Israel/Palestine Conflict: Why now is the time to change to a human rights approach

October 21, 2014

Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City
The same day Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General, visited the Gaza Strip saying, “a restrictive occupation that has lasted almost half a century, the continued denial of Palestinian rights and the lack of tangible progress in peace negotiations” was the root cause of latest escalation in violence, the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People hosted a lecture by Noam Chomsky in the UN General Assembly Hall on resolving the Israel/Palestine conflict.

It couldn’t have happened at a more pivotal time. Significant movement is happening globally and with Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement that the Quartet (the U.S., the U.N., Russia and European Union) are meeting this Friday in Brussels, it’s time for the international community to finally end the status quo.

Sweden held a historic vote last week recognizing the State of Palestine, and the British House of Commons voted to recommend that the UK recognize Palestine as a state alongside Israel. Debates prior to both votes cited frustration with the deadlock and status quo.  The Spanish parliament recently announced they would vote on recognition of the State of Palestine.

Direct negotiations between the parties are in disarray after 20+ years of repeated failure under the current framework. The Palestinian Authority (PA) has entered into a national reconciliation government with Hamas, the de facto administration in the Gaza Strip – an important factor for any progress to happen, but there are no direct negotiations between Israel and Hamas. PA President, Mahmoud Abbas had demanded the UN Security Council pass a resolution requiring Israel to withdraw from the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem, by November 2016 or he will sign the Rome Statute, giving the International Criminal Court (ICC) jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute war crimes involving both Palestinian and Israeli individuals.

Throughout his talk, Chomsky touched on human rights and international law, but for a sustainable peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians, the entire approach to the issue must be transformed.

A major flaw of the so-called ‘peace process’ that began with the Oslo Agreement of 1993 was that the final resolution was not based on ensuring respect and protection for human rights.

Amnesty International, as a human rights organization, takes no position on the final resolution, but has insisted for years that the process and any resolution be based on the respect of human rights for all.

The failure to uphold people’s basic rights feeds hatred and perpetuates abuses. All those in a position of authority must recognize that the rights to life, physical and mental integrity, freedom from arbitrary detention, freedom of movement, freedom of expression and the rights to food, health, water and education are the inalienable rights of both Israelis and Palestinians. The human rights of one individual cannot be founded on the loss of rights of another individual.

The Quartet must recognize these developments and adopt this new framework. The Israel/Palestine situation is in flux resulting in instability, fear and inevitably more violence. Civilians on both sides of the conflict continue to bear the brunt of the failure to find a solution. Just this summer, we saw over 1500 civilians, at least 500 of them children, die in horrible circumstances.

There can be sustainable peace in the region if this zero-sum attitude, that there must be one winner and one loser, is thrown away and we stop repeating the same, failed patterns and start using a human rights framework for talks, including a commitment to, but not limited to:

  • Freedom from Torture, or other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
  • Freedom from Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
  • The Right of Return
  • The Right to Life, Liberty and Security of Person
  • The Right to a Fair Trial
  • The Right to Freedom of Movement
  • The Right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion
  • The Right to Peaceful Assembly and Association

 “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

Albert Einstein