AP – Investigators commissioned by the United Nation’s (UN) top human rights body said tensions between Palestinians and Israelis are underpinned by Israel’s “perpetual occupation” of Palestinian areas with no apparent intention of ending it.
The findings came on Tuesday in the first report by a Commission of Inquiry, headed by a three-person team of human rights experts. It was set up last year by the UN-backed Human Rights Council following an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
The UN human rights office said the war killed at least 261 people – including 67 children – in Gaza, and 14 people, including two children, in Israel.
The commission, headed by former UN human rights chief Navi Pillay, is the first to have an “ongoing” mandate from the UN rights body.
The report largely recaps efforts by UN investigators over the years to grapple with the causes of Mideast violence and the authors acknowledged it was in part a “review” of previous UN findings.
“What has become a situation of perpetual occupation was cited by Palestinian and Israeli stakeholders to the commission as the one common issue” that amounts to the “underlying root cause” of recurrent tensions, instability and protracted conflict, the authors wrote. They said “impunity” for perpetrators of violence was feeding resentment among Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem.
Israel’s government, which opposed the creation of the commission, refused to grant its members access to Israel or Palestinian territories, and testimonies from Palestinians and Israelis were collected from Geneva and Jordan.
The report’s authors cited “credible” evidence that “convincingly indicates that Israel has no intention of ending the occupation” and has plans to ensure complete control of Palestinian areas.
Israel’s government, it added, has been “acting to alter the demography through the maintenance of a repressive environment for Palestinians and a favourable environment for Israeli settlers”.
They also voiced criticism of Palestinian leaders, saying the Palestinian Authority (PA), which administers autonomous areas in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, frequently refers to the occupation as a justification for its own human rights violations.
It also points to the occupation as the core reason for failure to hold legislative and presidential elections, the authors said. The PA is widely criticised for corruption and intolerance for dissent.
Despite the criticism, the PA welcomed the report. The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said the report found “beyond any doubt, that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and discrimination against Palestinians are the root causes behind the recurrent tensions, instability and prolongation of conflict in the region”.
As for Hamas authorities in Gaza, the commission said they show little commitment toward upholding human rights and little adherence to international law.
Since seizing control of Gaza in 2007, Hamas has shown little tolerance for political dissent and been accused of torturing opponents.
Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Gaza Strip from Egypt in the 1967 Mideast war.
The internationally recognised PA seeks the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza for an independent state.
The international community overwhelmingly considers all three areas to be occupied by Israel.