The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) is shocked by Israel’s election as Vice-Chairperson of the Special Political and Decolonization/4th Committee in the UN General Assembly. PCHR emphasizes that this step constitutes a shock to the human conscience and justice everywhere, and denial and disregard for the suffering of millions of Palestinians for more than 66 years, as half of them are under Israeli occupation subjected to flagrant human rights violations and collective punishment measures, while the remaining half have become refugees displaced by the Israeli occupation under a systematic policy that has targeted their very existence since 1948.
Israel was nominated for the position of Vice-Chairperson of the Special Political and Decolonization/4th Committee for its 69th session by Western European and Others Group, which includes 28 States (Western
European States, United States, Canada, Australia, Turkey, Israel and New Zealand). Israel was the only candidate by the Group, which is one of the five geographical groups in the General Assembly and has the right of candidacy in this session. So, Israel’s election was supposed to be uncontested, but the Arab Group made efforts to stop the uncontested election by insisting on article 103 of the General Assembly Rules of Procedures, which provides that “elections shall be held by secret ballot … in an election where only one candidate is standing,” a position that was strongly objected by the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Israel was regrettably elected with 74 votes with and 36 votes against, while 68 Members abstained from voting and 15 votes were void, in the election that was held in the General Assembly on 18 June 2014.
Thus, Israel has become one of the three Vice-Chairpersons of the Special Political and Decolonization/4th Committee in its 69 session whose proceedings will commence in three months. This Committee is one of the six main Committees of the UN General Assembly, and it deals with a variety of subjects which include those related to decolonization, Palestinian refugees and human rights, peacekeeping, mine action, outer space, public information, atomic radiation and University for Peace. This Committee has constantly criticized Israel for its violations and arbitrary measures against Palestinians, while Israel has refused to cooperate with it in its follow-ups and investigations.
Although the position of Vice-Chairperson of the Committee is not so important in regards to the Committee’s work, there are concerns that Israel may make use of its new position to confirm its view that Palestinian refugees include only those who were displaced in 1948, but not their descendants, which
is contrary to the Committee’s position that defines Palestinian refugees as those who were displaced in 1948 and 1967 and their descendants. Israel’s success in this regard would take millions of Palestinian refugees out of the Committee’s scope of attention. Therefore, Israel’s presence in this Committee may pose risks to the cause of Palestinian refugees, which is the central issue in the Committee’s mandate.
There must be a legal and moral position rejecting assigning the position of vice-chairperson of a committee responsible for Palestinian refugees, peacekeeping and assisting Palestinian to achieve independence to Israel, which occupies the Palestinian territories and has a longstanding history of human rights violations and war crimes against Palestinian civilians, and grave breaches of the international law and resolutions, which includes but not limited to:
1. Occupying the Palestinian territories for decades and perpetuating the occupation by procrastinations in any settlement;
2. Practices and insisting on settlement in the Palestinian territories, although settlement is a war crimes as confirmed by the Advisory Opinion on the Wall issued by the International Court of Justice on 09 July 2004;
3. Establishing a racial wall through which it has annexed large areas of Palestinian lands as a fait accompli creating a complicated political and humanitarian problem;
4. Challenging the international law and resolutions, especially those issued by the United Nations, including the UN Security Council Resolution (242) which calls on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories, the UN General Assembly Resolution (194) which calls for the return of refugees and the UN General Assembly Resolution (181), which calls for establishing a Palestinian state on 43.5% of Historic Palestine;
5. Being responsible for the displacement, ordeal and suffering of about 5 million Palestinian refugee, and persistently denying their right to return in spite of all relevant international resolutions;
6. Imposing collective punishment measures on Palestinians, including the closure and systematic oppression, especially in the Gaza Strip;
7. Constantly refusing to receive inquiry missions established by various UN Bodies to investigate violations of human right perpetrated by the Israeli military in Palestine, including the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Gaza Conflict in 2009 (Goldstone Committee) and the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Israeli Settlements in Palestinian Territories in 2012;
8. Persistently violating the international humanitarian law as the majority of its leaders are wanted because of committing war crimes.
Electing Israel for a position in a committee, which is essentially mandated to defend the rights of Palestinian refugees, ending the Israeli occupation in Palestine and enabling Palestinians to settle their situation and ensure solving the problems of refugees, is an appointment of the offender in a body mandated to address the victim’s complaint. PCHR is shocked by this election and completely reject it, which constitutes a scandal for the United Nations. Therefore, PCHR stresses that:
· Nominating Israel for this position is aimed to undermine the Committee’s activities, and prevent it from criticizing Israel as an occupying power, which places the UN’s bodies and credibility at stake and constitutes a smirch for the Western European and Others Group which nominated Israel for this position
· Electing Israel with 74 votes in the UN General Assembly constitutes a failure of the Palestinian diplomacy in the United Nations, and failing to focus on this dangerous event in the media is not justified, so those who are responsible for such failures in the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) must be held accountable.
· Passing by this development without a serious stand by the PLO, Palestine’s friends and concerned international, human right organizations and all free people around the world will cause the recurrence of similar incidents, so PCHR calls on everyone to persistently act to ensure the non-recurrence of such scandal.