for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, affirmed that Israel’s application of the two laws is inherently discriminatory, based as it is solely on the nationality or origin of the owner. He stated that “all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of East Jerusalem, including expropriation of land and properties, are null and void and must be rescinded.” East Jerusalem is still part of the occupied Palestinian territories, Colville underscored, in accordance with international and humanitarian law.
United Nations experts confirmed that the “recent scenes of Israeli police and security forces attacking large crowds of Palestinian residents and worshipers is only intensifying a deeply inflammatory atmosphere in the city,” noting that “a militarized response to civilian protests against discriminatory practices only deepens social divisions. Respecting rights is the only path forward.”
The crackdown on Palestinians in Jerusalem has prompted Palestinian factions in Gaza to fire rockets into Israeli territory, which in turn led the Israeli government to retaliate with airstrikes and artillery attacks on several residential neighborhoods in the blockaded enclave, killing 192 people, including 58 children and 34 women, and wounding 1235 others, according to the latest estimates of the Palestinian Ministry of Health on Sunday.
The signatory organizations denounce the position of US President Biden’s administration regarding the attacks, which may amount to crimes against humanity committed by Israel against Palestinian civilians in the occupied territories. The US administration has refrained from condemning Israel’s violations, which is inconsistent with its previously announced commitment towards protecting human rights around the world.
The organizations likewise denounce Israel’s bombing of civilian homes and infrastructure; including its bombing of the Al-Jalaa building, home to offices and media outlets such as the Associated Press and Al Jazeera news network, to cover up the crimes it commits against civilians. In this regard, the signatory organizations reiterate the demands adopted by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), calling on the international community to:
- Recognize the reality of Israel’s imposition of an apartheid regime over the Palestinian people as a whole and take immediate and direct effective measures – including but not limited to sanctions, an arms embargo, and travel bans – to ensure that they, as members of a global community subject to international law, do not contribute directly or indirectly to the continued maintenance of apartheid;
- Reconstitute the UN Special Committee against Apartheid and the UN Centre against Apartheid to address Israel’s apartheid regime. These bodies were instrumental in building international support for collective action by states in order to overcome apartheid in South Africa;
- Support international justice and accountability mechanisms, including the ICC investigation into the situation in Palestine, activate universal jurisdiction mechanisms to suspected perpetrators of international crimes in their own jurisdictions and pursue the implementation of accountability resolutions adopted by the UN Human Rights Council as well as the recommendations of previous UN investigatory mechanisms on Palestine;
- Call for a Special Session of the UN Human Rights Council to urgently address the deteriorating human rights situation.
- The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
- El Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Violence and Torture Victims
- Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF)
- Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
- Foundation for Freedom of Thought and Expression
- Egyptian Front for Human rights
- Belady Center for Rights and Freedoms
- The Freedom Initiative
- Centre for Egyptian Women Legal Assistance
- Committee for Justice (CFJ)
- Masaar-Technology and Law Community
- The Regional Center For Rights and Liberties
- Arabic Network for Human Rights Information