THE UN’S MORAL FAILURE

 

The United Nations International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (1973) defines 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.”

Palestinians face systematic discrimination merely because of their race, ethnicity, and national origin, depriving them of electricity, water, schools, and access to roads, while nearby Jewish settlers enjoy all of these state-provided benefits… While Israeli settlements flourish, Palestinians under Israeli control live in a time warp – not just separate, not just unequal, but sometimes even pushed off their lands and out of their homes. This is apartheid!

On March 15, 2017, the United Nations’ Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) published a report on Israeli practices and policies toward the Palestinians. Using international law as its comparative criterion, the report came to a definitive conclusion that “Israel is guilty of apartheid practices.” The term Apartheid was used in the report as a descriptor of fact based on the evidence and the accepted legal meaning of the term.

Such was the immediate uproar from the United States and Israel that U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, in a moment of moral failure, ordered the report’s withdrawal.

The head of the ESCWA, Rima Khalaf, declared that she could not, in good conscience, do so and tendered her resignation.

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, declared that “when someone issues a false and defamatory report in the name of the U.N. it is appropriate that the person resign.”

Before making such statements I would urge the US’s Ambassador to the U.N. to look at the record of Israeli statesmen who have already condemned Israel as an apartheid state.

David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, famously said in a radio interview in 1967 that “Israel would soon become an apartheid state if it did not rid itself of the territories and their Arab population s soon as possible.”

Former Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak:: As long as in this territory west of the Jordan River there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic. If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state. (2010)

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories), then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished. (2007)

Israeli human rights group B’Tselem: Israel has created in the Occupied Territories a regime of separation based on discrimination, applying two separate systems of law in the same area and basing the rights of individuals on their nationality. This regime … is reminiscent of distasteful regimes from the past such as the Apartheid regime in South Africa. (2002)

Former Israeli Ambassador to South Africa Alon Liel: In the situation that exists today, until a Palestinian state is created, we are actually one state. This joint state — in the hope that the status quo is temporary — is an apartheid state. (2013)

Israeli newspaper Haaretz editorial: The de facto separation is today more similar to political apartheid than an occupation regime because of its constancy. One side – determined by national, not geographic association – includes people who have the right to choose and the freedom to move, and a growing economy. On the other side are people closed behind the walls surrounding their community who have no right to vote, lack freedom of movement, and have no chance to plan their future. (2007)

Former Israeli admiral and Knesset member Ami Ayalon: Israel must decide quickly what sort of environment it wants to live in because the current model, which has some apartheid characteristics, is not compatible with Jewish principles. (2000)

Former Israeli attorney general Michael Ben-Yair: In 1967 we enthusiastically chose to become a colonial society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the occupied territories, engaging in theft and finding justification for all these activities. Passionately desiring to keep the occupied territories, we developed two judicial systems: one – progressive, liberal – in Israel; and the other – cruel, injurious – in the occupied territories. In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture. That oppressive regime exists to this day. (2002)

Former Israeli Minister of Education Yossi Sarid: What acts like apartheid, is run like apartheid and harasses like apartheid, is not a duck – it is apartheid… What should frighten us, however, is not the description of reality, but reality itself… The Palestinians are unfortunate because they have not produced a Nelson Mandela; the Israelis are unfortunate because they have not produced an F.W. de Klerk. (2008)

Former Israeli Minister of Education Shulamit Aloni: Jewish self-righteousness is taken for granted among ourselves to such an extent that we fail to see what’s right in front of our eyes. It’s simply inconceivable that the ultimate victims, the Jews, can carry out evil deeds. Nevertheless, the state of Israel practices its own, quite violent, form of Apartheid with the native Palestinian population. (2007)

Israel has successfully hidden its apartheid regime in Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank. This has been done through imposing thousands of regulations and a civil administration that is run by the military. Dr. Jeff Halper, Coordinator of the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions in Jerusalem, calls the system ‘the Matrix of Control.” According to him it is composed of three layers:

Military actions which include using undercover units and collaborators who undermine the fabric of Palestinian society;

Creating “facts” on the ground: expropriation of land; construction of settlements; carving the occupied territories into areas which confine Palestinians in some 200 + islands; a massive system of highways for Israeli-use only; control over aquifers and exploitation of holy places.

The most subtle, bureaucratic and legal restrictions, which entangle Palestinians in a web, including: closures, work discrimination; entrance and travel permits restricting movement; displacement through exile, deportation and induced emigration; land expropriation; house demolitions, transfer schemes; a freeze on the natural development of Palestinian towns and villages; and restrictions on the planting of crops and their sale. All these come under bureaucratic controls. More details on the Matrix of Control can be found in Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with both Sides.

Over the entirety of its 65-year existence, there has been a period of only one year (1966-1967) that Israel has not ruled over large numbers of Palestinians to whom it granted no political rights simply because they are not Jewish.

An objective consideration of Israel’s behavior makes it hard to escape the brutal reality of Israel’s condoned apartheid practices.

The moral failure at the U.N., represented by the withdrawal of the report, is the result of Secretary General Guterres’s decision to acquiesce in a denial of reality—the reality of Israel’s practice of apartheid.

The other moral failure is the corrupted view of our politicians and international leaders who refuse to stand up for a people repressed and occupied for 50 years.

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