In the Middle East peace process there is talk of apartheid

(To Antonino Lombardi)
02/05/22

"A major escalation is avoidable", so tweeted a few days ago Tor Wennesland, United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process.

The senior official updated the Security Council stating that violence in the Palestinian territories and Israel has escalated "NIn the occupied West Bank and Israel, 23 Palestinians, including three women and four children, were killed by the Israeli security forces (ISF) during demonstrations, clashes, search and arrest operations, attacks and alleged attacks on Israelis and other incidents, and 541 Palestinians, including 30 women and 80 children, were injured. 12 Israelis, including two women, as well as three foreign nationals, were killed and 82 Israelis, including around six children and four women, were injured by Palestinians in gunfire, stabbing and ramming, clashes, throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails and other accidents ". In Gaza, the economic and humanitarian situation remains alarming. After several months without missile launches, five rockets departed from the Strip and one caused damage in the town of Sderot while the others were intercepted and diverted from the system. Iron Dome.

The Human Rights Council, within the United Nations, is an organ Super partes and of sure objectivity charged with strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights throughout the world and with addressing situations of violation of human rights and formulating recommendations on them.

In the forty-ninth ordinary session of the Human Rights Council, the report on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 was presented, focusing on a burning issue that is whether the Israeli government on the occupied Palestinian territory can be called apartheid. The Council reaffirmed the right of Palestinians to live in freedom, justice and dignity and to have their own state of Palestine. Speakers said Palestinians in the territory have been subject to discriminatory zoning and planning regimes that restrict access to housing, safe drinking water and sanitation and other essential services, including health and education facilities.

Violence in the West Bank continues to escalate. Settlers regularly invade Palestinian villages also with the support of Israeli security forces. We remember the episode of January 21 last when the settlers of Givat Ronen attacked Palestinians and Israeli activists who were planting trees on Palestinian-owned land near the village of Burin.

Over the past five decades, Israel has created 300 illegal settlements with a population of around 700.000 Israeli Jewish settlers who now live between East Jerusalem and the West Bank and two million Palestinians are barricaded in Gaza in what David Cameron called, in July 2010, "An open-air prison".

The international community is firm in declaring that Israeli rule over Palestinian territory is an occupation, governed by international humanitarian and human rights law. The occupation should have been temporary and in fact it was foreseen that the buildings should have been made of wood and not concrete. This did not happen by violating the norms of international law with little indignation and commitment on the part of the international community so as to push Israel to an annexation that is no longer alone. de jure ma de facto of the occupied territory.

Several personalities have labeled these facts as equivalent or resembling theapartheid.

Ban Ki Moon "structural domination and oppression of the Palestinian people through permanent occupation by Israel ... probably constitute apartheid" (2021).

Desmond Tutu (Nobel laureate) "I know firsthand that Israel has created an apartheid reality within its borders and through its occupation." (2014).

Michael Ben-Yair (former Israel Attorney General) "[Israel] ... an apartheid regime ... a reality of one state, with two different peoples living with unequal rights."

Ami Ayalon (former director of the intelligence agency for internal affairs of the State of Israel.) "We have already created an apartheid situation in Judea and Samaria, where we control the Palestinians by force, denying them self-determination."

Other authoritative authorities such as the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs (photo) said last January that the possible existence of apartheid is "false, partial and anti-Semitic".

David Harris, the CEO of the American Jewish Committee, said Israel's shortcomings cannot be compared to theapartheid in South Africa.

The concept of apartheid (means "separation" in Afrikaans) as an oppressive system of government originated in South Africa as a declared state policy in 1948 and was also implemented in other colonies in southern Africa. Today theapartheid it has acquired a universal meaning that transcends the specific practices of southern Africa and is applicable wherever it may exist.

Without going too far into purely legal questions, however, we can say that through customary and conventional international law theapartheid it has become a well-established prohibition to the point that it is now considered a rule of jus cogens which gives rise to obligations erga omnes for all states in eradicating this violation placed in the same category of war crimes.

Leaving aside other conventions and agreements, we remind you that only the Convention Against theapartheid and the Rome Statute provide legal definitions ofapartheid. The first placed the attention of the international community on the specific practices of racial supremacy in southern Africa while the Rome Statute provided a definition for a universal application and, in particular, did not refer to the South African question, not limiting time and space. such a concept and requires "an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group.

In the context under consideration we can understand Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs as racial groups distinguished by nationality, ethnicity and religion. Now, Israel has created differences through laws and policies. A differentiated system has been established which provides standard rights and living conditions for Israeli settlers and imposes military control on Palestinians.

The experts who drafted the report concluded that "The political system of government in the occupied Palestinian territory that bestows upon one ethnic-racial-national-ethnic group substantive rights, benefits and privileges while intentionally submitting another group to live behind walls, checkpoints and under permanent military rule satisfies the prevailing standard of evidence for the existence of apartheid. "

We do not go further so as not to complicate the matter too much by delving into the different facets of law but we can say that the report of the Human Rights Council highlights the contradictions and complexity of a strip of land that will hardly find peace without the continuous exploitation that, from both sides, the actors strive to implement.

Photo: UN / Yesh Din / Government Press Office (Israel)