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'We must not let another 50 years pass': NGOs condemn Israeli occupation

June 1, 2017 4:34 P.M. (Updated: June 7, 2017 12:10 P.M.)
Israeli soldiers stop a Palestinian woman in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron on March 27, 2013. (AFP/Hazem Bader, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Days ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, Catholic NGO Pax Christi International called the dire humanitarian situation brought on by the occupation “not sustainable,” and called for renewed peace talks.

Meanwhile, NGO Oxfam slammed the international community’s inaction during the past five decades, whose “toothless” condemnations of Israeli violations of human rights and “Band-Aid humanitarian solutions” it blamed for the continuation of the occupation half a century on.

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.

Since then, Pax Christi wrote, “the international community has been witness to the denial of human rights and the deterioration of conditions throughout the occupied Palestinian territories.”

The Christian NGO quoted a statement by UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories Michael Lynk from earlier this month, which detailed the “systemic human rights violations that accompany this occupation -- collective punishment, confiscation of property, excessive use of force and unlawful killings, lack of freedom of movement and steady settlement expansion, among others.”

“We are commemorating a sad milestone this month with 50 years of devastating occupation. It is urgent that it is resolved, as for both Palestinians and Israelis their future and hope depend on it,” Pax Christi International Co-President Marie Dennis said in a statement on Thursday. “This is the moment for an increased commitment to reach a just and sustainable solution in accordance with international law.”

Pax Christi went on to “strongly” recommend a ban on weapons sales to Israel and Palestine and an end to any military cooperation with either party as a means to apply international pressure to obtain a resolution -- likely alluding in part to the unprecedented $38 billion American military aid package to Israel signed in September.

Meanwhile, Oxfam Country Director Chris Eijkemans said in a statement on Thursday that the lack of international accountability for Israel’s illegal occupation, including through the lack of effectiveness of foreign NGOs, played a major role in the continuation of the conflict.

“There are few examples of poverty or injustice in the OPT (occupied Palestinian territory) that do not stem from the occupation. If it weren’t for the occupation, most aid agencies would not need to be here,” Eijkemans said. “The issues facing Palestinians are enormous and complex, but on each count, despite the billions of dollars invested, the lives of Palestinians cannot meaningfully improve as long as the occupation persists.”

“The international community shoulders a large portion of the blame for the ongoing situation faced by 4.5 million Palestinians living in the OPT and must take clear and urgent action. Toothless condemnation of the litany of abuses is not enough,” Eijkemans added.

“Israel has no incentive to end the occupation while it bears no tangible cost for its violations,” the OXFAM official said. “Governments have a choice: they can either challenge or entrench these ongoing violations.”

“These fifty years have seen thousands of lives and opportunities lost. Families have been separated; people have been denied their most basic rights. We must not let another fifty years pass before a just and peaceful solution is found," he concluded.

While the international community does 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.
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