Now is the ‘time to act’ against attacks launched by Israel on Palestinians, an official from Palestine said Thursday while addressing an international human rights conference in Istanbul.
Palestinian Deputy Foreign Minister Omar Awadallah called out Israel for its occupation and settler colonialism.
“Israel is not a democracy but an apartheid regime … a colonial regime,” he said. “This regime should be demolished because Israel is engaged in the demolition of Palestinian houses, illegal killings, persecuting Palestinians,” Awadallah told the two-day conference which discussed human rights violations faced by Muslims.
Day two of the conference, jointly hosted by Turkiye’s justice and foreign ministries and the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), specifically debated the situation in Palestine and occupied territories.
Awadallah said Palestinians are “not a minority but are the owners of their land and indigenous people living in Palestine.”
“Attacks on our people is not because they are Muslims but because they are Palestinians,” he said.
The holiest place for Muslims, Al Quds, or Jerusalem, “is under attack,” he said, citing attacks by settlers last May.
“Such attacks are aimed to cut the ties between Palestinians and Al Quds Al Sharif,” he warned, calling it an “alarming issue.”
“It is an attempt to make a religious war between Muslims and Jews and (Israel) is trying to eliminate the presence of Christians from Palestine,” he said.
Awadallah said crimes committed by Israel have “one intention: to displace and replace Palestinians by terrorist settlers.”
“A minimum demography of Palestinians with maximum geography for Jews,” he said.
He said it is the responsibility of the international community and the Muslim bloc to resist any “imposed change on the historic Jerusalem.”
The Palestinian official urged the international community to “hold those people accountable for biased reports on human rights especially whitewashing Israeli crimes.”
Awadallah said his government was using two tracks to challenge Israeli aggression: “political and legal tracks.”
But he said Palestinians only receive “good statements with no action.”
“We can do a lot together to help Palestinians in confronting the illegal settlements,” he said.
He said the Muslim bloc and the larger international community should “not recognize any Israel’s illegal actions in occupied territories.”
Awadallah called on Muslim nations to impose sanctions and an embargo on products from illegal Israeli settlements.
“Enlist Israeli terrorist settlers and settler groups on the list of terrorism, whether domestic or international,” he suggested.
Support legal course against Israel
Taha Ayhan, president of the Islamic Cooperation Youth (ICYF), suggested strengthening the legal course against Israel for crimes committed against Palestinians.
“The road to justice is a demanding one and it is my hope that we can all find a common cause and shared ground,” he said, referring to activities by the Istanbul-based ICYF regarding Palestine, including engaging legal experts.
Stressing documentation and proper argumentation based on international law, he suggested third-party countries hold trials against Israeli aggression.
The commissioner of the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC), Ahmad Azam, told the conference that Palestine “is the mother of all issues” in the Muslim world.
“Until and unless we solve Palestine, all our issues will remain unsolved, it has to be done within the spirit of our Muslimness.”
But said he regretted that the 57 OIC members “are focusing on their national interests.”
“There are a few countries that are trying to create policies within the framework of the Muslim ummah,” he said.
Lauding Turkiye for its concern about the issues in the Muslim world, the Malaysian expert said, “this country needs our support and now Pakistan is also coming forward in this regard.”
He warned that if the OIC fails to solve the issue, “Muslim youth may lean toward radicalism and extremism.”
Azam said the two unprecedented events in the Muslim world in the recent past, including in Afghanistan and Nagorno Karabagh, have affected the Muslim youth.
“The OIC is not doing anything about Afghanistan as none of the 57 members are ready to recognize the new government and have put a lot of conditions as given by the West,” he said, referring to the return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan after 20 years of war.
“Our youth are also looking at Azerbaijan which ended the occupation of Nagorno-Karabagh in 44 days of war,” he said.
‘Wake up to the reality’
Urging the OIC to “wake up to the reality,” Azam said there is no justification in blaming the “youth if they take the route of radicalism and extremism” because “of our inaction.”
Rizwan Saeed Sheikh, Pakistan’s ambassador to the OIC, intervened and said the Muslim bloc “cannot take any military action” as “it is a political organization.”
Lauding the IPHRC for its “body of work on Palestine, Kashmir and Rohingya,” Rizwan said there “are variants and options available.”
“We have to work with our counterpart organizations taking the rights approach,” he said, assuring that after Pakistan takes the chair of the OIC next month, “we will offer the IPHRC not just cooperation but coordination and will work on specific actions as pointed out in this conference.”
He said while Pakistan’s top leadership has promised “to not even have any intention to recognize Israel,” his office will be working closely with IPHRC commissioners and other officials and “would be actively seeking their recommendations,” suggesting testimonies from victims of aggressions should be done and hearings held by commissioners.
“There is no reason to lose hope in terms of the political effort as individual nations have taken and are taking actions,” he stressed.
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