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Open Letter to the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

Monday, 11 October 2010 16:40
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Re: Concurrent Resolution H. Con. Res. 152 “Relating to the 40th anniversary of the reunification of the City of Jerusalem”

AL-HAQ INTERVENTION
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

REF.: 20.2007E

27 June 2007

Dear Senators,

As an organisation dedicated to the promotion of human rights and the rule of law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), Al-Haq is gravely concerned by the content of Concurrent Resolution H. Con. Res. 152, “Relating to the 40th anniversary of the reunification of the City of Jerusalem,” which commends Israel on its unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem by force, in contravention of international law. This resolution was passed in the House of Representatives on 5 June 2007 and has consequently been received by the Senate and referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. It is therefore in your hands whether or not the resolution becomes the subject of a vote for adoption by the Senate.

The status of East Jerusalem under international law is clear. Along with the Gaza Strip and the rest of the West Bank, East Jerusalem was occupied by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967, and remains occupied territory to this day. This position is legally indisputable and has been universally and repeatedly affirmed by the United Nations, the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The implications of this are firmly enshrined in international law: occupation can be no more than a temporary measure; and, thus, no territorial acquisition can be achieved through occupation. Although military conquest was at one time in history accepted as a valid means through which a sovereign could legally acquire territory, this is absolutely no longer the case. Since the emergence of the Stimson Doctrine and the UN Charter, both products of pioneering US policies, the principle of the illegality and inadmissibility of acquisition of territory by military conquest has been a pillar upon which modern public international law has evolved.

Indeed, a litany of UN Resolutions, including, for instance, binding Security Council Resolution 267 (adopted unanimously with the support of the US) have, on the basis of this principle, reaffirmed that “all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel which purport to alter the status of Jerusalem…are invalid and cannot change that status.” Thus the position adopted by the House of Representatives in the aforementioned bill, in recognising Israel’s territorial acquisition of East Jerusalem by force, is at stark variance with the basic tenets of international law as well as with the established US position on the issue of territorial acquisition by force, as evidenced from, for example, the US reaction to Iraq’s attempted annexation of Kuwait.

By calling on the President to implement the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, the resolution further breaches the obligation on all UN member states, elucidated in binding Security Council Resolution 478, not to base their diplomatic missions to Israel in Jerusalem. Indeed, not a single State currently houses its diplomatic mission to Israel in Jerusalem.

As a major and influential power in global politics, it is vital that the US fulfil not only its negative obligation under customary international law not to recognise or assist an illegal situation, but also its positive obligation to actively promote the realisation of the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples. East Jerusalem is universally recognised as part of the territory over which the Palestinian people holds an incontrovertible entitlement to determine their own political status and to freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. Indeed, the importance of the city to that people cannot be emphasised strongly enough.

It must also be noted that the provision in the resolution which “commends Israel for its administration of the undivided city of Jerusalem for the past 40 years, during which Israel has respected the right of all religious groups,” is somewhat disingenuous, and conflicts with the findings of the US Department of State 2006 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Israel and the OPT, which highlighted some of the problems with regard to the exercise of freedom of religion in Jerusalem. Indeed, Palestinian Muslim and Christian residents of the city have been subjugated by numerous discriminatory policies of the Israeli administration relating to housing, construction and land rights, family unification, and education; in addition to freedom of religion. Further, Palestinian Muslim and Christian residents of the rest of the West Bank are denied their basic rights to freedom of movement and to freedom of worship. The Holy City of Jerusalem is effectively closed to them by virtue of the 8-metre-high concrete wall which Israel is building inside the occupied West Bank, and a series of Israeli military checkpoints which encircle the city. Christians may only apply for permits to enter Jerusalem during Christmas and Easter. Restrictions on Muslims are even more severe: with the exception of the elderly, there is no scope for Muslims to even apply for permits to enter Jerusalem for any religious occasion.

For the Committee on Foreign Relations to recommend this resolution to the Senate, and for the Senate to pass it, however non-binding in effect it may be, would amount to a blatant disregard by the US Congress of the basic principles of international law. It would do a grave disservice to the memories of Henry L. Stimson and Franklin D. Roosevelt, and would severely compromise the values which the US purports to uphold - liberty, equality and the rule of law.

It is in this spirit, therefore, that Al-Haq urges you to reject H. Con. Res. 152. Rather than using the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War to congratulate Israel on defeating “enemies,” the US Congress would be well-advised to mark the occasion in a more positive manner: by advocating a just and durable solution to the conflict. Repeated UN resolutions, such as binding Security Council Resolution 465 (adopted unanimously with the support of the United States) have determined the measures taken by Israel in Jerusalem to “constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.” The truth and importance of this statement cannot be emphasised strongly enough. Respect for international law must be the basis for US involvement in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations if a just and lasting peace is to be achieved in the region.

Sincerely,

Shawan Jabarin

General Director

Al-Haq