UN free speech expert concerned with Israel, Palestinians

During a debate at the Human Rights Council on Tuesday, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression expressed concern with recent attempts to limit criticism of Israel’s occupation. He also referred to his apprehension over the prosecution of Uri Blau and the adoption of laws criminalizing the commemoration of Israeli independence day as a day of mourning, questioning of Israel as a Jewish state and prohibition of boycotts of Israeli products and those produced in the settlements in the West Bank. He said that the ability of individuals in the West Bank to express themselves is limited by the IDF who use excessive force to disperse protesters.

In Gaza, the Rapporteur was concerned by the use of force of Gaza security forces against those expressing opinions deemed unacceptable to the de facto authority. Egypt agreed with his report on Palestine and Israel.

Palestine called for an end to the occupation and for the establishment of the Palestinian state. They referred to the Israeli occupation as “the most flagrant violation of human rights.” They call on Israel to comply with international law and put an end to occupation of Palestine.

The president gave the floor to the other concerned country, Israel, but noted that, “unfortunately, Israel is not present in the room and therefore cannot speak.” (Israel told the UNHRC recently that they will not be participating at its sessions.)

AP quoted Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor saying “We remain totally committed to freedom of speech for all, and we will examine very closely the recommendations with the aim of making whatever improvements may be necessary.” At the same time, Hamas called the report “slander.”

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