17:06 GMT13 July 2020
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    Michael Lynk, United Nations special rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories, has offered an incendiary condemnation of Israeli conduct, further aggravating the row between the body and government of Benjamin Netanyahu.

    Speaking at a presentation to the UN Human Rights Council during a mandated session on Israel, Lynk said the Netanyahu administration's continuing conduct in Palestine and the occupied territories, and its ever-intensifying crackdown on human rights campaigners and NGOs, amounted to the "subjugation of humanity."

    Lynk's censure noted Israel's refusal to issue visas to staff from Human Rights Watch in February (a move the organization branded "ominous"), the passing in July 2016 of a law that targets human right groups, imposing onerous reporting requirements that burden their activities, the arrest, detention and expulsion of foreign journalists, and the banning of BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaigners from entering the country.

    The rapporteur's wounding words came just days after a damning report presented by Rima Khalaf, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, which accused Israel of pursuing "apartheid regime" policies in Palestine.

    "The political and geographic fragmentation of the Palestinian people enfeebles their capacity for resistance and makes it almost impossible for them to change the reality on the ground. All Palestinians [are oppressed] through an array of laws, policies and practices ensuring domination of them by a racial group, serving to maintain the regime," Khalaf said.

    UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has distanced himself from the report, saying it reflected Khalaf's views. The report was subsequently pulled from the ESCWA's website, and Khalaf resigned from her post, saying the UN had pressured her to withdraw the report outright.

    Israel was the only country targeted with a dedicated rights council agenda item, provoking criticism from Israel and its supporters, who argued the exceptional focus on Israeli conduct was disproportionate and targeted. Israeli representatives to the UNHRC boycotted a March 20 Council session that discussed settlement construction.

    US President Donald Trump's administration has also made clear it will not tolerate the UNHRC's hyper-critical tone, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson threatening March 14 that the US would withdraw from the UNHRC entirely unless its "biased agenda" was resolved, and "considerable reform" of the body was not undertaken. Particular umbrage was taken at the Council's adoption of a resolution requiring UN High Human Rights Commissioner Zeid al Raad to compile a database of companies with commercial operations in Israeli settlements.

    The US strong line on UN criticism of Israel follows overt diplomatic support being extended to Netanyahu by Trump over the UN Security Council's December 2016 adoption of a resolution condemning Israeli settlement expansion. The Netanyahu government, said to view the resolution as a "hostile act," has ignored calls to halt settlement construction, and began building a road connecting the illegal West Bank settlements to the rest of the country.


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    Israeli settlements, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, human rights, United Nations, United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Michael Lynk, Palestine, Israel, Middle East
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