UN tells Israel to stop taking Palestinian resources

In a little reported step on Tuesday 22 December, the United Nations General Assembly, citing the Fourth Geneva Convention, adopted a resolution demanding Palestinian sovereignty over natural resources under Israeli occupation and the UK actually voted in favour!

The Fourth Geneva Convention was adopted in 1949 following the Second World War and the forced migrations of many peoples that occurred during and immediately after it.    Article 49 of that 4th Geneva Convention clearly states: ““The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”   Israel ratified this Convention in 1951. In 1993, the United Nations Security Council adopted a report from the Secretary-General and a Commission of Experts which concluded that the Geneva Conventions had passed into the body of customary international law, thus making them binding even on non-signatories to the Conventions whenever they engage in armed conflicts. 

This Convention came too late to stop the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians that occurred after the Israel/Palestine partition plan of 1947 and the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948.  It was however adopted well before the 1967 war and the occupation of what was left of the Palestinian Territories by Israel in that year.

Many times the UN General Assembly and the Security Council have reminded Israel that the demolition of Palestinian homes and livelihoods and forced evictions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem contravene Article 49.  This is also the official position of the UK government although successive British PM’s have been quite prepared to turn a blind eye to the creeping colonisation and other miseries inflicted on the Palestinian people.  Israel however seems to be outraged that a Convention introduced as a reaction to the Nazis in Europe could possibly be thought to apply to it, and many of its friends in the West (including some sadly in our own Party) seem prepared to go along with this “Israeli exceptionalist” argument. Many in the Netanyahu government think that the whole of Palestine belongs to them and that the Palestinians are the occupiers!

Could we be starting to see a change of attitude on the part of the UK government?  It has for instance supported and indeed encouraged the EU move to require settlement goods to be labelled distinctly from goods produced in Israel.  This is a great help to those who don’t want to be complicit in the illegality of the settlements by buying products made on stolen land.

The resolution of 22 December, “Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources,” was adopted with 164 votes in favour and five against. Canada (surprisingly in view of its new liberal government) and the United States (more predictably) voted against. Normally one would have expected the UK to slavishly follow the US lead in voting against.  What is remarkable and encouraging is that we voted in favour!

The resolution is the latest to be adopted through ongoing efforts by Palestinian leadership to take measures against Israel in the international arena following decades of failed peace talks.

The UN General Assembly reiterated the illegality of the Israeli settlement enterprise and its monopoly over Palestinian resources citing the “detrimental impact of the Israeli settlements on Palestinian and other Arab natural resources, especially as a result of the confiscation of land and the forced diversion of water resources.” Water resources in the occupied Palestinian territory are almost entirely under Israeli control, and around 85 percent of water is allocated to Israelis, even though they only represent 20% of water users.

If support for this resolution marks a hardening of the UK attitude towards Israel then that is to be welcomed.  It sure would be nice in 2016 to see our own Party championing the human rights of Palestinians as the Netanyahu government continues its absorption of their lands into Israel while treating them no better than the apartheid government of South Africa treated its black population.

Tim Farron couldn’t have been clearer in his remarks during his Q & A session at the Bournemouth Conference. In answer to a question, Tim referred to his anger at the stories constantly emanating from the occupied territories and described the treatment of the Palestinians as ‘persecution’. He emphasised his support for a two state solution, both sides with secured borders and living in peace with one another.

While Tim said that he preferred the recognition of a Palestinian state through a process of consent between Israel and Palestine, he also said that every day Netanyahu builds more settlements in the West Bank, the less likely that the recognition of a Palestinian state will be achieved in a consensual way. He suggested that the recognition of a Palestinian state unilaterally or internationally might be inevitable. A further three months has gone by, the persecution and the settlement expansion continues and the cycle of violence provoked by all this is in full swing.  Palestine has many champions at Westminster but a leadership vacuum.  The Lib Dems would be the natural Party to lead this cause in the year ahead.

Comments on this post will be pre-moderated.

* John Kelly is a member of the English Council Executive, of the Federal International Relations Committee, of West Midlands Regional Executive, and is Secretary of Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine.

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This entry was posted in Europe / International and Op-eds.


  • Miranda Pinch 2nd Jan '16 - 2:45pm

    Carl, you are against ‘hardening of the UK attitude to Israel’ yet for an end to the settlement building. How do you propose an end to settlement building without a hardening of attitude and indeed action to Israel’s continued flouting of just about every international law and human right? Our present ‘friendship’ with Israel and repeated expression of concern, grave concern, serious concern etc, has achieved nothing at all, except the theft of yet more land and resources, a growing number of deaths on both sides and an indication that things will only get worse.

  • Jenny Tonge 2nd Jan '16 - 4:15pm

    What on earth does Carl Gardner think has been going on since 1967 except what he calls ‘sensible’ peacemaking? It has achieved nothing at all. The settlements have spread and expanded relentlessly and the natural resources which belong to Palestine have been stolen by the Israelis.
    If Carl and others had spent some time out there, instead of swallowing Israeli propaganda,, he might understand the sentiments of frustration and anger, expressed by David Ward and myself.
    This is a good move by the UK government, only if it is followed by action. It is URGENT before the whole area implodes.

  • Tomas Howard-Jones 2nd Jan '16 - 6:21pm

    Thank you John Kelly for bringing this news to our attention- The BBC hasn’t bothered to widely broadcast this story, instead leading with the murder of 2 people in Tel-Aviv a few days ago.
    The BBC and our mainstream media also haven’t mentioned much about Israeli military “humanitarian” assistance to Al Qaeda fighters, and other associated Islamist groups, or its military exercises in the Sheba’a Farms (Lebanese/ Syrian, occupied by Israel since 1973)
    Carl Gardner: Thank you for the gently-made point that LibDems ought to be very careful before giving “comment simply aimed at a hardening of the UK attitude towards Israel”, evoking Tonge, Ward and ‘Corbynism’- as warnings as to what happens to politicians who do. You’re right that pointing out injustices from Israel shouldn’t be done by the faint-hearted! However, Western govts gently remonstrating with Israel doesn’t make Israeli govts hesitate- it’s instead seen as passive agreement but with a diplomatic face-save for Arab govts.
    e.g. Southern Lebanon, occupied from 1978 until 2000. It wasn’t western govt mild remonstration which persuaded Israel to abandon that occupation!

  • Ryan McAlister 2nd Jan '16 - 7:49pm

    Have you spent time in Haifa, Jenny, and felt the palpable fear that you can smell when you board a bus? Or the the way people jump and cover in Tel Aviv while sitting in an outside cafe at so much as a loud exhaust passing by? Heard the air raid warnings? I have, and it was deeply sobering to see a functioning democracy forced to exist like that. If you had, you might understand the frustration and anger many Israeli’s feel when western Liberals pompously lecture them about their responsibilities as though they were the only people with blood on their hands.

    Israel’s actions with settler camps and appropriation are wrong. 100%. But your attempt to paint Israel as the only sinner is preposterous. We can start by looking at the “unity government” in Palestine, 50% made up of a party committed in it’s own charter to wiping Israel off the map. And people wonder why they are in no rush to negotiate?

  • Carl Gardner 2nd Jan ’16 – 1:42pm……………….I want an end to the settlements (and indeed removal of some of those that exist, as in Gaza) an agreed two-state solution, a Palestinian state, and peace. But I think achieving that is a complicated business, and doubt very much that the key is to welcome “a hardening of the UK attitude towards Israel”…………….

    “A complicated business”…That seems like an excuse to do nothing…Perhaps you might say what has been achieved in 50 years of “a complicated business” .
    In my opinion successive Israeli governments have had no intention of reaching any sort of equitable agreement. Why should they when year after year the The Palestinians are being systematically deprived of their human rights, land and homes…..
    If things continue as they are in a few decades Israel’s ‘Palestinian Problem’ will be history…..

  • Eddie Sammon 2nd Jan '16 - 10:42pm

    We need to stand up for the self-determination of Palestine, but it doesn’t help when they are represented by groups such as Hamas who hardly come across as democrats.

  • Tomas Howard-Jones 2nd Jan '16 - 11:08pm

    I appreciate that my last post’s casual comment on the IDF assisting Al Qaeda & other islamist fighters from Syria’s Civil War might cause discomfort, so I ought to back this up.

    A main yahoo newsfeed story a week or so ago consisted of an IDF PR- piece quoting grateful islamists singing the praises of Israeli humanitarian assistance & how israel wasn’t their enemy, and israeli military medics stating something like how it was good to make new friends. Unfortunately I can’t now find the story (from Haaretz?)

    This article seems to follow growing consternation from Israel’s Druze community of the IDF assisting the very same Queneitra/Golani rebels who publicly call for the extermination of the Syrian Druze, as explained in this Israeli blogger’s piece here:
    An excerpt:
    “UN observers stated that tents were set up about 300 meters from the Israeli position for some 70 families of Syrian deserters. The Syrian army sent a letter of complaint to UNDOF in September, claiming this tent camp was a base for “armed terrorists” crossing the border into Israel. The Syrians also warned that if the UN would not evacuate the tent camp, the Syrian army would view it as a legitimate target. UN peacekeepers have also written reports confirming this. Israel also shared intelligence and transferred weapons to al-Nusra Islamist rebels on the Golan border…’

  • Miranda Pinch 3rd Jan '16 - 9:09am

    Ryan, Have you been with and spoken to Palestinian women who are terrified both in their own homes and outside of it for their families, their children, their husbands and their elders? -. terrified of night and dawn raids that drag young children from their sleep and take them away to an abusive military system that leaves them too terrified to leave their homes and finish their education, what there is of both – terrified of that note left somewhere on their land or maybe blown away by the wind, telling them that their home will be demolished because they dared to extend it or renovate it or even to build it at all on their own land because Israel did not say they could – terrified that the settlers will burn their crops or cut down their trees or the IDF uproot their trees to make way for a settler only road or the widening of a settlement – terrified that their husbands leaving in the middle of the night to get to their work because of the checkpoints, the road blocks, the rarely opened agricultural gates with animals that may or may not get through, to land that they may or may not be able to till and with permits they may or may not get to keep and maybe they will never see them again when they are detained without charge or trial for indefinite periods………. Do I need to go on and on and on? Israel is occupying Palestine, not the other way round. Stop the occupation, withdraw from Palestinian Land and resources, give the Palestinians their freedom and their autonomy and then complain about the violence and the fear, because up until now the fear that Israel feels over the rising violence is down to Israel.

  • Jenny Tonge 3rd Jan '16 - 9:47am

    I have not been to Haifa Ryan but both in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv I have experienced the ‘palpable fear of Israelis living there, on the streets , in cafes and when driving aroun.do. I made the remark that Israel was like a gilded cage. No freedom there. They have to share the blame for that..
    Eddie, of course we need self determination for Palestine.
    In 2006 there were elections for a new PLA, supervised by the EU, to see that they were fair and properly conducted.
    The party representing Hamas won a resounding victory, 75 seats to Fatah’s 45. The great promoters of democracy in the West including the UK, REFUSED to let Hamas form a government because the wrong party had won, just like the more recent Egyptian elections.
    I do not like religious parties of any sort but I love democracy and we must accept that the electorate should decide.
    Since 2006, holed up and isolated in Gaza, Hamas has become more ‘extreme’ but they have no connection with the barbarian, so called D’aesh, all they want is a Free Palestine, and 60 years already is a long time to wait!

  • I agree entirely with Miranda and Jenny is their response to Ryan McAllister.
    I would add that there is a tendency in British media and some sections of our own Party to treat the Palestine issue as one where there is good and bad on both sides. There is no good on the Israeli side at all – […]. They have ethnically cleansed hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes, they will not return to the Green Line i.e. 1967 borders and they perpetuate an abhorrent system of apartheid. I recently saw the play “Handbagged” about Margaret Thatcher and was reminded how she supported the Apartheid government of South Africa up to the end, firmly believing that Mandela was a terrorist and that the ANC would cause a bloodbath if it took power. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said on more than one occasion that the situation for Palestinians is worse than it was for black people in South Africa under Apartheid. Western Governments, like ours, that support and defend Israel most of the time (i.e. let them get away with it) are complicit in this dreadful system.

  • Dave Orbison 3rd Jan '16 - 11:01am

    Miranda I fully agree with you. I warched an Australian TV documentary on the plight of Palestinian children as young as 5yrs being snatched off the street by Israeli solders. It was barbaric and could not be justified by any civilised country. Of course any acts of terrorism by either side should be condemned. But the policy of the Israeli Govt in this regard should be seen for what is – State-sponsored terrorism.

  • @John Kelly
    “I would add that there is a tendency in British media and some sections of our own Party to treat the Palestine issue as one where there is good and bad on both sides. There is no good on the Israeli side at all – […].”

    I’m afraid you lose me completely there. There is plenty of good on the Israeli side, as evidenced by the large numbers of votes in elections given to people who support two-state solutions. Even Likud, negative force that they are, have nothing like the genocidal tendencies exhibited by Hamas (to great electoral success). I don’t think it’s remotely possible to move towards any kind of solution without recognition that there is good and bad on both sides. You can argue that Israel are by far the worse in terms of numbers killed and oppressed; but in terms of murderous intent rather than capability, it’s more the other way round.

  • Stuart – you are right to say there are many Israelis who voted for parties that support a two state solution and even many who would support equal rights for Palestinians in Israel. Sadly they are in a minority and the majority who voted for Netanyahu and some of his (even worse) right wing cabinet of Arab-haters.
    With regard to Hamas and its “murderous intent”, it does appear these days pragmatically to accept Israel’s right to exist but it would be helpful if it changed its charter. I am just as concerned about people in Netanyahu’s government who are committed to the effective destruction of Palestine. A few quotes from some of Netanyahu’s cabinet – including some from his own Likud Party show the extent of the problem.
    Zeev Elkin, Minister for Jerusalem, [Likud]:
    “There is no place for a Palestinian state, not in temporary borders and not in any other configuration.” (Arutz Sheva, 25/3/11)
    “For 20 years, we talked about what to give and why. Now the time has come for an entirely different discourse…This is our land, and it’s our right to apply sovereignty over it. Regardless of the world’s opposition, it’s time to do in Judea and Samaria what we did in [East] Jerusalem and the Golan.” (Times of Israel, 16/7/12)
    Uri Ariel, Minister of Agriculture [Tkuma faction, Jewish Home]:
    “There will be just one state between the Jordan River and the sea, and that is the State of Israel.” (Middle East Monitor, 30/5/14)
    “Anyone here today understands that the vision of two states is unrealistic and will never happen.” (Times of Israel, 25/8/13)
    Tzipi Hotovely, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs [Likud]:
    “This land is ours. All of it is ours. We expect as a matter of principle of the international community to recognize Israel’s right to build homes for Jews in their homeland, everywhere.” (The Guardian, UK, 22/5/15)
    “We need to demand sovereignty over all of Judea and Samaria, and nothing less than that.” (Times of Israel, 16/7/12)

    In the ideal world Palestinians and Israelis will elect liberal democratic governments with peaceful intent. That seems unlikely any time soon so, in the meantime we should stop propping up illiberal, undemocratic governments with hostile intent.

  • John Kelly , I am surprised you think any progress can be made with language like “ethnic cleansing.” And to mention Archbishop Tutu defies belief . Can you imagine anyone in leadership or grassroots , amongst Palestinians, supporting a Truth and Reconcilliation Commission ?! Could you even back such a thing with the level of animosity towards Israel shown herein ?! Why can t people recognise the present and recent Israeli government s awfulness is not as it has always been or always will . There isn t a Tutu or a Mandela or a Helen Suzman in sight , alas . Nor a De Kleurk.

  • A Social Liberal 5th Jan '16 - 12:31am

    Jenny Tong speaks of the free and fair elections which were run where HAMAS. What he persistently fails to mention is the purge which went along with that win, where Fatah politicians were thrown from high buildings and clans which supported Fatah were driven out of the Gaza.

    Given that those elections were a mere ten years ago, when does Jenny suggest the next elections might be held and how would she encourage Fatah to risk murder and stand candidates?

  • AC Trussell 5th Jan '16 - 10:15am

    Lorenzo, You must not have seen the film showing the terrorism that Jews first committed during 1948, when they decided to ignore the UN, and just take what the bible say’s is theirs. Why do you think so many Palestinians fled for their lives.

  • The founding of Israel , A.C.Trussell, to respond , is complicated enough in it s historical context ,after the horrors of the worst holocaust ever ,without using phrases like ” ethnic cleansing .” To do so regarding 1948 is to insult a people who had been nearly exterminated ! Such language hurts the very cause it seeks to help . The pursuit of a Palestinian state will only succeed when the cause finds people of the sort I allude to in the South African context . They in South Africa could have constantly talked in such a way , they did not and they made things truly happen . Not only do both sides need to understand the other , they need to feel their pain , and therefore , stop the blame !

  • AC Trussell 5th Jan '16 - 5:45pm

    “The founding of Israel ” is the main problem. There was no such place. Using the fact that a great many people from a particular religion were ” nearly exterminated ! ” (you are using similar words to “ethnic cleansing”)- does not give all people that choose to follow that particular religion; the right to force people from their land; to occupy and steal the Palestinians home land.
    Do they/you expect the Palestinians to sit quietly in a corner and let them (Israelis) to continue humiliating them and stealing more and more land- without some sort of reaction.
    I’m sure that many people would do the same under similar circumstances.
    I would- wouldn’t you?
    I do recommend seeing the old b&w footage of what happened in 1948.
    Why do you have to use the words “the worst holocaust ever”- that was nothing to do with the Palestinians.

  • A Social Liberal 5th Jan '16 - 8:17pm

    AC Trussel

    “Why do you think so many Palestinians fled for their lives”.

    They ran because their leaders, civic and religious, told them that they would be massacred by Jewish soldiers. They left the area because propaganda from Trans Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Iraq said that they should flee but they were not to worry, once the combined armies of the Arab League had wiped out the Jewish people they could go back to their homes.

  • AC Trussell 6th Jan '16 - 11:09am

    A Social Liberal.
    You may well be right about the warnings, but the footage I saw from a documentary – I think it was called “The Nakba” (catastrophe) on Aljezeera, showed – who they said were Jews, rampaging through houses setting fire and terrorising the people to flee for their lives. Apparently, they were the Jewish people that they had been living happily with for generations, they (Jewish neighbors) had interpreted the UN’s decision as permission to steal what they wanted.

  • John Kelly does his cause no good by a biased and one sided posting
    We want a Palestinian State existing alongside a secure Israel
    You don’t get it by denigrating Israel. John ignores,as usual, anything that doesn’t support his argument
    What about the 850,000 Jews who fled Arab lands of which about 600000ended up in Israel. What about the virtual removal of Jews from Arab lands, an apartheid of staggering proportions. What about the fact that population of Israel is 80% Jew( religious and secular) and 20% non Jew mainly Arab. What about that one of the largest parties in Knesset being the Arab List. What about the fact you can be an apostate in Israel, unlike many of its neighbours, without getting your head chopped off. What about Israel being the safest place for Christiians in the Region. What about safely being Gay in Israel which is impossible elsewhwre

  • A Social Liberal 6th Jan '16 - 1:29pm

    AC Trussell

    I suggest that the Arab League were not warning the arabs in the area but were in fact deliberately scared into leaving their homes, this as a strategy to bogging Israeli forces down in much the same way as the nazis drove european refugees, impairing allied logistics and withdrawals.

    I also suggest that the way the Israelis dealt with the Gaza can be demonstrated that in 1949, having captured the Gaza Strip from the Egyptians, they released it to the All Palestinian Government. At the same time the West Bank was annexed by [trans] Jordan. Ten years later, Egypt followed Trans Jordan and forcibly annexed the Gaza.

    Finally, I suggest that you do some reading round the subject rather than relying on the views of Al Jazeera, John Kelly or Baroness Tonge. If you are serious about gaining unbiased information might I recommend MidEastWeb, run by a group of people who are all for peace and reconciliation and a better understanding of BOTH sides of the argument.

  • AC Trussell 6th Jan '16 - 3:33pm

    A Social Liberal
    To rely on the bible for the truth- means I am wasting my time. Too many people are turning a blind eye to what is being done to the Palestinians, and resort to incredible lengths to support the terrible acts of the Israelis/Zionists. I know what I have seen and it’s not very nice. I suspect that empathy is in very short supply in “Israel”ex Palestine?

  • A Social Liberal 6th Jan '16 - 9:53pm

    AC Trussell

    Who mentioned the bible – except for yourself?

  • A Social Liberal 6th Jan '16 - 10:03pm

    I would go further AC Trussell. You talk of what has been done to the Palestinians, but blithely ignore what the Palestinians have done to innocent Israelis. School buses blown up, universities bombed amongst numerous other terrorist atrocities.

    Israel is not without blame, but the Israelis have the right to exist in Israel and until Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the other terrorist organisations go the same way as Fatah I would prefer no-one to have any truck with them

  • AC Trussell 7th Jan '16 - 1:43pm

    A Social Liberal,
    All that you say; come AFTER the initial “crime”. Followed by multiple “crimes” after that.
    I suppose after many decades; patience runs out!. I don’t condone the actions. But it seems that the Israelis will do terrible things to take their “imagined” land, so I suppose it is natural for the Palestinians to do the same for their actual land.
    Re your question:
    It was you that said I should look at “MidEastWeb”. In it you will find . :
    “According to the Bible, Moses led the Israelites, or a portion of them, out of Egypt. Under Joshua, they conquered the tribes and city states of Canaan. Based on biblical traditions, it is estimated that king David conquered Jerusalem about 1000 B.C. and established an Israelite kingdom over much of Canaan including parts of Transjordan.” -and so on; part of the basis for all the troubles!
    (I wouldn’t be surprised to find the web-site is paid for by AIPAC- Israel)
    That aside, facts are hard to find. I watched a series on the BBC (is that company ok?) I recommend you watch this. It was by a Greek woman-I forget her name; but she is a very experienced archaeologist. It showed that practically all the claims by the Israelis have no proof archaeologically.
    The Israeli’s have spent millions- in not billions of $s, trying prove the Bible, to very little evidence.
    The discussion is: “UN tells Israel to stop taking Palestinian resources”. These are further, continuing crimes, which will lead to further reactions, because there is little else they (Palestinians) can do!
    I really don’t understand why you can’t see what I can- perhaps we should leave it at that, and watch (as the rest of the world seems to) the slow destruction of Palestine and all it’s people; as has happened to other people’s -and their land, in the past.
    I don’t think so!

  • Miranda Pinch 9th Jan '16 - 11:05am

    May I suggest that those in this thread who do not seem to grasp the seriousness of the injustice of Israel towards the Palestinians, watch the second half of this very good film shown on BBC 2 in December. It is not about the formation of Israel, though reference is made to that, but is about the 67 war and consists of soldier’s testimonies about that war. Many were shocked at the carnage and murder of innocent Palestinian civilians just trying to flee who were just shot in cold blood. There is plenty of evidence that similar things happened in 1948 and I direct you to the book by Elias Chacour , a Palestinian Christian, entitled Blood Brothers which describes how Palestinian villages were destroyed so that the Palestinians could not return to them. They only left in the first place because the Israeli army told them to or threatened them and promised they could return. The argument about returning still rumbles on to this day for the village of Birin in Northern Israel. The church still stands there and the remaining villagers are still fighting to return to what remains of the bombed village from 1948. There is a great deal of evidence about all this and I also direct you to http://zochrot.org/ which is an Israeli site that tells you a great deal more…

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