(CHICAGO) – Colonialism and apartheid breach international law. The 1973 International Convention for the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (the Apartheid Convention) called it state-sanctioned discriminatory “inhuman” racism “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 […]
(CHICAGO) – Colonialism and apartheid breach international law.
The 1973 International Convention for the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (the Apartheid Convention) called it state-sanctioned discriminatory “inhuman” racism “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 an international crime. The above definition builds on the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).
The 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court calls apartheid a crime under the Court’s jurisdiction. For 45 years, Israel flagrantly breached the law.
ICERD’s Article 3 calls apartheid a particularly egregious form of discrimination. The Apartheid Convention and Rome Statute criminalized its practice.
Last March, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) held its eighth session. It evaluated Israel’s compliance under ICERD provisions. In 1979, Israel became a signatory. Policy reform didn’t follow. Crimes against humanity continue.
CERD recognizes regional security and stability issues. At the same time, violating international law provisions are prohibited. Israel does it egregiously.
It said Israeli West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements “are not only illegal under international law but are an obstacle to the enjoyment of human rights by the whole population, without distinction as to national or ethnic origin.”
Israel also violates provisions of other international human rights and humanitarian laws. Discriminatory racism is institutionalized. So is inequality with regard to education, health, society, family, nationality, religion, work and freedom from violence.
ICERD’s Article 3 condemns “racial segregation and apartheid and undertake(s) to prevent, prohibit and eradicate all practices of this nature in territories under (its) jurisdiction.”
Article 4 condemns “all propaganda and all organizations which are based on ideas or theories of superiority of one race or group of persons of one colour or ethnic origin, or which attempt(s) to justify or promote racial hatred and discrimination in any form, and undertake(s) to adopt immediate and positive measures designed to eradicate all incitement to, or acts of, such discrimination and, to this end, with due regard to the principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights….”
Under Article 5, “State Parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law” in all respects.
Israel stands in fundamental violation. It didn’t sign the Apartheid Convention but accepted ICERD provisions.
In 1998, Palestinian human rights organizations began petitioning ICERD to hold Israel accountable. Nonetheless, it systematically refuses to comply with its international law obligations.
It also rejects Geneva. It calls the law discretionary, not binding. Human rights authorities and legal experts profoundly disagree. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as well as the Human Rights Committee maintain that human rights law applies to Occupied Palestine. So does CERD.
It reviewed Israeli compliance in 1998, 2003 and 2012. Its March findings, conclusions, observations and recommendations are especially important. Stronger language was used.
The Palestinian Council of Human Rights Organizations (PCHRO) coordinated written and oral statements of member groups.
They showed how Israel discriminates against non-Jews. They provided numerous examples. They included family reunification prohibitions, Bedouin ethnic cleansing, institutionalized inequality, settler violence, settlement expansions on stolen Palestinian land, resource theft, home demolitions, forced dispossessions, unequal justice and Gaza’s isolation.
CERD concluded that Israel systematically segregates and discriminates against non-Jews. While states can treat citizens and aliens differently, they cannot privilege individuals based on race, ethnicity or religion.
It said Israel doesn’t distinguish between citizens and non-citizens. It discriminates between Jews and non-Jews. Doing so is illegal.
Under its section titled “The Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the Occupied Syrian Golan,” it said, “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.”
CERD also addressed discriminatory zoning and planning. Palestinians and Israeli Arabs rarely get construction permits. Building without them assures demolitions. Israeli settlements get preferential treatment. Palestinian land is stolen to accommodate them.
It rejected Israel’s argument about military exigencies. It said Israel must “ensure equal access to justice for all persons residing in territories under the State Party’s effective control.” It denounced how it treats Palestinian children, especially in its criminal justice system.
Apartheid within Israel was addressed. It noted “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 2011 Admissions Committees Law gives private ones full discretion to reject applicants called “unsuitable to the social life of the community.”
Doing so institutionalizes segregation. Unequal access is law. Housing rights are unequally granted. Rights for non-Jews are disregarded. Israel bears full responsibility.
It’s obligated to “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.”
It falls grievously short. Concerns were raised about Israel’s 2009 Land Administration Law, the Land (Acquisition for Public Purpose) Ordinance’s 2010 Amendment and the Negev Development Authority Law’s Amendment the same year.
In 2000, five judges ruled on Ka’adan v. The Israel Lands Administration. The called discriminatory housing and land policies illegal. CERD wants it enforced. It said Israel should rescind its discriminatory Law for the Regulation of the Bedouin Settlement in the Negev.
It called it “legaliz[ing] the ongoing policy of home demolitions and forced displacement of the indigenous Bedouin communities.”
It also wants Israel’s Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law rescinded, family reunifications legitimized and discriminating against them on the basis of ethnicity, race, national origin and/or religion prohibited.
It wants Durban Declaration and Program of Action provisions observed in Occupied Palestine and within Israel.
CERD’s observations and recommendations are important. Nonetheless, it lacks enforcement authority. Israel takes full advantage. Nothing whatever changed since last March.
Discriminatory repression continues. Human rights groups and Palestinian supporters can’t relent their pressure. Sustaining it is vital for redress.
Freedom and equality await next time. One day it really will arrive. Maybe it’ll be when least expected. Any time would suit Palestinians fine.