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This year witnessed many UN reports that exposed Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights. Furthermore, these reports now address Israel as a colonial and apartheid state that oppresses the Palestinians.
We had undoubtedly seen several reports in the past, perhaps the most important and famous of which was the report of the International Court of Justice that was presented as an advisory opinion at the request of the United Nations General Assembly. It was published to address issues regarding the illegality of the separation wall Israel was constructing in the occupied Palestinian Territories. Justice Richard Goldstone’s report in 2009 on the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip and its deliberate targeting of civilians, as about 1,400 Palestinians were killed. In addition to the 2017 report of the ESCWA, which was prepared by two of the most eminent experts in international law, Richard Falk and Virginia Tilley.
In the HRW report, published in April 2021, under the expressive title, “A Threshold Crossed“, there is a conclusion that “the Israeli government has demonstrated an intent to maintain the domination of Jewish Israelis over Palestinians across Israel and the OPT… with systematic oppression of Palestinians and inhumane acts committed against them. When these three elements occur together, they amount to the crime of apartheid.” The report accuses the Israeli policy of “seeking maximal land with minimal Palestinians”.
According to the report, the objective of these practices of “maintaining Jewish Israeli control over demographics, political power, and land has long guided government policy. In pursuit of this goal, authorities have dispossessed, confined, forcibly separated, and subjugated Palestinians by virtue of their identity.”
The report attributes the reasons for obscuring Israel’s entrenched discriminatory rule and persecution over Palestinians to several assumptions, including: “that the occupation is temporary, that the “peace process” will soon bring an end to Israeli abuses, that Palestinians have meaningful control over their lives in the West Bank and Gaza, and that Israel is an egalitarian democracy inside its borders.”
Accordingly, in its practice of apartheid and persecution against the Palestinians, the report considers Israel committing two crimes against humanity, punishable by international law. The report confirms that both crimes are committed against all Palestinians wherever they are, in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the occupied territories since 1948, and against those who were displaced and expelled from their homes and prevented from returning, while it is permissible for the Jews.
Instead, HRW calls the international community to pressure Israel to stop these crimes, as it calls the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor to investigate these two crimes.
HRW called the United Nations to establish an international commission of inquiry and a UN Committee of representatives of member states to assess its findings.
Also, the reports recommended that the UN member states impose unilateral measures in the form of targeted sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, unilaterally condition arms sales, and all forms of trade and dealing with Israel.
The HRW calls all states to take similar measures and incorporate the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution into national criminal law with a view to investigate and prosecute individuals credibly implicated in these crimes.
It is noteworthy that the report of B’Tslem, an Israeli organization that focuses its attention on exposing Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights, was published under the very indicative title: “A Regime of Jewish Supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is Apartheid“. It stresses that there is a military occupation in the territories that Israel has taken over since 1967 and that this regime seeks “advancing and cementing the supremacy of one group – Jews – over another – Palestinians”.
Israel’s critical tool is engineering space: Jewish citizens live as though the entire area were a single space (excluding the Gaza Strip). In contrast, Palestinians live in a space that is fragmented into several units:
- Palestinians who live on land defined in 1948 as Israeli sovereign territory (sometimes called Arab-Israelis) are Israeli citizens and make up 17% of the state’s citizenry. While this status affords them many rights, they do not enjoy the same rights as Jewish citizens.
- Roughly 350,000 Palestinians live in East Jerusalem that Israel annexed to its sovereign territory in 1967. They are defined as permanent residents of Israel. This status allows them to live and work in Israel without needing special permits, receive social benefits and health insurance, and vote only in municipal elections.
- In the West Bank, over 2.6 million Palestinians live in dozens disconnected enclaves and ghettos under rigid military rule and are denied political rights.
- About two million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are also denied political rights. In 2005, Israel withdrew its forces and dismantled its settlements. And Hamas seized control in 2007. Since then, Israel has held Gaza under blockade while controlling almost every aspect of life from the outside.
Israel decides which rights to grant or deny the Palestinians in each of these ghettos, but in any case, they are inferior to their Jewish counterparts. The regime employs several methods to promote Jewish supremacy.
The report sheds light on Israel’s geographic and demographic Judaization. “Palestinians are dispossessed of their lands and corralled into small, crowded enclaves … 90% of the land is within Israel’s sovereign territory … and it built hundreds of communities for Jewish citizens, yet not a single one for Palestinian citizens … Since 1967, Israel has also enacted this policy in the Occupied Territories: hundreds of thousands of dunams, including pastures and agricultural lands, were taken by Israel from Palestinian subjects under various pretexts … Israel has established more than 280 settlements in the West Bank (East Jerusalem included), home to more than 600,000 Jews.
Israel has instituted a separate planning system for Palestinians, chiefly designed to prevent construction and development, and has not established a single new Palestinian community … Any Jew in the world and his or her children, grandchildren and spouses are entitled to immigrate to Israel at any time and receive Israeli citizenship, with all of its associated rights, even if they choose to live in the occupied territories.” That also applies to restricting Palestinians’ freedom of movement inside and outside Israel and the occupied territories. As the report concludes, this is apartheid.
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