Israeli Settlements by Amb. Alan Baker

On 31 January 2013 the “International Fact-Finding Mission on Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” published its findings on the implications of Israeli settlements on the human rights of the Palestinian people.1

  • The enabling resolution of the Human Rights Council, the composition of the mission, its mandate, mode of operation, and substantive content are, from the outset, based on a premise that considers Israel’s settlement policy to be illegal. This premise dictates the one-sided and prejudiced nature of the mission and its report.
  • The accepted usage in UN and other international bodies of the term “occupied Palestinian territories” (OPT) is legally flawed and indicative of the inherent bias accompanying this entire exercise. There has never been any determination that the West Bank territories are in fact “Palestinian territories.” The use of the expression “OPT” constitutes a politically biased and unjustified prejudgment as to the legal status of the territories, which remain “disputed territories” pending agreement between the parties.
  • The report is based entirely on material submitted by a small number of Israeli, Palestinian, and international non-governmental organizations known for their anti-Israel agenda, residents of the territories, a left-wing-oriented Israeli newspaper (while ignoring other newspapers that take a different stand), UN bodies, and even the Jordanian foreign ministry.
  • The following critique of this inherently one-sided report by the fact-finding mission outlines some examples of the blatant bias, lack of objectivity and unprofessional conduct of the mission, calling upon the UN Secretary General to reject the report in its entirety.

Introduction

Any normal observer genuinely seeking to better understand the issue of Israel’s settlement activity and its implications for the Palestinian residents of the territories might view with some anticipation a report, ostensibly by an “independent international fact-finding mission,” that presumes, by its own admission, to be impartial, objective, transparent and professional.

Regrettably, upon perusing the mission’s report it becomes immediately evident that any such expectation and anticipation of impartiality, objectivity, transparency, and professionalism is immediately and blatantly false.

Title, Mandate, and Composition of the Mission

The title and mandate of the mission established by Human Rights Council Resolution 19/17 of 22 March 20122“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,” as well as the extremely partisan preambular and substantive provisions of that enabling resolution that determined in advance the illegality of Israel’s settlement activity, both underwrite from the start the tenor and orientation of the mission.

The fact that this exercise emanates from, and is directed by, the UN Human Rights Council, the questionable integrity and politically-biased orientation of which is a sad but universally recognized fact, only adds to the questionable nature of the mission’s report and retracts from any semblance of credibility and reliability.

The biased nature of this report is perhaps evident first and foremost from the curious composition of the fact-finding team appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council.3 The team included a representative of Pakistan, a country openly hostile to Israel, which maintains no relations whatsoever and refuses to recognize the country. Pakistan was in fact the co-sponsor and introducer, on behalf of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, of the Human Rights Council Resolution 19/17 establishing the fact-finding mission, as well as a gallery of other resolutions directed against Israel.4

One might have assumed that in composing any such “independent” mission, some discretion and due regard would have been given by the President of the Human Rights Council to the political implications inherently obvious in choosing such a member of the mission.

“Occupied Palestinian Territories”

What has generally come to be accepted usage in the UN and other international bodies of the term “occupied Palestinian territories” (OPT), and specifically in the title to the report of the fact-finding mission and in the resolution of the Human Rights Council setting out the mandate of the mission, is, in and of itself, politically and legally flawed, slanted, and indicative of the biased and selective character of the UN Human Rights Council, as well as of the inherent bias accompanying this entire exercise.

There has never been any determination, whether by treaty, by any binding UN resolution, or by any of the agreements dealing with the Middle East peace negotiation process, that the West Bank territories are in fact “Palestinian territories.” Similarly, there has never been any Palestinian sovereign entity that has governed the territories and to which they belong.

Even the UN itself, in welcoming and supporting the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,5 inherently acknowledged thereby that the status of the territories and the final determination of their sovereign character are, as set out in that agreement, subject to negotiation between the parties in a permanent status agreement. This is further emphasized by the co-signing as witnesses of the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement by the EU, the U.S., Russia, Jordan, Egypt, and Norway.

Accordingly, the use of the expression “OPT” by the Human Rights Council and its fact-finding mission runs counter to determinations both of the UN itself as well as agreements between the Palestinians and Israel. It constitutes a politically biased and unjustified prejudgment as to the legal status of the territories, which remain “disputed territories” pending agreement between the parties. As such it undermines the Oslo Accords and prejudices the obligations set out in those accords.

- See more at: http://jcpa.org/article/biased-prejudiced-and-unprofessional-the-un-human-rights-council-fact-finding-mission-report-on-israeli-settlements/#sthash.zTKvk2Lj.dpuf