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Press Conference by Special Rapporteur on Human Rights In Occupied Palestinian Territory, 25 October 2012

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

As Israel accelerated expansion of illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory in continued defiance of United Nations resolutions and international human rights and humanitarian law, Israeli and international companies profiting from the settlements should be boycotted, a top human rights expert said at a Headquarters news conference this afternoon.

“The whole issue of Palestinian self determination is at risk here,” saidRichard Falk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian occupied territories since 1967. “The longer the process is delayed, the less realistic it is to believe that these settlers and the large settler population can be removed in such a way as to create a Palestinian State.”

Mr. Falk briefed correspondents after presenting his annual report to the General Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), in which he encouraged a boycott of United States industry giants Caterpillar Inc., Hewlett Packard and Motorola, Israeli cosmetic firm Ahava, Cemex of Mexico, Veolia Environment of France, G4S of the United Kingdom and Volvo Group of Sweden, among others, and for civil society to join that effort (See Press Release GA/SCH/4048).

He said the focus on the business community was partly an expression of frustration over the failure to persuade Israel to comply with its fundamental legal obligations and the ineffectiveness of the United Nations efforts to condemn expansion of the settlements, which had grown 5.3 per cent on average annually in the past decade, and now covered more than 40 per cent of the West Bank.

In the last year alone, 15,000new settlers had taken root in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, while Israeli officials had moved to legalize some 100 outposts previously considered unlawful under Israeli law, he said, and added that settler violence against the local Palestinian population in those areas was growing.

“This is an attempt to reach out beyond the intergovernmental and international institutional system,” Mr. Falk said, stressing that illegal settlements were “a core concern of those that seek a peaceful resolution of the conflict” through the two-State solution.

Asked if creation of an independent Palestinian State was still viable, he said that notion was in severe jeopardy and that it was much harder to envision how a sustainable peace could be achieved through the proposed two-State solution.

Such a solution was crucial for ensuring Palestinian rights and reducing regional tensions and violence.

Asked how the failure to enforce United Nations resolutions condemning settlement expansion had impacted public opinion of the Organization in the Middle East and beyond, he said there was a sense in the region that the United Nations had no authority and that international humanitarian law had no credibility. “We can’t just ignore this pattern and continue to think we are taking our responsibilities seriously,” he said.

As to whether he was disrupting the peace process considering the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay’s statement that a posting on his blog was anti-Semitic and considering the Fatah political party’s call for his resignation due to his support for Hamas, Mr. Falk said he had responded to such allegations previously to affirm his capacity to report accurately and honestly about the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Questioned whether this was the first time a United Nations rapporteur was requesting a boycott and whether such a move was appropriate, he said it was an “innovation”, but was not sure if it was the first example. As the Organization’s calls for decades for an end to settlement building had not been heeded, the boycott was another way to try to change Israel’s behaviour, he said, adding that the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement had achieved concrete successes.

Asked why he was not addressing human rights violations committed by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, he said his mandate was limited to violations committed by Israel and that his request to broaden that mandate to include violations by Palestinians had been rejected by the Human Rights Council.

As to his access to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he said he was denied entry by the Israeli authorities in 2008, the year he assumed the post. Egyptian authorities had supported his subsequent attempts in the last two years to enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing, but the United Nations had denied him authorization due to security issues.

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