UN slams new anti-Palestinian law

Issue 

Palestinian girls walk past the rubble of a destroyed building in the aftermath of last year's July-August Israeli bombing of Gaza.

The recent introduction of controversial laws by Israel, including 20-year jail sentences for stone throwers and the authorisation of force-feeding Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike, would worsen an “already-precarious human rights situation”, the United Nations warned on August 19.

Touching on the recent firebomb attack by Jewish extremists on a Palestinian home in the occupied West Bank, which killed 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh and his father Saad Dawabsheh, the UN political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman said the expansion of Israel's illegal settlements in the Palestinian territories was to blame.

“Such violence is possible because of the environment created as a result of Israel's decades-long policy of illegal settlement activities,” Feltman said in his briefing to the 15-member Security Council on the situation in the Middle East.

Israel, however, has long ignored calls to stop the settlement expansion in Palestinian territories, which has hindered the creation of a Palestinian state based on the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Feltman also criticised a recent surge in “administrative detention”, which allows Israeli security forces to detain Palestinians indefinitely without charge or trial.

The policy has come under scrutiny as detainees embarked on lengthy hunger strikes that jeopardised their health. The international attention given to these cases forced Israel to release the hunger strikers.

Instead of ending the practice of administrative detention, which is illegal under international law, the Israeli parliament last month approved a bill that would allow authorities to force-feed hunger strikers.

Medical associations in Israel spoke out against the measure, with many doctors and medical professionals refusing to force-feed prisoners.

“Careful consideration should be placed on addressing the underlying human rights concerns which lead prisoners to such extreme protests, including prolonged administrative detention,” Feltman said.

Last month, the Israeli parliament also approved a bill that would allow up to 20-year sentences against Palestinians who throw stones at Israeli soldiers enforcing the occupation of the West Bank.

The UN senior official warned Israel that such penalties are “likely to affect children disproportionately”.

“The risk of escalation in Israel and Palestine is palpable,” Feltman said.

[Abridged from TeleSUR English.]

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