UN blames Israel for conflict with Palestinians, to probe discrimination

Israel's occupation of West Bank "feeds increased resentment among Palestinians and fuels an endless cycle of violence," a UN report stated.

 Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces during a protest in the village of Beit Dajan, near the West Bank city of Nablus, on June 3, 2022 (photo credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)
Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces during a protest in the village of Beit Dajan, near the West Bank city of Nablus, on June 3, 2022
(photo credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)

Israel is largely to blame for its conflict with the Palestinians, the United Nations charged in the initial report by its highly contentious Commission of Inquiry, which plans to focus in part on issues of discrimination by the Jewish state both within and without the country's sovereign borders.

“The findings and recommendations relevant to the underlying root causes were overwhelmingly directed towards Israel, which we have taken as an indicator of the asymmetrical nature of the conflict and the reality of one state occupying the other,” Navanethem Pillay, who heads the three-member panel that conducted the probe, said. Pillay is the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

"[The report] is as an indicator of the asymmetrical nature of the conflict and the reality of one state occupying the other"

Navanethem Pillay, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

The UN's report

The brief' 18-page report by the UN's "Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem and Israel" posted on the UN website on Tuesday marks the first of what will be an annual report to the UN's Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The report spoke of Israel's actions in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem as a situation "in perpetuity," noting that It was unlikely the situation would end without International intervention.

 A U.N. security officer stands guard during the special session on the situation in Ukraine of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, March 4, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/DENIS BALIBOUSE) A U.N. security officer stands guard during the special session on the situation in Ukraine of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, March 4, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/DENIS BALIBOUSE)

"The commission notes the strength of prima facie credible evidence available that convincingly indicates that Israel has no intention of ending the occupation, has a clear policy of reassuring the complete control over the occupied Palestinian Territory and is acting to alter the demography through the maintenance of a repressive environment for Palestinians and a favorable environment for Israeli settlers," the report stated.

Israel's actions 'fueling an endless cycle of violence'

Israel has done this with impunity that "is feeding increased resentment among the Palestinian people" and "is fueling … an endless cycle of violence," the report stated.

The report gave a nod in the direction of Palestinian violence against Israelis. It spoke of the need for all parties, including armed Palestinian groups, to respect international law. It noted, in particular, the "indiscriminate" firing of rockets at Israel. But it did not speak of Hamas's violations of international law.

Unlike past UN probs, this one focuses not just on Israeli actions in the territory which the UN holds will eventually be part of the final borders of a Palestinian state, but it also plans to look at Israeli actions within its sovereign borders including with respect to issues of discrimination.

Israel has feared that the three-member Commission of Inquiry (COI) would charge Israel with crimes of apartheid, similar to reports that have already been issued by a number of non-governmental human rights groups. 

It has rejected the apartheid argument which would place issues of race at the core of the conflict with the Palestinians, Israel has argued that its conflict with the Palestinians is territorial, temporary in nature and has no bearing on issues of race.

The report makes no mention of the word apartheid. It did speak of Israeli discriminatory practices and what it perceived to be its failure to comply with the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. It spoke in particular of its concern regarding the 2018 Nation-State Law.

It explained that this law could "exacerbate pre-existing and systematic structural discrimination against non-Jews in Israel," it said.

The commission noted that "ending the occupation alone will not be sufficient, however. Other steps must be taken to ensure that all people in Palestine and in Israel are able to enjoy all of their human rights, equality and in full, without any discrimination."

Response from Foreign Ministry, Israeli NGOs

The COI's report is "nothing more than a waste of money and effort of the United Nations’ systems" and "part and parcel of the witchhunt being carried out by the Human Rights Council against Israel," the Foreign Ministry said in response to the report on Monday.

"It is a biased and one-sided report tainted with hatred for the State of Israel"

Israels Foreign Ministry

The Foreign Ministry argued the UN commission disregards murderous Palestinian violence and ignores the war crime of firing at Israeli civilians from within civilian areas in the Gaza Strip, which is, according to the ministry, the "real reason that led Israel to defend its citizens against the murderous terrorist organizations."

The State of Israel will continue to protect its citizens in accordance with the highest international values and standards, the ministry added.

 Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid is seen speaking at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on May 23, 2022. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST) Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid is seen speaking at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on May 23, 2022. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Jerusalem-based think tank NGO Monitor’s Legal Adviser Anne Herzberg said that the report “reflects the UNHRC’s ongoing obsession with attacking the Jewish state.

“The COI erases key historical context, assigning almost total blame on Israel for the conflict,” Herzberg says. “Notably, it grossly minimizes and decontextualizes Palestinian terrorism in order to paint a picture of Israeli venality.”

The report only dedicates a few paragraphs out of 18 pages to Palestinian terrorism, she noted.

In addition, the report makes “multiple false claims regarding discrimination in order to build a case of racism and so that this permanent COI can later accuse Israel of apartheid,” Herzberg said, adding that the report cites unverified claims from activist NGOs.

The commission also did not try to engage with Israeli NGOs who do not promote the Palestinian narrative, she said.

International Legal Forum CEO Arsen Ostrovsky said that the COI is in contravention of the UN’s own rules, which state that the members of such commissions “should, in all cases, have a proven record of independence and impartiality.”

COI chairwoman Navi Pillay, however, “has a longstanding bias and virulent hostility towards Israel, having already declared the Jewish state guilty of ‘violations of international law,’” Ostrovsky said. “In any civilized court of law, a judge like Pillay exhibiting such blatant lack of impartiality would have never been appointed in the first place…But at the UN, you get promoted and rewarded for such antisemitism and hostility towards Israel.”

In failing to even mention Hamas, which shot thousands of rockets into Israel last year, while placing blame on Israel, “this report effectively givers a green light to Palestinian terror, while denying Israel its inalienable right to self-defense,” he stated.