"Over the past 20 years since the Oslo Accords were signed, we have seen the continued reduction of Palestinian sovereignty over their legitimate territory,” Richard Falk told a forum at Sydney University on September 19.
“Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and elsewhere are consigned to a permanent never-never land. The oppression of the Palestinians by Israel over the past decades is one of the most unspeakable denials of human rights in the world today.”
Falk is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, and a leading legal academic from the US.
Several hundred people attended the forum, called "The Palestinian Struggle for Self-Determination and the Ordeal of Occupation”, and co-sponsored by the Sydney Peace Foundation and the Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine.
Falk said: "The continuous expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank clearly abrogates international law. The Israeli separation wall should be immediately dismantled and reparations paid to the Palestinian people.
"The most serious deficiency in the Oslo framework was the lack of acceptance of the Palestinian right to self-determination. Since then, we have seen the increasing influence of right-wing settlers in Israeli politics.
"Israel has effectively succeeded in excluding international law from the current peace process. Moreover, the US, Israel's strongest backer, is being presented as an 'intermediary' in the process.
"Now, even Palestinian requests to suspend expansion of the settlements during the talks are described as 'disrupting' the process. All this allows Israel to try to shift blame onto the Palestinians for any 'failure' of the peace talks, falsely claiming it has 'no partner for peace' in the process!
"The current peace negotiations are a bridge to nowhere," Falk explained. "What we have is not really 'occupied' Palestinian territories, but creeping annexation, including the slow-motion ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem.
"Where does all this lead. There is a growing disillusionment in international diplomacy as a path to peace.
"The Palestinians are turning away from violent forms of resistance to a strategy of peaceful resistance. This has led to a 'legitimacy war' as the centre of the struggle. The whole world has become an arena of struggle in this war of legitimacy.
"This has led to the Palestinians relying on 'coercive, non-violent tactics,' such as the BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] campaign. This is a new version of the anti-apartheid movement against South Africa.
"The Palestinians are winning this war of legitimacy, and the Israelis are worried about it. There is growing public awareness internationally of the victimisation of the Palestinians and Israeli intransigence.
"Although the Palestinians have suffered this unspeakable ordeal over many years, their spirit has not been extinguished. Their creative capacity is remarkable.”
Falk concluded: "This must give us confidence that in the end a just and sustainable peace will emerge. We must follow the logic of conviction on this.”
A lively discussion period followed, taking up questions of international law, the BDS campaign and many other issues.