Below are remarks presented to the UN’s anti-racism committee, prior to its review of the “State of Palestine” for the first time today, by UN Watch Legal Adviser Dina Rovner. She twice addressed the committee to present UN Watch’s 32-page shadow report on Palestinian violations of the anti-racism convention. The first remarks presented below were delivered at a meeting between the panel members and non-governmental organizations. Below that are the prepared remarks of Rovner’s in-depth speech on the UN Watch submission, element of which were conveyed in an informal briefing to committee members.
Prepared remarks of UN Watch Legal Adviser Dina Rovner at UN anti-racism committee’s meeting with non-governmental organizations, August 14, 2019.
We meet today to review the State of Palestine’s compliance with the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Yet one would not know that from reading the Palestinian Authority’s 62-page report to this Committee, which repeatedly blames the “Israeli occupation” for countless alleged violations of Palestinian rights, while seeking to evade responsibility for its own racism and discrimination. We remind all stakeholders that Israel will be reviewed for its actions in November, whereas the proper focus of today’s review is Palestinian compliance with the Convention, or lack thereof.
United Nations Watch submitted a shadow report, which is available at www.unwatch.org/PA-racism. We were disappointed that NGOs like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International which lobbied for the Palestinians to join international treaties saying it would hold them to account did not submit reports for today’s review.
Ironically, the PA report acknowledges that there are almost no minorities in Palestine. According to the statistics provided by the PA, the various minority groups comprise no more than 1% of the population.
The Committee may wish to ask the PA why, by its own admission, it has virtually no minorities. By any objective standard, these figures suggest high levels of racism and discrimination. For example, if 1.9 million Arab citizens live in neighboring Israel, comprising 21% of the population, why is it that there are no Jews at all living under Palestinian jurisdiction?
The reasons seem clear. As documented in our written submission, both the PA and Hamas routinely vilify Jews, and forbid them to reside in areas under their jurisdiction. Palestinians who sell land to Israeli Jews are deemed traitors, subject to criminal prosecution under Palestinian law, and face a sentence of life in prison with hard labor, or even death.
United Nations Watch wishes to highlight two glaring deficiencies in the PA’s report, which we hope the Committee will address:
The first is that the report ignores violations by the PA and Hamas against minority groups in their own territories.
For example, the PA’s report makes no mention of violent physical attacks against Christians, desecration of churches, pressure to convert to Islam, theft of Christians’ land, or discrimination and violent physical attacks against converts to Christianity. The report also does not mention discrimination and violence against Samaritans.
The second deficiency is that while the report is quick to blame Israel, it ignores rampant antisemitic incitement against, and violations of, the rights of Israelis and Jews.
For example, in Paragraphs 55-59, when discussing compliance with Article 4 of the Convention on eliminating incitement to racial hatred the PA accuses Israel of inciting racial discrimination and violence against Palestinians, but does not say one word about the poisonous antisemitic incitement routinely disseminated by Palestinian officials.
Why does the PA report fail to mention that this year, on May 15th, senior Hamas official Fathi Hamad promised to “slaughter, exterminate, and annihilate” Israel?
Why does the PA report fail to mention that a few weeks later, on June 26th, Abbas advisor Nabil Shaath repeated the PA’s antisemitic narrative that Jews came to Palestine as part of a European plot to get rid of unwanted Jews?
Why does the PA report fail to mention that on July 4th, Mahmoud al-Habbash, the Religious Affairs advisor of President Abbas, praised Nazi collaborator Haj Amin Al-Husseini as a “role model”?
Likewise, in paragraphs 69-74, when discussing compliance with Article 5 on the right to life, the PA accuses Israel of numerous violations. Yet why does the PA report completely ignore its own violations against Israeli Jews — including incitement to kill, financial rewards to terrorists who commit or attempt to commit murder, and failure to hold accountable those who incite against and attack Israeli Jews?
Similarly, in Paragraph 113, when discussing compliance with Article 5 on freedom of religion, the PA accuses Israel of preventing Palestinians from exercising “their religious rights.” But the PA disregards its own infringements on the freedom of religion of Jews, particularly with respect to the severe restrictions on Jewish rights to worship at the many Jewish holy sites located in the Palestinian-controlled territories, including the Tombs of Joseph and Joshua.
Finally, in Paragraph 159, when discussing compliance with Article 7 on promoting understanding through the media, the PA’s report falsely claims that Palestinian media “have taken measures to promote understanding and tolerance.” In fact, the Palestinian media does the opposite. It perpetuates antisemitic stereotypes such as that Jews are greedy, that they are part of a conspiracy to control the world, that they are baby killers, and that they poison Palestinians and steal their organs. The Palestinian media also glorifies and encourages martyrdom in the fight to liberate Palestine from the River to Sea – meaning to eliminate Israel – and broadcasts songs and videos advocating to Kill Jews and Israelis.
All of these racist and discriminatory Palestinian actions and policies are documented in our submission.
We trust that the Committee will focus on the State of Palestine’s own obligations to eliminate racism and discrimination, which is the proper subject of today’s review, and not allow it to evade responsibility by pointing the finger at others.
Full prepared remarks from UN Watch’s informal briefing to UN’s anti-racism committee.
My name is Dina Rovner, and I am the Legal Advisor of United Nations Watch. I am here to address Palestinian compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. When I say Palestine, I am referring to both the Palestinian Authority or PA and Hamas which are the entities that effectively govern Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza.
We submitted an alternative report which documents in detail serious Palestinian violations of Articles 3, 4, 5 and 7 of the Convention. It is available at www.unwatch.org/PA-racism.
What is striking about the PA’s report is the utter lack of self-reflection and self-criticism when it comes to the issue of racism generally, and antisemitic incitement and terrorism specifically.
Palestine repeatedly avoids its own responsibility for eliminating racism within Palestinian society and instead blames Israel for allegedly racist policies against the Palestinians.
For example, Paragraph 55 mentions “incitement to racial discrimination and violence” by “the Israeli colonial settlement occupation.” However, the report completely ignores the widespread incitement to racial discrimination and violence by Palestinian officials.
Similarly, in Paragraph 59, the report criticizes Israel for the July 2014 murder of Palestinian teen Muhammad Abu Khdeir, giving this as an example of violence that has “affected not only the right of Palestinians to physical integrity, but also their right to life.” However, the report does not mention the right to physical integrity or the right to life of Israelis. It ignores the three Israeli teens kidnapped and murdered by Hamas terrorists a few weeks before Abu Khdeir was killed. It also ignores the many other Israelis killed by Palestinian terrorists incited to hatred and murder by Palestinian officials, the Palestinian media and the Palestinian education system.
In one of the most outrageous statements in the report, in paragraph 52, the PA represents that it has not “detected any racist discourse within Palestinian society.” This is far from the reality we observed in our research, which found near daily examples of antisemitic and terrorist incitement against Israelis and Jews.
Here, I note that Israel has been reviewed by the Committee numerous times and is set to be reviewed again by the Committee later this year. Any complaints about Israel should be raised and addressed in the context of that review.
But while Israel has been reviewed many times, this is the first time the Committee is reviewing Palestine. The Palestinians lobbied vigorously for Palestine to be accepted to the UN as a non-member observer state and to be able to accede in its own right to various international human rights treaties such as this one. By gaining admission to these treaties, Palestine committed itself to comply with them and to participate in good faith in the review process. This review of Palestine should focus on what Palestine, meaning the PA and Hamas, is doing to comply with the Convention, how it is violating the Convention, and what it needs to change in order to remedy those violations.
Our alternative report focused on the pervasive antisemitic and terrorist incitement promulgated and encouraged by the Palestinian government at the highest levels, including by PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
This incitement is part of the basic Palestinian narrative which dehumanizes Jews and Israelis calling them “apes and pigs” and accusing them of all manner of evils from drinking the blood of Palestinian children to poisoning Palestinian wells and ruling the world, likens Israeli officials to Nazis, and rejects the rights of Jews to their own state in any part of the territory.
Sadly, this antisemitic narrative even made its way into the PA’s report to this Committee – an indication of how entrenched racism is in Palestinian society. For example, as part of its review of the region’s history, the PA claims, in Paragraph 8, that in 1917 the British mandate divided the population of Palestine into two groups – non-Jewish (meaning “the Palestinian people, both Muslims and Christians”) and Jewish (meaning “European Jewish immigrants”).
By describing the Jewish residents of mandate Palestine as European immigrants, the PA denies the historical reality that Jews are indigenous to the region, as they had lived in their ancestral homeland for thousands of years. This characterization is meant to support the Palestinians’ false and antisemitic claim, repeated numerous times throughout the report, that the Jews are European colonialists who, from the beginning, stole the land from the Palestinians.
Bizarrely, the PA suggests that if the British in 1917 had granted the Palestinian people the right to self-determination and independence, Palestine would have become “a multicultural, multi-faith and multi-confessional nation.” But it is Israel, not Palestine, that has developed into a multicultural and multi-faith country with a highly diverse ethnic and religious population, including an active and thriving Arab minority comprising 21% of the population, Ethiopian immigrants, Jews from all over the world, migrants and foreign workers, and people of many faiths, including Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Druze, and Baha’i.
By contrast, the population in Palestine is remarkably homogenous. I would like to come back to that statement in Paragraph 52 of the PA’s report suggesting that Palestinian society is not racist. By any objective standard, this lack of racial diversity itself indicates a high level of racism.
In its report, the PA lists seven minority groups, which together—just going by the PA’s numbers—consist of some 32,000 people, less than 1% of the total population. There are no Jews. There is no significant black-African population. All of the minorities are indigenous to the area dating back at least several hundred years, and most are concentrated in the Jerusalem area. And they are all experiencing population declines, another sign that Palestinian society suffers from high levels of racism.
According to a recent study from 2016, Palestine ranked among the top 25 most racist countries in the world. Palestine was second, just behind Libya, in the percentage of people who do not want neighbors of another race. This is clearly confirmed by the statistics cited in the PA’s report showing that there are almost no minorities in the Palestinian-controlled territories.
One of the main questions that must be addressed in this review is what steps are the PA and Hamas taking to eliminate racist attitudes, end racist incitement and violence, and to foster an atmosphere of peace and tolerance.
Some of the minorities mentioned by the PA are part of the diminishing Palestinian Christian population. Statistics found online indicate that in the traditionally Christian cities of Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala, the Christian population dropped from 86% in 1950 (meaning majority Christian) to 12% in 2016 (meaning these cities are now majority Muslim). While Palestinians, including the PA in its report, typically blame the “Israeli occupation,” the reality is that Christians suffer from routine discrimination and violence perpetrated by their Muslim neighbors. As we noted in our report, Muslim persecution of Christians is taking place across the Middle East. Therefore, it is not surprising that it is also happening in the Palestinian-controlled territories.
Palestinian law does not guarantee freedom of thought, conscience or religion, as required by ICERD Article 5. Article 18 of the Palestinian Basic Law provides that freedom of religion is guaranteed only if “public order and morals are not violated.” This limitation breaches the Convention.
Moreover, in practice, the rights of Christians are not protected. Our report detailed three grave attacks on Christian communities in the West Bank in the first half of 2019 alone.
At the very least this reflects a violation of Articles 2 and 5 of the Convention.
A large part of our report focused on Palestinian antisemitic incitement which leads to terrorism and endangers the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians. At a minimum, such incitement violates Articles 4 and 7 of the Convention.
I wish to conclude with just one example of how this all plays out with deadly results.
On July 22, 2017, a Palestinian terrorist stabbed and killed three members of the Salomon family celebrating the birth of a new baby boy at a festive Shabbat dinner. He also injured a fourth family member.
This brutal murder did not emerge from a vacuum. As evidenced by his own words, which I will soon quote, the terrorist acted in reaction to a week of violence and incitement stoked by Palestinian officials, including the following:
- On Friday, July 14, three terrorists opened fire at Israeli police officers on the Temple Mount killing two of them. Israel closed the Temple Mount complex.
- Later that day, a preacher at Al-Aqsa Mosque glorified the terrorists as martyrs and accused the Jews of “using their tricks,” meaning using the terrorist attack, as an excuse to take over al-Aqsa Mosque.
- Also that day, Fatah Official Abbas Zaki accused Israel of terrorism against the Palestinians and called for “popular resistance that is capable of incorporating the masses.”
- On July 15, Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad defended the terrorist attack against the Israeli police officers saying “it is the right of the Palestinian people to carry out all types of resistance” – meaning armed resistance.
- On Sunday, July 16, Israel reopened one of the Temple Mount entrances to Muslim residents of Jerusalem after installing metal detectors as a security measure.
- Muslim Waqf officials who oversee the site refused to enter and instigated a protest outside the entrance.
- On July 16, PA Security Forces spokesman Adnan al-Damiri denied the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount calling it a “myth.”
- On July 17, Fatah called for a “day of rage” in response to metal detectors.
- The same day, PA Minister of religious affairs Sheikh Yusuf Ida’is denied Jewish rights at the Western Wall and accused Israel of planning a religious war on Muslims.
- On July 18, protesters at the site took up the microphone and railed against “Jewish” measures at al-Aqsa.
- On July 19, Fatah official Tawfiq Tirawi rallied Palestinians, saying the uprising against Israel over Jerusalem is the “campaign of every Arab and Muslim.”
- On July 20, PA TV broadcasted a statement by a university lecturer on Islam calling for jihad and accusing the Jews of plotting to kill Muslim prophets.
- On July 21 and 22 the incitement continued along the same lines.
- After spending the day watching the violent demonstrations outside the Al Aqsa compound, on Friday night, July 22, 2017, the Palestinian terrorist Omar al-Abed posted this on his Facebook page: “I am a young man, not even 20 years old. I have many dreams and ambitions. I know that with Allah’s help, they will all come true. I have loved life, and making people smile, but what kind of life is this? They kill our women and our young, they befoul our al-Aqsa and we slumber. Take your weapon and resist. They have declared a war on Allah. They have shut down al-Aqsa, and what’s your weapon? Mine is a knife, and my knife will answer the cry of al-Aqsa.”
- An hour and a half later he knocked on the door of the Salamon family house and stabbed to death three of its family members, injuring a fourth.
- Al-Abed was sentenced to four life sentences and is in jail. He now receives a salary and benefits from the PA – a government reward for his racially motivated crime.
In other words, the murderer who came to kill Jews acted in response to the incitement of numerous Fatah officials, who are part of the PLO; to incitement by Palestinian Waqf officials; to incitement by Palestinian Authority Security Forces; to incitement by the PA Minister of religious affairs; and to incitement by PA TV.
In other words, when this murderer, motivated by hatred of Jews, stabbed to death the 70-year-old grandfather, Yossi, his 46-year-old daughter Chaya, and 36-year-old son Elad, and when he stabbed and injured the 68-year-old grandmother, Tova, he did so, in his own words, out of rage from false information and incitement systematically stoked by the Palestinian Authority, through its numerous institutions and officials.
Unless this Committee holds the PA to account, such incitement and murder will only continue.