Israel’s Policy of Systematic Discrimination Probed by United Nations Committee
(Geneva) – On December 4 and 5 2019, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) reviewed Israel’s implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). Israel’s human rights record and its discriminatory laws and policies were probed by the Committee.
On 2 December Rania Muharb of Al Haq delivered a intervention to the Committee to present the findings of a joint parallel report by a coalition of Palestinian, regional, and international organizations, including the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS). The report outlines Israel’s entrenchment and expansion of a system of apartheid targeting the Palestinian people. Israel has instituted a series of discriminatory laws, policies, and practices that form the foundation of its institutionalized regime of racial domination and oppression through dispossession, dominiation, and systematic fragmentation of the the indigenous Palestinian people as a whole which is embedded in a system of impunity and the repression of the capacity of the Palesitinian people to oppose it.
According to Elizabeth Rghebi, the Levant Researcher with CIHRS, “For decades Israel has established an institutionalized regime of apartheid through racial domination and oppression over the indigenous Palestinian people. The time has come for the international community to recognize this reality and take urgent action to end this practice. ”
The International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (Apartheid Convention), the “crime of apartheid”, which amounts to a crime against humanity, includes similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination, as practiced in South Africa and applies to inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group over any other racial group and systematically oppressing them. According to the Apartheid Convention, signatories are obligataed to undertake legislative or other measures to suppress and prevent the crime of apartheid and to prosecute those responsible.
During the review of Israel’s policies the members of CERD identified all of the elements that constitute apartheid under international law. Madame Rita Izsák-Ndiaye, the CERD Rapporteur for Israel, emphasized the fragmentation of the Palestinian people into four categories: Palestinians with citizenship in Israel, Palestinians with residency in occupied East Jerusalem, Palestinians living under military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, and Palestinians refugees and exiled denied the right to return. This political and legal fragmentation of the Palestinian people was highlighted in the joint submission of CIHRS and partners as a primary means with which Israel creates and maintains a system of legal discrimination intended to disenfranchise and deny Palestinians the right to self-determination.
Madame Izsák-Ndiaye further stated, “We remain extremely concerned about the consequences of Israeli legislation, policies, and practices, which amount to de facto segregation.” She noted that Israel has established two distinct legal systems for Jews and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, continue to expand its unlawful settlements, discriminatorily targets Palestinian structures for demolition, and has closed off Jerusalem for Palestinians imposing discriminatory laws with regard to residency, family unification, and urban planning. She also addressed Israel’s closure and blockade of Gaza, highlighting the catastrophic humanitarian implication consequences for the Palestinian people, including that 95% are denied access to clean water.
Committee member Madame Gay McDougall responded to the report by the Israeli delegation, saying, “Each move is part of a larger strategic plan to fragment the non-Jewish population into four non-contiguous parts, none of whom have the rights of our Convention or human rights more broadly respected, and to that must be added the strategic forced transfers of non-Jewish populations in violation of humanitarian law.” She added, “You are wiping away the fundamental rights of large parts of the population, so that you can come before us now and say that you are the majority in the State.”
Nada Awad, International Advocacy Officer at CIHRS, said “The CERD members made it clear last week that they are concerned by Israel’s institutionalized and systematic discriminatory laws, policies, and practices. They have in effect clearly described a state of apartheid.”
To view a fact sheet based on the submission, please click here.
To view our joint oral intervention, please click here.
To view our joint parallel submission, please click here.
 This was a joint submission by the following organizations: Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Al-Haq, BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, the Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem and Habitat International Coalition (HIC) – Housing and Land Network (HLRN).
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