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Israeli Apartheid and Palestine Grievances

3 May

Israeli Apartheid and Palestinian Grievances

[Prefatory Note: Correio Braziliense Interview Questions from Rodrigo Craveiro (IV/27/2021) in response to Report of Human Rights Watch on Israeli Apartheid; it is followed by myresponses to questions of Zahra Mirzafarjouyan on behalf of Mehr News Agency in Tehran, addressing some of the underlying causes of Palestinian grievances.]

1- In the 213-page report, HRW accuses the Israeli authorities of crimes against humanity of apartheid and of persecuting the Palestinians. What do you have to say about it?

For a mainstream and highly respected NGO such HRW to make such accusations, backed by extensive documentation, is a major development, almost unthinkable a few years ago. There will certainly be hostile reactions from Israeli sources and governments supporting in Israel but many consequences will follow adverse to Israel. It is notable that this HRW Report came just months after the principal Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem issued a similar bombshell report that also concluded that Israel was guilty of the crime of apartheid.

Although apartheid originated with the racist regime in South Africa the international crime of apartheid need not resemble those structures of white supremacy. It stands on its own.

It is also highly significant that the finding of apartheid pertains not just to occupied Palestine, but to Israel itself, or to the entirety of Palestine as it existed under the British mandate, that is, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. This extended scope of criminality is explained not only by references to the similarity of discriminatory practices, but also by Israel annexationist moves against Jerusalem and the West Bank.

2- How do you see the use of the term “apartheid” for the situation in the Palestinian territories?

It is has been increasingly recognized by independent expert observers that the interplay of the Israeli state and the Palestinian people satisfies the core features of the crime of apartheid. The Israel Basic Law of 2018 made explicit the claim of Jewish supremacy by vesting the right of self-determination exclusively in the Jewish people.

It should be understood that the allegation of apartheid is based on the core feature of the crime, which is domination, systemic discrimination, and victimization so as to sustain Jewish supremacy over the Palestinians under their control. Apartheid is defined in the HRW Report by reference to comprehensive racial domination of Jews over Palestinians and in Article 7(j) of Rome Statute governing the International Criminal Court as one type of Crime Against Humanity. The most authoritative definition of apartheid from the perspective of international law is to be found in Article II of the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression of the Crime of Apartheid, which is reprinted in full because of its importance:

Article II 

For the purpose of the present Convention, the term “the crime of apartheid”, which shall include similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination as practised in southern Africa, shall apply to the following inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them: 

(a) Denial to a member or members of a racial group or groups of the right to life and liberty of person: 

(i) By murder of members of a racial group or groups; 

(ii) By the infliction upon the members of a racial group or groups of serious bodily or mental harm, by the infringement of their freedom or dignity, or by subjecting them to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; 

(iii) By arbitrary arrest and illegal imprisonment of the members of a racial group or groups; 

(b) Deliberate imposition on a racial group or groups of living conditions calculated to cause its or their physical destruction in whole or in part; 

(c) Any legislative measures and other measures calculated to prevent a racial group or groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country and the deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of such a group or groups, in particular by denying to members of a racial group or groups basic human rights and freedoms, including the right to work, the right to form recognized trade unions, the right to education, the right to leave and to return to their country, the right to a nationality, the right to freedom of movement and residence, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association; 

d) Any measures including legislative measures, designed to divide the population along racial lines by the creation of separate reserves and ghettos for the members of a racial group or groups, the prohibition of mixed marriages among members of various racial groups, the expropriation of landed property belonging to a racial group or groups or to members thereof; 

(e) Exploitation of the labour of the members of a racial group or groups, in particular by submitting them to forced labour; 

(f) Persecution of organizations and persons, by depriving them of fundamental rights and freedoms, because they oppose apartheid. 

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It is clear that there is no legal requirement that Israeli apartheid resemble South African apartheid. The policies and practices may vary with national conditions, but it makes no difference so long as the core reliance on discriminatory practices to maintain racial or ethnic supremacy is present. 

The HRW Report specifies the kinds of systemic discrimination that has been undertaken by Israeli apartheid to maintain Jewish domination and to secure Palestinian subordination. Among the principal policies and practices constituting Israeli apartheid are as follows: confiscation of Palestinian land; discriminatory issuance of building permits; restrictions on movement; manipulation of residency rights; discriminatory budgeting of public services; closure of Gaza; 99.7% conviction rate in Israeli military courts prosecuting Palestinians living under occupation.

3- The report recommends the prosecution of the International Criminal Court to open an investigation against the State of Israel for crimes against humanity and apartheid. How do you analyze this?

It is a simple matter. The HRW Report found overwhelming evidence of discriminatory practices based on the dual identities of Jew and Palestinian that seemed to establish a strong case for alleging apartheid as a Crime against Humanity under the Rome Statute. Israel is not a Party of the Rome Statute, and hence crimes on its territory are not within the jurisdictional reach of the ICC. However, Palestine is a Party, and as a result the ICC has legal authority to inquiry into alleged crimes committed on occupied Palestinian territories since Palestine became a Party,, which covers the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. As it happens, the ICC decided earlier in 2021 that it possesses this authority to conduct criminal investigations of occupied Palestine with respect to Israeli crimes in violation of the law of war arising out of its military operations in Gaza back in 2014, its uses of excessive force in responding to Great March of Return in 2018, and its unlawful settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Whether this will actually happen is problematic. The United States not only backs Israel in the contention that the ICC lacks authority to proceed against non-Parties, but has its own complaint arising from an investigation of its crimes in Afghanistan and some secret black sites in Europe where torture is alleged to have occurred of Afghan detainees. The ICC is a fragile international institutional with severe funding challenges that partly reflect the geopolitical

pressure it has come under in recent years since it began challenging the impunity of Western states. Whether the UN follows the recommendation of HRW to set up a commission of inquiry is more uncertain. It could happen despite furious opposition by Israel and its supporters, but if as is likely the findings and recommendations were similar to those of the HRW, it seems almost certain that their implementation will be effectively blocked, This has been the fate of the several UN formal inquiries into Israeli wrongdoing, most prominently the Goldstone Commission investigating the violations of the law of war during the Israeli attack on 
Gaza in 2008-2009. All these reports confirmed Israeli wrongdoing, yet all were blocked when it came to carrying out the policy recommendations.

And yet this report, and the trend to acknowledge credibly on the basis of evidence and legal analysis that Israel is an apartheid state is of lasting importance. It will spread and intensify the solidarity efforts of pro-Palestinian groups throughout the world. It will make it hard to smear such efforts as anti-Semitism. It will strengthen the resolve of Palestinian resistance. In years to come we may look back on this day when HRW issued its report as the turning point in the struggle. It is time to declare Palestine as the victor in the Legitimacy War for the control of the legal and moral discourse, the symbolic battlefield where many of the prolonged struggles of the last 75 years have been won and lost. 

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Questions of Zahra Mirzafarjouyan, International Department, Mehr News Agency  (May 1, 2021) on failures of to protect the basic rights of the Palestinian people.]  

 
  1. Have international organizations been successful in addressing the human rights situation in Palestine? If so, why are Israel’s human rights abuses still continuing?

International organizations, particularly the United Nations, has a mixed record when it comes to dealing with human rights violations in Palestine. The UN, especially the Human Rights Council, has a generally good record in identifying violations and recommending remedies. Such delimitations of Israeli behavior are important in validating Palestinian grievances and justifying international solidarity efforts. Unfortunately, this symbolic verification of wrongdoing with respect to human rights is not substantively implemented. All efforts to enforce human rights are

blocked by geopolitics, and particularly the United States. This interference takes various forms, including shielding Israel from accountability by the use of the veto power entrusted to the five Permanent Members of the Security Council.

In addition, Israel has defied the findings and recommendations of international organizations that have found it responsible for serious violations of international human rights standards and the norms of international humanitarian law without suffering from adverse consequences. Israel defends itself not by substantive claims that it has been falsely accused, but by contending falsely that its critics are guilty of antisemitism.


2. Why are most UN Security Council resolutions against the Israeli regime vetoed by the United States?

The United States has interpreted its ‘special relationship’ as obliging it to shield Israel from criticism at the UN and to block the implementation of any moves to hold Israel accountable. Partly the US Government takes such a position because of its strategic interests in the region and partly as a reflection of well-organized pro-Israeli lobbying,

which has been very effective with the US Congress. The UK and France, and the EU generally, have also supported Israel at the international level, although not as strongly as the US.



3. Which governments do you think play the biggest role in violating Palestinian rights?

It seems obvious that the US and the EU countries are most responsible. This reflects in part the broader conflict patterns in the Middle East, which focus on Iran. It is generally believed in the West that Iran seeks the destruction of the Jewish state, and this partly accounts for the strong backing of Israel as the last European colonial venture. It is my understanding that Iran opposes the Zionist Project so far as it seeks to extend Jewish supremacy over the non-Jewish residents of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This supremacy has been recently determined to be an instance of the international crime of apartheid by the influential and politically independent human rights organization, Human Rights Watch, as well as by the leading human rights NGO in Israel, B’Tselem. 

4. What is the mission of world public opinion, especially Europe and the United States, in dealing with such inhuman behavior?

There is an encouraging increase is solidarity support in Europe and the US for the Palestinian struggle to achieve basic rights. The BDS campaign is exerting pressure from without and below upon Israel in a manner similar to anti-apartheid campaign waged successfully against South Africa more than 25 years ago. Israel is losing the Legitimacy War to the Palestinian movement, and the history of anti-colonial movements has demonstrated that what happens with respect to the control of the legitimacy discourse is generally more important over time than what happens on the battlefield in terms of the ultimate political outcome of political struggles in the period since World War II.

5. How do you assess the internal situation in Israel, given the growing economic pressures and identity challenges in this society?

I think the electoral impasse in Israel is a clear indication that all is not well. Israel has drifted politically steadily to the right as to the pursuit of a diplomatic solution of the conflict with Palestine, and feels no current security pressure to scale back the ambitions of the Zionist movement. At the same time there are internal identity challenges evident in the tensions between the secular character of the Israeli state and the increasing leverage of extreme Orthodox Judaism. Whether the economic effects of the boycott and divestment efforts supporting Palestinian goals is being offset by the normalization agreements concluded with Arab governments at the end of 2020 remains to be seen. 

6. Why have peace projects in the region, which are more in the interests of Israel, failed to move forward?

Israel relies on alleged security threats from Iran to keep its citizens mobilized and unified around this central challenge, although it is Israel that commits aggression against Iran and tries its best to prevent the revitalization of the JCPOA Nuclear Agreement, which will have the effect of eliminating US sanctions on Iran. There has been a shift in Israeli foreign policy priorities from the Palestinian/Arab threat, which has been neutralized at present, to the primacy of the Iranian threat. Iran is seen as threatening Israel’s nuclear weapons regional monopoly and as supporting groups throughout the region that are perceived as hostile to Israel’s interests, including Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis. Israel is aware that the regional balance could shift quickly against it by future political developments, as well as by the deployment and development of weaponry that could challenge its security at home and throughout the region. So long as the Islamic Republic Tehran exists, Israel will base its foreign policy on aggressive military actions toward Iran. Israel has always felt that its regional security depends on opposing the consolidation of any strong regional actor that is sympathetic with the Palestinian struggle, such as Iran, Turkey, and Syria.

THE B’TSELEM REPORT ON ISRAELI APARTHEID

3 Feb

[Prefatory NoteThe post below consists of my responses to questions posed by Merve Ayadogan of the Anadolu Agency in Turkey, focused on the significance of the B’Tselem Report that recently concluded that Israel imposes an apartheid regime to sustain Jewish supremacy on both Israel itself and the all of Occupied Palestine. The Published version on Februrary 3, 2021 was crafted for the readers of the news agency.]

            THE B’TSELEM REPORT ON ISRAELI APARTHEID

Q 1: An Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem has labelled Israel as an “apartheid state” over its policy of favoring Jews over the Palestinians earlier this month. How would you comment on this declaration? Could it ease the Israeli aggression on Palestinians?

It is definitely an important development when Israel’s most respected human rights organization issues a report that confirms earlier UN reports and allegations that the Palestinians are victimized by an apartheid regime that seeks to impose policies and practices that ensure the supremacy of Jews by victimizing the Palestinian people throughout the whole of historic Palestine. Such a de facto one-state reality of unified Israeli control suggests that the internationally endorsed goal of a negotiated two-state solution has been superseded by Israeli ambitions to complete the Zionist project of establishing a Jewish exclusivist state on the entire  ‘promised land’ of ‘biblical Israel.’ These ambitions were implicitly acknowledged by Israel in 2018 when it enacted a Basic Law that asserted that only the Jewish people had a right to self-determination within the state of Israel, that the internationally unlawful settlement enterprise deserved national support, and that Hebrew was the only official language. Not only were Palestinians being subordinated despite being citizens, but so were Druze and Christian minorities.

It should be appreciated that ‘apartheid’ is listed as a Crime Against Humanity in Article 7(j) of the Rome Statute governing the activities of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Although the crime of apartheid is derived from the South African racist regime that proudly declared itself to be a governance structure based on apartheid ideas of separate and unequal development, it has become a generic crime given an authoritative definition in the 1976 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. The Government of Israel, especially in international settings such as the UN, is outraged by allegations of apartheid that it repudiates as nothing other than a vicious form of anti-Semitism. The internationally acclaimed Israeli journalist, Gideon Levy, writing in Haaretz, goes beyond the B’Tselem Report in his insistence that Israel plus the territory it occupies is an apartheid regime: “The reality of apartheid and Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the sea is hidden only from the blind, the ignorant, the propagandists and the liars.”

One of the contributions of the Report is to identify the elements of Israeli apartheid by reference to specific policies and practices that are relied upon to maintain Jewish supremacy over non-Jews within its sovereign territory. Among these are discriminatory standards applicable to immigration, giving Jews worldwide an unrestricted ‘right of return’ while denying Palestinian any immigrations rights even if parents or grandparents were born within its territory. Other important instances of discrimination based on ethnicity concern land tenure, citizenship and nationality rights, freedom of mobility, security of residence, administration of law, and issuance of building permits. It is clear that these apartheid features vary from domain to domain, from Israel proper to East Jerusalem, West Bank, and Gaza, but the core undertaking is stable: exploitative domination by Jews over non-Jews, especially Palestinians.

There is one mysterious weakness in my reading of the B’Tselem Report: the erasure of seven million or so Palestinian refugees and involuntary exiles. The Report deals with apartheid. only in the context of the control of territory rather than its deliberate and intended design of exerting control of people, and yet from 1948 to the present, Palestinians have suffered as a people, whether subject to Israeli territorial control or not, with hundreds of thousand  being displaced and dispossessed from 1948 onwards as integral to the 

Israeli overall plan to be a Jewish majority state that could lay a legitimating claim to being a democracy. In effect, ‘ethnic cleansing’ was a necessity, given Israel claims to legitimacy as a democracy. Palestinian forced to abandon their homeland by becoming refugees or exiles are at least as much a victim of apartheid as are Palestinians living under Israeli territorial control.

I have no reason to believe that Israel will act more humanely toward Palestinians as a result of the B’Tselem Report, but will condemn the report, as has already happened, as an instance of ‘Jewish anti-Semitism.’ As with BDS, Israeli first defenders will deliberately confuse criticism of criminally unlawful governing policies in Israel with hatred of Jews. A peaceful and secure future for both peoples will not arise until Israel dismantles apartheid and agrees to treat Palestinians in accordance with human rights standards, including respect for the Palestinian right of self-determination, as well as a genuine endorsement of racial equality.

  • Q 2: Despite pledging a new beginning in the Middle East, during Obama-era we saw a rise in conflicts and emerge of Daesh terror. Then came the Trump administration and we saw an atrophy in US-Palestine relations due to former president’s controversial decisions in favor of Israel. Now the newly-elected US President Joe Biden has directed his administration an immediate renewal of relations with Palestine and its people, what do you think of Biden administration’s policy regarding Palestine, the Middle East and wider region? Could we expect an “unseen” US policy for the region?

It is basically too early to tell whether the Biden presidency will do more than roll back some of Trump’s extremist moves. My best guess would be continuity with the approach to Israel/Palestine taken during the Obama period, with the special relationship fully reaffirmed, and Israel protected against censure and nonviolent pressures of the sort associated with the BDS Campaign or at the UN. Much will be revealed by how the Biden administration approaches Iran, particularly whether it attaches new conditions to the revival of Nuclear Program Agreement (JCPOA) of 2015 from which Trump withdrew. The suspensions of arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the UAE are welcome signs that Biden’s foreign policy might be directed at achieving some demilitarization of the Middle East with special emphasis placed on ending chaos and strife in Yemen, Syria, and Libya, as well as promoting stability in Iraq and Lebanon. It seems likely that Israel will continue to exert a strong influence on U.S. policy toward the region, and the Biden leadership has promised to consult with Israel before making any new policy moves in the region. At the same time, it is my impression is that Biden’s priorities will be overwhelmingly domestic (COVID, economic recovery), and that he will try hard to avoid the distractions of adopting controversial foreign policy positions. Even more troublesome than the Middle East, is an escalation of tensions with China and Russia, which definitely seems to be on the radar screen of Antony Blinkon and other top foreign policy advisors.

Q 3: Former US President Trump announced a “peace plan” which is widely known as “the deal of the century.” Do you think it was a realistic initiative?

The Trump plan was essentially a demand that Palestinians agree to political surrender with respect to their struggle for basis rights in exchange for economic assistance in improving the quality of their daily lives. In the post-colonial age of robust nationalism to expect a people to accept subordination in their own homeland and 

The renunciation of their inalienable right of self-determination is unrealistic, besides being contrary to the spirit of the post-colonial ethos. Such a one-sided proposal as put forward by the Trump presidency was nothing other than a tactic of geopolitical bullying, and should not be confused with genuine peacemaking. 

Q 4: How would you comment on the position of international community regarding Palestine conflict?

The international community seems stuck in a time warp by its continued adherence to the totally discredited Oslo diplomacy, which was premised on a two-state solution. As B’Tselem Report clearly demonstrates, the one-

state reality has become the only foundation of any future meaningful peace process, posing a challenge of how to arrange for future governance on a basis of true ethnic equality. Until this happens, UN and internationalist initiatives will be irrelevant. It is my belief that what hope exists for a just solution will arise from Palestinian resistance and global solidarity initiatives exerting sufficient pressure on the Israeli leadership so as to cause a recalculation of national interests. It is useful to remember that it was this combination of developments that explains the abrupt and unexpected collapse of the South African apartheid regime.

Q 5: Though UN has commented on the illegality of the settlements that Israel continues to develop on the occupied Palestinian territories, the organization still falls short in bringing about a peaceful solution. What should the UN do to ensure security, accountability, human rights and dignity for the Palestinian people?

The UN did pass a strong anti-settlements resolution at the end of 2016 by a 14-0 vote in the Security Council, with the U.S. abstaining, during the last days of the Obama presidency. [SC RES 2334, 23 Dec 2016] It was the strongest reassertion of UN authority in recent years, yet it led nowhere when it came to implementation. As Israel has repeatedly demonstrated over the course of its history, it will not be swayed by international law or UN directives, and will experience no adverse consequences for such defiance. It has now provocatively challenged the Biden presidency by approving 3,000 new permits for unlawful settlement construction, many of the approved new structures are situated deep in the West Bank, signaling Israel’s continuing establishment of unlawful facts on the ground to reinforce its refusal even to consider the negotiated emergence of a viable Palestinian state. It is important that the UN agenda continue to document Israeli wrongdoing as this will encourage and legitimize civil society activism. It is only Palestinian resistance from within and global solidarity from without that can have any prospect of achieving Palestinian rights and a peaceful future for both peoples.