Global Campus of Human Rights Statement on the Recent Events in Israel and Palestine

As members of the Global Campus of Human Rights community, we are witnessing the ongoing conflict and massive human suffering in Palestine and Israel with horror and dismay. We express profound empathy and solidarity with victims on all sides of the conflict, whomever they may be. Being resolutely committed to international human rights and humanitarian law, we categorically and without reservation denounce any and all gross human rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law in the unfolding conflict. As a network of more than 100 universities in all world regions engaged in human rights education, we are particularly concerned about the recent raid of one of our member universities, Birzeit University in Ramallah, the arrest of 32 of its Palestinian students since 7 October, and the negative effects on our Arab Master in Democracy and Human Rights based in Lebanon, where students and professors are increasingly afraid to participate in person and have partly left the country, as well as the exposure of children in Gaza who are part of our Child Leadership Team to unimaginable deprivation and distress. We are also concerned about the conflict’s polarising effects around the world, witnessing an increase in expressions of antisemitism and islamophobia and excessive restrictions of freedom of speech and assembly in many countries worldwide. We express solidarity with all our professors, staff, students and graduates who are directly affected or have friends and family members among victims at either side of the conflict.

We are appalled by the suffering of Palestinian civilians as a result of Israel’s military response to the atrocities perpetrated on its territory on 7 October 2023. This has by the time of writing the present statement led to the death of more than 11,000 innocent individuals, more than 4,000 of whom are children. It has further led to a massive dislocation of the population of Gaza, to an unprecedented loss of livelihood and property, to lack of access to essential necessities of life and medical treatment and to continuous anxiety and traumatisation.

Israel is in this context clearly in breach of its obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law. As substantiated by evidence furnished by the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and as expressly stated by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, ‘the collective punishment by Israel of Palestinian civilians amounts also to a war crime, as does the unlawful forcible evacuation of civilians.’ There is, moreover, mounting evidence that Israel’s military actionsin Gaza, and notably the relentless air strikes against urban areas that entail unspeakable civilian casualties, are in violation of the principle of proportionality under international humanitarian law. We are shocked that more than 100 staff workers of the UN Relief and Work Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), who continue to provide life-saving humanitarian emergency assistance to Palestinian refugees in Gaza, have been killed. We are also alarmed by recent reports of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) about the rapidly deteriorating situation of hospitals and other health care facilities in Gaza as well as the destruction of schools, mosques and churches. The specific record in this regard will have to be determined in subsequent investigations and legal proceedings, holding perpetrators to account.

Beyond the atrocities in Gaza, we observe with alarm that Israeli settlers in the Palestinian West Bank are seizing the armed conflict as an opportunity for further illegal land grabs. This is in blatant violation of international law and existing international agreements and only serves to further subvert the possibility of any future peace. Such actions are shamefully being condoned and in several instances even supported by the current Israeli government.

On the side of Hamas, extremely brutal crimes against humanity were committed on an extensive scale in the 7 October attacks that have instigated the current wave of conflict. We are outraged at the cruelty displayed in the cold blooded murder of up to 1,200 innocent Israeli and foreign civilians, including children and young people attending a cultural event, and in particular at the shameless and ostentatious perpetration of sexual violence in attacks on civilians, which has garnered surprisingly limited attention by international observers otherwise committed to upholding international human rights and taking a firm stance against any form of sexual violence in armed conflict.

Hamas is continuously violating international humanitarian law by holding more than 200 individuals, mostly civilians, hostage and by systematically employing human shielding and the military use of protected civilian sites (notably hospitals) for military purposes. There is recurrent evidence of Hamas actively barring vulnerable civilians from escaping immediate exposure to harm. The persistent cynical instrumentalisation of Palestinian suffering shows that Hamas is not only killing Israeli civilians but also shows no respect for the lives of Palestinian civilians living under their control. This is a profoundly disturbing feature of the conflict that must be categorically condemned by anyone committed to upholding universal human rights and the rights of Palestinians to a life in dignity.

In reacting to the unfolding humanitarian disaster, we call upon the involved parties and implicated international actors to be decisively oriented towards establishing conditions for a possible future just and dignified coexistence of the inhabitants of Israel and Palestine. As foreseen already in UNGA resolution 194 of 11 December 1948 (the day after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), the international community’s indispensable commitment must be to inhabitants on both sides ‘wishing to... live at peace with their neighbours'. Any attempt at rationalising and implicitly or explicitly justifying breaches of established standards of international human rights and humanitarian law is detrimental to such a future-oriented peace-building process, as are government-condoned land-grabbing actions by Jewish settlers and Israel’s continued demeaning and systematic undermining of Palestinian self-rule in both Gaza and the West Bank. Equally abhorrent is the avowed intent of Hamas, as affirmed in its founding and revised Covenants, to dispel Jews and eradicate the State of Israel and, in this spirit, to oppose and undermine any Palestinian groups and authorities seeking to chart a peaceful forward-looking path. Such polarising dynamics on both sides must be categorically condemned in honour of the far, far too many victims of human rights abuses, crimes against humanity and war crimes in the ongoing conflict.

In addition to the recent call by the UN Security Council in Resolution 2712 of 15 November for ‘extended humanitarian pauses and corridors’, the “release of all hostages held by Hamas and other groups” and the demand on “all parties to refrain from depriving the civilian population in Gaza of basic services and aid”, the Global Campus calls for a comprehensive and immediate peace conference under the auspices of the United Nations aimed at finding a lasting peace in Israel, Palestine and the broader region.

Venice, 22 November 2023

Senior Management and Council of the Global Campus of Human Rights

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