Human Rights

Article excerpt

Many Palestinians Facing Starvation in Occupied Territories

Palestinians in the occupied territories are suffering more hardships than at any time since the 1967 Israeli takeover, the Co-Ordinating Committee of the International Non-Governmental Organizations (CCINGO) recently reported.

The Jerusalem-based group is an ad hoc committee of 31 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), whose members have compiled their findings under one heading.

On May 9, CCINGO issued a release, Undermining `Confidence Building Measures,' stating, "Israel continues to flagrantly violate the international laws governing its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In the period since [US Secretary of State James] Baker's first visit in early March, there has been a disturbing increase in the scale and number of direct violations including...massive seizures of Palestinian land and the accelerated relocation of Israeli citizens into the occupied territories.

"The irreconcilability of Israel's practices in the occupied territories with the minimum standards of humanitarian behavior...is a major obstacle to the resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict," the group concluded. "By refusing to conform to the provisions [of the 1907 Hague Regulations and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949]...Israel demonstrates indifference to `confidence-building' and actively undermines the feasibility of a negotiated settlement."

According to the Geneva Convention and Hague Regulations, Israel's occupation is governed by three rules: obligations, restrictions, and absolute prohibitions (also known as grave breaches). Under the category of obligations, Israel is "obliged to preserve public order and ensure the welfare of the occupied population. Israeli authorities, however, routinely disrupt the normal functioning of all sectors of Palestinian civil society including educational, religious and medical institutions," CCINGO stated.

Under the category of restrictions, Israel "is forbidden to either deport residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip or to transfer its own civilian population into Palestinian areas under its control."

Finally, in the category of absolute prohibitions, under Article 147 of the Geneva Convention, "perpetrators of `grave breaches' are regarded as international out-laws and are subject to prosecution in any of the signatory countries." Grave breaches include willful killings, torture, unlawful deportation, arbitrary arrest and extensive destruction of property.

Israel has violated all three regulations, CCINGO points out, even during Baker's visit. At least 20 Palestinians were killed in the period from March 1 to May 8; four new settlements were begun and existing ones enlarged; four Gazans were ordered to be deported March 23 (their cases are under appeal); and from March to May, approximately 650 Palestinians were placed under administrative detention. …