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The Secretary-General has the honour to transmit to the members of the General Assembly the report of the Special Rapporteur on his visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, from 25 to 30 August 2002.
1. As indicated in his main report to the General Assembly (A/57/366), the Special Rapporteur relates herewith his visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territory at the end of August 2002.
2. The Special Rapporteur visited the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel from 25 to 30 August. During that period, he paid field visits to Nablus and Jenin, where he inspected the damage caused by Operation Defensive Shield, and to Qalquiliya, where he saw the start of the great Wall of Separation between Israel and Palestine. He also visited Ramallah, Bethlehem and Jericho. The Special Rapporteur met with a wide range of people: Chairman Yasser Arafat and Mr. Sa’eb Erekat, Minister of Local Government of the Palestinian Authority; the governor of Nablus and the acting Governor of Jenin; the Mayor of Jenin; representatives of Palestinian, Israeli and international non-governmental organizations; and members of international humanitarian agencies. The visit served to confirm the accuracy of the account of the situation described in the main report. However, the Special Rapporteur believes that the seriousness of the situation was understated in that report. The personal encounter with curfews, the devastated Jenin refugee camp, the badly damaged old city of Nablus, checkpoints where Palestinians are daily humiliated, Chairman Arafat’s largely destroyed compound and interlocutors who told of their own suffering and those of others, transformed an intellectual appreciation of a humanitarian crisis into an emotional awareness of the human tragedy that is unfolding in Palestine.
3. The present addendum will not add to all the topics raised in the main report. Instead, it will focus on curfews and closures and their consequences; detentions; collective punishment; children; settlements; and the funding of the humanitarian crisis.
Security and human rights
4. Before turning to these issues it is necessary to say something about Israel’s security needs and interests. There can be no doubt that Israel has legitimate security concerns. Waves of Palestinian suicide bombers have inflicted deep wounds on Israeli society. Israel has both a right and an obligation to protect its people from further attacks. At the same time, it is necessary to ask whether the measures resorted to by Israel, particularly curfews and closures, always serve a security need. Often they appear so disproportionate, so remote from the interests of security, that one is led to ask whether they are not in part designed to punish, humiliate and subjugate the Palestinian people. Israel’s legitimate security needs must be balanced against the legitimate humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people. To the Special Rapporteur it appears that there is no such balance. Human rights have been sacrificed to security. This in turn produces a greater threat to Israeli security: the hopelessness of despair which leads inexorably to suicide bombings and other acts of violence against Israelis.
Curfews, closures and their consequences
5. It is difficult to describe curfews of the kind experienced in Nablus and Ramallah. Previously crowded, bustling cities, full of noise, movement and colour, transformed into ghost towns, with the silence of the city broken only by the rumbling of tanks and the sporadic gunfire of soldiers. Whole cities imprisoned behind walls. An imprisonment arbitrary in its application as none can predict when it will be lifted or when it might be reimposed; and brutal in its implementation as many have been shot and killed for failing to observe the rules of the curfew. It is less difficult to describe a military checkpoint. A group of young soldiers, with the arrogance of adolescence or its immediate aftermath, in dusty uniforms with ominous rifles over their shoulders, entrusted with arbitrary power over the movement of the people of Palestine. Long lines of vehicles or people presenting papers to soldiers behind concrete blocks, all aware that their movement is completely in the hands of these young foreign soldiers. The arrogance of the occupier and the humiliation of the occupied.
6. It is easier to describe the consequences of curfews and closures as they are backed by hard statistics. The subjection of over 700,000 persons in the main cities to curfews, and the denial of access by the villagers to the cities, has resulted in unemployment, poverty, malnutrition and illness. Over 50 per cent of the population of the Palestinian Territory is unemployed. Poverty, based on two dollars or less consumption per day, is at 70 per cent in Gaza and 55 per cent in the West Bank. A total of 1.8 million Palestinians receive food aid or other forms of emergency humanitarian support from a variety of sources, notably the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, the World Food Programme and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Twenty-two per cent of children under the age of five suffer from acute or chronic malnutrition, while 20 per cent suffer from iron-deficiency anaemia. Mental health problems have increased alarmingly among children. Health care has suffered drastically as a result of the unavailability of medication and the inability to reach health centres. As usual, the situation in the refugee camps is particularly bleak, as was evident when the Special Rapporteur visited the Balata refugee camp near Nablus.
7. The number of people subjected to administrative detention, that is lengthy detention without trial, has increased from less than 100 to 1,860. Of the 7,000 detainees, some 300 are children and 50 are women (including eight girls).
8. The demolition of the homes of families as punishment for crimes committed against Israel by a family member has long been an Israeli practice. In August, the Israeli High Court denied judicial review in such cases, as had previously been the position, thereby giving military commanders complete discretion to order the demolition of houses. This clearly violates article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits collective punishment.
9. On 3 September, the Israeli High Court issued a ruling allowing the forcible deportation of two Palestinians from their home town of Nablus to the Gaza Strip on the ground that they had allegedly assisted their brother (extrajudicially executed by Israeli forces on 6 August) to commit attacks against Israelis. Although the Court limited such deportations to “extreme cases”, it must be stressed that the decision to deport was not preceded by a trial to determine the deportee’s complicity. The right to a fair trial and the prohibitions on collective punishment (article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention) and forcible transfers (article 49 of the Convention) are violated by these measures.
10. Children have suffered greatly as a result of military incursions into Palestinian territory and curfews and closures. Many have been killed or injured; some 300 have been arrested and detained; over 2,000 have been rendered homeless; two thirds live below the poverty line; 22 per cent of children under the age of five suffer from malnutrition; at least 330,000 have been confined to their homes by curfew; over 600,000 have been prevented from attending schools in the West Bank; and most have been seriously traumatized. During Operation Defensive Shield, 11 schools were destroyed, 9 vandalized, 15 employed as military outposts, 15 used as detention centres and 112 damaged. Teachers, like pupils, have often been unable to gain access to their schools as a result of closures. Palestinian leaders expressed great concern to the Special Rapporteur about the fate of schools, which opened on 31 August, in the face of curfews. Treatment of this kind leaves both physical and mental scars. Worse still, it breeds hatred for the occupier, which augurs ill for the future.
11. The main report contains facts about settlements. On this visit, the Special Rapporteur had the opportunity to see the settlements in the Nablus and Jenin districts. Such a visit provides a clear explanation for many of the closures that obstruct Palestinian freedom of movement and strangle Palestinian society. Small mountain-top settlements, with populations of several hundred, are linked to each other and to Israel itself by settlers-only roads. Palestinian roads that cross these roads are sealed off, with the result that villagers are often compelled to make lengthy detours to reach markets, shops, workplaces, schools and hospitals in other villages or towns. Outside Jenin, for instance, the two settlements of Gannim (pop. 158) and Kaddim (pop. 148) are linked by a settlers-only road. The main road from Jenin to eight villages with a combined population of some 20,000 that previously crossed this road has been closed by bulldozers. Villagers who previously were only a 10-minute drive from Jenin must now use circuitous village roads, taking hours to reach Jenin. The basic freedoms of Palestinians to movement and to a decent livelihood are therefore sacrificed in the interest of the security and comfort of the alien settler community. The anger and humiliation this engenders among Palestinians is impossible to assess.
The paradox of humanitarian assistance
12. The gravity of the situation is indisputable. So is the need for humanitarian assistance on a massive scale. If this is not forthcoming, the Palestinian people will suffer irremediable harm. The Special Rapporteur therefore endorses, and adds his own voice to, calls for humanitarian assistance from the international community.
13. At the same time, it must be made clear that, by providing aid of this kind, the international donor community relieves Israel of the burden of providing such assistance itself and in this way might be seen to be contributing to the funding of the occupation. As is shown in paragraphs 26 and 27 of the main report, Israel itself is obliged, in terms of articles 50, 55 and 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to ensure that the Palestinian people have food and medical supplies, to maintain medical services and to facilitate the working of educational institutions.