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UN concerned about advocacy of hatred and restrictions imposed on access of Palestinians to places of worship in East Jerusalem

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News briefing 

Translated and edited by: Committee for Justice 

Geneva, September 2, 2021 

UN experts have expressed their concerns about allegations of hate speech that constitute incitement to violence, death threats and violence directed against minorities and ethnic and religious communities, as well as restrictions on their freedom of religion or belief in East Jerusalem. 

Non-fulfilment of the Status Quo agreement: 

In a memorandum sent to the Israeli authorities on July 2, 2021, which has not been responded to yet, the experts explained that the Israeli security forces violated the Status Quo agreement, which guarantees the right of Israeli and Palestinian religious communities to access their holy places during religious ceremonies. 

The experts pointed out that the security forces harass and assault Palestinian worshipers in particular, in addition to preventing them from reaching their places of worship, which has led to an escalation of religious and ethnic tensions inflamed by right-wing Israeli groups who encouraged advocacy of hatred that constitutes incitement to violence. 

The experts said that on May 1, 2021, the Greek Orthodox Holy Saturday, Israeli forces erected military and metal barriers around the Old City of Jerusalem to obstruct hundreds of worshipers, including nuns, priests and pilgrims, from reaching the Church of the Holy Sepulcher to celebrate Easter. The experts also noted that the increase in the number of banned worshipers led to clashes with the security forces, and the arrest of two young men. 

“Since the beginning of the month of Ramadan, Palestinian Muslims were systematically targeted and attacked. On 13 April, the first day of Ramadan, Israeli forces reportedly raided Al-Aqsa Mosque, harassed and intimidated Waqf staff, broke the door of minaret and cut off the wires from the speakers of the minarets to prevent the call of evening prayers. Besides, Israeli forces reportedly restricted the Palestinian Muslims’ access to Al-Haram Al-Sharif for prayers and seized the Iftar meals to stop distribution to the worshippers,” the experts added. 

UN demands from Israeli authorities: 

The experts called on the Israeli authorities to provide concrete steps to abide by and fulfil the Status Quo agreement, clarify the legal justification for imposing restrictions on worshipers, especially religious minorities, including entering their places of worship, praying, participating or celebrating their religious rites and ceremonies, and clarifying how these procedures comply with the international human rights standards of protecting the rights to freedom of religion or belief, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. 

The experts also called on the Israeli authorities to provide information on the legal grounds for the arrest and detention of demonstrators or those with Palestinian flags and to provide a legal justification for the Israeli forces for resorting to the use of force in dispersing worshipers and demonstrators at Al-Aqsa Mosque from 7 to 10 May, and to clarify how the use of force was in conformity with the principles of necessity and proportionality.  

In their conclusion, the experts requested an indication of the measures taken by the Israeli authorities to stop and prohibit the advocacy of hatred against Palestinians or religious minorities, which constitutes incitement to death threats and violence by some Israeli extremists and those affiliated with far-right groups, and whether the authorities have investigated the incidents where Israeli forces abetted the aggression by these inciters, and to present the measures taken to ensure non-discriminatory treatment of all ethnic and religious groups and to promote dialogue and tolerance between races and religions. 

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