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On 50th anniversary of Naksa, Palestinians, rights groups denounce Israeli occupation

June 5, 2017 6:56 P.M. (Updated: June 13, 2017 12:27 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- As Monday marked 50 years of Israel's occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials and rights groups denounced half a century of “oppression and subjugation” of the Palestinian people amid international inaction.

June 5 is remembered by Palestinians as “Naksa” Day, meaning “setback,” marking the Israeli invasion and occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai, and the Golan Heights that began on June 5, 1967 during the Six-Day War, displacing some 300,000 Palestinians, as well as thousands of Syrians, from their homes.

Palestinian leadership calls for an end to the occupation

“For the Palestinian people, marking 50 years of occupation means marking 50 years of oppression, subjugation and daily control over all aspects of people's lives,” Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said in a statement. “At the same time, it has also meant 50 years of statements and international resolutions that Israel, the occupying power, has insisted on violating with impunity.”

Erekat denounced Israeli claims that it only aimed for a “temporary occupation” of the territories annexed in 1967, saying instead that it was part of a broader “colonial settlement strategy aimed at taking as much as Palestinian land and natural resources as possible.”

Meanwhile, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said that national efforts to push forward Palestinian interests have allowed Palestinians and their leadership to withstand all “conspiracies” in the past 50 years, and have allowed for some advances, such as the recognition of a Palestinian state by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012.

Abu Rudeineh highlighted the importance of diplomatic ties with fellow Arab countries, adding that “this coordination will determine the future of the entire region and will find a fair solution for the Palestinian cause.”

The Hamas movement deplored that the half-century anniversary of the Naksa occurred “amid a breakdown of national unity,” calling for an end to the crippling 10-year Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip.

“We don't consider Naksa to be the end of the road, but an important turning point in the live of the Palestinian people that must be surpassed and all its consequences must be eliminated,” Hamas added, maintaining its ambiguous position on the movement’s recognition of pre-1967 borders since its new charter was made public earlier this year.

Five decades of continuous human rights violations

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which recently released a report naming Israel’s policies as “the key driver of humanitarian need” in the occupied Palestinian territory, said on Monday that the “prolonged occupation, with no end in sight, cultivates a sense of hopelessness and frustration that drives continued violence and impacts both Palestinians and Israelis.”

International NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) highlighted Israel’s major violations of human rights and humanitarian law since 1967, including excessive and deadly use of violence; forced displacement; the blockade of the Gaza Strip; unjustified restrictions on movement; and the expansion of illegal settlements across the occupied Palestinian territory.

According to HRW, Israel has arbitrarily revoked the residency of more than 600,000 Palestinians since 1967, including some 130,000 Palestinians residing in the West Bank and 14,565 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem whose exclusion was “largely on the basis that they had been away too long."

The NGO also denounced the reported 99.74 percent conviction rate for Palestinians tried in Israeli military courts as another violation of human rights part and parcel of Israel’s occupation policies.

"Whether it’s a child imprisoned by a military court or shot unjustifiably, or a house demolished for lack of an elusive permit, or checkpoints where only settlers are allowed to pass, few Palestinians have escaped serious rights abuses during this 50-year occupation,” HRW Middle East Director Sarah Leah Whitson said, adding that Israel's "entrenched system of institutionalized discrimination against Palestinians" extended "far beyond any security rationale.”

“Fifty years of occupation and decades of a fruitless peace process should put firmly to rest the notion that downplaying human rights will ease the path to a negotiated solution to the conflict,” Whitson added.

Health NGO Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) also denounced the occupation’s effect on Palestinians’ physical and mental health, and affirmed that “health and dignity are not gifts to be earned; they are basic rights.”

A 'shame' for the international community

Calling the Israeli occupation a “shame for the international system,” Erekat slammed the international community for its general apathy when faced with Israel’s institutionalized human rights violations.

“We are not simply calling upon the international community to take action: We are demanding from each member of the international community to assume its legal responsibilities and stop cooperating with the Israeli occupation: We don’t want another 50 years of impunity and complicity with the systematic denial of our rights,” Erekat said.

“Israeli policies to destroy the two-state solution will not be met with the disappearance of our rights, rather they will be met with more resilience from our people who will remain steadfast towards the fulfillment of their rights,” the Palestinian official added. “Our people will defeat apartheid.”

While the PA and the international community do not recognize the legality of the occupation of East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the West Bank since 1967, many Palestinians consider that all historic Palestine has been occupied since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

Christian Palestine group Sabeel called in a statement on Monday the Naksa as only the second stage of the Nakba” -- or “catastrophe,” referring to the creation of the state of Israel which led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their lands -- and denounced Zionism as an ideology incompatible with human rights.

“If religion, any religion, takes on political power, then there is no room for democracy, equality under the law, or respect for others,” Naim Atik, the chair of Sabeel’s board, said.

A growing number of activists have criticized a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on a return to 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, as unsustainable and unlikely to bring durable peace given the existing political context, proposing instead a binational state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians.
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