Perhaps because it is striking news or a powerful message, the media has heavily focused on only one of the findings of the recent UN Human Rights Council report on the Occupied Territories- that Israel’s actions are similar to apartheid. But the coverage doesn’t reach into the other two assertions that the report makes: Israel’s occupation exhibits elements of apartheid and colonialism. In other words, Israel is violating human rights in three forms: occupation, apartheid, and colonialism.
The report calls Israel’s 2005 “unilateral withdrawal” which supposedly ended occupation as “grossly inaccurate” and “not possible to seriously argue.” Israel has maintained total control over Gaza’s airspace, sea space, external borders, and the movement of people and goods ever since it has withdrawn, including exercising military authority with over 364 military incursions.
“In effect,” the report states, “following Israel’s withdrawal, Gaza became a sealed off, imprisoned, occupied territory.” In addition, serious violations of human rights and war crimes have made life as difficult as possible for Gazans and the economic sanctions that the West and Israel have imposed on Gaza has produced a humanitarian crisis, one the UN calls, “a controlled strangulation that apparently falls within the generous limits of international toleration.”
Factor in that 70% of Gazans are unemployed or unpaid, and more than “80% of the population live below the official poverty line.” Fully 1.1 million of 1.4 million Gazans, reports the UN, are dependent on food assistance through various agencies.
The situation in the West Bank isn’t any better. At checkpoints, where violations occur daily, a rule of law does not exist but rather, a “an arbitrary and capricious regime prevails.” 56% of West Bankers live below the poverty line and are dependent on food assistance. The Wall is clearly illegal. It doesn’t serve a “security purpose” as the Israelis claim, but a “political purpose”: “that the purpose of the Wall is to acquire land surrounding West Bank settlements and to include settlements within Israel can no longer be seriously challenged.”
Settlements in the West Bank are illegal – 40% of the land in the hands of the Israeli settlements is privately owned by Palestinians- but they continue to grow, with the full approval of the Israeli government. And the foot soldiers of the Israeli “colonial empire” are violent fanatic settlers who are protected and aided by the IDF in unleashing violence upon Palestinians.
The overall picture for Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories is grim: there are 9,000 Palestinian prisoners of which 400 are children and over 100 women. There are over 700 “administrative detainees, i.e. persons held without charge or trial.” Targeted assassinations have killed over 500 Palestinians, reports the UN.
The IDF “inflicts serious bodily and mental harm on the Palestinians” in both Gaza and the West Bank. The culmination of all of this leads the special rapporteur, John Dugard, to ask, “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 oppress them?”
The report ends by underlining that “the Palestinian people have been subjected to economic sanctions- the first time an occupied people have been so treated,” noting that the sanctions against the Palestinian people are ‘possibly the most rigorous form of international sanctions imposed in modern times.” Israel escapes untouched even as it has violated Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, human rights and international law. The EU, United States, United Nations, and the Russian Federation are complicit in the failure to halt Israeli violations of human rights and Palestinian self determination. The report rightfully points out that the Occupied Palestinian Territory is the only place in the developing world “that is denied the right to self-determination and oppressed by a Western-affiliated State.”
Last week, Ehud Olmert, in line with his predecessors, rejected the right of return for Palestinian refugees. The IDF has closed the West Bank and Gaza starting Sunday until next week. IDF military incursions into Gaza have been authorized yet again. In the meantime, major Western news outlets such as the New York Times continue to turn a blind eye to the realities that the Palestinians live through.