Israel Must Abandon West Bank Settlements: UN

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Israel West Bank Settlements Dec 2012 2
The West Bank Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem, is seen behind sign posts. A new UN report calls on Israel to completely abandon its West Bank settlements, citing human rights violations. Israel has actually been planning to build more settlements, fueling rumors of annexation.

A new U.N. report from the Human Rights Council, released Thursday, that looked into the settlement situation in the West Bank has come to the conclusion that “Israel must cease all settlement activities.”

The report says the existence of the settlements violates “a multitude of human rights” for the Palestinians living in the occupied territiory. It also accuses Israel of “committing serious breaches of its obligations under the right to self-determination and under humanitarian law,” a statement from the Office of the High Commissioner said.

The report says the presence of Israeli settlements violates the Palestinian right to self-determination, and that since the settlements are established for the sole benefit of the Israelis living there, they contribute to a climate of discrimination against the Palestinians. This essentially makes the Palestinians second-class citizens.

The report also asserted that Palestinians are restricted in their freedom of movement, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and that the Palestinian Water Authority is unable to “develop new water resources” due to the fact that of most of such resources in the West Bank are allocated for the settlements. All of this, naturally, takes a toll on the Palestinian economy.

“We are today calling on the government of Israel to ensure full accountability for all violations, put an end to the policy of impunity and to ensure justice for all victims,” said Asma Jahangir, a member of the U.N. panel's mission in Israel.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s spokesperson said that Ban was “aware” of the report, and reiterated his position that “all settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law.”

Ban also released a statement on Thursday noting his “grave concern” over Israeli air strikes in Syria on Wednesday.

The report was released just two days after Israel chose not to appear at a human rights review session held by the Human Rights Council in Geneva. These sessions, called Universal Periodic Reviews, are required by all 193 member countries of the U.N.. Israel’s boycott is the first time a country has ever refused to participate in a UPR. Members of the council now fear Israel will set a precedent of no-shows for countries who might not like what they’re about to hear, or might think they’re being treated unfairly, the New York Times said.

The only other country in previous years that did not attend was Haiti in 2010, citing the catastrophic earthquake that hit that year, the Washington Post said. Even countries that are routinely accused of human rights violations, like Syria and North Korea, attend their UPRs.

Israel officially broke with the council in 2012. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told the AP that the boycott was consistent with this policy, and that the decision was made after the U.N. body decided to form the fact-finding mission to the West Bank which just released their report on Thursday.

“That was the last straw after we had to endure systematic abuse and marginalization for years,” Palmor said. “They have held more meetings and taken more decisions on Israel than on all the other countries put together. Israel, and only Israel, is a permanent agenda item.”

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