You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2012.
[The following was originally published in BADIL's al-Majdal.]
Between mid-February and early March 2012, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination held its 80th session, in which it evaluated the compliance of several states with the 1966 International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). Among these states was Israel, which became a party to the Convention in 1979. The Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations are notable because they establish that Israel’s policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) are tantamount to Apartheid, and additionally determine that many state policies within Israel also violate the prohibition on Apartheid as enshrined in Article 3 of the Convention.
Apartheid in ICERD and the Apartheid Convention
The ICERD is a short document comprising only seven substantive articles. It imposes positive obligations upon states to combat racism, as well as negative duties mandating that they refrain from violating equal access to education, health, society, family, nationality, religion, work, and immunity from violence. Ratified in 1969, ICERD preceded the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (Apartheid Convention) by seven years.
Article 3 of ICERD condemns “racial segregation and apartheid” and obligates State signatories to “prevent, prohibit and eradicate all practices of this nature under their jurisdiction.” Unlike the Apartheid Convention, there is an effective consensus that apartheid, as discussed in ICERD, is not particular to South Africa. Whereas some commentators insist that the Apartheid Convention applied uniquely to South Africa during the era of white minority rule, international legal scholar John Dugard explains that the Apartheid Convention’s universal application is well established on account of its invocation. Thus Additional Protocol I (1977) to the 1949 Geneva Conventions (1949), in Article 85, paragraph 4(c), recognized apartheid as a grave breach without geographical limitation. More recently, Article 7 of the Rome Statute, ratified several years after the completion of the democratic transition in South Africa, included the crime of apartheid as a crime against humanity. Israel is a party to ICERD but has neither signed nor ratified the Apartheid Convention.
Applicability of ICERD in the OPT
Palestinian human rights organizations began bringing claims arising out of Israeli practice in the OPT before the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 1998. Israel has consistently rejected the applicability of human rights treaties to Arab territories it occupies, yet does not contend that another body of law is better suited for the Territory. Rather, it argues that even Occupation Law, as set forth in the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilians in Times of War, is applicable only as a matter of discretion and not law. Israel’s contention would render the OPT a legal black hole. Authoritative human rights bodies, as well as various United Nations agencies have however consistently rejected these claims.
The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights as well as the Human Rights Committee have held that human rights law is applicable to the OPT. In its Advisory Opinion on Legal Consequences of Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the International Court of Justice also affirmed the applicability of human rights law, and specifically the Fourth Geneva Convention, to the OPT. The Committee for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination has repeatedly affirmed the applicability of ICERD. In its most recent Concluding Observations, it reiterated its affirmation and held that ICERD should be applied according to a test of “effective control,” from which jurisdiction flows the enjoyment of full rights under the Convention “without discrimination based on ethnicity, citizenship, or national origin.” Accordingly, despite Israel’s enduring protests, the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has reviewed the State’s compliance with the Convention in 1998, 2003, and . At those Review Sessions, the Committee made significant findings but nothing as bold or firm as its conclusions and observations in the 2012 Session.
Apartheid and Israel: Highlighting the strides between 2007 and 2012
In the Committee’s 80th session, members of the Palestinian Coalition for Human Rights Organizations (PCHRO) collectively demonstrated how systematic discrimination against non-Jews drove the ban on family reunification and the forced population transfer of indigenous Bedouins in the Negev; underpinned the lack of a constitutional right to equality; and explained the dramatic spike in settler violence, the disproportionate allocation of water, the forced population transfer of Palestinians from East Jerusalem, the systematic destruction of Palestinian homes, and the unequal access to justice and accountability in the Gaza Strip.
The Committee has come to describe the situation within the OPT as a demonstrable case of Apartheid. Whereas it in 2007 noted that Israel cannot legitimately distinguish between Israelis and Palestinians in the OPT on the basis of citizenship status, in 2012 it stated that it is extremely concerned by the de facto segregation and discrimination within the Territory between Jews and non-Jews. The distinction is of paramount importance; whereas states can legitimately discriminate between citizens and aliens within their sovereign territory, they are prohibited from privileging communities under their jurisdiction on the basis of race, religion and ethnicity. In paragraph 24 the Committee writes:
The Committee is particularly appalled at the hermetic character of the separation of two groups, who live on the same territory but do not enjoy either equal use of roads and infrastructure or equal access to basic services and water resources. Such separation is concretized by the implementation of a complex combination of movement restrictions consisting of the Wall, roadblocks, the obligation to use separate roads and a permit regime that only impacts the Palestinian population (Article 3 of the Convention).
The Committee draws the State party’s attention to its General Recommendation 19 (1995) concerning the prevention, prohibition and eradication of all policies and practices of racial segregation and apartheid, and urges the State party to take immediate measures to prohibit and eradicate any such policies or practices which severely and disproportionately affect the Palestinian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and which violate the provisions of article 3 of the Convention.
The Committee also addressed Israel’s discriminatory zoning and planning policy as a comprehensive system aimed at achieving a “demographic balance” (para 25). Accordingly, it urges Israel to reconsider the “entire policy” in order to ensure equal access to land and its resources among Palestinian and Bedouin communities within Israel.
The Committee rejected Israel’s argument that military exigencies necessitate the differentiated treatment among the OPT’s population. To the contrary, the Committee concluded that in order to prevent racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, Israel must “ensure equal access to justice for all persons residing in territories under the State Party’s effective control” (para 27). It considers the trial of children as contravention of international norms and regards administrative detention as no less than arbitrary detention under international human rights law. Rather than accept the disparate treatment of Palestinians and Jewish settlers as resulting from the application of Occupation Law, the Committee attributes the discriminatory treatment to Israel’s establishment of two sets of laws; one for Palestinians and another for Jewish settlers.
Apartheid within Israel
Perhaps the most significant development in the Committee’s Conclusions concerned its application of Article 3 violations to the treatment of non-Jewish persons within Israel. In paragraph 11 it notes
… with increased concern that Israeli society maintains Jewish and non-Jewish sectors, which raises issues under Article 3 of the Convention. Clarifications provided by the delegation confirmed the Committee’s concerns in relation to the existence of two systems of education, one in Hebrew and one in Arabic, which except in rare circumstances remain impermeable and inaccessible to the other community, as well as separate municipalities: Jewish municipalities and the so-called “municipalities of the minorities.”
The Committee noted that discrimination between Jews and non-Jews facilitates unequal access to land and housing rights within Israel in ways that mirror Israeli policies in the OPT. Whereas in 2007 the Committee took issue with the role of para-statal organizations in confiscating land for exclusive Jewish use, the Committee’s 2012 Conclusions place this burden upon the State itself and note that the State party must “ensure equal access to land and property and to that end abrogate or rescind any legislation that does not comply with the principle of non-discrimination.”
The Committee was particularly concerned with the Israel Land Administration Law of 2009, the 2010 Amendment to the Land (Acquisition for Public Purpose) Ordinance (1943); and the 2010 Amendment to the Negev Development Authority Law (1991). It considered the Admissions Committee Law (2011), which gives individuals the right to discriminate against persons in regards to housing, to be a “clear sign” that concerns about segregation remain pressing (para 11). This finding undermines Israel’s attempts to task private bodies with responsibility for longstanding policies of discrimination, and thereby circumvent the ruling in Ka’adan v. The Israel Lands Administration (2000), in which Israel’s supreme court deemed discriminatory housing and land policies by public institutions illegal. The Committee also emphasized that Israel should withdraw the discriminatory Law for the Regulation of the Bedouin Settlement in the Negev proposed in 2012, which the Committee found to be tantamount to “legaliz[ing] the ongoing policy of home demolitions and forced displacement of the indigenous Bedouin communities” (para 2).
In line with this bold approach, the Committee urged Israel to rescind the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law and to facilitate the reunification of all families irrespective of their ethnic, national or other origin.
By extending its application of Article 3 to Israel and finding that racial discrimination and apartheid exist as a de jure policy within the OPT, the Committee in its 2012 Concluding Observations achieved what the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance, better known as the Durban Conference, could not. In fact, the Committee has urged Israel to “give effect to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.” Bearing in mind Israel’s objections to the process and the document, the Committee encouraged the State Party to re-examine its position and adopt policies to implement Durban because of the document’s significance for “a large segment of humanity” (para 31). This marks a significant milestone in the struggle for Palestinian human rights. Whereas compliance with the Fourth Geneva Convention and the cessation of its application prescribes the removal of the military occupation and return the situation to its status quo ante, human rights law would reverse those conditions of inequality that have developed as a result of the Occupation’s prolonged nature. Moreover, the Committee acknowledged that the discriminatory treatment between Jews and non-Jews within Israel concerning their human rights, including land and housing rights, is tantamount to Apartheid. The Committee’s conclusions amply vindicate the efforts of Palestinian human rights organizations and their partners. However, its inability to enforce its recommendations heightens the significance of, and the need for, the continued work of human rights organizations, scholars, and activists.
Israeli police brutally arrest hunger strike demonstrators, threaten them with rape
The Electronic Intifada
11 May 2012
Seventeen activists, including a minor, were brutally arrested during a permitted demonstration on 3 May in support of the Palestinian hunger strikers near Ramle prison, where some strikers are being held in the Israeli Prison Service medical center.
The protesters spent the night in Ramle police station and were brought to Petach Tikva court the following day. After reviewing the “secret evidence” presented by the police, a judge imposed three days of house arrest on them and forbade the activists to make any contact with each other for 15 days, also fining them hundreds of shekels for disturbing the peace.
On 6 May, the Palestinian human rights group Adalah submitted an urgent complaint to the head of the police investigation unit at the Israeli ministry of justice, demanding an investigation into the arrest and abuse of the 17 protesters.
According to a 7 May press release issued by Adalah, “At approximately 6:45pm, after the demonstration ended and most participants had left, several individuals attempted to continue protesting by forming a picket line, which does not require a permit under Israeli law. However, the police violently attacked the group, beating them and using tasers, even after the people were handcuffed.” Eight were arrested at the site (“Adalah Demands Criminal Investigation into Illegal Arrest and Abuse in Custody of 17 Demonstrators”).
Adalah adds, “After the initial arrests, some of protestors went to the police station to find out about the others’ status. There, the police attacked and beat the remaining protestors and arrested an additional nine people.”
Adalah emphasized that “this event is yet another example of the Israeli police’s systematic brutality against Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel who demonstrate and exercise their right to free speech.”
Demonstrator taken to hospital
Sixteen-year-old Ward Kayal, sentenced to house arrest, recalled the Israeli police’s use of force at the protest.
“We were around 200 demonstrators, and although the protest was permitted by the police, it did not stop the Yassam [a special police force unit] and police forces attacking us,” she said.
“They put us on the ground and started beating us. I have bruises all over my body. I suffer from a medical condition [related to] blood pressure, and am being treated with medicine. After they arrested us around 6pm, they hand- and leg-cuffed us all, as they continued to use tasers [electric stun guns] while cursing and humiliating us.
“I told the police, as did my mother who also participated in the protest, that I suffer from a medical condition and to allow me to take the medicine and see a doctor. While [I was] cuffed, they pushed me down the stairs, beat me with their fists and tasers, and forced me to use the bathroom while the door was open to humiliate me. Four hours later I was too weak to stand on my feet and fainted.
“When they saw that my condition was bad, they took me to a hospital nearby, while hand- and leg-cuffed, and in my medical record it stated that my blood pleasure was 150/122 and that I should take medicine. They kept me under custody and I was deprived any medicine until I was released the following day.
“During the night they interrogated me, until around 3am.”
Kayal added, “I find the support of the hunger strikers of national importance … The support should be more active, especially since it has a significant meaning for the strikers [to know] of our support, which gives them hope to go on with their struggle.”
Female activists threatened with rape
Thaira Zoabi, a 27-year-old activist from Nazareth, also suffered injuries at the hands of police on 3 May.
“As soon as the protest began, the Israeli Yassam and police forces first arrested the bus driver and eight protesters. That did not stop us from continuing our protest demanding to release them all,” she said.
“I was first attacked by a police officer when he lifted me up the ground with my kuffiyeh [traditional checkered scarf] that was around my neck, suffocating me and making it hard for me to breathe. They arrested me and eight other protesters. There were also Israeli and foreign activists amongst us.
“The Israeli forces used [taser guns] and I have bruises on my arms and legs. I saw them open a protester’s mouth by force and spit in it, and they spit in my face as well. They beat us and used massive verbal violence. They did a full body search. While being under custody, a police officer of Ramle district addressed both me and another female activist while being cuffed with verbal sexual harassment, threatening to rape us. I have to admit I burst in tears.”
Zoabi said that in spite of what happened during the protest, she will continue her activism — even more motivated than before.
“I regard the struggle of the Palestinian prisoners and their hunger strike as a personal matter for each Palestinian and human rights defenders,” she said. “The government of Israel tries to break our national spirit using psychological and physical terror.”
Sawsan Khalife’ is a political activist and journalist from Shefa-Amr in the Galilee region of Palestine.
Israel and Palestine: Two states, two peoples
Israel’s idea of ‘two states’ is based on expulsion of Arabs, so the Jewish character of its country is not threatened.
By Ben White
Cambridge, United Kingdom - The slogan “two states for two peoples” has long been used by those who support the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Ironically, however, such a framework risks cementing Israeli apartheid and Jewish privilege, evoking the same sorts of arguments put forward by defenders of South Africa’s historical regime of systematic discrimination.
There are three problems with the “two states for two peoples” formulation. Firstly, the meaning of a Palestinian “state” has changed to the point that it is problematic to even use the term. Support for Palestinian statehood – at least rhetorically – has become the shared position of everyone from Tony Blair to Netanyahu, via Ariel Sharon. Some Israel advocacy groups (the slightly smarter ones) even campaign on this basis.
So what’s going on here, when someone like Netanyahu can boast to Congress how he has “publicly committed to a solution of two states for two peoples”? Well note the wording of the Israeli government’s position when Ehud Olmert was prime minister and Tzipi Livni was foreign minister.
“The government will strive to shape the permanent borders of the state of Israel as a Jewish state, with a Jewish majority.”
In other words, the question of borders is not so much about land, as it is about demographics. Another example is Yitzhak Rabin. When Shimon Peres lauded the legacy of the assassinated prime minister in November 2011, he claimed that “[Rabin's] diplomatic path has been accepted and is now held by the majority, a solution of two states for two peoples”.
But what did Rabin mean by this? Shortly before he was killed in 1995, the then-PM told the Knesset that he envisaged a “Palestinian entity … which is less than a state”. Rabin’s “permanent solution” included Jerusalem as Israel’s “united capital” (including the illegal settlements such as Ma’ale Adumim), annexation of colony blocs, the “establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria”, and a border “in the broadest meaning of that term” down the Jordan Valley. This is a road map to walled-in reservations, not statehood – and it’s remarkably similar to Netanyahu’s own vision.
‘The Jewish character of the state’
The second problem with the “two states for two peoples” position is what it means for those Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, for whom a solution based on ethnic separation has dark implications. This threat has been spelled out explicitly by current Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who, in a 2010 interview with Newsweek, explained his belief in “exchanging territory and populations”. The questioner clarified: “You’re talking about drawing a line so that how many Israeli Arabs will no longer be part of Israel?” Lieberman replied: “At least half.”
|“The problem of refugees will be solved within the Palestinian state, and there will be no right of return to the State of Israel.“- Chaim Oron, former chair of Meretz|
In January this year, he repeated his views, stating that “any future agreement with the Palestinians must address the matter of Israeli Arabs in the formula of territory and population exchanges“, since “any other arrangement is simply collective suicide”. While this position has support from the likes of fellow Yisrael Beiteinu minister Danny Ayalon, the now ex-Kadima MK Livni also voiced something similar. In 2008, she said her solution for maintaining a Jewish and democratic state of Israel was “to have two distinct national entities”, which would mean being “able to approach the Palestinian residents of Israel … and tell them: ‘Your national aspirations lie elsewhere‘.”
While there are dangers for Palestinians in the pre-1967 borders, the third problem with the “two states for two peoples” paradigm relates to the Palestinian refugees, for whom this kind of peace means permanent exclusion, and a seal of approval upon the expulsions of 1948.
In the words of Professor Yehuda Shenhav: “Return is not possible in two states for two peoples … That’s why anyone who wants two states for two peoples requires we forget what happened in 48″. The refusal to engage with the ethnic cleansing of the Nakba is found even – or perhaps especially – among so-called doves. Former chair of Meretz MK Chaim Oron once explained how “two states for two peoples” means “the problem of refugees will be solved within the Palestinian state, and there will be no right of return to the state of Israel”, adding the instructive comment: “It is in Israel’s supreme interest that the refugee problem should be solved.”
The relationship between “two states for two peoples” and Israel’s policies of apartheid and ethnic purity was highlighted in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s support for the law separating Palestinian spouses. Kadima MK Otniel Schneller praised the law for articulating “the rationale of separation between the (two) peoples and the need to maintain a Jewish majority and the (Jewish) character of the state”, adding that if the law had been rejected, “it would have undermined the central argument justifying two states for two peoples”.
There are echoes here of course with the rhetoric of apartheid South Africa’s leadership: in 1948, the National Party’s platform stated that “either we must follow the course of equality, which must eventually mean national suicide for the white race, or we must take the course of separation”. Interestingly, former president FW de Klerk noted last year on the BBC that what he “supported as a younger politician was exactly what the whole world now supports for Israel and Palestine, namely [that] separate nation states will be the solution”.
The unpleasant reality at the heart of the “two states for two peoples” – a framework based on expulsion and exclusion – has become clearer as more and more Zionists link Palestinian “statehood” with the need to “save” Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state”. In doing so, they unwittingly emphasize how only one half of that latter formulation is true.
Ben White is a freelance writer, specializing in matters pertaining to Palestine and Israel.
‘Israel’s gone way beyond apartheid’
Frank Barat caught up with Jeff Halper, long-time Israeli peace activist, author and director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), while he was on a European speaking tour which will take him from the UK to Poland. Here is what he had to say about the situation in Israel and Palestine…
The Zionists have always, always said that once the Arabs despair – [Ze’ev] Jabotinsky once put it interestingly ‘despair of the land of Israel ever becoming Palestine’ – that was the end, victory for them. Israel feels that’s what we have got now. If you go today to the West Bank, Gaza might be different, you’ll hear the people say that they don’t care anymore, let me have a job, let me live my life and I’ll be happy. In a sense, Fayyad feels he can respond to that.
Some pogroms took place recently when a group of Beitar soccer fans attacked Palestinian workers in a shopping mall. Were those people a few bad apples, or do these types of events indeed say something about Israeli society?
They are more than bad apples. They are not completely Israeli society either. This football team in Jerusalem is connected to the Likud. In Israel many football clubs are associated with political parties. There is a very close relation between the ideology of Likud and Begin and the Beitar football team. They see the Arabs as the enemy. So it reflects about a third of the Israeli public that is very committed to expansion, settlements, that see the Arabs as enemies. In Beitar, their chants, it’s not just the pogroms, they chant every time their team scores a goal, ‘death to the Arabs’. That’s what 20,000 people chant. Beitar for example has never had an Arab player.
The Arabs are beginning to be more prominent in Israeli football teams. Not in Beitar Jerusalem. This pogrom is kind of an extension of this. It’s all in the context of kids, for the most part its kids that have seen Israel changed into a neoliberal economy, become more and more Thatcherite, and you have tremendous income disparity in Israel. Israel is now in the OECD, but it has one of the highest income disparities.
‘I think occupation is an old word. We are way beyond occupation. I think we are also way beyond apartheid’
Kids have got no real future, that’s part of the context too. Those kids come from the housing projects, very much like those who follow the National Front in France or the EDL in England, people that only have this racist emotional outlet for their frustrations, and football is great for that. It channels anger away from the government. That’s why they sponsor football teams!
How important are the words we use, in your opinion, when it comes to Palestine/Israel. Ilan Pappe recently told me that we should rethink our vocabulary. Can we objectively still talk about ‘peace/occupation’? Shouldn’t we talk about ‘right to resist’ and ‘apartheid’ instead?
For sure. We deal a lot with words in our analysis. There are two words, because I think occupation is an old word. We are way beyond occupation. I think we are also way beyond apartheid. There are two words that capture the political reality but don’t have any legal substance today. One of them is Judaization. The entire country is being Judaized. It’s a word that the government uses, to Judaize Jerusalem, the Galilee, so the Judaization process is really at the heart of what’s going on. But it has no legal reference. So one of our projects we’re working on with Michael Sfard and some other lawyers is to try to introduce those terms into the discourse with the idea of trying to give them some legal frame. We have to try to match the political process, the political reality, because it is unprecedented in the world.
‘In a sense Israel has succeeded with the international community, and the US especially, in taking out of this situation the political. It’s now solely an issue of security, just like in prisons’
Another term is ‘warehousing’ because I think that captures what’s going on better than apartheid. Warehousing is permanent. Apartheid recognizes that there is another side. With warehousing it’s like prison. There is no other side. There is us, and then there are these people that we control, they have no rights, they have no identity, they’re inmates. It’s not political, it’s permanent, static. Apartheid you can resist. The whole brilliance of warehousing is that you can’t resist because you’re a prisoner.
Prisoners can rise up in the prison yards but prison guards have all the rights in the world to put them down. That’s what Israel has come to. They are terrorists and we have the right to put them down. In a sense Israel has succeeded with the international community, and the US especially, in taking out of this situation the political. It’s now solely an issue of security, just like in prisons. It’s another concept that does not have any legal reference today but we’d like to put that in because warehousing is not only in Israel. Warehousing exists all over the capitalist world. Two-thirds of the people have been warehoused. That’s why I’m writing about Global Palestine. I’m saying that Palestine is a microcosm of what’s happening around the world.
Frank Barat is a human rights activist based in London. He is the coordinator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine. He has edited two books, Gaza in Crisis, with Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappe, and Corporate Complicity in Israel’s Occupation with Asa Winstanley. He has also contributed to Is there a court for Gaza? with Daniel Machover. He can be found on Twitter @frankbarat22.