18 May 2001

Press Statement issued by the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations:

The Reuters News Agency reported today that the United States criticized the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), stating the it was "unhelpful" that an ICRC head of delegation called Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza a war crime. Reuters reported that a U.S. State Department deputy spokesman, Philip Reeker, said "We donít think this comment is helpful at this particularly volatile time." This is indeed a very unfortunate position voiced by the deputy spokesman.

The Fourth Geneva Convention is very clear with regard to the prohibition of the transfer of the civilian population of an occupying Power to the territory that it occupies. Mr. Rene Kosirnik, the head of the ICRC delegation to Israel and the Palestinian territories was very precise and accurate in his qualification of Israeli settlements as grave breaches of the Convention and thus as war crimes.

It is bad enough for a High Contracting Party to the Fourth Geneva Convention like the U.S. not to fulfill its own legal obligation under the Convention to ensure respect of the Convention in all circumstances in accordance with article 1 common to the four Geneva Conventions. It is even worse, however, for a High Contracting Party to criticize those who try to defend the integrity of the Conventions and of international humanitarian law. Attempts to appease the occupying Power can only be dangerous in addition to being wrong. Moreover, it is important to remember that the present volatility of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, is caused partly by Israeli settlement activities aimed at colonizing the Palestinian land.