I know of the later revoked UNGA resolution that "Zionism is racism". But did the UN, especially the UNGA, ever declare Israel to be a colonizer, apart from that, and if so to what extent? I'm asking because

  • This is something often levelled against Israel, e.g., which [pro-]Israeli sources take pains to rebut.

  • The UN is generally quite preoccupied with ending colonialism; they have a commitee for that etc. (The wiki page for this committee doesn't mention Israel though.)

So, has the UN[GA] declared Israel itself to be a colonizer (apart from that 1975 resolution, revoked in 1991) maybe just in some regards, e.g. the post-1967 settlements? I seem to recall they slam[ed] Israel for those in a number of resolutions, but is it ever called more than [illegal] occupation (in non-revoked resolutions)?

1 Answer 1


No. Short of calling them an occupying force, no UN resolution has so far called them a colonizer. But, this maybe more an issue of legal technicalities as both nations started attacking each other before they became sovereign states. And Israel's policy towards Palestine slowly changed, and the law just hasn't caught up with them yet.

From the perspective of Customary International Law, Israel does meet all the criteria of a colonizer. By exercising control over Palestinian territories it:

  • exercises control over their internal functions,
  • denies them political independence and
  • doesn't respect their territorial integrity.

Denying all these principle of State sovereignty to Palestine inhibits their right to self-determination. The right to self-determination in International Law implies a right to 'external' self-determination - the right to be free from alien domination - i.e. colonisation.

Many international organisations working in Israel and Palestine have observed these signs (see 'References' 5 to 10) in Israel's occupation of Palestine, and a UN official has even publicly and bluntly stated that Israel's actions against Palestinians do display a colonial type mentality that the international community needs to recognize:

“For over 55 years, the Israeli military occupation has prevented the realisation of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people, violating each component of that right and wilfully pursuing the ‘de-Palestinianisation’ of the occupied territory,” said Francesca Albanese UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, in her report to the UN General Assembly ....

The report calls for “a paradigm shift”, which entails moving away from the narrative of “conflict” between Israelis and Palestinians, and recognition of Israel’s “intentionally acquisitive, segregationist and repressive settler-colonial occupation.” Ms. Albanese urged the international community to formally acknowledge and condemn the settler-colonial nature of the Israeli occupation.

While I don't expect Israel to be publicly explicitly labelled as a colonizer by the UN in the near future, indications are its actions so far will be recognised and treated as one.

On 27 May 2021, the UN Human Rights Council held a special session on “the Grave Human Rights Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem” and in its resolution asked an international committee to investigate the situation:

... the Human Rights Council decided to “urgently establish an ongoing, independent, international commission of inquiry to investigate, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel, all alleged violations of international humanitarian law and abuses of international human rights law leading up and since 13 April 2021”.

The 3 member commission submitted its findings to the Council and the General Assembly on September 2022, and claimed that many of Israel's action was illegal and recommended that the matter be referred to the International Court of Justice to determine these in a legal framework:

Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory is unlawful under international law due to its permanence and the Israeli government’s de facto annexation policies, a UN-appointed Commission of Inquiry said in its first report, published on Thursday ... The Commission has called on the UN General Assembly to request an urgent Advisory Opinion from the ICJ on the legal consequences of the occupation.

The UN General Assembly accepted the findings of the committee and, as suggested by them sought a legal opinion from the ICJ in UNGA Resolution 77/247 asking it to examine:

(a) What are the legal consequences arising from the ongoing violation by Israel of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, from its prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and from its adoption of related discriminatory legislation and measures?

(b) How do the policies and practices of Israel referred to in paragraph 18 (a) above affect the legal status of the occupation, and what are the legal consequences that arise for all States and the United Nations from this status?

Proceedings on this in the World Court are still ongoing, and according to Press release No. 2023/55 by the court, hearings will be held from February 2024:

THE HAGUE, 23 October 2023. The International Court of Justice has decided to hold public hearings on the request for an advisory opinion in respect of the Legal Consequences arising from the Policies and Practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, which will open on Monday 19 February 2024 at the Peace Palace in The Hague, the seat of the Court.


  1. The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel

  2. Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory illegal: UN rights commission

  3. UN General Assembly Resolution 77/247 (PDF) - Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem

  4. ICJ Press release No. 2023/55 - 23 October 2023 (PDF)

  5. What does the law say about the responsibilities of the Occupying Power in the occupied Palestinian territory? (International Committee of the Red Cross)

  6. Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories: Israel Has Imposed upon Palestine an Apartheid Reality in a Post-Apartheid World

  7. African Union report of the commission on the situation in Palestine and the Middle East (PDF)

  8. Statement of ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, on the conclusion of the preliminary examination of the Situation in Palestine, and seeking a ruling on the scope of the Court’s territorial jurisdiction

  9. Israel's Occupation: 50 years of dispossession (Amnesty International)

  10. A Threshold Crossed - Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution (Human Rights Watch)


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