Call Israel what it is: An apartheid state

People in Gaza woke up to the sound of bombs and crashing buildings on the morning of Eid-ul fitr on Thursday, as Israeli forces continue their attack on Palestinians who are protesting the ongoing illegal occupation of Palestine. 

The Israeli army has launched hundreds of air strikes on the Gaza Strip since Monday, and Palestinians launched more than 1 000 rockets in response. 

As of Thursday, 84 Palestinians, including 17 children had been killed in Gaza as a result of the air strikes. Nearly 500 people were injured. 

Days before Eid-ul fitr, the compound at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem was littered with the remnants of stun grenades and rubber bullets that were used against worshippers. Palestinians only had rocks and stones to defend themselves.

Calm was restored in Jerusalem on Thursday for Eid but in Gaza the religious day was stained with death and destruction. 

We remember today (15 May) as the 73rd anniversary of Nakba, which marks the establishment of Israel in 1948. During Nakba Israel dispossessed more than 700 000 Palestinians of their homes, rights and dignity. Zionists had taken more than 78% of historic Palestine and destroyed about 530 villages and cities. Zionists killed 15 000 Palestinians in a series of mass atrocities, including more than 70 massacres in those years.

But Nakba never stopped. Last year there was nearly a nearly fourfold increase in the number of people displaced from the West Bank and a 55% rise of structures targeted with demolitions or confiscations compared to 2019.

The events unfolding in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, where six families are facing eviction threats, again reminds us that Nakba did not end. Israeli forces raided homes and attacked residents and protesters in the old city. 

Under international humanitarian law, East Jerusalem remains part of Occupied Palestinian Territories. Israel, as the occupying power, cannot confiscate private property in these areas, the United Nations said. Transferring civilian populations into occupied territory is illegal and may amount to war crimes.

Israel is committing crimes of apartheid

On 27 April, Human Rights Watch confirmed that Israel crossed the threshold of crimes of apartheid and persecution committed against Palestinians.

It found that Israel seeks to maintain domination over Palestinians to expand its sovereignty. It systematically oppresses Palestininans, deprives them of their basic rights of access to food, land, services and other resources, and it commits inhumane and discriminatory acts.

The three elements: domination, systematic oppression and committing inhumane acts against Palestinians amount to the crime of apartheid, Human Rights Watch said. The International Criminal Court is investigating Israel for war crimes and called for sanctions including travel bans and asset freezes on responsible officials.

Israel rejected the evidence, but it’s action against Palestinians speaks louder than its words.

If anything, Israel should hang its head in shame. Even during the pandemic, Israelis are at a much greater advantage. Life is returning to normal for Jews in the West, but things are different in the East. The pandemic made the inequality between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians even more apparent.

Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel as an occupying power is legally obligated to supply food, healthcare services and medical supplies to Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Taking action

Human Rights Watch set out a list of recommendations for Israel to end its crimes against Palestinians. Among them are:

  • All forms of systematic oppression and discrimination that gives Jewish Israelis an advantage over Palestinians and their rights must be dismantled;
  • End discriminatory policies and practices especially where civil rights, freedom of movement, allocation of land and resources, access to water, electricity, the denial of building permits and other services are concerned;
  • The construction and expansion of settlements must come to an end and existing settlements must be dismantled. Israeli settlers in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, must return to Israel’s internationally recognised borders. Arbitrary restrictions on residency rights for Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and their families must be lifted. Palestinians should be allowed to move freely; and
  • Israeli authorities should provide Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza with full respect for their human rights, using the rights that it grants Israeli citizens as a benchmark. International support for the Palestinian people continues to grow.

Keep the powerful accountable

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Hanan Jarrar
Hanan Jarrar is the Palestinian ambassador to South Africa

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