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1. Mr. Falk (Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967), introducing his report (A/67/379), noted that the Government of Israel continued to refuse to cooperate with his efforts, in violation of the fundamental legal obligation incident to membership in the United Nations. Israel had a long track record of non-cooperation with official undertakings of United Nations organs and human rights bodies and he urged decisive action to persuade the Government of Israel to fulfil its obligations. His report focused on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, giving particular attention to the legal responsibility of selected Israeli and international businesses that were profiting from Israeli settlements. Those settlements currently controlled over 40 per cent of the West Bank, where 500,000-600,000 Israelis had already been settled, while around 200,000 had settled in East Jerusalem. The settler population had grown at an average yearly rate of 5.3 per cent, compared with 1.8 per cent in Israel. The scale of financial investment in Israel’s settlement enterprise appeared to confirm its intention to retain control over much, if not all, of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which would blatantly violate article 2 of the United Nations Charter and undermine Palestine.
2. As the occupying Power, the Government of Israel was duty bound to respect and implement its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law and to ensure that private businesses operating in Palestine were held accountable for any activities adversely affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people.
3. The report illustrated the obligations of businesses to respect human rights under international humanitarian law and the law of armed conflict, as stipulated in international humanitarian standards, in particular principles 1 and 2 of the United Nations Global Compact — a commitment undertaken by many of the corporate participants highlighted in the report — which drew on the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. It also referred to guidance developed by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which stipulated that if businesses breached, or were complicit in breaches of, international humanitarian law, they or their individual employees might be subject to criminal or civil liability. The businesses highlighted in the report constituted a small number of the many companies that profited from the Israeli settlement enterprise, as documented in abundant information provided by civil society organizations and other actors.
4. Those businesses profiting from the Israeli settlement enterprise should be boycotted until their operations were brought into line with international human rights and humanitarian law and standards. He also encouraged civil society to strengthen efforts to hold such businesses accountable through legal and political initiatives in national and international contexts. A number of them had been offered the opportunity to respond to the information in the report; responses had been received from five companies. He further recommended that an advisory opinion should be sought from the International Court of Justice on the responsibility of businesses in relation to economic activities of settlements established in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
5. Mr. Haniff (Malaysia) asked what prospects there were for a two-State solution, given the increasing number of illegal Jewish settlements which literally fragmented Palestine and affected the feasibility of a State of Palestine. He also asked for comment on reports of rising violence committed by settlers against Palestinian farmers and property owners as illegal settlements expanded. Lastly, there had been reports that increasing numbers of Palestinian children were detained without legal counsel for minor offences and treated as adults.
6. Ms. Rasheed (Observer for Palestine) said that the Special Rapporteur should be commended for his tireless efforts to raise awareness on the long list of human rights violations by the Israeli occupier, especially since his work had been rendered more difficult by that country’s refusal to cooperate with his mandate. Given Israel’s long-standing lack of cooperation with and obstruction of special procedures, she asked what were the consequences of its recent decision to cut all ties with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Human Rights Council and what was being done to address it. She asked what could be done to strengthen civil society so that Member States with companies operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territory could pressure such companies to end their direct or indirect support to the Israeli occupation. In his report, the Special Rapporteur had put forward the idea of a General Assembly resolution on corporate responsibility; as it was widely known that Israel continued to defy and ignore the multitude of resolutions adopted with regard to its illegal practices in Occupied Palestinian Territory, she asked what other options were available within the United Nations to address that issue.
7. Mr. Storaci (Observer for the European Union) said that the European Union remained committed to a two-State solution and was convinced that ongoing changes across the Arab world rendered progress on the peace process all the more urgent. An end to the conflict could be made possible by a comprehensive peace agreement based on the relevant Security Council resolutions and previous plans and agreements. He recalled the applicability of international humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including that relative to the protection of civilians. Settlements, the separation barrier built on occupied land, demolition of homes and evictions were all illegal under international law, impeded peace and jeopardized the two-State solution. He would continue to urge the Government of Israel to end immediately all settlement activities in East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank and to dismantle all outposts erected since March 2001. The status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two States must be resolved through negotiations.
8. The European Union remained committed to full implementation of all existing legislation and bilateral arrangements applicable to settlement products; it did not support calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions in relation to the businesses in the report. The Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which was the authoritative policy framework, should be applied globally.
9. Ms. Syed (Norway) said that Norway shared the Special Rapporteur’s concern for the difficult human rights situation in the Palestinian territory and regretted the lack of cooperation from the Israeli Government. She called on the Government to respect its obligations under international law to guarantee fully the human rights of the Palestinian people.
10. Norway encouraged businesses to respect human rights and supported the call for both States and businesses to implement fully and effectively the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in business operations in Israeli settlements. Norwegian businesses were informed of the status of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) trade agreement with Israel — which did not apply to goods produced in the occupied territories — and were encouraged to adhere to the United Nations Guiding Principles. For example, on the advice of its Council of Ethics, Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global had divested from certain companies with activities in the Palestinian territory. Given the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations, she asked what United Nations programmes, agencies and funds would do to raise awareness of and address the challenges presented in the report.
11. Mr. Faye (Senegal) asked what emergency measures should be advocated and implemented, pending the resumption of the peace process, to ensure better protection of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
12. Mr. Khalil (Egypt) said that his country would continue to support the Special Rapporteur’s work and to try to facilitate his access to the Palestinian territories. He asked whether the Special Rapporteur could indicate how many of the over 7,000 companies participating in the Global Compact were involved in trade agreements with Israel, particularly for products originating in settlements. He also asked for further elaboration on the trend of incitement to violence against Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, as well as on the measures and international standards being applied with regard to the administration of justice for Palestinians legally and illegally detained by Israel. Lastly, he asked the Special Rapporteur to describe the impact of the recently adopted Israeli law on civil society, which limited financing to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and their ability to operate within Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
13. Mr. Faizal (Maldives) called on Israel to cooperate fully with the United Nations so that a balanced and comprehensive analysis of the impact of occupation could be carried out. Maldives believed in the independence and validity of the Special Rapporteur and was gravely concerned by his recent findings of the existence of a dual legal system for prosecuting Palestinians and the rise in administrative detention without charge or trial. The internment of suspects and their treatment, often tantamount to cruel and unusual punishment, blatantly contravened international human rights and humanitarian law. The accounts of extrajudicial executions were particularly shocking and the targeted killings between 2002 and 2008 in the West Bank could be nothing but an atrocity.
14. Maldives was disturbed by the demolition of over 330 Palestinian structures as well as the proposed measure to legalize Israeli settlements. Those policies had been denounced by the international community, by resolutions and by the International Criminal Court; that they continued unabated illustrated Israel’s clear neglect of its obligations to the community of nations. Until Palestine and Israel stood side by side as two States, the Middle East peace process would be at a standstill. An independent Palestine must be recognized — only then could it police its people, negotiate its interests and develop its social and economic structures.
15. Ms. Alsaleh (Syrian Arab Republic) noted that Special Rapporteur had succeeded in a delicate mission despite politicization, application of double standards and rule of force, as developed countries continued to threaten developing countries. Successive reports had highlighted the major difficulties and obstacles that the Special Rapporteur had faced in executing his mandate as Israel persistently denied him entry. The occupying Power continued to evade its responsibilities, deciding to cut all ties with the Human Rights Council and related bodies, which reflected a serious deterioration of relations and would undermine any solution that might lead to the establishment of a Palestinian State. Israel’s persistent expansionist policy and systematic, flagrant violations of the rights of the Palestinian people showed that the United Nations lacked the will and ability to take effective measures to deal with a country that continued to flout international law and was not held accountable. She therefore asked how the recommendations in the report would be implemented.
16. Mr. Eshraq (Islamic Republic of Iran), noting that Israel’s occupation of Palestine was at the root of the atrocities and systematic human rights violations occurring daily, asked what would be the long-term solution and what needed to be done in the short term to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people, in particular women and children.
17. Mr. Falk (Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967) said that there were two issues of particular importance. First, in light of the current situation, the viability of the two-State solution must be questioned. It was irresponsible to ignore the cumulative impact of Israel’s violations via the accelerated expansion of settlements and the attempts — largely unnoticed by the international community — to legitimize hundreds of illegal outposts, which would encroach significantly on what would have been the future Palestinian State. If the two-State solution was indeed viable, the question was how to proceed given Israel’s defiance. To act as if nothing had changed would implicitly endorse the undermining of inalienable Palestinian rights, in particular the right to self-determination.
18. Second, the United Nations and civil society could bring external pressure to bear and alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people by calling attention to the unique ordeal of an occupation that was an intolerable burden on the development of civilian population, particularly in Gaza, where the blockade had created a captive society. It was urgent to seek new and meaningful ways to address Palestinian suffering and Israel’s defiance of international law. The credibility of the Organization would be at stake if it gave lip service to the concerns raised without taking concrete action.