Given that the International Criminal Court has finally commenced investigating Israel for war crimes and coupled with findings by B’Tselem and the HRW, we dare to dream of justice for Palestinians, writes Iqbal Jassat.
Opinion: Iqbal Jassat
IN A DRAMATIC escalation representative of global outrage against Israel’s tsunami of crimes against Palestinians, a new report has made scathing findings on them.
New York-based Human Rights Watch, (HRW), released a detailed legal report declaring that the Israeli government is committing crimes of apartheid. This serious charge of apartheid crimes is groundbreaking for it is the first official use of the term by the HRW.
Comprehensive and extremely well researched, the 213-page report titled “A Threshold Crossed“, makes damning allegations of decades of persecution of Palestinians. It cites Israel’s “intent to maintain the domination of Jewish Israelis over Palestinians” and dismisses the oft-repeated propaganda by Israel about so-called “security”.
The groundbreaking report appropriately singles out the use of military rule to ensure a Jewish majority across the combined land of Israel and the Occupied West Bank.
At the core of its report, the HRW found the Israeli government systematically discriminates against non-Jews in all areas under its control — including the nearly 2 million Arab citizens within the state’s 1,948 borders — but that an additional layer of severe human-rights abuses in the occupied West Bank and Gaza amounts to the crime of apartheid.
The report has the potential to shake the Zionist foundations of the regime, especially if remarks by HRW officials as reported in various media are to go by.
For instance, Eric Goldstein, acting director for Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division, has been quoted as saying the group’s report is intended to show that Israeli abuses against Palestinians were not isolated incidents.
“For years, the international community — and many Israelis — have the tendency to think of the cases we document as the unfortunate symptoms of a lack of peace,” Goldstein said in an interview. “But the peace process has unfortunately gone nowhere and the abuses have just become more entrenched.”
Expected to unnerve and unsettle the regime even beyond the charge of apartheid, are the recommendations contained in the report. Among these, one is directed to the Palestinian Authority (PA), calling on it to end its security cooperation with Israel.
Mahmoud Abbas will obviously not be pleased to have part (a significant component nevertheless) of the HRW report focus on a matter which has been the subject of discontent among Palestinians. The PA-Israel security pact has for some time been severely criticised by leading members of Palestine’s various formations, but to date, Abbas has not yielded.
Whether the PA will finally give up collaboration with Israel’s security agencies in response to HRW’s recommendation will be a crucial consideration for it. To do so, will not only grant legitimacy to the HRW report but also break the back of Israel’s illegal and immoral security dragnet in the Occupied West Bank.
The other crucial call is for the United States to condition its military aid to Israel on the country ending its “commission of the crimes of apartheid and persecution.” The power of this recommendation must not be lost in semantics for it affirms strong claims made by Palestinians that US aid (military etc) is the single most important enabler of Israel’s crimes.
As Abbas faces the challenge of annulling security coordination, so too does the Biden administration on the matter of halting US taxpayers’ money to Israel’s vaults.
In addition, an equally important call made by the HRW is to all countries to impose targeted sanctions and other restrictions on Israeli officials implicated by the report. Short of calling for a full boycott, this recommendation will in meaningful ways allow the international BDS movement impetus to grow its campaigns.
The full implication of the report will test the political will of countries. Will they abide with the recommendations to initiate targeted sanctions or ignore their responsibilities as member states of the United Nations who ostensibly are committed to upholding universal values of human rights?
As far as South Africa is concerned, the HRW findings will go beyond merely testing the resolve of the ANC-led government. As beneficiaries of a global campaign under the banner of the anti-apartheid movement to isolate the former white racist regime, it is expected of South Africa to lead a comprehensive boycott of apartheid Israel.
There cannot and should not be any fear of a backlash of “anti-Semitism smears” as the HRW report comes on the heels of two others authored Israeli human-rights groups. Yesh Din’s legal opinion published a few months ago found that Israel was committing apartheid in the Occupied West Bank.
And more recently B’Tselem’s study revealed that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians amounted to apartheid.
Interestingly, the HRW report also found that in addition to the crime of apartheid, Israel was guilty of “persecution” under international law, because it deprives Palestinians of “key fundamental rights” based on “their identity as Palestinians.”
Yet again it makes a compelling legal argument about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians going well beyond what is required to administer an occupation.
The examples it cites are pretty well documented and reported by media for these atrocities are perpetrated on a daily basis. They include illegal land grabs, forced confiscation of homes from Palestinians for the exclusive use by Jewish settlers, as well as the tenuous status of Palestinians living in Occupied East Jerusalem.
Given that the International Criminal Court has finally commenced investigating Israel for War Crimes and coupled with findings by B’Tselem and the HRW which conclude that Israel is an Apartheid State, we dare to dream of justice for Palestinians.
* Iqbal Jassat is an executive member of the Media Review Network in Johannesburg.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the DFA and Independent Media.