Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories amounts to ‘apartheid’, says UN rights expert |
The UN Special Rapporteur’s report echoes recent findings by Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights organizations that have analyzed 55 years of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.
“There are today in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967 a deeply discriminatory legal and political dual system, which privileges the 700,000 Israeli Jewish settlers living in the 300 illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank,” said Michael Lynk, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967.
“Open Air Jail”
Referring to the lack of rights of people living in the same neighborhood but separated by walls, checkpoints and roads, Mr. Link acknowledged that “there are more than three million Palestinians living under an oppressive regime of institutional discrimination and without a path to a genuine Palestinian state that the world has long promised is their right”.
“Another two million Palestinians live in Gaza, regularly described as an ‘open-air prison’, without adequate access to electricity, water or healthcare, with a collapsing economy and no possibility of travel. freely to the rest of Palestine or the outside world,” he added.
He traveled through the internationally understood legal definition of apartheid – the system of institutionalized racial segregation practiced in South Africa before it was dismantled in the early 1990s.
Israel, he said, conforms to the definition as “a political regime that so intentionally and clearly prioritizes the fundamental political, legal and social rights of one group over another, within the same geographical unit on the basis of its racial-national-ethnic identity”. .
Crime against humanity
“Apartheid is unfortunately not a phenomenon confined to the history books of southern Africa”, Mr. Lynk said in his report to the human rights council.
“The Rome Statute of 1998 International Penal Court came into force after the collapse of the old South Africa. It is a forward-looking legal instrument that prohibits apartheid as a crime against humanity today and in the future, wherever it exists.
The Independent Rights Expert added that Israel’s Military Rule in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was deliberately constructed with the “intent to perpetuate facts on the ground to demographically create a permanent and illegal Israeli sovereign claim to occupied territory, while confining Palestinians to smaller and more confined disconnected land reserves”.
Apartheid is unfortunately not a phenomenon confined to the history books of southern Africa – Michael Lynk, UN rights expert
He also mentioned that leading international figures – including former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor and former Israeli Attorney General Michael Ben-Yair – also all referred to the Israeli occupation as apartheid.
The responsibility of the international community
Citing inhumane acts, arbitrary and extrajudicial killings, torture, denial of basic rights, an abysmal infant mortality rate, collective punishments, an abusive military justice system and home demolitions, Mr. Lynk said the community international community bears a great responsibility for the current situation.
“For more than 40 years, the UN security Council and the General Assembly have declared in hundreds of resolutions that Israel’s annexation of occupied territory is illegalits construction of hundreds of Jewish settlements is illegal and its denial of Palestinian self-determination violates international law,” he added.
Stressing that no accountability had ever followed, the Special Rapporteur concluded that “if the international community had really acted on its resolutions 40 or 30 years ago, we would not be talking about apartheid today”.
Mr. Link called on the international community to come up with an imaginative list of effective accountability measures to bring a complete end to the Israeli occupation “and its apartheid practices” in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Special rapporteurs are part of what is called the Special procedures of the Human Rights Council. They are not UN staff, do not receive a salary for their work and serve in an individual capacity.