Reports & Researches

Final Statement of the Legal Seminar Held in Beirut under the Title “International Law and Crimes of the Israeli Occupation in Jerusalem”

The Palestinian Association for Human Rights (Witness) held on 15/10/2015 a legal seminar entitled "International Law and Crimes of the Israeli Occupation in Jerusalem.” The seminar brought together a select of Arab experts in international law and those interested in the Palestinian issue and the Arab-Israeli conflict. The seminar was held in Lancaster Hotel in Beirut and moderated by Mr. Saleh Armouti, former head of Jordan's Bar Association.

The one-day seminar comprised three sessions and discussed three working papers primarily aiming at studying the current legal status of Jerusalem and presenting a legal assessment of the ongoing developments in the city. It also aimed at exploring the Palestinian and Jordanian position vis-à-vis Jerusalem, studying the possibility of benefitting from legal opportunities on the Arab and international levelin addition to establishing an advisory body that would be concerned with presenting legal opinion meant to rectify legal performance regarding Jerusalem.


The following closing statement was issued at the end of the seminar:


Greetings and respect to the resistance and resilience of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories, especially in Jerusalem, and to the Murabitoun and Murabitatin Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The issue of Jerusalem has been the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict since Israel occupied the western part of the city in 1948 and then its eastern part in 1967 while granting itself, as an occupying power, wide legislative, executive and judicial authorities thus violating the temporary nature of military occupation as provided for in the 1907 Hague Regulations and the 1949 Geneva Convention. It also violated the principle which stipulates that the occupying power cannot establish any national, economic or social benefits not necessitated by security need. Ultimately, Israel was able through its arbitrary plansand practices to pursue a fait accompli policy and change Jerusalem facet in serious contravention of UN resolutions in addition to other resolutions adopted by international bodies and conferences that confirmed the applicability of Geneva Convention to the occupied territories. Despite clear international position towards Jerusalem, Israel’s policy of Judaization and expanded settlement has increased and its arbitrary practices continue to threaten Al-Aqsa Mosque with temporal and spatial division parallel to targeting Jerusalemites with harsh punitive measures.

Israel’s continued targeting of the sanctity of the holy sites in Jerusalem,as well as in other Palestinian occupied territories, and its aggression on worshippers and preventing them from reaching holy sites and praying there constitute a flagrant violation of freedom of worship and the right to practice religious rites as guaranteed by international laws and conventions, especially by the International Convention of Human Rights. Israel’s practices also constitute a violation of Article 53 of the 1977 Protocol I additional to the Geneva Convention which prohibits committing any acts of hostility directed against the historic monuments, works of art or places of worship which constitute the cultural or spiritual heritage of peoples. In addition, Israel’s practices fall within the scope of Article 8(b) of the 1998 Basic Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) which stipulates that intentionally attacking buildingsdedicated for religious purposes is a war crime.

Israel’s ongoing violation of the freedom of worship and access to holy sites for Muslims and Christians in occupied Jerusalem and limiting freedom of movement to Jews and allowing them to reach Al-Buraq Wall without restrictions or obstacles is a form of racial discrimination. Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights have reiterated the right of every individual to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and the right to practice religious rites whether individually or in community with others. Thus, the question is raised here regarding the responsibility for breaching the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque from an international law perspective in terms of the special rules it has embraced regarding the protection of places of worship during armed conflict or military occupation.

The foreign affairs committee at UNESCO's executive board adopted in April 2015 a resolution that reaffirms the definition of Al-Aqsa Mosque as the entire sacred complex surrounding it. The resolution, submitted by Jordan and Palestine and supported by the Arab and Muslim group, also confirmsthat Bab al-Magharbeh is an indivisible part of Al-Aqsa. Ultimately, the conduct of the occupation in this respect is a flagrant violation of the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property of 1954 and its two additional protocols.

As an inevitable consequence of the criminal conduct by the occupation in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Palestinians were engaged in a wide uprising that reached territories occupied in 1948. Not deviating from a long-standing criminal policy against the Palestinians, the Israeli authoritiescommitted cold blooded murder and summary executions and leftthousands of Palestinians wounded in an attempt to put an end to the uprising.

The Palestinian issue is an international legal issue par excellence, and the current state of dereliction is stark evidence of official Arab, Islamic and Palestinian ignorance of the legal aspect of the Palestinian issue besides turning a blind eye by the West to the crimes of the occupation. It could be said that the weakest link in this legal ignorance was manifested in 1993 when the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leadership signed an international treaty (Oslo) with the Occupation State with no international legal presence whatsoever on the delegate that led the negotiations on the Palestinian side compared to a group of prominent international lawyers on the Israeli side.

The spirit and provisions of public international law and its lofty principles are on the side of the Palestinian people and its just cause. However, the weak political performance and the absence of Palestinian legal system based on international law and specialists’expertise have left the legal dimension of the Palestinian issue empty of its elements of power.


1. The need to respect the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property of 1954 and its two annexedProtocols. The aggressionby the occupation authorities on the places of worship could be a war crime, which calls forpreparing a file documenting the crimes in Al-Aqsa Mosque tobe submitted to the ICC.

2. PromotingArticle 22 of the UN Charter in the General Assembly (GA)after every Israeli violation or attack for us to be able to prosecute the occupation leaders in international tribunals instead of sticking to political demands in the Security Council that might end up with a US veto or a mere condemnation from the Council through a presidential statement or the like.

3. Resorting to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to issue an edict stressing the illegitimacy of the unjust Israeli blockade on Gaza according to Article 65 (1) of the ICJ Statute similar to the edict issued by the Court regarding the Separation Wall.

4. Seriously considering the suspension of Israel’s membership in the UN, including in the GA and all affiliated bodies given that the occupation entity was established based on UNGA Resolutions 181 and 194, and a preliminary condition providing that Israel should be peace-loving.

5. Following up on the ICJ opinion on the Separation Wall in order to hold accountable those European, foreign and local companies that participated in building the Wall in contravention of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention signed by their respective countries and urge them to pay compensation for those affected.

6. Establishinga Palestinian, Arab and international legal system including specialists and experienced figures to providelegal opinion and seek possible legal options to prosecute occupation leaders before international tribunals.

7. The need to legally train Palestinian youths, particularly in Jerusalem, in order to document Israeli violations according to international standards pursued in this respect.

8. Boosting coordination and joint work between the PLO and Jordan and sides entitled to pursue necessary legal measures in order to defend occupied Jerusalem more effectively.

9. Halting security coordination between the Palestinian Authority and the occupation authorities in compliance with decisions by the PLO Central Council in March 2015.

10. Demanding the Egyptian authorities to open Rafah crossing normally in line with the spirit and provisions of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention given that Egypt is a party to this convention and all its annexes.

11. More media efforts need to be put into action to reveal the occupation crimes before international public opinion and to resist Israeli media machine which forges facts and tries to present Palestinians as the assailants.