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This week the Palestinian people marked the passage of yet another year since Al-Nakba. Fifty-nine years have now passed since the 1948 catastrophe of the dispossession, expulsion, displacement and uprooting of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes, most after being witness and subjected to crimes and atrocities, including massacres, the devastation of entire villages and communities and the destruction of their homeland. On this solemn occasion, the Palestinian people reflect on their past and their present with deep sorrow as they continue to suffer and struggle for the realization of their inalienable human rights, including their right to self-determination.
Tragically, Al-Nakba continues as the Palestinian people continue to either live in exile as refugees, denied the inalienable right to return to their homes to live at peace with their neighbours, or continue to live under the belligerent military occupation of Israel, the occupying Power, in the Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, forced to endure the constant violation of their fundamental human rights. Indeed, with the passage of each year since Al-Nakba and since the occupation of the remainder of historic Palestine forty years ago, the Palestinian people have had to endure ever more loss, both human and material and mounting suffering and hardship.
Various efforts over the years and countless United Nations resolutions have not brought an end to this suffering or the fulfilment of the rights of the Palestinian people because of the intransigence of Israel and its total disrespect and contempt for international law, including humanitarian and human rights law. Instead of complying with the law and pursuing peace, Israel, the occupying Power, has acted with flagrant impunity, vehemently denying the rights of the Palestinian people and committing grave breaches, including war crimes, systematic human rights violations and acts of State terror against them. The root of all such illegal Israeli policies and practices against the Palestinian people has been Israel’s insatiable desire for expansionism. As such, Israel has undermined or blatantly rejected all peace initiatives and violated all resolutions aimed at achieving a just and peaceful solution to the conflict on the basis of the rules of international law, the resolutions of international legitimacy and the principle of land for peace.
Since 1967, the occupying Power has feverishly carried out a colonization campaign throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including, in particular, in and around Occupied East Jerusalem, aimed at the illegal, de facto annexation of the land. For four decades now, Israel has been incessantly confiscating Palestinian land and destroying Palestinian property for the purpose of constructing, expanding and entrenching its network of illegal settlements, into which hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers have been illegally transferred. Indeed, just last week, an Israeli plan was revealed to construct three more settlements around Occupied East Jerusalem, consisting of 20,000 more units for Israeli settlers, which are intended to create a contiguous Jewish presence linking East Jerusalem to major settlement areas in the West Bank, totally isolating Occupied East Jerusalem and its Palestinian inhabitants from the rest of the Palestinian Territory and the Judaization of the city.
In recent years, this unlawful colonization campaign has intensified with the occupying Power’s unlawful construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, which is intricately linked to the settlements and clearly intended to entrench them and facilitate the land grab. Just as in 1948, entire communities are being destroyed and thousands of Palestinians are being displaced by this apartheid Wall, which is separating Palestinian cities, towns and refugee camps, many of which have now become walled-in enclaves, and devastating the socio-economic life and humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people. In addition, Israel has established a racist and discriminatory road network and permit system and an intricate web of checkpoints throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, all intended to totally control and restrict the movement of the Palestinian people and contain them in isolated Bantustans. All such illegal Israeli practices and measures are altering the demographic composition of and destroying the territorial contiguity, character and integrity of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.
Further exacerbating the situation, Israel, the occupying Power, has never ceased its brutal military campaign against the Palestinian civilian population, which has resulted in the killing and injury of thousands of Palestinians and the wanton destruction of their homes, property and infrastructure, it has never ceased the imprisonment of Palestinian civilians, and it has never ceased its collective punishment of the Palestinian people. These inhumane and illegal practices have detrimentally impacted all aspects of Palestinian life and made day-to-day survival ever more difficult. In total, all of Israel’s policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territory are aimed at subjugating, humiliating and oppressing the entire Palestinian population, keeping them under siege as it pursues its expansionist aims and evades any efforts for making peace, including the opportunity provided by the recent renewal of the significant Arab Peace Initiative.
These unlawful acts are compounding the misery and hardship of the Palestinian people, intensifying the decline of the situation on the ground and gravely undermining the prospect for attaining the two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a just and lasting peace. The continuation of this situation is untenable. The cessation of Israeli violations and grave breaches of international law is imperative for salvaging the hopes and potential for peace, which obviously diminish with each passing year. Without such a cessation, the catastrophic cycle of the dispossession, oppression and deprivation of the Palestinian people will continue as will the deterioration of the situation as a whole, deepening the memory of Al-Nakba and exacerbating the ongoing injustice.
The international community must urgently undertake measures to uphold international law and hold Israel accountable for its actions. It must compel Israel, the occupying Power, to comply with United Nations resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) and all other relevant resolutions, to abide by its legal obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention and the human rights covenants, to respect fully the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice and to thus truly seek and make the efforts necessary for realizing peace. Moreover, respect for international law by Israel must essentially include acknowledgement of the plight of the Palestine refugees, who now number more than 4.5 million people, and respect for their right to return, as enshrined in resolution 194 (II) of 1948, the basis for a just and agreed-upon solution to their plight.
The United Nations, including in particular the Security Council, has an important role to play in this regard and must exercise responsibility to help bring an end to this prolonged tragedy and bring peace and security to the Palestinian and Israeli peoples. It should work concertedly to promote international law in accordance with its relevant resolutions, which form the foundations for the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace. We thus express our deep hope that serious efforts will be exerted to tangibly promote the peace process at this critical time towards the achievement of the two-State solution of Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security on the basis of the 1967 borders, and the achievement of a just solution to the plight of the Palestine refugees.
I should be grateful if you would arrange to have the text of the present letter distributed as a document of the sixty-first session of the General Assembly, under agenda items 13 and 14, as well as of the Security Council.