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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid

That is the conclusion of an independent South African committee, enlisted by the Human Sciences Research Council to verify the claims of apartheid in Palestine.

The committee concludes, following international jurisprudence that race is a social construct relative to local perceptions and that, in this sense, Jewish and Palestinian are racial categories in the Near East.

It then goes on to examine Israeli practices on light of the article 2 of the Apartheid Convention.

Finding that:

Section a) Denial to a member or members of a racial group or groups of the right to life and liberty of person.- YES: Israel’s policies and practices include murder, in the form of extrajudicial killings; torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of detainees (...) All of these practices are discriminatory in that Palestinians are subject to legal systems and courts which apply standards of evidence and procedure that are different from those applied to Jewish settlers living the OPT and that result in harsher penalties for Palestinians.

Section b) Deliberate imposition on a racial group or groups of living conditions calculated to cause its or their physical destruction in whole or in part.- NO: Not satisfied, as the Israel’s policies and practices in the OPT are not found to have the intent of causing the physical destruction of the Palestinian people.

Section c) Measures calculated to prevent a racial group or groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country and the deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of such a group or groups.- YES:

i) (...) Restrictions on the Palestinian right to freedom of movement are endemic in the West BankPalestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are not allowed to visit the other territory and are not allowed to enter East Jerusalem with a pass.

ii) The right of Palestinians to choose their own place of residence within their territory is severely curtailed by systematic administrative restrictions on Palestinian residency and building in East Jerusalem, by discriminatory legislation that operates to prevent Palestinian spouses from living together on the basis of which part of the OPT they originate from, and by the strictures of the permit and ID systems.

iii) Palestinians are denied their right to leave and return to their country. Palestinian refugees displaced in 1948 from the territory now inside Israel who are living in the OPT (approximately 1.8 million people including descendents) are not allowed to return to their former places of residence. Similarly, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced to surrounding states from the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967 have been prevented from returning to the OPT. (...) Political activists and human rights defenders are often subject to arbitrary and undefined ’travel bans’, while many Palestinians who travelled and lived abroad for business or personal reasons have had their residence IDs revoked and been prohibited from returning.

iv) Israel denies Palestinians in the OPT their right to a nationality by denying Palestinian refugees from inside the Green Line their right of return, residence, and citizenship in the State (Israel) governing the land of their birth. Israel’s policies in the OPT also effectively deny Palestinians their right to a nationality by obstructing the exercise of the Palestinian right to self-determination through the formation of a Palestinian State in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza Strip.

v) Palestinians are restricted in their right to work (...)

vi) Palestinian trade unions exist but are not recognised by the Israeli government or by the Histadrut (the main Israeli trade union) and cannot effectively represent Palestinians working for Israeli employers and businesses. Although these workers are required to pay dues to the Histadrut, it does not represent their interests and concerns, and Palestinians have no voice in formulating Histadrut policies. (...)

vii) The right of Palestinians to education is not impacted directly by Israeli policy, as Israel does not operate the school system in the OPT, but education is severely impeded by military rule. (...)

viii) The right of Palestinians to freedom of opinion and expression is greatly restricted through censorship laws (...).

ix) Palestinians’ right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association is impeded through military orders. (...) Most Palestinian political parties have been declared illegal and institutions associated with those parties, such as charities and cultural organisations, are regularly subjected to closure and attack.

x) The prevention of full development in the OPT and participation of Palestinians in political, economic, social and cultural life is most starkly demonstrated by the effects of Israel’s ongoing siege and regular large-scale military attacks on the Gaza Strip. Although denied by Israel, the population of the Gaza Strip is experiencing an on-going severe humanitarian crisis.

Section d) Measures designed to divide the population along racial lines by the creation of separate reserves and ghettos for the members of a racial group or groups, the prohibition of mixed marriages among members of various racial groups, the expropriation of landed property belonging to a racial group or groups or to members thereof.- YES:

i) Israel has divided the West Bank into reserves or cantons in which residence and entry is determined by each individual’s group identity. Entry by one group into the zone of the other group is prohibited without a permit. The Wall and its infrastructure of gates and permanent checkpoints suggest a policy permanently to divide the West Bank into racial cantons. Israeli government ministries, the World Zionist Organisation and other Jewish national institutions operating as authorised agencies of the State plan, fund and implement construction of the West Bank settlements and their infrastructure for exclusively Jewish use.

ii) Article 2(d) is not satisfied regarding a prohibition on mixed marriages between Jews and Palestinians.

iii) Israel has extensively appropriated Palestinian land in the OPT for exclusively Jewish use. Private Palestinian land comprises about 30 percent of the land unlawfully appropriated for Jewish settlement in the West Bank. Presently, 38 percent of the West Bank is completely closed to Palestinian use, with significant restrictions on access to much of the rest of it.

Section e) Exploitation of the labour of the members of a racial group or groups, in particular by submitting them to forced labour.- NO: Not significantly satisfied, as Israel has raised barriers to Palestinian employment inside Israel since the 1990s and Palestinian labour is now used extensively only in the construction and services sectors of Jewish-Israeli settlements in the OPT. (...)

Section f) Persecution of organizations and persons, by depriving them of fundamental rights and freedoms, because they oppose apartheid.- YES: Arrest, imprisonment, travel bans and the targeting of Palestinian parliamentarians, national political leaders and human rights defenders, as well as the closing down of related organisations by Israel, represent persecution for opposition to the system of Israeli domination in the OPT, within the meaning of Article 2(f).

Additionally the committee finds the following similitudes of Israeli policies with the three pillars of South African apartheid:

1. Demarcation of South Africans into formal racial groups, with different legal systems applying to each of them (Population Registration Act of 1950).
2. Segregation of these racial groups in separate geographic areas, culminating in the formation of the bantustans (Group Areas Act of 1950 and Pass Laws of 1952-69).
3. Draconian security laws and policies to enforce the system, including extra-judicial killings, torture and degrading treatment.

Israel does all this:

1. It divides the population into Jews, "Israeli Arabs" and Palestinians, privileging naturally the Jewish settlers (and all Jews worldwide are entitled to Israeli citizenship, while the native Palestinians are not). Palestinians are even banned from family reunification if the spouses live in distinct areas under this system.
2. It creates separate areas for Palestinians and Jews, the first with a clear tendency to shrink and the latter to grow. The first fragmented and marginalized and the latter well connected and serviced. It has also segregated East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.
3. It does have, upholds and enforces a series of special laws that allow and encourage brutal and degrading treatment of Palestinians. Torture and extra-judicial killings are the norm, not any exception.

The committee concludes that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid.

Source and further details at Voltairenet: Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid?, by Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa. Also available as PDF.

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