Saturday,16 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1195, (1-7 May 2014)
Saturday,16 December, 2017
Issue 1195, (1-7 May 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Falk on Israel: It’s apartheid

The conclusions of the report of the UN special rapporteur on Palestine, deeming Israel an apartheid state, alone should force a rethinking of “peace talks”, writes Ludwig Watzal from Bonn

Al-Ahram Weekly

The outgoing UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Richard Falk, submitted in accordance with Human Rights Council (HRC) Resolution 5/1 his last report on the dire conditions under which the Palestinian people have to live. Falk’s final presentation addresses Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the wall in the eyes of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and considers Israel’s policies and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) in light of the prohibition on segregation and apartheid. It also addresses concern in relation to the deterioration of the human rights situation of Palestinians living under the Israeli blockade in the Gaza Strip.

Falk regrets that Israel even refused minimal cooperation in the last six years. The Israeli government expelled Falk in December 2008 when he tried to enter Israel to fulfil his mission as UN special rapporteur. “Such humiliating non-cooperation represents a breach of the legal duty of members of the United Nations to facilitate all official undertakings of the (UN) Organisation.” There has been no protest of the US or any Western nations that usually head the protest front wherever human rights violations occur, with the only exception of the State of Israel.

Regarding the wall and the UN advisory opinion of July 2004, Falk hints at the obligations of UN member states to urge the Israeli government to abide by the ruling. “The court stated that all states are obliged not to recognise the illegal situation arising from the wall, and that states parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 were obliged to ensure compliance by Israel with that convention.” The ICJ suggested that the United Nations, the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council should consider further action to overcome this illegal situation.

Although 85 per cent of the planned route of the wall lies within the West Bank, and will cut off and isolate 9.4 per cent of the West Bank territory, including East Jerusalem and so-called “No-Man’s Land”, the Israeli Ministry of Defence states that the “Security Fence” does not annex territories to the State of Israel, nor will it change the status of residents of these areas. Israel pretends that the wall was built for security reasons; however, the ICJ came to the conclusion that “the grave infringements of the rights of Palestinians caused by the wall in the OPT were not necessary to satisfy legitimate Israeli security requirements.” The wall inflicted further hardship to the residents of the occupied territories; especially hard hit are the people who are isolated from the rest of the West Bank. They are living under a strict permit regime and other restrictions. In addition, they are exposed to the whims and caprice of Israeli border guards.

Richard Falk shows that the expansion of settler colonies continues unabated, in defiance of its international law obligations. The Israeli NGO, Peace Now, calls attention to “Bibi’s Settlements Boom”. Falk sees the settlement announcements as “provocative” because they were accompanied by the release of prisoners; or they were used to expose the Obama administration publicly. Special problems are the so-called outposts, which are considered also illegal by Israeli law.

According to Falk, the Israeli government does everything to change the demographic balance in East Jerusalem. “Israel actively seeks to undermine the Palestinian presence to serve its goal of preserving a Jewish majority in East Jerusalem.” The methods are to revoke the resident status and the right to live in East Jerusalem and to demolish houses. Since 1996, an estimated 11,023 Jerusalemites lost their right of residence in East Jerusalem, and from 2004 to 2013, 479 housing units were destroyed in East Jerusalem, displacing 1,892 Palestinians.

The hardest hit Palestinians live in the besieged Gaza Strip. Although Israel withdrew its occupying forces unilaterally from the Gaza Strip in 2005, this territory is still considered “occupied” by the United Nations. Israel has locked up not only 1.6 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, but it also controls the area on water, on land and from the air. No one can leave this open-air prison without a permit from the Israelis. The special rapporteur mentions also the military attack “Operation Cast Lead” from December 2008 to January 2009, which killed 1,400 people and caused heavy damage to civil infrastructure, and “Operation Pillar of Defense” in November 2012.

Already Falk’s predecessor, John Dugard, recommended that the ICJ should be asked to assess whether the prolonged occupation possess elements of “colonialism”, “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing” inconsistent with International Human Rights Law (IHRL) in circumstances of belligerent occupation and the denial of the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people. Since no advisory opinion has been sought, Falk discusses Israeli policies and practices through the lens of the international prohibition upon ethnic discrimination, segregation and apartheid. According to International Law and all relevant conventions, Israel met all the requirements of these three allegations.

The UN report mentions also the ill treatment and torture of Palestinian detainees, and a UNICEF report, which Falk quotes, states the same for children too. Palestinian children are tried under military law, whereas Israeli law applies to Israeli children in the Occupied Territories. The report still counts a large number of further human rights violations by the Israeli occupying regime and speaks of a policy of “systematic oppression”.

Falk concludes: “Through prolonged occupation, with practices and policies of apartheid and segregation, ongoing expansion of settlements, and continual construction of the wall arguably amounting to de facto annexation of parts of the occupied Palestinian territory; the denial by Israel of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people is evident.” Israel’s violations of Palestinians human rights are “deliberate, organised and institutionalised”, writes the special rapporteur.

Despite the devastating findings of the UN report on Palestine, the Mahmoud Abbas regime in Ramallah is still continuing so-called peace talks. They might be dragging on till year’s end. The political result will be nil, and a possible “agreement” will be null and void because Abbas’s men lack legitimacy. The clique in Ramallah is not democratically elected, whereas the elected prime minister is “imprisoned” in Gaza. The only body that has the right to negotiate with the Israeli government is the Palestinian National Council (PNC) that could speak for all the Palestinians in the world. The PNC has to be reinstated by democratic elections, which will take a while. Until then, there must be no further “peace talks”.


The writer is a journalist and editor in Bonn, Germany. He runs the bilingual blog “Between the Lines”.

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