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Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories: UN expert is right to label situation 'apartheid'

Palestinians trying to stop the demolition of their home in 'Area C' of the occupied West Bank, where Israel retains full control over planning and construction © AFP via Getty Images

UN Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk’s findings come after major Amnesty report last month

Israeli authorities have blocked UN investigator and attempted to smear those who use term apartheid

‘The grinding oppression to which Israel subjects Palestinians on a daily basis is a textbook example of apartheid’ - Saleh Higazi

Responding to the publication of a new report by the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Michael Lynk, which concludes that the situation in the territories amounts to the crime of apartheid, Saleh Higazi, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, said:

“The special rapporteur’s findings are an important and timely addition to the growing international consensus that the Israeli authorities are committing apartheid against the Palestinian people.

“Palestinian human rights organisations have been calling the situation apartheid for years, and this report is a landmark moment of recognition of the lived reality of millions of Palestinians.

“The report details how Israel has established a system of racially-motivated oppression against Palestinians, explicitly designed to maintain Jewish Israeli domination, and maintained through the commission of grave human rights violations.

“Like Amnesty and many other human rights groups, the special rapporteur examined Israel’s treatment of Palestinians through the lens of international law and reached the unmistakeable conclusion that this is apartheid. 

“In recent months Israel has intensified its efforts to censor and discredit anyone who uses the word apartheid. Instead of engaging with serious allegations made by human rights organisations and now the UN, the Israeli authorities continue to limit their response to attacking the messenger with groundless accusations of bias. 

“This failing strategy cannot hide the growing consensus among experts that the harsh reality of the grinding oppression to which Israel subjects Palestinians on a daily basis is a textbook example of apartheid. 

“The report emphasises the need for the international community to accept the findings of human rights organisations, including Amnesty, and start calling Israel’s apartheid what it is. 

“The international community, in particular countries allied to Israel, must stop making excuses for this cruel system of racial domination and oppression and take immediate action to help end apartheid and protect Palestinian rights.”

Lynk’s findings

The special rapporteur’s report examines the current human rights situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, with particular focus on the question of apartheid. It finds that Israeli Jews and Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories live “under a single regime which differentiates its distribution of rights and benefits on the basis of national and ethnic identity, and which ensures the supremacy of one group over, and to the detriment of, the other.” The report also shows how this system “endows one racial-national-ethnic group with substantial rights, benefits and privileges while intentionally subjecting another group to live behind walls, checkpoints and under a permanent military rule”, concluding that this “satisfies the prevailing evidentiary standard for the existence of apartheid.”

Amnesty report

Last month, Amnesty’s own 280-page report - Israel’s Apartheid against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime against Humanity - showed how Israel is enforcing a system of apartheid against Palestinians wherever it has control of their rights, including within Israel. 

Amnesty is calling on the International Criminal Court to consider the crime of apartheid in its current investigation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and for all states to exercise universal jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute persons suspected of the crime against humanity of apartheid.

Plan to discredit Lynk’s report

In January, a leaked cable from the Israeli Foreign Ministry described a planned campaign to discredit Michael Lynk’s work, and the Israeli authorities have prevented UN human rights staff and investigators from entering Israel or the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This is part of a wide-ranging attack on human rights by the Israeli authorities which has also seen Palestinian organisations harassed, outlawed and silenced.

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