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EU Human Rights Envoy: Israel Is Failing to Investigate and Stop Settler Attacks on Palestinians

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The European Union’s Special Representative for Human Rights says Israel needs to do more to investigate and stop attacks by Israeli settlers in the occupied territories against Palestinian civilians. In a conversation with Haaretz at the end of his three-day visit to Israel and the West Bank, special representative Eamon Gilmore said that he had urged Israeli officials to act on this issue but did not sound optimistic about the future.

“I raised it with Israeli officials, and I’m waiting for more information,” Gilmore said. “There is a gap between the number of incidents and the number of investigations that take place.” Gilmore, who was Ireland’s foreign minister a decade ago, has been the EU’s human rights czar since 2019, and his four-year term has recently been extended until February 2024. Israeli officials view him as a tough critic from his days as Irish foreign minister and also in his current EU position. In 2021, for example, he strongly objected to Israel’s labeling of six Palestinian NGOs as terror entities.

Gilmore emphasized settler violence and the “need for accountability” in the occupied territories as one of his biggest concerns arising from this visit, his first to the region since 2021. Another major concern he mentioned was the continuing rise in the number of civilian casualties as a result of lethal force used by the Israeli military.

“There was a large number of civilian deaths in 2022, and the same trajectory is continuing so far in 2023,” he said. During his visit, the case of Mohammed Tamimi, a Palestinian toddler who was shot to death by the military in the village of Nabi Saleh, made local and international headlines. Gilmore said he is worried about the “clear trend” seen in the data in recent months of a growing number of civilian casualties, and stressed again the need for investigations and “accountability” in every such case.

In response to a question about any possible connection between the continuing civilian casualty numbers and the rise of Israel’s far-right, Gilmore clarified that he “is not commenting about the make-up of any government” and expects the Israeli government to protect human rights and investigate any violations, “regardless of who is in power.”

Haaretz also asked him if he saw any connection between the Netanyahu government’s plan to weaken the judicial system in Israel, and the human rights situation in the country, to which he replied that the judicial overhaul is “an issue for Israelis to resolve,” but that “a strong and independent court system” was important for the protection of civil and human rights everywhere. He added that he had visited the Israeli Supreme Court during the trip and was briefed by one of the justices.

Gilmore said he was glad that the Israeli government, following diplomatic pressure from the U.S. and Europe, delayed the vote on the controversial law targeting NGOs that receive support from foreign governments. “I’m not aware of any other democratic country that has the kind of system proposed in that legislation,” he noted. The bill required a 65% taxation level on all foreign-government donations to NGOs in Israel. Gilmore stressed the importance of a “strong and independent civil society” and said that it’s an issue he raised both in Jerusalem and Ramallah during his visit.

Israelis often complain that human rights watchdogs, whether NGOs or government-appointed envoys like Gilmore, often target Israel for criticism and ignore human rights violations on the Palestinian side. Gilmore told Haaretz this was completely false, and noted that in his meetings with Palestinian officials, he raised issues such as women’s rights in Palestinian society, protecting freedom of speech, allowing the operation of civil society groups that criticize the government, “and ultimately the need to hold elections” as well.

For Israeli officials, one surprising result of the trip was a tweet Gilmore had published on his official account after visiting the Tel Aviv pride parade on Thursday. Speaking with rainbow-flag carrying marchers in the background, Gilmore shared his location and spoke about the EU’s commitment to protecting LGBT rights everywhere. “For a visit by a critical diplomat who usually highlights all of our shortcomings, this was a pleasant and unexpected thing,” said an Israeli diplomatic source.

Article link:
Article source: Haaretz | Amir Tibon | Jun 11, 2023

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000

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