We reject Israel's violations of international law

As Jews and South Africans, we have noted with deep concern the report of John Dugard, the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967. The report, published on January 29 2007, is currently under discussion within the United Nations Human Rights Council. It reveals substantial rights abuses by the Israeli government that we find abhorrent, particularly in the light of the painful past of both the South African and Jewish people.

We believe these abuses are indefensible and that there is an urgent need for Jews and all South Africans to speak out against these rights violations, in particular the following abuses highlighted by the report:

  • Gaza: More than 400 civilians were killed in a five-month period in 2006 and half of Gaza was without power for several months as a result of the destruction by Israel of the only power plant. Gaza is under an effective siege, meaning that the sick are unable to travel to Egypt for medical attention, the economy has been devastated and more than 80% of the population lives below the official poverty line.
  • In a particular six-day attack by Israel on Beit Hanoun, Gaza, 82 Palestinians were killed and 260 were injured. Furthermore, 279 homes were destroyed, as well as an 850-year-old mosque, public buildings, electricity networks, schools and hospitals.
  • West Bank and East Jerusalem: Israel continues to build a massive wall through the occupied territories, despite the conclusion of the International Court of Justice that the wall is illegal. This has grave humanitarian consequences for Palestinians living in areas enclosed by the wall. Furthermore, Palestinian Muslims are prevented from praying at the al-Aqsa mosque and Palestinian Christians are prevented from praying at the Church of the Sepulchre, as a consequence of the wall.
  • Settlements in the occupied territories: Despite these being a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Israeli government continues to allow Jewish settlements in the occupied territories to grow. Forty percent of land held by Israeli settlements is in fact privately owned by Palestinians.
We wish to emphasise these major legal conclusions of the report:

  • Israel has committed various war crimes and has violated a series of rights protected by international law, including the right to life, the right against discrimination, the right to freedom from torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, the right to freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, the right to freedom of movement and the right of children to protection.
  • The international community, through the UN, has identified three regimes as inimical to human rights: colonialism, apartheid and foreign occupation. Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza contains elements of all three.

We call on our government to speak out against the continued violations of international law perpetrated by Israel and to use whatever diplomatic means possible to pressure Israel to desist.

Secondly, we believe that it is the particular responsibility of members of the Jewish community, in whose name Israel purports to act, to reject Israel’s unlawful conduct and to act to seek an end to these abuses.

Vanessa Barolsky, Paul Berkowitz, David Bruce, Erica Emdon, Adrian Friedman, Daniel Friedman, Steven Friedman, Sue Goldstein, Alan Horwitz, Damon Kalvari, Lee Klawansky, Lara Simone Koseff, Lance Levitas, Heather Jones Petersen, Rebecca Sher, Michal Singer, Raymond Suttner, Shereen Usdin

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