Struck by the similarities

Apartheid and the occupation of Palestine

By John Dugard, 04 Nov 2011 09:00

This week, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine will consider the question of whether Israel’s practices in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) constitute the crime of apartheid within the meaning of the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. This Convention, which has been incorporated into the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, is not confined to apartheid in South Africa. Instead it criminalises, under international law, practices that resemble apartheid.

The Russell Tribunal was initiated in the 1960s by the philosopher Bertrand Russell to examine war crimes committed during the Vietnam War. It has now been revived to consider Israel’s violations of international law. It is not a judicial tribunal, but a tribunal comprising reputable jurors from different countries, that seeks to examine whether Israel has violated international criminal law and should be held accountable.

In essence, the Russell Tribunal is a court of international public opinion. It will hear evidence in Cape Town on the scope of the 1973 Apartheid Convention, on apartheid as practiced in South Africa, on Israeli practices in the OPT, particularly the West Bank, and on the question whether these practices so closely resemble those of apartheid as to bring them within the prohibitions of the 1973 Apartheid Convention. The Israeli government has been invited to testify before the tribunal, but, at this stage, has not replied to the invitation. Most of the evidence will inevitably, therefore, be critical of Israel.

Israel cannot be held accountable for its actions by any international tribunal as it refuses to accept the jurisdiction of either the International Court of Justice or the International Criminal Court. The Russell Tribunal seeks to remedy this weakness in the international system of justice by providing for accountability by a court of international opinion. It does not seek to obstruct the peace process. On the contrary, it wishes to promote it. But there can be no peace without justice. This is a basic principle that Richard Goldstone, who has written an op-ed criticising the Russell Tribunal (Israel and the Apartheid Slander, New York Times, October 31, 2011), has devoted much his life to, as prosecutor before the Yugoslavia Tribunal.

Is it true to say, as Richard Goldstone has argued, that there is no basis for likening Israel’s occupation of the OPT to that of apartheid? Is it true, as he argues, that such suggestions are “pernicious” and “inaccurate”? Or is there substance in these suggestions?

Of course, the regimes of apartheid and occupation are different. Apartheid South Africa was a state that practiced discrimination against its own people. It sought to fragment the country into white South Africa and black Bantustans. Its security laws were used to brutally suppress opposition to apartheid. Israel, on the other hand, is an occupying power that controls a foreign territory and its people under a regime recognised by international law – belligerent occupation.

However, in practice, there is little difference. Both regimes were/are characterised by discrimination, repression and territorial fragmentation (that is, land seizures).

Israel discriminates against Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in favour of half a million Israeli settlers. Its restrictions on freedom of movement, manifested in countless humiliating checkpoints, resemble the “pass laws” of apartheid. Its destruction of Palestinian homes resemble the destruction of homes belonging to blacks under apartheid’s Group Areas Act. The confiscation of Palestinian farms under the pretext of building a security wall brings back similar memories. And so on. Indeed, Israel has gone beyond apartheid South Africa in constructing separate (and unequal) roads for Palestinians and settlers.

Apartheid’s security police practiced torture on a large scale. So do the Israeli security forces. There were many political prisoners on Robben Island but there are more Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails.

Apartheid South Africa seized the land of blacks for whites. Israel has seized the land of Palestinians for half a million settlers and for the purposes of constructing a security wall within Palestinian territory – both of which are contrary to international law.

Most South Africans who visit the West Bank are struck by the similarities between apartheid and Israel’s practices there. There is sufficient evidence for the Russell Tribunal to conduct a legitimate enquiry into the question whether Israel violates the prohibition of apartheid found in the 1973 Apartheid Convention and the Rome Statute.

John Dugard is a professor of international law, who authored a comprehensive study of the law of apartheid (Human Rights and the South African Legal Order (1978)) and was for seven years (2001 – 2008) Special Rapporteur to the UN Human Rights Council on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/11/201111395153781378.html or http://aje.me/rQ59sJ

1953 photograph of Bertrand Russell:  http://osulibrary.oregonstate.edu/specialcollections/coll/pauling/peace/pictures/1953i.27-large.html or http://bit.ly/vIMeDE

Related Posts

Prepared, preconceived and planned From Pol Pot to ISIS: “Anything that flies on everything that moves” By John Pilger, 8 October 2014   In transmitting President Richar...
Fount of all terror Palestinians understand Gaddafi better than we do By Robert Fisk, Saturday, 12 March 2011 ... To Beirut. Storms. Heavy rain. Seas sweeping over...
A peace beyond all peace Israel demands our support because it fights its ‘war against terrorists’ in our name By Robert Fisk, Tuesday 20 November 2012   Enough ...
Crossing Central Avenue     This letter appeared in today's Sentinel Record...   Remember the unborn Dear editor: I want to thank the First...
American foreign policy 101 AIPAC's newest strategy By MJ Rosenberg, 15 Mar 2011 16:55 GMT ... Prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu is being heavily criticised in Israel for ...
Outposts forever and Palestine Never Newt Gingrich may be able to occupy Palestine, but Israel can't By Bradley Burston, 15:17 13.12.11 ... Speaker Gingrich, if you're serious abou...
Bats in a box First it was Saddam. Then Gaddafi. Now there's a vacancy for the West's favourite crackpot tyrant By Robert Fisk, Saturday, 19 March 2011 ... S...
Against all odds?   Note:  The above foolishness was seen tonight at our local Sam's Club.  The image below is of the back side of this "extraordinary ...
Understand the evildoer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUEGHdQO7WA http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUEGHdQO7WA TEDxPSU - A Radical Experiment in Empathy By Sam Edwards, Oct...
Who are we? Newt, Mitt, Bibi and Vladimir By Thomas L. Friedman, December 13, 2011 ... I have a simple motto when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian confl...

Permanent link to this article: http://levantium.com/2011/11/04/struck-by-the-similarities/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.