The Day the UN Buried its Report on Apartheid in Israel

Credit: UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees

Thalif Deen, IPS-Inter Press Service

UNITED NATIONS, Apr 30 2021 (IPS) – When the UN’s Beirut-based Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) released a landmark 2017 report on “apartheid” in Israel, the United Nations disassociated itself with the study and left it to die— unceremoniously and unsung.

According to a March 2017 report in Foreign Policy Journal, both the Israeli and the Trump administrations put “enormous pressure on UN Secretary-General António Guterres to withdraw the report”.

But the head of the ESCWA, Rima Khalaf, refused to withdraw it and resigned from her UN position in protest. Later, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced he will award Khalaf the Palestine Medal of the Highest Honor for her “courage and support” for the Palestinian people.

And now, more than four years later, the apartheid policies of Israel have come back to haunt the United Nations with the release, on April 27, of a detailed report which says Israel’s abusive apartheid policies towards Palestinians constitute “crimes against humanity.”

Authored by Human Rights Watch (HRW), a widely known international human rights organizations, the 213-page report, “A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution,” singles out “the overarching Israeli government policy to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians and grave abuses committed against Palestinians living in the occupied territory, including East Jerusalem.”

Originally coined in relation to South Africa, “apartheid” today is a universal legal term, says HRW, pointing out that the prohibition against particularly severe institutional discrimination and oppression or apartheid constitutes a core principle of international law.

But whether the new report will have any impact on the UN is doubtful.

Asked whether the UN should re-visit its own 2017 report on Israel and apartheid, UN spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters April 27: “Well, again, without characterizing it one way or another, we have been getting the various facts out about the situation on the ground, including in the report, by the way, that you mentioned, which, I believe, the facts of the report were released, and we’ll continue to do that. Ultimately, it’s important to have a solid base of information about what’s happening, and that’s what we try to provide.”

Dr Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University who co-authored the 2017 UN report, told IPS the narrative of the apartheid discourse (extends) from the original smears at the UN to the B’Tselem Report, and now the HRW Report.

“The Israeli Basic Law of 2018 proclaimed Israel as an apartheid state without using the word,” Falk said.

“The one large issue in which the critical discourse still lags behind what we argued in 2017 is the insistence that Israeli apartheid is best conceptualized by reference to the Palestinian people rather than land

“We believed this is an essential element because Israeli apartheid unlike South African apartheid created a victimized Palestinian diaspora by way of ethnic cleansing, and still shout the slogan ‘less Arabs, more land,’ said Dr Falk, who served a six-year term as the UN Special Rapporteur on “the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.”

Palestinian refugees. Credit: UNRWA

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said “prominent voices have warned for years that apartheid lurks just around the corner if the trajectory of Israel’s rule over Palestinians does not change.”

“This detailed study shows that Israeli authorities have already turned that corner and today are committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution,” he added.

Dr. Ramzy Baroud, a journalist and Editor of The Palestine Chronicle, told IPS the HRW report was indeed historic, though overdue. “As pointed out by an equally earth-shattering UN report in March 2017, Israel is already an apartheid state”.

Continue reading

National Lawyers Guild Urges Biden to Align US Israel-Palestine Policy With International Law

“The United States cannot turn its back on the atrocities, including war crimes, enabled by U.S. policies, particularly its decades long policy of shielding Israel from accountability.”

“It has long been obvious to anyone paying attention that U.S. policy on Palestine and Israel does not match its rhetoric nor the ideals that it claims to stand for—freedom, human rights, and democracy.”

Brett Wilkins, Common Dreams, May 03, 2021


An Israeli soldier points a rifle at a Palestinian man protesting then-President Donald Trump's so-called Middle East peace plan in the illegally occupied West Bank city of Hebron on February 28, 2020. (Photo: Hazem Bader/AFP via Getty Images)

Less than a week after Human Rights Watch published a scathing report accusing the Israeli government of the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution for its treatment of Palestinians, a leading U.S. legal advocacy group on Monday submitted a memorandum to the Biden administration outlining the legal basis for reversing Trump-era pro-Israel policies that violate human rights and international law. 

The memo (pdf), authored by the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) International Committee’s Palestine Subcommittee, notes that after four years of “bullish and detrimental” U.S. policy on Palestine and Israel under the Trump administration, “the health, human rights, and humanitarian situation for Palestinians—both in Palestine and in the refugee camps of surrounding countries—is dire.”

“From withdrawing vital funding from humanitarian organizations that provide basic needs to Palestinian refugees and moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, to targeting human rights advocates in the United States, the Trump administration enacted a number of policies that have harmed both Palestinians and U.S. citizens, and continue to do so today,” the memo states.

“Further, in enacting the aforementioned policies, the Trump administration ignored many of the international commitments that the United States is charged to abide by, including core principles of international law,” it continues. “The Biden administration must not only correct course; it needs to go beyond Obama-era policies to affirm and demonstrate its commitment to civil and human rights and international law, both at home and abroad.”

The memo’s authors urge the Biden administration to take steps including, but not limited to: 

  • Relocate the U.S. Embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv;
  • Reverse the Trump administration’s repudiation of a 1978 State Department legal opinion declaring Israel’s settler colonies in the occupied West Bank to be illegal; 
  • Rescind the previous administration’s rule requiring “Made in Israel” labeling on goods produces in the unlawful settlements, as well as former President Donald Trump’s formal recognition of Israel’s illegal annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights; 
  • Reinstate aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency;
  • Call for an immediate end to Israel’s 15-year closure and blockade of Gaza; 
  • Refrain from further interference in International Criminal Court proceedings and consider ratifying the Rome Statute; 
  • Reverse Trump’s order falsely conflating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism; and 
  • Affirm that boycotts for human rights such as the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement “are a form of highly protected speech under the U.S. Constitution.”

“The policy recommendations made herein represent the minimum required to reverse the damage done by the Trump administration and begin to bring United States policy and practice on Palestine and Israel in line with international law,” the memo states. “The United States cannot turn its back on the atrocities, including war crimes, enabled by U.S. policies, particularly its decadeslong policy of shielding Israel from accountability.”

“Thus, the United States has a legal and moral responsibility to act expeditiously,” the memo adds. “It has long been obvious to anyone paying attention that U.S. policy on Palestine and Israel does not match its rhetoric nor the ideals that it claims to stand for—freedom, human rights, and democracy. The Biden administration has an opportunity and an obligation to correct course and to pursue policies grounded in integrity, human rights, equality, and respect for the rule of law.”

Memo co-author Huwaida Arraf, a human rights attorney and co-chair of the NLG International Palestine Subcommittee, said in a statement that “rescinding Trump’s recognition of Israel’s annexations should have been done on day one of the Biden administration, and although [President Joe] Biden has stated that he would not relocate the U.S. Embassy from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv, this position cannot be reconciled with a stated intent to ‘respect the rule of law.'” 

Continue reading

May 9, 2021
Virtual Tour of the West Bank

These past weeks have brought along a sea of change.

Rep. Betty McCollum introduced the most progressive piece of legislation to date on the protection of Palestinian lives, ensuring that US taxpayer funds are not used to further the systems of violence and separation that Israel uses to displace and dispossess Palestinians of their rights, homes, and land. Last week, to our collective horror, hundreds of Jewish supremacists marched in Jerusalem chanting “death to Arabs,” unmasking the violence that has become normalized in Israeli politics. And just yesterday, Human Rights Watch published a lengthy report about Israel’s apartheid practices, becoming the latest human rights organization to make that determination.

With all of this happening, it’s important to ground ourselves in the reality on the ground. That’s why we’re inviting you to join us on May 9th at 1pm ET for a Reality of Occupation virtual tour with Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy (PIPD). RSVP here.

We are very excited to partner with PIPD for an immersive tour of Palestinian cities in the West Bank to understand what these tactics of occupation look like on the ground. Led by experts and activists, we think the tour will help us understand the one-state reality and the ways in which the Israeli government controls the lives of the Palestinians under Israeli rule.

Register here for the tour, and find out tangibly how Rep. McCollum’s bill can help on the road towards equality for Palestinians and Israelis.

See you there,
Morriah
IfNotNow

Human Rights Watch Documents Israeli Apartheid

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), April 27, 2021

For the past week, the world watched as Israeli settlers attacked Palestinians living in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Over 1500 Palestinians, mostly children, are facing threats of forced displacement and home demolitions by Israeli authorities. For nearly 75 years, this has been the devastating reality for many Palestinians – exile, intimidation, occupation, and apartheid. The human rights abuses that Palestinians have faced at the hands of Israel are finally attracting more attention. While. the United Nations has repeatedly pointed out violations of international law by Israel, While the United Nations has repeatedly pointed out violations of international law by Israel, the international consensus has always been to ignore the violations– but the world can no longer ignore what is happening.

Yesterday, in a historic move, Human Rights Watch came out with a 213-page report that documents the human rights abuses Israel inflicts on Palestinians and recognizes their actions as crimes of apartheid. While Palestinians and many others who support them have known this for years, this is a bold move that pushes the plight of the Palestinian people into the spotlight with the hope that Israel will be held accountable for these crimes.

The report states: “Israeli authorities methodically privilege Jewish Israelis and discriminate against Palestinians. Laws, policies, and statements by leading Israeli officials make plain that the objective 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 to varying degrees of intensity. In certain areas, as described in this report, these deprivations are so severe that they amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.”

Palestinians have suffered under occupation and crimes of apartheid for over half a century. Recognizing the human rights abuses inflicted by Israel such as checkpoints; annexation; lack of medical care, access to clean water; and the deliberate, imposing apartheid wall, is essential in the pursuit for justice.

In recent months, mounting pressure from the American people and international community has pushed US lawmakers into action. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) recently introduced H.R.2590, the Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act. This historic bill would hold Israel accountable for its human rights abuses of Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation and withhold sending our tax dollars to fund these atrocities. Over a dozen members of Congress co-sponsored this resolution, and ADC- along with dozens of Palestinian and human rights organizations – is proud to have signed on as an endorsing organization.

ADC stands with the Palestinian people and condemns the recent violence against the residents of Sheikh Jarrah. We call on all who believe in human rights and dignity to join us in vocalizing support and sharing the report by Human Rights Watch. The Palestinian people have had their voices silenced for far too long. With your help we will continue to uplift their struggle under occupation and fight for their freedom.

April 17 & 24, 2021
“End US Support for Israeli Apartheid?” Parts 1 & 2


IsraelApartheidConApril 17 and 24 at 11AM EDT • Register today!

A major Israeli human rights organization has declared apartheid is rampant both inside Israel and in the territories Israel occupies.

While Congress wrangled over modest emergency pandemic relief for Americans, the nation of Israel receives $3.8 billion annually—and even more covert aid—with barely a whisper of debate. Any member of Congress who might question the annual U.S. subsidy for Israeli militarization knows that he or she will incur the wrath of AIPAC and other Israel lobby groups. The lobby patrols the Congress to ensure that Israel, a small country of some nine million people, remains by far the largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. U.S. aid enables Israeli apartheid, new settlements in illegally occupied territories and ongoing violent repression of Palestinians. Meanwhile, American citizens who question illegal Israeli policies and engage in nonviolent protest movements such as BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) are accused of being anti-Semites, and their free speech rights threatened.

This web-based conference considers whether the United States should cut off aid to Israel or make any such assistance conditional on negotiation of a genuine peace settlement, respect for Palestinian human rights, and adherence to international law. Wrapping around the annual meeting of the Israel lobby group J Street, the webinar will address U.S. financial support of Israel, the strengths and weaknesses of “liberal” lobby groups like J Street, prospects for a one- or two-state solution, and the progress of free speech organizations, the BDS movement and other forms of resistance, including solidarity between Palestinian activism and the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism

 

 


Introduction

We agree with the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism (JDA) of March 25, 2021, “a tool to identify, confront and raise awareness about antisemitism as it manifests in countries around the world today.” The Declaration holds that “while antisemitism has certain distinctive features, the fight against it is inseparable from the overall fight against all forms of racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, and gender discrimination.”

Defining antisemitism as “discrimination, prejudice, hostility or violence against Jews as Jews (or Jewish institutions as Jewish)”, the JDA gives clear examples of what is, and what is not, antisemitism, paying particular attention to why criticism of Israel or Zionism is NOT inherently antisemitic.

We urge you to read the entire Declaration.

 


“Antisemitism is discrimination, prejudice, hostility or violence against Jews as Jews (or Jewish institutions as Jewish).”

People of goodwill seek guidance about the key question:
When does political speech about Israel or Zionism cross the line into antisemitism and when should it be protected?

The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism is a tool to identify, confront and raise awareness about antisemitism as it manifests in countries around the world today. It includes a preamble, definition, and a set of 15 guidelines that provide detailed guidance for those seeking to recognize antisemitism in order to craft responses.

It was developed by a group of scholars in the fields of Holocaust history, Jewish studies, and Middle East studies to meet what has become a growing challenge: providing clear guidance to identify and fight antisemitism while protecting free expression. It has over 200 signatories.

Preamble | Definition | Guidelines | Signatories | FAQ | About JDA | Videos

Preamble | Definition | Guidelines | Signatories | FAQ | About JDA | Videos

Preamble

Continue reading

Dr. Fauci, Please use your Israeli prize money to buy vaccines for Palestine

JEWISH VOICE FOR PEACE HEALTH ADVISORY COUNCIL, Mondoweiss, MARCH 1, 2021

February 28, 2021

Dear Dr. Fauci,

We are writing to you as “fans” of your work. As health professionals, we so often found ourselves appreciative and relieved by your calm steady voice during the Trumpian chaos, bravely, stubbornly standing up for science and public health, truly a monumental task. Thank you. Thank you.

We understand that you stay above the fray by refusing to engage in bruising political fights. Ironically, public health, by nature, lives at that intersection between health care and politics. Just think of your involvement in HIV/AIDS research and treatment.

You have said, for this pandemic to be defeated, everyone must be vaccinated, that is the nature of conquering a highly infectious disease. Yet we are faced with massive global inequities, countries – particularly in the global south – where there is no vaccine at all, while first world countries scoop up the vaccine supply as their disadvantaged populations and people of color struggle for access. Addressing this issue is going to take incredible political and moral will.

In that vein, we want to congratulate you on winning the Israeli Dan David Prize for “Speaking Truth to Power” amid the pandemic. As you are likely aware, Israel is being lauded for an amazing vaccination program (despite a lack of attention to its Palestinian citizens and the resistance of the ultra-Orthodox). However, Israel’s refusal to take responsibility for the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation is highly problematic. That policy is illegal according to international law, immoral, and ill advised. Tens of thousands of West Bank Palestinians work in Israel, in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, or are imprisoned in Israeli jails. Living amongst a largely unvaccinated population puts Israelis at risk for the current virus and developing variants.

Even U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reminded the Israeli government of its obligation to the Palestinians. Blinken spoke with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and asked that Israel help in delivering coronavirus vaccines from abroad to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The ultimate solution to the issue of vaccine inequity for Palestinians is for Israel to uphold its responsibility under international law and provide vaccine to the Palestinians under occupation. However, we would like to suggest that you could send a powerful message and improve public health for many thousands of people if you donated some portion of your one million dollars in prize money and used that to buy vaccines for Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. Not only would that be a step towards resolving vaccine inequity, but it would be a powerful message about the value and dignity of every human life. It would also be a strong message saying that health care needs to be above politics, and that it is just plain wrong to allow politics to be a divider, where some lives are valued and protected and others ignored.

Thank you.

Jewish Voice for Peace Health Advisory Council

Continue reading

February 13, 2021
Love in the Time of Apartheid

10:00 am CST

 

How will many Palestinians be spending their Valentine’s Day?

For a lot of us in the UK, Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate love and romance; to show our affection through gifts, cards, and flowers. Or we may choose to avoid the hyper-consumerism in the Hallmark holiday, shun the ritualistic exchange of commodities, and simply spend time with those we hold dear.

For Palestinians, however, February 14th comes as a reminder of Israel’s suffocating restrictions on their movement, cutting them off from their loved ones. A coercive matrix of ID cards, blockades, borders and prisons means many Palestinians are separated from their Valentines, simply because they are Palestinian, and live under a discriminatory system of rule amounting to the crime of apartheid.

For those living under Israel’s brutal military occupation of their land, even the act of buying a gift is fraught with difficulty. Segregated roads, soldiers and checkpoints can make going to the shop a difficult affair.

Don’t miss this fascinating free online talk and film screening to learn more about how many Palestinians will be spending Valentine’s Day. We’ll be joined by Palestinian journalist and filmmaker Elia Ghorbiah, as well as more speakers to be announced.

Film: The Present by Farah Nabulsi (2020, 24′) 
Yusef and his daughter, Yasmine, set out in the West Bank to buy his wife a gift. Between the soldiers, segregated roads and checkpoints, how easy would it be to go shopping?

Register here to join us on Saturday 13th February, 10 am Central!