Al-Haq sends urgent appeal to UN Special Procedures on Yitzhar settler violence

PNN/ Ramallah/

On 17 February 2021, Al-Haq submitted an urgent appeal to the United Nations (UN) Special Procedures on intensified Yitzhar settler violence against Palestinians and their properties. Addressing five UN Special Rapporteurs, including the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, Professor Michael Lynk, the urgent appeal presented more than ten selected Yitzhar settler violence attacks, exemplifying Israel’s institutionalised and systematic impunity, and showcasing not only how the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) illegally stand by passively as Palestinians are attacked by Israeli settlers, but also how the IOF further resort to using force against the targeted Palestinians.

Settler attacks against the protected Palestinian population and their properties in the occupied West Bank are a widespread, long-term, and worsening phenomenon. Such attacks are reinforced by Israel’s systematic failure to conduct effective investigations and prosecutions of offending settler, creating a climate of impunity. Highlighting this failure, the United Nations International Fact-Finding Mission on Settlements concluded in its 2013 report that “there is institutionalised discrimination against the Palestinian people when it comes to addressing violence.”[1]

Established on lands belonging to six Palestinian villages in Nablus Governorate: ‘Asira al-Qibliyya, Huwwara, Bourin, Madama, ‘Einabus, and ‘Ourif in 1983, Yitzhar settlement continued to expand on lands belonging to farmers from the six villages, with at least eight settlements[2] built in part on privately owned Palestinian land.[3]

Illegally transferred in settlers from the Yitzhar settlement are notorious for their frequent violent attacks, and acts of harassments and intimidation against Palestinians, including by the targeting of livestock, agricultural lands and trees, homes, cars, and properties belonging to Palestinians residing in the surrounding villages.[4] Such attacks include beatings, throwing stones, shooting at villagers with live ammunition, torching agricultural lands, trees and cars, uprooting trees, confiscating and pillaging natural resources, including land and water, attacking and suppressing peaceful assemblies, denying access to property and to sources of livelihood, and spray-painting hate speech on cars, walls and other Palestinian properties. Most of these attacks happen under the watchful eye of the IOF, if not actively encouraged by them. The security guard of the Yitzhar settlement, Isaac Levy known as ‘Yaqoub’, is particularly infamous for his role in organising frequent attacks on the six villages and for giving orders to the IOF during the attacks.[5]

In the urgent appeal, Al-Haq requested the immediate intervention of the UN Special Procedures to protect the Palestinian protected population from systematic and ongoing settler attacks, which are conducted with institutionalised impunity, and, in particular to:

Demand Israel, the Occupying Power, to immediately halt the planning, construction and expansion of its unlawful settlement enterprise and progressively undertake measures to dismantle all existing settlements and their infrastructure and withdraw Israeli settlers from the OPT;

Call on Israel to guarantee the protection of the Palestinian civilian population in the OPT by taking all necessary measures to ensure effective law enforcement against Israeli settler perpetrators and investigation into incidents of settler violence;

Call on Israel to afford all victims of settler violence access to justice and effective remedies, including by ensuring the investigation of incidents, the prosecution of potential perpetrators, and reparations for its wrongful inaction;

Call on Israel to cease all policies and practices that form part of its apartheid regime against the Palestinian people, particularly with regards to law enforcement and access to justice;
Call on Third States to comply with their obligations to respect and ensure respect for the Geneva Conventions, by immediately adopting effective measures to pressure Israel to abide by its obligations under international humanitarian law;

Call on Third States to take immediate actions and measures against Israel’s settlement enterprise, including by instituting a ban on settlement imports, supporting and endorsing available mechanisms to counter the expansion of Israel’s unlawful settlement enterprise, including the UN Database of all business enterprises involved in or with settlements, and undertaking necessary measures that guarantee Israel’s genuine law enforcement and investigation into incidents of settler violence;
Urge UN Member States to take concrete measures to further the implementation of the recommendations of the United Nations International Fact-Finding Mission on Settlements and previous reports and resolutions;
Urge the European Union, specifically, to adopt restrictive measure on the import of products, goods, and services originating from illegal Israeli settlements in the OPT, namely by supporting the proposal for a wide ban of trade with and support for illegal settlements;[6]

Publicly call for international justice and accountability for Israel’s widespread, long-established, and systematic human rights violations committed against the Palestinian people, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, including by publicly supporting the recent decision of the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC, urging the Prosecutor to immediately begin, without any further delay, a full, thorough, and comprehensive ICC investigation into the Situation in the State of Palestine; and

Urge Third States and the international community to fully cooperate with the Office of the Prosecutor as per the obligations set forth in Article 86 of the Rome Statue, and in line with Common Article 1 of the four Geneva Conventions and Article 146 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to ensure the arrest and transfer to the Hague of persons investigated and accused of international crimes in the OPT, to prevent the further continuation of international crimes against the Palestinian people.

[1] UNHRC, “Report of the independent international factfinding mission to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem,” 7 February 2013, UN Doc A/HRC/22/63, para 107.

[2] These eight settlements are ‘unofficial settlement outposts’ and are built by Israeli settlers around Yitzhar settlement, with the ultimate aim to expand and maintain Israel’s settler-colonial regime, appropriating more Palestinian land. Critically, even when Israeli outpost settlements are built in contravention of Israeli domestic law, they still benefit from administrative leniency and are often formally legalised post facto

[3] Yesh Din, “Yitzhar – A Case Study: Settler violence as a vehicle for taking over Palestinian land with state and military backing,” August 2018, p. 9. 

[4] Article 49, of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (adopted 12 August 1949, entry into force 21 October 1950) 75 UNTS 287 (hereinafter ‘Fourth Geneva Convention’).

[5] Information obtained by Al-Haq field researcher on 19 September 2020, on file with Al-Haq.  

[6] Al-Haq, “Al-Haq Calls on the EU to Support the Proposal for a Wide Ban of Trade with and Support for Illegal Settlements,” 28 December 2020, available at: https://www.alhaq.org/advocacy/17724.html