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Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Israel is guilty of occupation, apartheid and colonialism, top UN lawyer reports
Israel is guilty of occupation, apartheid and colonialism, top UN lawyer reports
Date: 26 / 02 / 2007 Time: 21:33
Israeli soldiers fire at Palestinian youths, demonstrating at Qalandiya checkpoint, 9 Feb 2007 (MaanImages)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - The UN's Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, John Dugard, has issued a harshly critical report on Israel's human rights record in regards to its treatment of the Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
"The international community, speaking through the United Nations, has identified three regimes as inimical to human rights - colonialism, apartheid and foreign occupation," Dugard says. In his 24-page report, which will be presented to the United Nations General Assembly for debate on 15 March 2006, the South African lawyer accuses Israel of all three.
Israel is clearly guilty of occupying another nation. Dugard also refutes Israel's claim that, since its 'disengagement' in 2005, it is no longer occupying the Gaza Strip. Israel controls all the borders, air space and sea space surrounding the Strip, in addition to carrying out numerous military incursions and air strikes into the Strip, thereby continuing to be the occupying power.
Furthermore, Dugard says Israel's discriminatory practises towards Palestinians amount to apartheid. He says in his report: "Discrimination against Palestinians occurs in many fields. Moreover, the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid appears to be violated by many practices, particularly those denying freedom of movement to Palestinians."
Dugard harshly criticises Israel's system of checkpoints and barriers across the occupied West Bank, which makes freedom of movement and trade impossible. In particular, he criticises the arbitrary nature of the restrictions. "There is a secret list with some 180,000 names of security risks who may not pass through a checkpoint," Dugard says, "But no notice is served on such a person on this list until he arrives at a checkpoint"; this means "it is left to Palestinians to find out by trial and error whether they will be allowed to pass through a checkpoint on a particular day". As a result, "An arbitrary and capricious regime prevails."
Dugard warns Israel that, "In apartheid South Africa, a similar system designed to restrict the free movement of blacks - the notorious “pass laws” - created more anger and hostility to the apartheid regime than any other measure. Israel would do well to learn from this experience."
Dugard singles out Israel's illegal separation wall as one of Israel's most apartheid-like tools. He says, "It has become abundantly clear that the Wall and checkpoints are principally aimed at advancing the safety, convenience and comfort of settlers."
In regard to Jerusalem and the wall, Dugard says: "The 75 km Wall being built in East Jerusalem is an instrument of social engineering designed to achieve the Judaization of Jerusalem by reducing the number of Palestinians in the city. The Wall is being built through Palestinian neighbourhoods, separating Palestinians from Palestinians, in a manner that cannot conceivably be justified on security grounds."
Dugard depicts in particular the absurd plight of the inhabitants of Ar-Ram neighbourhood of northeast Jerusalem: "Some 60,000 people live in the suburb of Ar-Ram just outside the municipal boundary of Jerusalem. About half of the residents are Jerusalemites who left Jerusalem because of the restrictions placed on Palestinians’ building houses in the city. They are completely dependent on Jerusalem for work, education and hospitals. Yet now they are surrounded by the Wall and cut off from Jerusalem. To get to work, school or hospital they must travel a circuitous route of several kilometres and pass through the international terminal-like checkpoint at Qalandiya, and they may only do this if they have the correct permit. A journey that previously took them minutes is now extended into hours."
He also accuses Israel of carrying out illegal, colonial practises, saying, "The Occupied Palestinian Territory is the only instance of a developing country that is denied the right of self-determination and oppressed by a Western-affiliated State." He singles out the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank as a new form of colonialism. Furthermore, noting that Israel has appropriated agricultural land and water resources in the West Bank for its own use, Dugard says that, "This aspect of Israel’s exploitation of the West Bank appears to be a form of colonialism of the kind declared to be a denial of fundamental human rights and contrary to the Charter of the United Nations as recalled in the General Assembly’s Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples of 1960 (Resolution 1514 XV)." He suggests the case be referred to the International Court of Justice.
Dugard accuses both Israeli military personnel and Palestinian militants of war crimes, pointing out that the state of Israel has the greater responsibility: "Persons responsible for committing war crimes by the firing of shells and rockets into civilian areas without any apparent military advantage should be apprehended or prosecuted. This applies to Palestinians who fire Qassam rockets into Israel; and more so to members of the IDF who have committed such crimes on a much greater scale. While individual criminal accountability is important, the responsibility of the State of Israel for the violation of peremptory norms of international law in its actions against the Palestinian people should not be overlooked."
While condemning the Palestinian launching of homemade Qassam rockets into Israel, Dugard says, "Israel’s response has been grossly disproportionate and indiscriminate and resulted in the commission of multiple war crimes."
As for Israel's policy of demolishing residential buildings in the Gaza Strip suspected of housing weapons, preceded by a warning issued over the telephone shortly before the air strike, Dugard describes this act as a "policy of terrorism by telephone." In regards to the Palestinians' collective act of gathering on the roof of a targeted building in a form of 'human shield', Dugard says, "Voluntary, collective action of this kind can at most be categorized as an act of civil disobedience against the occupying Power."
Dugard describes the imprisonment of the Gaza Strip's 1.4 million inhabitants behind Israeli-controlled borders as "a controlled strangulation that apparently falls within the generous limits of international toleration."
The UN rapporteur also describes the racist attacks carried out by some Israeli settlers against Palestinians. "Undoubtedly the most aggravated settler behaviour occurs in Hebron," Dugard says, "where Palestinian schoolchildren are assaulted and humiliated on their way to schools, shopkeepers are beaten and residents live in fear of settler terror." Dugard adds that, despite rulings by Israel's High Court of Justice that it is the duty of the Israeli military to protect Palestinian farmers from settlers, "there is still evidence that the IDF turns a blind eye to settler violence and, on occasion, collaborates with the settlers in harassing and humiliating Palestinians."
In regards to Israel's policy of extrajudicial killing, or targeted assassinations, of 'terrorists' wanted by the state of Israel, Dugard describes this practise as "the death penalty on a wide scale through the back door ".
Palestine, a test for the West
Dugard concludes that the case of human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory has come to resemble a 'test' for the West, by which its commitment to human rights is to be judged. He recognises that numerous other nations in the developing world suppress human rights, but Israel is the only "Western-affiliated regime" allowed to get away with it. Dugard warns, "If the West fails this test, it can hardly expect the developing world to address human rights violations seriously in its own countries, and the West appears to be failing this test."