Israel and the ESCWA report: The case of the Israeli crime of apartheid in Palestine
The single most important document on Palestine today*
|Professor Virginia Tilley|
|Professor Richard Falk|
The honorable Rima Khalaf resigned from her position as the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) amid a controversy about a report published by ESCWA. Ms Khalaf held her position at the UN from 2010 to 2017. She decided to resign rather than remove the report as ordered by the Secretary General of the UN António Guterres. The report made Israel and its supporters angry, and for good reasons. The report cost Khalaf her job, its removal “earned” Guterres another term at the UN.
The report, Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid, is a relatively short document- 65 pages only. But it is the single most important document on Palestine today. In this document, the authors Richard Falk and Virginia Tilley argue, on the basis of law and facts, that Israel is committing the crime of apartheid. In addition to providing the facts and the law to make their case, they also provide recommendations for dealing with the ongoing crime against the Palestinian people.
Apartheid can be used as a slur, as an insult and as a rhetorical jab. But this is not how serious scholars Falk and Tilley use it. They make a case firmly based on international law and undisputed facts. The word apartheid has been used by others to describe the reality in Palestine but the timeless and priceless contribution of the authors is their laying out the case methodically based on law and facts. This document is a must read for all supporters of human rights and Palestinian rights. The document must be read, understood and distributed widely by supporters of human rights. The writers have done the hard work for all the activists on Palestine by bringing up the counter arguments of Israel and its supporters and succinctly defeating these arguments.
The UN has the copyright to this document. The UN published it. However, it is not official UN policy. The document’s disclaimer reads: “The findings, interpretations and conclusions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its officials or Member States.” Despite that disclaimer, the fact that the report was published by the UN carries a lot of moral authority, legitimacy and credibility and these attributes are precisely what Israel could not accept, especially that the authors identify apartheid as a crime in international law, just like genocide is.
Supporters of human rights for Palestinians should share the report widely. The authors of the report, Richard Falk and Virginia Tilley, should be invited to speak about the report and help educate the American public on Israel’s ongoing crimes against the Palestinian people.
Below are excerpts from the report:
In sum, this study was motivated by the desire to promote compliance with international human rights law, uphold and strengthen international criminal law, and ensure that the collective responsibilities of the United Nations and its Member States with regard to crimes against humanity are fulfilled. More concretely, it aims to see the core commitments of the international community to upholding international law applied to the case of the Palestinian people, in defence of its rights under international law, including the right of self-determination
This report concludes that Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole. Aware of the seriousness of this allegation, the authors of the report conclude that available evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of policies and practices that constitute the crime of apartheid as legally defined in instruments of international law.
This report finds that the strategic fragmentation of the Palestinian people is the principal method by which Israel imposes an apartheid regime. It first examines Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid how the history of war, partition, de jure and de facto annexation and prolonged occupation in Palestine has led to the Palestinian people being divided into different geographic regions administered by distinct sets of law. This fragmentation operates to stabilize the Israeli regime of racial domination over the Palestinians and to weaken the will and capacity of the Palestinian people to mount a unified and effective resistance. Different methods are deployed depending on where Palestinians live. This is the core means by which Israel enforces apartheid and at the same time impedes international recognition of how the system works as a complementary whole to comprise an apartheid regime. Since 1967, Palestinians as a people have lived in what the report refers to as four “domains”, in which the fragments of the Palestinian population are ostensibly treated differently but share in common the racial oppression that results from the apartheid regime. Those domains are:
1. Civil law, with special restrictions, governing Palestinians who live as citizens of Israel; 2. Permanent residency law governing Palestinians living in the city of Jerusalem; 3. Military law governing Palestinians, including those in refugee camps, living since 1967 under conditions of belligerent occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; 4. Policy to preclude the return of Palestinians, whether refugees or exiles, living outside territory under Israel’s control.
[Below is one counterargument they deal]
Consistency with international practice: The Israeli doctrine of maintaining a Jewish majority, enabling the Jewish people to have its own nation-State, is consistent with the behaviour of States around the world, such as France, which express the self-determination of their respective ethnic nations. It is therefore unfair and exceptional treatment — and implicitly anti-Semitic — to target Israel as an apartheid State when it is only doing the same.
This common argument derives from miscasting how national identities function in modern nation States. In France, for example, anyone holding French citizenship, regardless of whether they are indigenous or of immigrant origin, are equal members of the French nation and enjoy equal rights. According to the Supreme Court, Israel is not the State of the “Israeli nation” but of the “Jewish nation”.86 Collective rights in Israeli law are explicitly conferred on Jews as a people and on no other collective identity: national rights for Jews, embedded in such laws as the Law of Return and the Citizenship Law (discussed above) do not extend to any other group under Israeli rule. Hence, racial-nationalist privileges are embedded in the legal and doctrinal foundations of the State. That is exceptional and would meet with opprobrium in any other country (as it did in apartheid South Africa)
Link to the report:
*Published in Forum and Link 3/23/2017