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Arab Americans Shocked at US Opposition to Conference on Enforcing the Geneva Convention

Washington, DC, Feb. 10 — The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee expresses its shock and dismay at the opposition of the United States to an upcoming conference on Israeli violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Plans for the conference were approved by the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, with only the U.S.A. and Israel voting “no” in a vote of 115-2.
Among the most serious Israeli violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention are its settlement activities in the Occupied Territories. The Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, article 49, specifies that “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territories it occupies.” U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 clearly refers to the lands seized by Israel in the 1967 war, including the West Bank, Gaza, and east Jerusalem, as territories under occupation.
Israel’s extensive settlement activities, which have been on a steady increase of late, in the West Bank and east Jerusalem are clearly a flagrant violation of the terms of the Geneva Convention and an abuse of the civilian population which the Geneva Convention is supposed to protect.
These settlements have been widely recognized, including by previous U.S. administrations as not only unlawful and abusive, but also a major obstacle to peace. Defending its opposition to enforcement of this basic human rights document, Clinton administration officials have turned morality on its head, arguing that, when it comes to protecting Palestinians, attempts to stop human rights abuses constitute the threat to peace. U.S. representatives even claim that enforcing Geneva Convention protections would not “improve the lot” of the Palestinian people, and that such enforcement would “prejudice negotiations,” which suggests that Palestinians are expected to negotiate away rights contained in the Geneva Convention. The U.S. government’s opposition to the conference takes its one-sided approach to the Middle East conflict to a new level. By seeking to exempt Israel from its obligations under international law and deprive Palestinians of basic human rights protections, the Clinton administration finds itself out of touch with the will of the international community, out of touch with the demands of a genuine peace in the Middle East, and out of touch with minimal standards of morality.