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International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, 29 November 2011 ______________________ UN rights expert calls for solidarity with Palestinians

GENEVA (29 November 2011) – On the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, Mr. Richard Falk, expresses his solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle for self-determination.

On this day, the Special Rapporteur calls urgent attention to the plight of the Palestinian Bedouin people of the occupied West Bank. “The recent unprecedented pressure by Israeli authorities and settlers to expel Palestinian Bedouin communities from Area C is deplorable, illegal and must cease.”

In recent months, approximately 2,300 Bedouins who reside in 20 impoverished communities in the hills east of Jerusalem have been informed by the Israeli authorities that they must leave the area, as part of a plan to expel Bedouin communities living in Area C, where Israel exercises total control. Reports indicate that the relocation plan may be implemented in early January 2012.

Mr. Falk stressed that “[t]he proposed relocation of the Palestinian Bedouins, without the free and informed consent of the communities, amounts to forced transfer of protected persons under international humanitarian law.” International law prohibits the forced transfer of civilians living under occupation, unless temporarily required for their own security or military necessity. “The Israeli authorities’ expulsion of the Bedouins would meet none of these conditions.”

Furthermore, the destruction or confiscation of private civilian property, including homes, as well as the transfer of settlers into occupied territory, is prohibited. Israel, as the Occupying Power, is obligated to protect the residents of the occupied territory and to administer the territory for the benefit of the residents. The establishment and expansion of settlements is a direct breach of these obligations.

“The proposed transfer of Bedouin communities raises a number of concerns under human rights law, especially with respect to forced eviction and forced displacement,” noted the Special Rapporteur. Forced evictions transgress the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Israel is party. Israel’s claim that the Covenant does not apply in the occupied territory has been rejected by all human rights treaty oversight bodies.

The Palestinian Bedouins are the most deprived ethnic group in the occupied territory, residing in the Area C of the West Bank. More than 80% of the Bedouins are registered as 1948 refugees originally from the Negev. Over 66% are children. The communities have all lost access to land due to settlement expansion.

Most have demolition orders against their homes. None have access to the electricity network and only half are connected to the water network. Despite receiving humanitarian assistance, 55% of Bedouin communities in Area C are food insecure. The communities are located in an area intended for further Israeli settlement expansion, as set forth in the E1 plan that envisages a major expansion of the unlawful Ma’ale Adumim settlement.

If implemented, these plans, along with the continued construction of the Separation Wall, seriously encroach upon Palestinian growth and development prospects. They also further cut territorial contiguity between the northern and southern parts of the West Bank, creating two nearly separate areas. Even more shockingly, Israel proposes to relocate these Bedouin near Jerusalem’s principle garbage dump. The garbage dump pose would a serious health hazard to the communities, and would make it impossible for them to carry on their traditional lifestyles based on herding and nomadic agriculture.

Mr. Falk concluded “[t]he forty-four year long Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands continues to manifest itself in deprivation and denial of basic rights of Palestinians. Every year, on this International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, we are reminded of Israeli authorities’ invidious schemes to permanently empty Palestine of Palestinians. This prolonged human catastrophe must be brought to an end once and for all. Only then can the rights of Palestinians can be realized.”

In 2008, the UN Human Rights Council designated Richard Falk (United States of America) as the fifth Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights on Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. The mandate was originally established in 1993 by the UN Commission on Human Rights.

Learn more about the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/countries/ps/mandate/index.htm
UN Human Rights, country page – Occupied Palestinian Territories: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/MENARegion/Pages/PSIndex.aspx
UN Human Rights, country page – Israel: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/ILIndex.aspx
For more information and media requests, please contact Kevin Turner (+ 41 22 928 9603 / kturner@ohchr.org) or write to sropt@ohchr.org.

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