Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territory, tantamount to ‘settler-colonialism’: UN expert

Israel’s occupation is illegal and indistinguishable from a “settler-colonial” situation, which must end, as a pre-condition for Palestinians to exercise their right to self-determination, the UN’s independent expert on the occupied Palestinian territory said on Thursday.“For over 55 years, the Israeli military occupation has prevented the realisation of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people, violating each component of that right and wilfully pursuing the ‘de-Palestinianisation’ of the occupied territory,” said Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, in her report to the UN General Assembly.

The report asserts the Israeli occupation violates Palestinian territorial sovereignty by seizing, annexing, fragmenting, and transferring its civilian population to the occupied territory.

The occupation furthermore “endangers the cultural existence of the Palestinian people”, said the UN rights office press release summarizing the report, by erasing or appropriating symbols expressing Palestinian identity and violates Palestinians’ ability to organise themselves, free from alien domination and control, by repressing Palestinian political activity, advocacy and activism.

‘Strategic fragmentation’

“This is, in essence, proof of the intent to colonise the occupied territory, and manifests Israel’s policies of domination through the “strategic fragmentation” of the occupied territory,” the expert said.

The international community’s political, humanitarian, and economic approach towards resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict, have failed without exception, the report notes.  

“These approaches conflate root causes with symptoms and serve to normalise Israel’s illegal occupation instead of challenging it. This is immoral and renders the regulatory and remedial function of international law futile,” Albanese said.

Paradigm shift 

The report calls for “a paradigm shift”, which entails moving away from the narrative of “conflict” between Israelis and Palestinians, and recognition of Israel’s “intentionally acquisitive, segregationist and repressive settler-colonial occupation.”

Ms. Albanese urged the international community to formally acknowledge and condemn the settler-colonial nature of the Israeli occupation.

No negotiation over withdrawal

She also demanded an immediate end to the illegal occupation, and call on Israel to withdraw its military personnel and support for Israeli civilians in the colonies.

She cautioned all States against making Israeli withdrawal subject to negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

“Meaningful discussions on a political solution for Palestine can only begin when the illegal occupation is dismantled once and for all,” the expert said.

Special Rapporteurs like Ms. Albanese, are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary, and experts are not paid for their work.