Friday February 23, 2007
UN human rights investigator has likened Israel's occupation of the
Palestinian territories to apartheid South Africa and says there should
be "serious consideration" over bringing the occupation to the
international court of justice.
The report by John Dugard, a South African law professor who is the UN's
special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories,
represents some of the most forceful criticism yet of Israel's 40-year
Prof Dugard said although Israel and apartheid South Africa were
different regimes, "Israel's laws and practices in the OPT [occupied
Palestinian territories] certainly resemble aspects of apartheid." His
comments are in an advance version of a report on the UN Human Rights
Council's website ahead of its session next month.
After describing the situation for Palestinians in the West Bank, with
closed zones, demolitions and preference given to settlers on roads,
with building rights and by the army, he said: "Can it seriously be
denied that the purpose of such action is to establish and maintain
domination by one racial group (Jews) over another racial group
(Palestinians) and systematically oppressing them? Israel denies that
this is its intention or purpose. But such an intention or purpose may
be inferred from the actions described in this report."
He dismissed Israel's argument that the sole purpose of the vast
concrete and steel West Bank barrier is for security. "It has become
abundantly clear that the wall and checkpoints are principally aimed at
advancing the safety, convenience and comfort of settlers," he said.
Gaza remained under occupation despite the withdrawal of settlers in
2005. "In effect, following Israel's withdrawal, Gaza became a
sealed-off, imprisoned and occupied territory," he said.
Prof Dugard said his mandate was solely to report on human rights in the
occupied Palestinian territories and he described as a violation of
international humanitarian law the firing of rockets by Palestinians
from Gaza into Israel. "Such actions cannot be condoned and clearly
constitute a war crime," he said. "Nevertheless, Israel's response has
been grossly disproportionate and indiscriminate and resulted in the
commission of multiple war crimes."