Palestinian human rights orgs to Abbas: Meet Obama in Jerusalem to challenge Israeli ‘facts on the ground’

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The Palestinian Human Rights Organisations Council (PHROC) sent the below letter to President Mahmoud Abbas in advance of President Barack Obama’s visit to the region. The letter calls on President Abbas to invite President Obama to meet with him in the Orient House in occupied East Jerusalem, in order to refute Israel’s attempts to create “facts on the ground” through its settlement policy.

Date: 14 March 2013

H.E. President Mahmoud Abbas
President of the State of Palestine
President of the Executive Committee of the PLO

RE: Inviting President Barack Obama to Meet with your Excellency in Jerusalem

Your Excellency,

As Palestinian human rights organisations dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), we, the undersigned, welcome your efforts to bring the legitimate demands of the Palestinian people to the international stage, including the demands for dignity, territorial sovereignty and self-determination. This was most recently highlighted by action at the United Nations General Assembly resulting in Palestine being accorded “non-member observer State status”. This upgrade succeeded despite the objections of some States, and their attempts to coerce the Palestinian leadership to abandon this action.

Your Excellency,

The Palestinian Human Rights Organisations Council (PHROC) is deeply concerned by the prospect, due to President Obama’s scheduled visit in late March, of Palestinian backtracking from efforts aimed at acceding to international legal mechanisms and conventions. In this context, the council reaffirms its position that international law should not just inform and facilitate the process of negotiations, but must constitute the foundation upon which all negotiations are based. The time has come for the Palestinian leadership to implement a comprehensive legal strategy founded upon the principles of international law. The representatives of the Palestinian people must stand firm in the face of the political pressure imposed by States aiming to compel them to disregard international law in their efforts to secure Palestinian rights.

The previous failure to position international law as the fundamental framework for any political solution to the conflict has permitted various State actors, and the United Nations, to snub international human rights and humanitarian law in their relations with Israel. The prioritisation of political negotiations over international law for the last twenty years has led States to ignore their international legal obligation to hold the perpetrators of international crimes accountable for their actions. Instead, most State actors continue to hold justice hostage to the political will of the Israeli government and to obstruct recourse to justice for Palestinian victims.

Throughout the 46 years of occupation, and especially during the last 20 years of failed negotiations, Israel has used its effective control over the OPT to implant some 200 settlements, currently home to over 500,000 settlers. These settlements control over 40 per cent of the West Bank, including essential natural resources such as water. The aim of these settlements is to permanently deny the Palestinian population the exercise of their right to self-determination by fragmenting the territory of the OPT and by preventing the Palestinian people from exercising sovereignty over their natural resources. A most blatant example of these efforts is Israel’s plan to expand settlement blocs into the area known as E1, completely separating East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.

Israel’s denial of Palestinian self-determination, colonial practices, and implementation of a system of apartheid in the OPT, constitute serious violations of peremptory norms of international law. As such, all States are under an obligation, as set forth in Article 41 of the International Law Commission’s Draft Articles on State Responsibility, not to recognise the situation as lawful, not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the unlawful situation, and to cooperate to bring the illegal conduct to an end. Despite these obligations, and even though the international community and multiple UN bodies, including the International Court of Justice, clearly reject Israel’s unilateral annexation of occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, concrete measures have yet to be taken to reverse Israel’s policies.

The report by the independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Israeli Settlements, to be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council only a few days before President Obama’s visit, is the most recent example of a UN document concluding that Israel’s settlement policies in the OPT violate peremptory norms of international law. PHROC fully endorses the report and urges the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), as the representative of the Palestinian people, to strive to ensure the full implementation of its recommendations, especially those pertaining to the obligations and responsibilities of Third States, by promoting a strong resolution at the UN Human Rights Council. The Palestinian leadership must avoid the mistakes made with the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, which was sidelined for reasons of political expediency.

Your Excellency,

We urge you to demand that your meeting with President Barack Obama be relocated to the PLO’s headquarters in occupied East Jerusalem – the Orient House. This would be a continuation of your efforts on the international stage to refute Israel’s attempts to create “facts on the ground” through its settlement policy. It will challenge Israel’s attempts to change East Jerusalem’s de jure status as occupied territory, and the international community’s indirect recognition of this illegal situation. Such a bold move will highlight to the international community, and to the United States in particular, that the Palestinian people will never abandon their rights. They will not permit the disregard of international law, or of the obligations placed on the Occupying Power and the international community as a whole.

Respectfully Yours,

The Palestinian Human Rights Organisations Council.

About Palestinian Council of Human Rights Organisations

The Council of Palestinian Human Rights Organizations is a coalition of 21 Palestinian human rights organizations operating in the OPT. The above statement was issued by Addameer Prisoners’ Support and Human Rights Association, Aldameer Association for Human Rights, Al-Haq, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Ensan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, Hurryyat - Centre for Defense of Liberties and Civil Rights, Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid and Human Rights, Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies and Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling.

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