(Article) Israel - Palestine Crisis

Israel - Palestine Crisis

Towards demolition of human rights - According to a recent report to U.N. Human Rights Council prepared by United Nations investigators, Israel violated a range of human rights during its invasion of Gaza, including targeting civilians and using a child as a human shield. It called for an urgent end to Israeli restrictions on humanitarian supplies to Gaza and a full international investigation into the conflict.

Civilian targets, particularly homes and their occupants, appear to have taken the brunt of the attacks, but schools and medical facilities have also been hit. Report describes that an Israeli soldiers shot a father after ordering him out of his house and then opened fire into the room where the rest of the family was sheltering, wounding the mother and three brothers and killing a fourth. United Nations investigators made accused the Israeli army of using an 11-year-old boy as a human shield during its recent Gaza offensive.

The report says troops ordered the boy to walk in front of them for several hours under fire, entering buildings and opening suspect packages. In another case, on January 15, 2009, at Tal al Hawa south-west of Gaza City, Israeli soldiers forced an 11-year-old boy to walk in front of them for several hours as they moved through the town, even after they had been shot at. The UN team responsible for protection of children in war zones says it found "hundreds" of similar violations. Israel denied the charges. The report also drew attention to alleged violations of international law committed by Israeli forces, yet largely failed to acknowledge Israel's right to self-defense and to protect its citizenry and territory.

No Government could be expected to tolerate violence against its citizens and territory, and the United States once again condemned the use of Gaza as a base from which to attack Israeli citizens.Israel's ambassador to the UN criticised the report as ‘unable or perhaps unwilling’ to address attacks against its civilians by Palestinian militants. Israel had made clear that it rejected this biased and politicized agenda item that diminished the very credibility and legitimacy of the Council while it offered the region nothing more than empty political rhetoric. For eight years the citizens of southern Israel, innocent civilians, had suffered the trauma of more than 8,000 missile attacks from Gaza.

No country in this chamber, no country in the world, would permit such attacks against its citizens. Yet when Israel acted merely in self-defense to stop the relentless onslaught of rockets and terrorism, wild accusations were made and history was turned on its head.  In the general debate, speakers condemned the war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza and called for those responsible to be held to account. Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority were urged to respect human rights and international humanitarian law, and all parties had responsibilities as regarded preventing, investigating and remedying human rights violations, including while fighting terrorism.

Israel should facilitate access to Gaza for investigations into violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, and all parties should fully cooperate with such investigations. Speakers recognised the right of Israel to defend its civilians against the indiscriminate rocket attacks from Gaza, however, this right had to be exercised in accordance with international law. Support was expressed for a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict, with the objective of two States living side by side in peace and security in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions and as laid out in the Road Map drawn by the Quartet. Palestinians had to have their own sovereign state, with East Jerusalem as the capital. Israel also continued to defy international legislation in occupying the Syrian Golan.

It was important to keep both the humanitarian concerns of the Palestinian people and the security of Israeli citizens in mind when considering this complex situation. Both sides bore a responsibility to, at a minimum, ensure against the targeting of civilians as such, and to comply with international law.


Palestine’s Point:Jerusalem was the political capital of Palestine, the sacred city for Palestinians and any attempt to change the Islamic and Christian sites in Jerusalem with the building of the Wall was evidence that Israel's discriminatory practices to Judisize those areas had failed. Israel was attempting to change the demographic composure of East Jerusalem by building settlements in East Jerusalem and closing the city off from Palestinians by building the Separation Wall. The United Nations recognized East Jerusalem as part of the Occupied Territories and building settlements in this area was contrary to those laws.


Syria’s Opinion:The whole world, and in particular the delegations in the Human Rights Council, remained inactive facing the human rights violations taking place in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the Occupied Syrian Golan. It appeared as though Israel was above the law, and accountable to none. The occupation of Syrian lands continued - Israeli identity was imposed on Syrian inhabitants, and water was diverted from the lands to be made available to Israeli citizens. Racial and religious discrimination continued. An end should be put to Israeli occupation of all Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan, and the Human Rights Council should put an end to the suffering of Syrian citizens in the Golan.

Understanding the Problem:The origins of the Palestine problem as an international issue, however, lie in events occurring towards the end of the First World War. These events led to a League of Nations decision to place Palestine under the administration of Great Britain as the Mandatory Power under the Mandates System adopted by the League. In principle, the Mandate was meant to be in the nature of a transitory phase until Palestine attained the status of a fully independent nation, a status provisionally recognized in the League's Covenant, but in fact the Mandate's historical evolution did not result in the emergence of Palestine as an independent nation.The decision on the Mandate did not take into account the wishes of the people of Palestine, despite the Covenant's requirements that "the wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the Mandatory".

This assumed special significance because, almost five years before receiving the mandate from the League of Nations, the British Government had given commitments to the Zionist Organization regarding the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine, for which Zionist leaders had pressed a claim of "historical connection" since their ancestors had lived in Palestine two thousand years earlier before dispersing in the "Diaspora". During the period of the Mandate, the Zionist Organization worked to secure the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. The indigenous people of Palestine, whose forefathers had inhabited the land for virtually the two preceding millennia felt this design to be a violation of their natural and inalienable rights.

They also viewed it as an infringement of assurances of independence given by the Allied Powers to Arab leaders in return for their support during the war. The result was mounting resistance to the Mandate by Palestinian Arabs, followed by resort to violence by the Jewish community as the Second World War drew to a close. After a quarter of a century of the Mandate, Great Britain submitted what had become "the Palestine problem" to the United Nations on the ground that the Mandatory Power was faced with conflicting obligations that had proved irreconcilable.

At this point, when the United Nations itself was hardly two years old, violence ravaged Palestine. After investigating various alternatives the United Nations proposed the partitioning of Palestine into two independent States, one Palestinian Arab and the other Jewish, with Jerusalem internationalized. The partition plan did not bring peace to Palestine, and the prevailing violence spread into a Middle East war halted only by United Nations action.

One of the two States envisaged in the partition plan proclaimed its independence as Israel and, in a series of successive wars, its territorial control expanded to occupy all of Palestine. The Palestinian Arab State envisaged in the partition plan never appeared on the world's map and, over the following 30 years, the Palestinian people have struggled for their lost rights. The Palestine problem quickly widened into the Middle East dispute between the Arab States and Israel. From 1948 there have been wars and destruction, forcing millions of Palestinians into exile, and engaging the United Nations in a continuing search for a solution to a problem which came to possess the potential of a major source of danger for world peace.

In the course of this search, a large majority of States Members of the United Nations have recognized that the Palestine issue continues to lie at the heart of the Middle East problem, the most serious threat to peace with which the United Nations must contend. Recognition is spreading in world opinion that the Palestinian people must be assured its inherent inalienable right of national self-determination for peace to be restored. In 1947 the United Nations accepted the responsibility of finding a just solution for the Palestine issue, and still grapples with this task today. Decades of strife and politico-legal arguments have clouded the basic issues and have obscured the origins and evolution of the Palestine problem, which this study attempts to clarify.

Peace Efforts:A Peace Conference on the Middle East was convened in Madrid on 30 October 1991, with the aim of achieving a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement through direct negotiations along 2 tracks: between Israel and the Arab States, and between Israel and the Palestinians, based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) (the "land for peace" formula). A series of subsequent negotiations culminated in the mutual recognition between the Government of the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, the representative of the Palestinian People, and the signing by the two parties of the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements in Washington on 13 September 1993, as well as the subsequent implementation agreements, which led to several other positive developments, such as the partial withdrawal of Israeli forces, the elections to the Palestinian Council and the Presidency of the Palestinian Authority, the partial release of prisoners and the establishment of a functioning administration in the areas under Palestinian self-rule.

The involvement of the United Nations has been essential to the peace process, both as the guardian of international legitimacy and in the mobilization and provision of international assistance. In 2000 and 2001, Israelis and Palestinians held talks on a final status agreement, which proved inconclusive.  

The controversial visit by Ariel Sharon of the Likud to Al-Haram Al-Sharif (Temple Mount) in 2000 was followed by the outbreak of the second intifada. A massive loss of life, the reoccupation of territories under Palestinian self-rule, military incursions, extrajudicial killings of suspected Palestinian militants, suicide attacks, rocket and mortar fire, and the destruction of property characterized the situation on the ground. Israel began the construction of a West Bank separation wall, located within the Occupied Palestinian Territory, which was ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004. In 2002, the Security Council adopted resolution 1397 affirming a vision of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side within secure and recognized borders. In 2003, the Middle East Quartet (US, EU, Russia, and the UN) released a detailed Road Map to a two-State solution, endorsed by Security Council resolution 1515. In 2005, Israel withdrew its settlers and troops from the Gaza Strip as part of its "Disengagement Plan," while retaining effective control over its borders, seashore, and airspace.

Following the Palestinian Legislative Council elections of 2006, the Quartet concluded that future assistance to the Palestinian Authority would be reviewed by donors against the new Government’s commitment to non-violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements.




Area: Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics cites 22,072 sq km (8,522 sq miles), including Jerusalem and Golan

Population: 7 million (UN, 2008)

Seat of government: Jerusalem, though most foreign embassies are in Tel Aviv

Major languages: Hebrew, Arabic

Major religions: Judaism, Islam

Life expectancy: 79 years (men), 83 years (women) (UN)



Area: Palestinian Ministry of Information cites 5,970 sq km (2,305 sq miles) for West Bank territories and 365 sq km (141 sq miles) for Gaza

Population: 4 million

Intended seat of government: East Jerusalem

Major language: Arabic

Major religion: Islam

Life expectancy: 72 years (men), 75 years (women) (UN)