I thank the Chairman for the opportunity to address the committee. Some 22 years ago, the Oslo Accord was signed between President Arafat and the late Prime Minister Rabin. It was intended to be a confidence building measure between the two parties and to conclude the right of self-determination and independence by having a Palestinian state by 4 May 1999. Some 22 years later in the occupied territories, there is a criminal, illegal, inhuman siege, which is suffocating 2 million people in one of the most densely populated areas on earth. There is no movement at all for goods or individuals. The population is being sent back to the Middle Ages. In addition, the occupation also included three major offensives during this period and civilians and civilian targets were in the eye of the storm. Obviously, during the offensives war crimes and crimes against humanity took place. There has been no accountability on any level by the international community and, accordingly, no deterrents. What happened will be repeated again and again against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas operates in Gaza, and perhaps we deserve what happened for many reasons, but the situation in the West Bank is not better than death by any standard. That is why the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, Christians and Muslims, which is the policy of the occupation, is taking place, in different ways, administratively, legally and practically. The Judaisation of Jerusalem is taking place day and night as a continuation of the fait accompli policy of this belligerent occupation.
The annexation and apartheid of the rest of the West Bank was almost completed, something which was considered by the International Court of Justice as a crime and which should be abolished completely. Israel took no notice of that. Settlements activities are expanding vertically and horizontally. New settlements are built every day. The Israeli occupation devours and grabs more land every day from Palestinians.
Bypass roads ghettoise and isolate Palestinian cities, villages and camps, creating enclaves. It has no means to expand, as hundreds of checkpoints all over the West Bank make movement of goods and individuals a mission impossible. We have more than 6,000 Palestinian prisoners and, although Palestine has been recognised as a state, the prisoners are still considered to be terrorists and are not recognised as political prisoners according to the Geneva Convention. At one time, 47 parliamentarians representing the Palestinian people were arrested and detained with no charge and for no reason. Tortured legally and victims of medical negligence, many lost their lives. Those in charge of the prisoners do not want a repeat of Bobby Sands' hunger strike, but they repress free will and they ensure prisoners lose every way of expressing it. The situation in the West Bank is, effectively, a new brand of apartheid.
So this is the harvest of those accords - criminal siege in Gaza, ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem and a new brand of apartheid in the West Bank. This is unprecedented in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This is not what we as Palestinians are saying; it is being said by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Federation for Human Rights - all the international human rights organisations. All UN fact-finding missions and all UN rapporteurs on Palestine also say this clearly. Israel, by going on and on with its policy with no deterrents at any meaningful level, believes it is above international law and above international humanitarian law. It is simply practising the rule of the jungle. We at the PCHR represent victims and we believe in the rule of law. We are an independent, professional organisation. Of course, while we do believe that we never had justice under the occupation, our professionalism requires us to have the facts in our hands and to resort to the Israeli legal system and exhaust it. That is why, over tens of years, with thousands and thousands of cases, we have resorted to the Israeli legal system. We have legally documented all of the war crimes but we never, ever achieve justice for our victims. We never have the chance for redress. In hundreds of cases, the Israeli legal system provided full political cover for organised, systematic war crimes perpetrated by the Israeli Government, including the High Court of Justice. The Israeli High Court of Justice legitimised torture against Palestinian prisoners, and it legitimised targeted killing, house demolition, and a lot of other matters that are illegal under international humanitarian law. This is why, after that, we resorted to universal jurisdiction and that is why we fight cases against some of the Israeli suspects at military, security and political level, as well as those involved in the chain of command whom we suspect committed war crimes in different states, including Europe, the UK, Spain, Switzerland, South Africa and Sweden. Unfortunately, soon after courts in the UK and Spain issued warrants to arrest and investigate some of these cases, apologies came: the laws are changing, providing more legal and political immunity for Israel and its leaders who are suspected of committing war crimes.
The ICC is the crème de la crème of the human experience and when we try to resort to it, it is as if we invented it. Given that we resort to international humanitarian law on human rights, Israel considers it warfare against the State of Israel. Shame on it. Israel also says we are the agents of terrorist organisations and we are misusing international humanitarian law. We are saying, in simple, clear words that Israel practises the rule of the jungle in the occupied territories and against Palestinian civilians. The result of that is obvious and clear; it is incredible and criminal. The result of the last offensive launched against Gaza was 557 children killed and 334 women killed. Very cheap blood, very cheap souls. Hospitals, operating theatres and ambulances are targeted. Shelters and schools of UNRWA which chose to be used as shelters, were targeted day and night. The electricity factory has been targeted along with our sewerage system. Once again, they did not leave anything. They stated clearly they want to send us back to the Middle Ages.
We have no right to be good victims and we have no right to give up. We are a free people who will not accept the status quo. We are entitled to our right of self determination, we are entitled to independence. Israel should choose what it wants. The PLO charter is simple and clearly talks about one secure Palestinian state for the Christians, Muslims and Jews. Olof Palme and Bruno Kriesky suggested that for Arafat but this is interpreted as a call for the destruction of Israel. He agreed upon the two state solution and Gaza was spared including Jerusalem in 1974. Since 1974 the journey has been long, suffering increases and death is everywhere. Of the accords I mentioned, this is its harvest. We did not kill Yitzhak Rabin - they did. The situation is so hard, so abhorrent, that what we ask is not too much, we simply want the rule of law and protection for our civilians. We want to know our destiny and fate and we are entitled to our Palestinian state. The situation may be hard and unprecedented but the way things are now we believe the worst is yet to come, but that does not make us feel despair. We know and we are sure we are on the right side of history, that we will enjoy, and are enjoying our moral superiority in this criminal occupation.
We are sure that tomorrow is ours. We are a free people who believe in the rule of law, not the law of the jungle. We badly need clear-cut support for our aspiration of self-determination and independence.