UN expert calls for ban on Israeli products from settlements

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. independent expert on human rights in the Palestinian territories called Wednesday for an international ban on all products made in Israeli settlements as a step to potentially end Israel's 52-year "illegal occupation."

Michael Lynk told the General Assembly's human rights committee that the international community should also issue "a clarion call to the United Nations" to complete and release a database "on businesses engaged in activities related to the illegal settlements."

Israel is deeply opposed to the Palestinian-led international boycott movement, which it views as an attack on its very existence. Supporters of the boycott say it is a non-violent way of protesting Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

Israel's Foreign Ministry declined to comment on Lynk's statement.

Lynk said the international community has a responsibility and a legal obligation to compel Israel to completely end its occupation and remove barriers to self-determination for the Palestinians.

He pointed to the severe humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which he called "a human-made catastrophe" and "an injustice that should be near the top of the world's agenda to end." He said the economic situation there "continues to move from dire to acute to unimaginable," with over half of Gaza's population "food insecure," the unemployment rate over 50%, and 70% of Gazans younger than 30 without work.

Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza after the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power in 2007, and the border closures coupled with mismanagement by Hamas authorities have devastated the territory's economy.

Lynk noted more than 200 Palestinians have been killed and over 33,000 wounded by Israeli fire at the Gaza-Israeli border since March 2018, when Hamas began organizing protests against the blockade.

The U.N. Commission of Inquiry's report to the Human Rights Council in March said virtually all the demonstrators killed were shot by Israeli soldiers, calling that a violation of the international law requiring those fighting to distinguish between combatants and civilians. The report also faulted Hamas for its role in the clashes.

Israel, which strongly criticized the report, says its army is defending the country's border against violent infiltration attempts and accuses Hamas of using the large crowds as cover to carry out attacks.

"Israel has demonstrated virtually no accountability to address these actions," Lynk said.

Lynk, who is a Canadian law professor, said Israel's occupation of territory the Palestinians want for their own state has been characterized by numerous and serious violations of international law, but "the international community has displayed great unwillingness to impose any meaningful accountability on Israel."

As examples, he cited Israel's failure to comply with its obligation to implement Security Council resolutions such as a 1979 demand for a complete end of Israeli settlements and a 2016 call to "immediately and completely cease all settlement activities" in occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of their independent state.

Lynk also referred to four reports commissioned by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council that found serious rights violations by Israel, including during the 2008-2009 and 2014 Gaza conflicts, protests at the Gaza-Israel border, and in Israeli settlement building.

"No occupation in the modern world," Lnyk said, "has been conducted with the international community so alert to its many grave breaches of international law, so knowledgeable about the occupier's obvious and well-signaled intent to annex and establish permanent sovereignty, so well-informed about the scale of suffering and dispossession endured by the protected population under occupation, and yet so unwilling to act upon the overwhelming evidence before it to employ the tangible and plentiful legal and political tools at its disposal to end the injustice."

He called for "bold measures and the determination to enforce accountability," starting with an international agreement on "a complete ban on the export of all products made in the illegal Israeli settlements in the world market."

"Accountability is the key to unlocking the titanium cage that is the endless occupation," he said. "Now is the time for the international community to turn the key."

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