Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and east Jerusalem is a war crime, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein charged in a report he issued last week.
“The establishment and expansion of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory by Israel, including the legal and administrative measures that it has taken to provide socioeconomic incentives, security, infrastructure and social services to citizens of Israel residing in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, amount to the transfer by Israel of its population into the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” al-Hussein, who is a Jordanian prince, said.
He continued, “The transfer of the population by an occupying state into an occupied territory is a grave breach of article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and therefore a war crime.”
His report on Israeli settlement activity was published on the UN Human Rights Council website on Wednesday.
It is one of six reports on Israel that will be presented to the council on March 19.
Five charge Israel with human rights abuses in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and the sixth focuses on Israeli actions on the Golan Heights.
One of the reports also dedicates a third of its content to charges of human rights abuses by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and by the PA and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Israel remains the only country with so many reports issued against it. The Human Rights Council, for example, has issued only a single report each on human rights issues in countries such as Syria and Iran.
The reports are expected to result in at least five resolutions condemning Israel, again more condemnations than against any other country.
At a public interactive debate with al-Hussein in Geneva on Thursday, Israel took issue with his office, which authored five of the reports.
“This session the council will continue with its unrelenting obsession with Israel, through the only country specific agenda item, and with a bloated list of reports and resolutions,” Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva Aviva Raz Shachter said.
She urged the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights not to blindly follow the dictates of its biased council.
“The OHCHR cannot pretend to be simply a subcontractor, whose only job is to implement whatever the council hands down to it, no matter how absurd or biased. There is nothing impartial about taking forward council resolutions which are blatantly politicized, and which have little if anything to do with human rights,” Shachter said.
But the United Kingdom’s representative said, “We are extremely concerned by the situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including the treatment of Palestinian minors in Israeli military detention.
“Settlement expansions, demolitions of Palestinian property and proposed legislation to extend Israel’s sovereignty beyond the Green Line are highly concerning and we urge Israel to halt these practices,” the representative added.
In al-Hussein’s report, the commissioner called on Israel to halt and reverse settlement activity.
Israel must also “refrain from implementing evictions and demolition orders on the basis of discriminatory and illegal planning policies and practices that may lead to forcible transfer, including of Beduin and herder communities,” he said.
He said that during the reporting period of November 2016 and through October 2017, settler housing starts were down but that planning activity had increased.
Plans for close to 10,000 housing units advanced, out of which 6,500 units were in Area C of the West Bank and 3,100 in east Jerusalem, al-Hussein said. Out of these, plans for 300 homes in Area C reached the final stage of approval, as did 800 in east Jerusalem.
Tenders for 3,166 homes in West Bank settlements were announced, compared to 673 homes during the previous reporting period, he said.
“As of December 2017, only two of the tenders for a total of 49 units had been published and opened for bidding. No tenders were issued for east Jerusalem settlements,” he wrote.
During the first three quarters of 2017, “the rate of construction starts in Area C settlements witnessed a decline of more than 50% during the first three quarters of 2017 (1,120 units in nine months) as against 2016 (3,027 units in 12 months),” al-Hussein wrote.
“In east Jerusalem, building permits were issued for the construction of 770 housing units in Gilo and for construction in Ramat Shlomo, Pisgat Ze’ev and Ramot,” he wrote.