Settlement Building Must Stop Immediately! All The Settlers Must Be Evacuated!

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ARAB and Islamic countries in the United Nations are drafting a resolution to ask the UN Human Rights Council to adopt the conclusions of a UN fact-finding mission on Israeli settlements.

Amani Sinwar, the regional director of the Euro Mediterranean Monitor for Human Rights said on Tuesday that the two groups will ask that the UN human rights body implement the recommendations of the report, which says settlement building must stop immediately and settlers evacuated from occupied territory.

Christine Chanet, Chairperson of the fact-finding mission, said on Monday that settlement building was a ‘growing, creeping form of annexation’ which compromised the Palestinian right to self-determination.

Presenting the findings of the mission to the Human Rights Council, Chanet said that ‘Israel should put an immediate end to this colonisation process, begin a process of withdrawing settlements, and ensure effective remedy.’

‘The settlers seem to enjoy all the rights, while they are denied to Palestinians,’ she said.

Palestinians ‘are subject to a particularly complex civil law system and to a military criminal procedure which does not protect them against arbitrary arrest and detention and does not guarantee a fair trial to the accused.’

‘Even children aged between 12 and 17 are subject to this regime.’

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, said in the briefing session that settlement activities were a clear violation of article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and illegal under international law.

Bahrain, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, called upon the Council to adopt the report, to give it force, and called on all international and United Nations agencies to work to ensure follow up of the implementation of the recommendations.

On Monday, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told the Human Rights Council that Israel must prosecute settlers who carry out violent acts against Palestinians.

‘On the Israeli side, settler violence continues to be perpetrated with impunity,’ she said.

‘And Israel needs to hold perpetrators accountable. While investigations are not opened into most incidents of settler violence, between 2005 and 2011, only 9 per cent of the investigations opened resulted in an indictment.’

New Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel, a Jewish settler and member of the pro-settler Jewish Home party, said in a television interview on Monday that the incoming Israeli government would keep expanding Israeli settlements to the same extent as the previous government.

Palestinian activists in Bethlehem tore down a billboard of US President Barack Obama.

The billboard was set up in Bethlehem’s Manger Square as part of a campaign to highlight that Palestinians have been deprived of the right to have 3G telecommunication technology because they compete with Israeli companies.

The activists, who represent a cross-section of political parties, civil society organisations and the families of prisoners, tore down the poster and trampled on it, before unveiling a banner reading: ‘No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman degrading treatment or punishment.’

The Palestinian Authority had earlier said it will not object to protests against Obama’s visit if organisers obtain permission beforehand, and an eye witness said there were no PA security forces in Manger Square at the time of the demonstration.

Munthir Amira, chairman of a youth centre in Aida refugee camp said: ‘In light of the anti-Palestinian US position, Obama is a persona non grata in Bethlehem.

‘It is time the US administration understands that the question of Palestine is the core of conflict in the region. Without a just solution to the question, there will be no stability in the region.’

Obama is scheduled to arrive in the region today and will meet President Abbas in Ramallah before visiting the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on Friday.

US army helicopters landed in both Ramallah and Bethlehem on Monday in preparation for security arrangements ahead of the visit.

Most Palestinians oppose the visit, with activists and youth groups calling on the Palestinian public to join Ramallah demonstrations on Tuesday against the US administration’s pro-Israeli policies.

l The Palestinian Authority has urged the world to step up financial aid and press Israel to allow economic development, over fears of ‘political collapse’ due to Israeli fiscal strangulation.

‘We call on the international community to . . . pressure the government of Israel to release our revenues and to provide the financial support required to maintain basic functions and services,’ said a Palestinian Authority report on Monday.

‘The recent confiscation of Palestinian-owned revenues by Israel comes on top of an already severe fiscal crisis that was caused by a large shortfall of external support,’ it added.

The report was released ahead of a meeting on Tuesday in Brussels of international donors, and nearly four months after the Palestinians won upgraded UN ranking as a non-member observer state.

On January 30, Israel said it had released $100 million of the tariffs and tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, which were frozen last year as punishment for the UN bid.

The report urged ‘international partners, particularly those within the Arab region, to consider the implications of the current fiscal crisis and a possible slide into institutional and political collapse’ for the Palestinian Authority.

The report added ‘A prosperous, sovereign and independent Palestine requires international support to allow . . . development in Area C,’ the 60 per cent of the West Bank that is under Israeli control, and Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

It underlined the importance of Area C as ‘the backbone of the Palestinian economy,’ saying agricultural production therein could yield an additional $2.25 billion of revenue per year.

It demanded immediate Palestinian access to all roads in Area C and the removal of all checkpoints in the West Bank to allow freedom of movement.

In a separate report to donors also released on Monday, the office of UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry said Israel must ease financial restrictions on the Palestinian Authority.

‘Palestinian state-building achievement is at increased risk and the PA is facing ever greater political and financial pressure,’ urging Israel to ‘ease Palestinian access to Area C.’