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Business Day (SA) | February 27, 2007

Apartheid parallel reaffirmed in Palestinian report

THE Palestinian people’s treatment at the hands of the Israeli government has again been likened — this time in a United Nations (UN) report — to that of black people under apartheid in this country.

While apartheid in SA was universally condemned by the international community — including, at the time, the conservative US and British governments — as a crime against humanity, the international community remains deeply divided about whether Israel’s behaviour in occupied Palestinian territories can be described as a form of apartheid.

South African law professor John Dugard, the UN’s special rapporteur, visited the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 and compiled a report on human rights in those areas following allegations of human rights and international humanitarian law violations there. This after Israel conducted two major military operations in Gaza — Operation Summer Rains and Operation Autumn Clouds — which the Israeli army claimed were in response to the capture of Cpl Gilad Shalit by Palestinian militants on June 25 last year, as well as the continued firing of Qassam rockets into Israel.

In a report posted on the UN Human Rights Council’s website, due to be tabled this week, Dugard says: “For years the occupation of Palestine and apartheid in SA vied for attention from the international community. In 1994, apartheid came to an end and Palestine became the only developing country in the world under the subjugation of a western-affiliated regime.

“Herein lies its significance to the future of human rights. There are other regimes, particularly in the developing world, that suppress human rights, but there is no other case of a westernaffiliated regime that denies self-determination and human rights to a developing people, and that has done so for so long.”

Dugard joins other leading figures, such as former US president Jimmy Carter, in characterising the Israeli occupation as a form of apartheid. Neither man is anti-Semitic by any stretch of the imagination, nor do they desire to see Israel “wiped off the map” as do many of the Jewish state’s detractors. Both, however, came to their conclusions based on extensive work and visits to the areas in question.

Pro-Israeli groups scoff at attempts to compare Israel’s treatment of Arab Israelis as second-class citizens and the Jewish state’s occupation of Palestinian territories to that of SA’s former white racist regime. Unlike the old SA, Israel is a modern democracy, they say. However, Dugard found the reality in the occupied territories different: “Israel’s laws and practices in the occupied Palestinian territories certainly resemble aspects of apartheid,” he says.

Describing the situation for Palestinians in the West Bank in his dossier that chronicles closed zones, demolitions and preference given to settlers for roads and building rights, Dugard asks: “Can it seriously be denied that the purpose of such action is to establish and maintain domination by one racial group (Jews) over another racial group (Palestinians) ... systematically oppressing them?

“Israel denies that this is its intention or purpose. But such an intention or purpose may be inferred from the actions described in this report.”

Dugard says there should be “serious consideration” given to bringing the matter of the occupation before the International Court of Justice.

Dugard is also scathing about the role of the international community and says Israel is not alone to blame for the crisis in the occupied Palestinian territories.

“The Palestinian people have been subjected to economic sanctions — the first time an occupied people have been so treated. This is difficult to understand. Israel is in violation of major (UN) Security Council and General Assembly resolutions dealing with unlawful territorial change and the violation of human rights and has failed to implement the 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, yet it escapes the imposition of sanctions.

“Instead, the Palestinian people, rather than the Palestinian Authority, have been subjected to possibly the most rigorous form of international sanctions imposed in modern times.”

Human rights in the occupied Palestinian Territories are of special importance to the future of human rights in the world, Dugard argues. He also warns of the dangers inherent if the west fails to address the Palestinian question and says this failure will erode the ability of developed countries to be the arbiter of democratic values and the defence of human rights.

It’s ironic that these findings come at a time when the US government — despite constant denials from Washington — seems determined to push ahead with plans to launch pre-emptive strikes against Iran, as Tehran refuses to bow to US pressure to abandon its nuclear ambitions. It serves as an eye-opener about the duplicitous politics that govern the global response to international conflict in general, and the Middle East in particular.

‖Brown is political editor.

http://www.businessday.co.za/articles/opinion.aspx?ID=BD4A397205

Posted on 27-02-2007


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