The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Professor Michael Lynk, recently delivered the final report of his five-year tenure to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council.
His report provides an in-depth legal analysis of the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory and comes to the troubling conclusion that “with the eyes of the international community wide open, Israel has imposed upon Palestine an apartheid reality in a post-apartheid world”.
Trócaire welcomes the publication of the Special Rapporteur’s report, as it re-affirms what we have witnessed through our work with Palestinian communities living this reality for many years. But its findings are not to be celebrated.
However, they do compel us here in Ireland to take action to challenge this crime against humanity that is being perpetrated against Palestinians. For 73 years, the international community has enabled Israeli impunity and failed to hold Israeli perpetrators accountable for serious crimes against Palestinians. Accountability is long overdue.
Trócaire has worked in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel since 2002, partnering with both Palestinian and Israel civil society organisations to monitor and document human rights violations, as well as providing direct support to Palestinian communities whose basic rights and dignity are being violated daily.
Through their legal research and documentation of human rights violations it has been clearly stated for a number of years by Trócaire’s Palestinian partners Al Haq and Badil that Israel is committing the crime of apartheid against Palestinians, wherever in the world they may reside, to further their policy of settler-colonialism over Palestinian lands.
Other Trócaire partners in Israel, such as the human rights organisation B’Tselem have also come to the conclusion that the State of Israel has imposed a regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. This amounts to apartheid.
In addition, former Attorney General of Israel, Michael Ben-Yair, writing in The Journal recently, also concurred that “it is Israel that is permanently depriving millions of Palestinians of their civil and political rights. This is Israeli apartheid.” Respected international human rights organisations Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have also released detailed reports that come to the same findings.
The UN Special Rapporteur has undertaken detailed legal analysis in his report, applying each of the three steps of the amalgamated test from the Convention Against Apartheid and the Rome Statute.
Applying these three steps to the facts on the ground, he concluded in the first instance that an institutionalized regime of systematic racial oppression and discrimination has been established. Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs in East Jerusalem and the West Bank live their lives under a single regime which differentiates its distribution of rights and benefits of the basis of national and ethnic identity, and which ensures the supremacy of one group (Israeli Jews) over, and to the detriment of, the other (Palestinian Arabs).
Secondly, he notes that this system of alien rule has been established with the intent to maintain the domination of one racial-national-ethnic group over another. Israeli political leaders, past and present, have repeatedly stated that they intend to retain control over all the occupied territory in order to enlarge the blocs of land for present and future Jewish settlement while confining the Palestinians to barricaded population reserves.
And thirdly, he states that the imposition of this system of institutionalized discrimination with the intent of permanent domination has been built upon the regular practice of inhuman(e) acts, such as the collective punishment of Palestinians, the violent deaths of children in Gaza, denial of Palestinian refugees right of return, torture and arbitrary arrest and extra-judicial killings.
“When the facts change, so must our minds”
The Special Rapporteur’s report should serve as a wake-up call to Governments around the world who espouse respect for international law and protection of human rights.
Successive Irish Governments and elected representatives across the political spectrum in Ireland have shown a willingness to speak out against Israel’s actions towards Palestinians. However more concrete action is needed. As Michael Ben-Yair commented, “the status quo on the ground is a moral abomination. The delay by the international community in taking meaningful steps to hold Israel accountable for the apartheid regime it is perpetuating is unacceptable.”
We have seen with recent events in Ukraine how the international community can take decisive action in response to war crimes being committed against innocent civilians, and such efforts could be replicated in the context of Palestine where the International Criminal Court has also recently opened an investigation into war crimes being committed in Palestine.
There is an opportunity for Ireland to take a lead in ensuring Israel is held accountable for the crime of apartheid against Palestinians, and to ensure respect for international law wherever it is being violated. Trócaire urges the Irish Government to take the following initial steps to help bring to an end the persecution of Palestinians once and for all:
- Publicly recognise that the State of Israel is committing the crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people
- Work to ensure that the United Nations re-establish the Special Committee Against Apartheid to investigate any and all practices of systematic discrimination and oppression purportedly amounting to apartheid anywhere in the world, including the occupied Palestinian territory
- Call on Israel to cease all measures and policies, which contribute to the fragmentation of the Palestinian people, including the denial of Palestinian refugee return, the closure of Jerusalem and of the Gaza Strip, the construction of the Annexation Wall, and the imposition of severe movement and access restrictions
- Enact the Occupied Territories Bill 2018 as soon as possible to ensure that goods and services from illegal Israeli settlements do not have access to Irish markets
- Publicly support and fund the work of the International Criminal Court in its investigation into the Situation in Palestine, as well as ensuring that the crime of apartheid is included in its investigation
- Finally, Irish civil society and the Irish public should coalesce around a broad anti-apartheid movement to draw awareness to the situation in Palestine and compel our elected representatives to act decisively to bring this crime against humanity to an end