UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk on Friday alleged that Israeli authorities had committed several illegal acts [press release] in the Palestinian territories [UNICEF backgrounder] since the start of the year, making the prospect of a viable Palestinian state unlikely. These events include the killing of four Palestinians by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) [official website], all of which were not justified according to Falk, and the demolition of the Shepherd Hotel [Economist report] in East Jerusalem in order to build more Jewish settlements [B'Tselem backgrounder]. The settlements, according to Falk, were part of an "accelerating pattern in Jerusalem that consists of shifting the demographic balance to reinforce Israeli claims to control permanently the entire city," thereby making Palestinian claims for an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital impossible. Falk explained the significance of these events:
Together these events demonstrate a general and unacceptable Israeli disposition to use excessive force against Palestinians, who are already suffering from prolonged occupation. It is impossible to separate this pattern of excessive use of force against Palestinians from the indiscriminate use of force against civilians in Israel's larger occupation policy, as illustrated by the cruel punitive blockade that has been imposed on the people of Gaza for more than three years and by the illegal manner in which Israel carried out attacks for three weeks on the defenseless population of Gaza two years ago. It is time for the international community to step in and offer this long vulnerable Palestinian population protection against the violence perpetrated by Israeli authorities.Falk went on to call for the international community to take steps to protect Palestinians from Israeli forces.
Israel has faced ongoing criticism from the UN and international human rights groups for its action in the Palestinian territories, which have been under Israeli military control since 1967. In June, Israeli human rights group B'Tselem [advocacy website] released its annual report [JURIST report], noting an advancement in the rights of Palestinians, but calling for greater improvement. The report found that fatalities had declined by 80 percent compared to the previous year, and the quality of life had improved in the West Bank. The report called on Israel to dismantle all settlements, saying that merely halting new settlements is insufficient. The rights organization also chided Israeli security forces for not adequately protecting Palestinians from violence at the hands of Israelis, criticizing a "history of leniency" against the perpetrators of that violence. In March, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank "illegal" [JURIST report], and supported a plan by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad [BBC profile] to build the institutions of an independent state by 2011.