NGO Monitor Statement to the ICESCR Committee
Delivered by NGO Monitor Legal Advisor Anne Herzberg
The Institute for NGO Research would like to call attention to the following areas of concern regarding the Palestinian Authority’s Compliance with the Convention.
Before detailing specifics, however, we were disturbed to see that the PA’s comments and submissions to the Committee appear to excuse or diminish the PA’s obligations under the Convention due to the ongoing armed conflict with Israel and control of Gaza by Hamas. More than 95% of the Palestinian population falls under the control of the Palestinian Authority and therefore under its jurisdiction and responsibility pursuant to the Convention. This jurisdiction and responsibility also includes Gaza. It is important, therefore, that the Committee does not give the PA a pass on compliance with its obligations under the Convention while shifting blame onto others. The Committee is tasked with upholding the human rights as specified by the Convention. It should not indulge excuses for noncompliance by the PA.
Article 1 of the Convention mandates that states’ parties must respect and honor the right to self-determination of all peoples. Article 2 of the Convention requires that State Parties eliminate all forms of discrimination. And Article 10 requires special protection for the rights of children.
Unfortunately, the PA is not living up to these commitments. For decades the PA has engaged in a rampant campaign of antisemitic and anti-Israel incitement. This campaign of incitement is endemic throughout Palestinian society and is especially aimed at inculcating hatred within many generations of Palestinian children. Palestinian incitement undergirds the ongoing armed conflict with Israel and is responsible for countless deaths of both Palestinians and Israelis. It also underlies the extensive recruitment and use of Palestinian children as combatants. Any review of the PA’s compliance with the Convention must address this issue in depth. Failure to do so will represent a significant lapse in evaluating the PA’s adherence to and compliance with the Convention.
The PA floods Palestinian society with racist and antisemitic messages, encouraging participation in violence, and heroicizing those who engage in antisemitism and extreme violence. This program emphasizes the targeting of civilians. The PA also rewards via its “pay to slay” policy those who commit violence (including children) with cash payments. The greater the crime and the more victims injured or killed, the more money received. More than $300 million of humanitarian aid intended for social programs is diverted annually for this perverse scheme.
The campaign of discrimination and incitement begins from birth and continues throughout the entire life of a Palestinian. It takes place through state media, schools (including those run by UNWRA), youth groups and centers, sporting and cultural events, unions, and civil society programming in both the West Bank and Gaza. The PA glorifies child terrorists, encouraging other youth to follow their example. For instance, the PA named a school football tournament after a 13-year-old who stabbed and almost killed a 13-year-old Israeli boy. Such naming teaches children poor role modeling.
The ruling Fatah party’s Tanzim and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades recruit and use children as combatants. Many other organizations in and members of the PA, the Palestinian Legislative Council, and the Palestine Liberation Organization are part of Palestinian terror groups such as Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the DFLP, and others. The PA routinely allows armed groups to recruit on school campuses under the guise of carrying out “social programs.” Such activity allows vulnerable children to be placed in contact with violent actors, placing them at risk for recruitment.
Under Article 12, the Convention mandates that states’ parties promote and protect the highest standards of physical health including protection of the environment and the prevention and amelioration of pollution.
The power struggle between the PA and Hamas has directly harmed Gaza’s health infrastructure, leading Palestinians to seek treatment in Israel. For many years, the PA has reduced “essential services” to Gaza leading to a shortage of essential drugs and the delaying of medical referrals and treatment outside Gaza. More than two million Gazans are impacted.
The PA’s zero-sum approach to its relations with Israel has also intensified during the Covid19 pandemic endangering the lives of millions of Palestinians. For example, the PA has rejected multiple shipments of medical aid from both Israel and the UAE and has even refused hundreds of thousands of doses of the Pfizer vaccine under spurious claims that the vaccines were expired (after the Palestinian refusal of the vaccines, South Korea gladly accepted them).
The PA has also rejected water desalinization projects and wastewater treatment infrastructure, in order to score political points against Israel rather than serve its own people. For nearly 10 years, the PA boycotted the Joint Water Committee mandated by the Oslo accords. Without the PA’s participation in the JWC, which requires joint Israeli and Palestinian approval, many life-saving projects were delayed Water transcends conflicts and political boundaries, yet, the PA has weaponized these issues in violation of the Convention.
In conclusion, we urge the Committee to call attention to the PA’s failures to uphold its commitments under the Convention and to end its on-going political warfare campaign against Israel that prioritizes zero-sum campaigns to demonize Israel at the expense of improving the lives of the Palestinian people. We call on the PA to stop exploiting children for these goals. And we also call on the Committee to address the on-going political infighting between the PA and Hamas has also resulted in human rights violations by both in violation of the Convention.