New York — In a special session of the United Nations Security Council on Friday, the U.S., along with several other countries, slammed the practice of forcibly removing Palestinian civilians by Israel to make way for Israeli settlers, saying the behavior is leading to a “one-state reality” for Palestinians.
The session, titled “Illegal Israeli Settlements: Obstacles to Peace and the Two-State Solution,” is a response to mounting criticism over a dramatic rise in settler activity in recent decades. It’s been reported that over 11,000 Israeli housing units have been authorized under the rule of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The negative reaction has been so strong, in fact — particularly of late — that even the United States, a steadfast Israeli ally, has had to take a hard line on the settler movement. At Friday’s meeting, the U.S. representative said he is “deeply concerned and strongly opposes settlements which are corrosive to peace” and that Israel’s attitude “creates a one-state reality on the ground.”
But the United States was far from alone in voicing such uneasiness.
The Russian representative, for instance, said flatly: “Settlement construction must stop.” He also noted Israeli settlements create “Palestinian enclaves” that are disconnected from one another.
The representative from Britain, according to Haaretz, called Israeli settlement expansion an obstacle to peace, while the French ambassador condemned the practice altogether. The Chinese representative suggested an independent Palestinian state was the key to peace, while the Venezuelan envoy took the opportunity to slam the U.N. Security Council itself for failing to take action against Israel previously.
It was Egypt who set the meeting’s tone, however. Speaking first, the Egyptian representative stated the simple, sad truth: “There are generations of Palestinians who only know fear and dare not dream of a better future.”
Friday’s meeting comes the day after the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) passed a resolution to deny Israel’s historical claim to the Temple Mount. They cited “escalating aggressions and illegal measures” undertaken by Israel against the religious rights of Muslims in Jerusalem.
An Israeli official scoffed at the decision during Friday’s special session, stating:“These claims deny thousands of years of deep connection between the people of Israel and its land — just like it was done yesterday with UNESCO’s absurd decision.”
The State of Israel has since officially suspended its cooperation with UNESCO.
As Underground Reporter highlighted in August, Israel’s settler movement, and, indeed, the Israeli occupation of Palestine as a whole, has been roundly condemned by governments and human rights groups alike as being in stark violation of international law.
As The Guardian wrote in 2013, commenting on recent U.N. findings at the time:
“All settlement activity in occupied territory must cease ‘without preconditions’ and Israel ‘must immediately initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers,’ said the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Israel, it said, was in violation of article 49 of the fourth Geneva convention, which forbids the transfer of civilian populations to occupied territory.”
A war crime, in other words.
Telling is the fact that even then, faced with possible charges being brought against it at the International Criminal Court, Israel refused — and still has to this day — to budge an inch on the settler issue. Such defiance moves one to question whether anything, ever — much less a bunch of government officials in a room pointing fingers — will force Israel to end the occupation of Palestine.