An independent United Nations expert today raised the alarm on what he called the “intensifying” deterioration of human rights in East Jerusalem, including the forced eviction of Palestinians from their homes and continued Israeli settlement expansion.
“The continued pattern of settlement expansion in East Jerusalem combined with forcible eviction of long residing Palestinians are creating an intolerable situation that can only be described, in its cumulative impact, as a form of ethnic cleansing,” warned Richard Falk, the Special Rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories.
Presenting his latest report to the UN Human Rights Council, Mr. Falk said that, over the years, Israel has taken measures to irreversibly alter the demographic composition of the occupied part of Jerusalem.
“Israeli settlers have continued to take over Palestinian homes and expel Palestinians from their homes of decades and generations, while the Israeli authorities support their illegal actions,” he told the 47-member body which is currently meeting in Geneva.
Mr. Falk warned that the Government’s support for settlers’ actions “further illustrates the institutional and systematic discrimination against the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem by Israel, as well as the ongoing Israeli efforts to create what are euphemistically called ‘facts on the ground’ for the annexation of East Jerusalem.”
Earlier this month, Mr. Falk reported that, since the beginning of 2011, Israel has demolished 96 Palestinian structures throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, consisting of 32 homes and other residential structures.
As a result, 175 people, more than half of them children, have lost their homes, a sharp increase compared to the same period in 2010 when there were 56 demolitions and 129 people displaced. At the same time, Israeli settlements in the West Bank have continued to expand, he noted in a statement.
Senior UN officials have repeatedly called in recent months for a freeze in Israeli settlement expansion in occupied Palestinian territory, warning that renewed settlement activity will only further undermine trust as direct Israeli-Palestinian talks have stalled.
Mr. Falk also criticized the Israeli failure to implement the recommendations of the UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission into the Gaza conflict – known as the Goldstone Report – or to take account of the fact-finding report commissioned by the Human Rights Council on the Gaza flotilla incident of 31 May 2010.
“Such failures undermine respect for international law, for peaceful methods of conflict resolution more generally, and erode the credibility of this Council in relation to the Israel/Palestine conflict,” he stressed.
Mr. Falk has been denied entry into Israel and has had to rely solely on reports by other sources concerning the situation in the West Bank. He is set to undertake a new mission in April to gather information for a report to the General Assembly.
He called on the Human Rights Council to intensify efforts to induce Israel to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur’s mandate, including allowing access to the occupied Palestinian territories.
Among his other recommendations, he also called on the Council to undertake efforts to have the UN’s top court, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), assess allegations that the prolonged occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem possess elements of “colonialism,” “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing,” as well as to intensify efforts to attach legal consequences to the failure by Israel to end the nearly four-year-old blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Mr. Falk has been serving since 2008 in an independent and unpaid capacity as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights on Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.