The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), launches a new report ‘Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid’ in Beirut
March 15 2017: The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), launches a new report ‘Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid’ in Beirut. The report is highly critical of Israel. By Friday, March 17, the Report is withdrawn on the wishes of António Guterres, Secretary General of the UN.
The Report: “…an evaluation of Israel’s practices against the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid and other key human rights laws….” published by ESCWA, the report concludes that “Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.”
“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.”
Authors of the Report were: Virginia Tilley, professor of political science at Southern Illinois University, and Richard Falk, former UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, and professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University.
Wikipedia tells us: “Apartheid is an Afrikaans word meaning “separateness”, or “the state of being apart”, literally “apart-hood.” Its first recorded use was in 1929 – Apartheid…was a system of institutionalised racial segregation and discrimination in South Africa between 1948 and 1991, when it was abolished.”
The 1973 Convention: defines the crime of apartheid as “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.”
Apartheid is the second most serious crime against humanity in international law – after the crime of genocide…
This report finds that “the strategic fragmentation of the Palestinian people is the principal method by which Israel imposes an apartheid regime.” This apartheid of Palestinians is then explored within a number of contexts and with supporting criteria: “on the basis of not being Jewish” for citizens of Israel; for Palestinians in East Jerusalem, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, for Palestinian refugees and exiles; all of which are systematically discriminated against in a variety of ways from “discrimination in access to education, healthcare, employment, residency and building rights”, as well as “expulsions and home demolitions”, by being governed by “military law”, by being “prohibited from returning to their homes in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.”
“The report concludes that the weight of the evidence supports beyond a reasonable doubt the proposition that Israel is guilty of imposing an apartheid regime on the Palestinian people, which amounts to the commission of a crime against humanity, the prohibition of which is considered jus cogens in international customary law. The international community, especially the United Nations and its agencies, and Member States, have a legal obligation to act within the limits of their capabilities to prevent and punish instances of apartheid that are responsibly brought to their attention. More specifically, States have a collective duty: (a) not to recognize an apartheid regime as lawful; (b) not to aid or assist a State in maintaining an apartheid regime; and (c) to cooperate with the United Nations and other States in bringing apartheid regimes to an end. Civil society institutions and individuals also have a moral and political duty to use the instruments at their disposal to raise awareness of this ongoing criminal enterprise, and to exert pressure on Israel in order to persuade it to dismantle apartheid structures in compliance with international law. The report ends with general and specific recommendations to the United Nations, national Governments, and civil society and private actors on actions they should take in view of the finding that Israel maintains a regime of apartheid in its exercise of control over the Palestinian people.” (Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid – Executive Summary)
The Economic Commission for Western Asia (ECWA), which currently comprises 18 Arab states, was established on 9 August 1973 pursuant to Economic and Social Council’s resolution 1818 (LV). Its purpose was to stimulate economic activity in member countries, strengthen cooperation between them and promote development. In recognition of the social component of its work, the Commission was renamed the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) under Economic and Social Council resolution 69/1985 of July 1985. ESCWA was initially located in Beirut (1974-1982), moved to Baghdad (1982-1991) and Amman (1991-1997), and subsequently returned to Beirut, its permanent headquarters, where it has remained to this day.
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon issued a statement condemning the Report late last Wednesday.
“The attempt to smear and falsely label the only true democracy in the Middle East by creating a false analogy is despicable and constitutes a blatant lie,” he said. He also denounced Rima Khalaf, the Jordanian diplomat who is the executive secretary of the commission that published the report. Ms. Khalaf has been singled out by Israeli diplomats for what they call her extreme hostility toward Israel. “It comes as no surprise that an organization headed by an individual who has called for boycotts against Israel, and compared our democracy to the most terrible regimes of the 20th century, would publish such a report,” Mr. Danon said. (Al Jazeera)
The New York Times says:
“Apartheid, the institutionalized oppression once practiced against the black majority in South Africa during white-minority rule, has been used increasingly by critics of the Israeli government to describe its policies toward the Palestinians in territories occupied or controlled by Israel.
Israelis, including many of those who disagree with those policies, find the term deeply offensive, describing it as a false and inflammatory analogy aimed at isolating and delegitimizing their country.”
The United States, Israel’s long-term ally also criticised the Report. In the New York Times, March 15, Ambassador Nikki R. Haley of the United States, who has vowed to end what she has described as the anti-Israel tendencies of the United Nations that prevailed before Mr. Trump took office, also expressed her anger:
“That such anti-Israel propaganda would come from a body whose membership nearly universally does not recognize Israel is unsurprising,” Ms. Haley said in a statement.
She also said, “The United Nations Secretariat was right to distance itself from this report, but it must go further and withdraw the report altogether.”
And indeed the Report has created conflict within the International body:
“UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, when asked about the report, said it was published without any prior consultations with the UN Secretariat and its views do not reflect those of the secretary-general.” Aljazeera quotes: “We just saw the report today,” Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for Secretary General António Guterres, said at a daily news briefing. “It was done without any prior consultation with the secretary general. The report as it stands does not reflect the stance of the secretary general.”
This was followed on March 17 by news that “ESCWA leader Rima Khalef says she resigns after UN leaders forced her to withdraw a report accusing Israel of apartheid.”
Al Jazeera reports: “It was expected that Israel and its allies will exercise pressure on the UN secretary general to distance himself from the report and that they will ask him to withdraw it,” Khalaf said at a press conference in Beirut on Friday.
Rima Khalaf: a national of Jordan, was appointed as Under-Secretary-General of the UN and Executive Secretary of the ESCWA by the then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2010. Before her UN role Khalaf held several high-ranking ministerial positions in Jordan, including Minister of Industry and Trade, Minister of Planning and Deputy Prime Minister. Khalaf also held the position of Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the Regional Bureau for Arab States (RBAS) at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) from 2000 to 2006. She was the founder of the award winning Arab Human Development Report. Khalaf holds a BA in Economics from the American University of Beirut and a Master’s in Economics and a PhD in System Science from Portland State University in the US.
“The secretary general issued his orders to me yesterday morning to withdraw the report. I asked him to review his position but he insisted,” she said. “Therefore I submitted to him my resignation from the UN.”
Al Jazeera’s Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from Beirut, said that Khalaf clearly stated that “she was still standing by the report, which in very explicit terms accused Israel of pursuing apartheid policies in the Palestinian territories.”
The Report recommends “as well as urging governments to back BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) against Israel”, that the UN and its member states should “revive the Special Committee against Apartheid, and the United Nations Centre Against Apartheid (1976-1991)”, in order to “report authoritatively on Israeli practices and policies relating to the crime of apartheid” and also “suggests an advisory opinion be sought from the International Court of Justice ‘as to whether the means used by Israel to maintain control over the Palestinian people amount to the crime of apartheid'”.
Critical at the withdrawal of the Report, Al Jazeera says: “…It is very curious that the UN is now saying that the official procedures hadn’t been followed, that they were not aware of the language inside the report, when even many in the media were aware of its publication and its contents…This feels like yet another chapter in the very strained and complicated relationship the UN has with Israel.”
The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC): the largest coalition in Palestinian society, “has warmly welcomed as a ‘historic breakthrough’ a report released today by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) that proves beyond doubt that Israel has imposed a system of apartheid on the entire Palestinian people. The ESCWA report calls for BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) measures to end Israel’s apartheid regime.” The global BDS movement for Palestinian rights, led by the BNC, has consistently described Israel as a regime of “occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid” against all Palestinians. Welcoming the ESCWA report as a “historic breakthrough,” Ingrid Jaradat, member of the BNC International Secretariat, added: “This is the first UN entity to prove beyond doubt that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people—which confirms the BDS movement’s own findings since 2005. Given that apartheid is the second most serious crime against humanity in international law – after the crime of genocide—this taboo-shattering finding by ESCWA will strengthen the case for global sanctions against Israel.” The BDS movement has grown in the last few years, compelling major corporations, including Veolia, Orange and G4S, to abandon the Israeli market, and convincing large pension funds to divest from banks and companies that are involved in Israel’s human rights violations. Israel’s academic and cultural isolation is also on the rise.
Guman Mussa, the Arab World Campaigns Coordinator with the BNC, added:
“ESCWA’s report sets a precedent for the UN as it calls on national governments and international civil society to endorse BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) as the most effective mechanism to hold Israel to account. Acting to stop Israel’s apartheid is not an optional course of action but an obligation under international law.”
Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS movement, concluded:
“Our South Africa moment is nearing. This new UN report is a stark indicator that Israel’s apartheid is destined to end, as South Africa’s did. BDS is not only growing impressively on campuses, in churches, trade unions, cultural organizations and social movements, it is today adopted by a UN Commission. This may well be the very first beam of light that ushers the dawn of sanctions against Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid.”
Meanwhile in the world of Palestinian people:
In its Weekly Report On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories for the week of 02 – 08 March 2017, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) found that: “Israeli forces continued systematic crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories (the West Bank and Gaza). Israeli forces killed a Palestinian civilian in al-Bireh. Seven civilians, including a child and journalist, were wounded in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Four of them, including the journalist, were wounded in the West Bank while the 3 others, including a child, were wounded in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli forces continued to chase Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Sea and open fire at farmers in the border areas in addition to targeting an observation point belonging to Hamas.”
Similarly and sadly, March 16th, also marked the 14th anniversary of the death of peace activist Rachel Aliene Corrie (April 10, 1979 – March 16, 2003) from Olympia, Washington, USA, “killed by an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) armored bulldozer in a combat zone in Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.” Facing another anniversary, Rachel Corrie’s parents, Cindy and Craig Corrie spoke out:
“March 16th, marks the 14th anniversary of the day our daughter Rachel stood in Gaza with other international activists and challenged the Israeli military’s illegal confiscation of Palestinian land and the demolition of Palestinian homes. Rachel’s life was stolen that day, but her spirit was not. As these anniversaries approach, there are sometimes tensions as we struggle to find the best way to remember, and to explain why we do so. But in a moment of illumination, we are reminded that each March 16th is for us another opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to Gaza. It is a place that overflows with suffering, yet is filled with so much more. Rachel wrote to us about the people. “…I am also discovering a degree of strength and of the basic ability for humans to remain human in the direst of circumstances…I think the word is dignity. I wish you could meet these people. Maybe, hopefully, someday you will.”
During the past fourteen years, we have been blessed with our connections to Palestinians in Gaza, in the West Bank, and elsewhere in the world. We have built relationships with them and with Palestinian and Jewish Israelis who reflect the strength and dignity Rachel recognized, and with open hearts and minds steadfastly pursue justice.
Here in the U.S., it is easy to be distracted by our new political challenges. But with colleagues in our hometown of Olympia and beyond, we are articulating our vision for a “great” country and world. In the words of the song from the Civil Rights Movement, we are keeping “our eyes on the prize.” We know you are doing the same. One part of that vision is freedom for Gaza.”
Sources & References (thanks to)
By Ben Heine (Ben Heine) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The woman represented here is Anna Baltzer. The illustration is inspired by the famous Michelangelo’s Pietà.
Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian
People and the Question of Apartheid Palestinian https://electronicintifada.net/sites/default/files/2017-03/un_apartheid_report_15_march_english_final_.pdf
Democracy Now (Short Interview with Richard Falk, report author)
Al Jazeera English
Explainer: Israel-Palestine conflict, the two-state solution
Al Jazeera English:
Palestinians react to Trump’s statement on two-state solution