Israel's Attacks Against the People of Palestine and the Urgency for Accountability

May 25, 2021

Ensuring Respect for International Law and Human Rights

The ongoing aggression by the occupying power, Israel, against the people of Palestine has been internationally highlighted, criticized, and condemned. The unprecedented devastation resulting from the recent assault on the besieged Gaza Strip killed 253 Palestinians, including 66 children, 39 women, and 17 elderly1. In the West Bank, including occupied Jerusalem, 18 Palestinians were killed. Nearly 8,500 Palestinians were wounded2. The ceasefire agreement reached last week is not the end of Israeli attacks against Palestine and its people. Israel's annexation and colonial settlement policies, the siege of Jerusalem and Gaza, domination over the Palestinian people, and its domination and institutional discrimination and Apartheid system – all continue to exist as the impunity Israel enjoys continues to encourage international law and human rights violations. This FAQ provides answers related to the current state of affairs in occupied Palestine.


1. How did Israel provoke the recent escalation in occupied Jerusalem? 

The recent escalation calls to mind Ariel Sharon’s provocative visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound in 2000, which ignited the Second Intifada. As PM Netanyahu realized his failure to form a new government, he deliberately began a campaign to fuel tensions and encourage racist attacks. His political allies from the Religious Zionist Party, followers of terrorist Kahana, and supporters of the expulsion of the Palestinian people have played a prominent role. The first significant step in a series of Israeli provocations took place on the first days of the Holy month of Ramadan in occupied Jerusalem. The occupying forces erected metal barriers to ban Palestinians from gathering in the plaza at the entrance of Damascus Gate and went further by cutting off the loudspeaker wires in two minarets in Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound to prevent the evening prayers from being raised through loudspeakers. Later, on 22 April, hundreds of religious Zionists chanted "death to the Arabs" in occupied Jerusalem in a coordinated demonstration with the Israeli police. 

Amidst peaceful Palestinian protests in occupied Jerusalem, in defense of Palestinian dignity and national and human rights, Israeli aggression continued with daily attacks on Palestinians at Damascus Gate, in and around Al Aqsa Mosque Compound, the areas around the Church of the Holy Sepulcher during Holy Fire Saturday, in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, and several other Palestinian neighborhoods. All the while, the imminent threat of forcible transfer, a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, continue to threaten Palestinians in Silwan, the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, and other parts of occupied Jerusalem, though Israel's policy of forced evictions in an attempt to change the demographic and geographic nature of the Holy City of Jerusalem.


2. What are the root causes of the current situation?

Regardless of any Israeli political decision to provoke the Palestinian people, what matters is that Israel's aggression against all Palestinians is ongoing, including against the Palestinian citizens of Israel. For over half a century, Israel has been blatantly and systematically pursuing a colonial-settlement policy in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) to change the country's identity and deny the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. Israel continues to refuse to adhere to its obligations under international law while enjoying total impunity. Attempts to prevent the fulfillment of the Palestinian right to self-determination include hateful anti-Palestinian incitement and racist laws, such as the "Jewish-Nation State Law" that denies the national identity, history, narrative, and the connection of every Palestinian to the land of historic Palestine. 


3. Is a ceasefire enough?

No. While the international community welcomed the ceasefire to prevent the further killing of civilians and destruction of vital property, such as clinics targeted in Gaza in blatant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the ceasefire alone only doesn't stop the lawless status-quo created by the occupying power. What is required more than ever is for Israel to be held accountable for its crimes and systematic violations of its obligations under international law, the UN Charter, and UN resolutions. The path to a just and lasting peace passes by achieving justice and fulfilling all rights per international legitimacy. The vicious cycle of a ceasefire, reconstruction, and destruction again must stop with accountability and ending Israel’s draconian occupation.  


4. How much do Israeli racist laws affect the current situation?

Since its creation, the State of Israel has legislated discriminatory and racist laws to negate the fulfillment of the national and human rights of the Palestinian people. Israel's institutional system of discrimination that is being implemented all over historic Palestine, from the river to the sea, aims at securing and perpetuating Jewish supremacy over the Palestinian people. One case is the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, where Israel threatens over 70 Palestinian households with forcible transfer using a law that allows Jews only to reclaim pre-1948 property. Palestinians, including citizens of Israel, cannot reclaim their property. In the context of an Apartheid regime, Israel's discrimination against Palestinians is reflected daily in all fields of life.


5. Does Israel have the right to "self-defense"?

Regretfully several Western countries have emphasized an alleged Israeli right to "defend itself." Israel has consistently taken such calls as a green light to attack the Palestinian people while ignoring its obligations under international law. It is confident that those who hold its "right to self-defense" will not hold it accountable for any crimes against civilians. Under international law, an occupying power does not have a right to "self-defense" against an occupied population. On the contrary, it has the responsibility to protect the civilians it occupies. Hence, the emphasis should be on the people of Palestine’s right to resist and defend themselves towards ending the Israeli occupation and fulfilling the long-overdue rights of our people rather than on encouraging Israel’s grave violations of international legitimacy.


6. Palestine is taking action at the United Nations. Is Israel being singled out in international organizations? 

No. Palestine has the right to utilize all available tools to protect its people and advance its inalienable rights under international law and the UN charter. The argument of Israel being "singled out" showcases absurdity and complicity with an Israeli diplomatic agenda aimed at perpetuating impunity for its grave crimes and violations, including under the Rome Statute. 

The argument of being "singled out" has been a common talking point of oppressive regimes at the United Nations, particularly those who had specific items under the UN Agenda, such as the Chilean dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet and the South African Apartheid. An article published in 1989 entitled "South Africa shouldn't be singled out" presents the same discourse currently used by Israel.


7. What about the Palestinian citizens of Israel?

There are about 1.8 million people, the equivalent to over 20% of Israel's population. They are victims of a system of institutional discrimination, with at least 65 laws that discriminate against them. This has been described by several Palestinian human rights organizations, the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem, and by Human Rights Watch, as an Apartheid regime. Over the past weeks, Palestinian citizens of Israel have been victims of a vicious campaign of state-sponsored violence, including hateful incitement by Israeli officials and attacks by right-wing Zionist extremists under police protection. That was Israel's response to their peaceful demonstrations in solidarity with occupied Jerusalem and calling for their right to equality. The Palestinian citizens of Israel are an integral part of the Palestinian people, the indigenous people of historic Palestine. Their rights, including full equality, must be ensured in their country of citizenship and under any comprehensive political solution. 


8. What is next? 

Palestine is committed to a just and lasting peace based on international law and UN resolutions. We have made clear that we are willing to immediately initiate final status negotiations under international sponsorship based on those principles. No one can question our willingness to achieve peace. Yet, immediate steps are necessary, including protecting the Palestinian people and holding Israel accountable for its systematic crimes and violations. 

An essential first step will be for the United Nations to immediately dispatch an ongoing, independent commission of inquiry to investigate violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law over this period, focusing on the root causes, including systematic discrimination. Only by addressing the underlying causes of the current situation will the prospects of a just and lasting peace become a reality. This requires assurances that the present status will not reoccur in the future and a genuine pursuit of ending Israel’s colonial occupation of Palestine.


1 Updated on 24 May 2021.

2 Updated on 23 May 2021.

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