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UN Human Rights High Commissioner's appeal receives uncanny response from Israeli delegation

On 18 November 2008, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for an immediate end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza. “By function of this blockade, 1.5 million Palestinian men, women and children have been forcibly deprived of their most basic human rights for months. This is in direct contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law. It must end now,” she said (see UN press release).

The High Commissioner further called for the Israeli authorities to facilitate the urgent passage of essential humanitarian goods, including food, medical supplies, and fuel, to immediately allow the restoration of electricity, water and other essential services, and to lift movement restrictions preventing the passage of civilians for medical, educational and religious purposes. “Decisive steps must be taken to preserve the dignity and basic welfare of the civilian population, more than half of which are children,” she added.

She recalled the Occupying Power’s obligation to fully cease all measures that are inconsistent with its obligations under international law. “Only a full lifting of the blockade followed by a strong humanitarian response will be adequate to relieve the massive humanitarian suffering evident in Gaza today.” Calling on all sides to respect international law and the security of civilian populations, the High Commissioner also appealed for a complete cessation of Israeli air strikes and incursions, and of rocket fire by Palestinian groups.

Immediately following the High Commissioner’s call upon the Israeli government, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs published the response of the Israeli delegation to the UN as a reaction to the High Commissioner’s statements where it expresses that “it is shocking to read the short verbalization of the statement of the Human Rights High Commissioner on the humanitarian situation in Gaza”. It proceeds, “what is particularly disturbing is the manner in which she treats the Palestinian attacks, in the last sentence of her statement as if in obiter dicta. Unfortunately, Israel cannot allow itself such light mindedness in response to the launching of rockets on its civilians, shooting that violate the most basic right of all, it is the right to life”.

The Israeli delegation’s response submits, whilst completely neglecting its legal obligations as a Belligerent occupant, that “the general responsibility for the situation in the Gaza Strip is attributed to the Hamas, who invests all its resources in arms and terror, instead of providing for the needs of the civilian population, upon which it imposes its brutal regime”. The brief and brute attempt at a retort on behalf of the Israeli government ends by noting, “it is disappointing to realise that the High Commissioner has become a victim to the cynical manipulation of the media in the hands of the Hamas, and thereby recycled distorted information in a sharp manner in her statement to the press”.

Finally, whilst the verbosity of its submissions are at its peak, they persist to shout out their last cries of dissent towards the High Commissioner appeal by attempting to discard and disapprove of the most detached and objectively founded of the Commissioner’s submissions; “Water and electricity continue to flow from Israel to Gaza. 33 trucks filled with supplies arrived in Gaza yesterday, and others are waiting for their turn, and will enter the moment Hamas will cease its violent attacks. Instead of taking part in the political game that the Palestinians are playing, it would have been best if the High Commissioner would have confirmed the facts before she went on to publicise one-sided statements on the humanitarian situation in Gaza, and opened rather with offensive condemnation of the performers of terror activities”.

Whilst the overarching international community’s response is one of apathy, Al-Haq’s supportable position describes the current situation with profound concern in a recent statement, “[t]he High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions, the member states of the UN and the European Union are all legally and morally culpable on account of their collective ennui. In the absence of any concerted or effective response, [it] is left to question the basic commitment to fundamental human rights of these actors, and while once again repeating the calls detailed above for the members of the international community to live up to their legal obligations, we do so with increasingly strained hope, and an increasingly hoarse voice.”

This also comes at a time when Israeli officials have proactively exemplified their condemnation of the UN Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) summit in Durban (see this news piece). Israeli Foreign Minister Livni announced that “the documents prepared for the conference indicate that it is turning once again into an anti-Israeli tribunal, singling out and delegitimising the State of Israel. The conference has nothing to do with fighting racism”.  She proceeded to submit, “In view of this situation, I decided that Israel will not participate and will not legitimize the Durban II conference”. The continuing resistance of the Israeli government not to acknowledge the objective situation on the ground whilst persisting with its ongoing commission of war crimes, stands on one scale with this very kind of behaviour that attempts to claim a supranatural right to exist as it pleases, whilst confronting the international arena only selectively, subject to timing and convenience.

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