A United Nations human rights fact-finding mission has called for sanctions against Israel over the Jewish state's policies and actions in illegally occupied Palestinian territories.
Haaretzreports that the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) inquiry issued its harshest criticism of Israel since the 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The inquiry urged governments and private corporations around the world to consider sanctions against Israel over its continuing illegal settlement building in the occupied territories, actions which UN human rights envoy Richard Falk, an American, has previously called "ethnic cleansing."
"The Mission calls upon all Member States to comply with their obligations under international law and to assume their responsibilities in their relationship to a State (Israel) breaching preemptory norms of international law-- specifically not to recognize an unlawful situation resulting from Israel's violations," Judge Christine Chanet of France wrote in the inquiry report.
"Private companies must assess the human rights impacts of their activities and take all necessary steps-- including terminating their business interests in the settlements-- to ensure they are not adversely impacting the human rights of the Palestinian People in conformity with international law," Judge Chanet continued.
"The Mission calls upon all Member States to take appropriate measures to ensure that business enterprises domiciled in their territory and/or under their jurisdiction, including those owned or controlled by them, that conduct activities in or related to the settlements respect human rights throughout their operations," Chanet added.
The international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement has long called for such actions against Israel over its occupation, settlements and what many critics call apartheid policies of the Israeli government.
As Digital Journal reported earlier on Thursday, the UNHRC inquiry also called on Israel to end its illegal settlement building and expansion in the occupied West Bank, which it called "creeping annexation," and said that Israel should remove some 500,000 settler colonists from around 250 illegal settlements in the territory. These settlements cause great suffering to Palestinians, who often cannot access their farmland or water supply due to their presence. The construction of a separation barrier-- called a vital security measure by many Israelis and their supporters, and an "apartheid wall" by many critics-- causes immense suffering as well.
"To maintain such a system of segregation you need strict police and army control," Chanet continued. "It means a lot of checkpoints, violation of freedom of movement, no access to natural resources, demolition of houses and sometimes even destroying the trees."
"Israel must cease settlement activities and provide adequate, prompt and effective remedy to the victims of violations of human rights," Chanet wrote, citing the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the transfer of civilian populations into occupied territory-- a potential war crime falling under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said the UNHRC inquiry's call for sanctions is proof that Israel is guilty of "ethnic cleansing," a serious accusation also made by prominent international observers such as Nobel peace laureates Nelson Mandela and Mairead Maguire, as well as by world leaders including Recep Tayyip Erdogan, prime minister of Turkey, a longtime Israeli ally.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry rejected the UNHRC inquiry report as "counterproductive and unfortunate."
"The only way to resolve all pending issues between Israel and the Palestinians, including the settlements issue, is through direct negotiations without pre-conditions," a Foreign Ministry statement said. "Counterproductive measures-- such as the report before us, will only hamper efforts to find a sustainable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
The release of the UNHRC inquiry report comes two days after Israel became the first country to ever boycott the council, which it claims is "biased" against it.
The council, Israel claims, is "a political tool and convenient platform, cynically used to advance certain political aims, and to bash and demonize Israel."
"There have been more resolutions condemning Israel than the rest of the world put together," an Israeli government official noted.
But with Israel fighting repeated and brutal wars, which it claims are in reaction to Palestinian provocations such as the launching of thousands of Hamas rockets into its territory, and with the Jewish state being the only nation on earth to stand accused of simultaneously waging war, occupation, colonization, apartheid and ethnic cleansing, critics say there's good reason for all those resolutions.