United Nations: In response to Unprecedented Recognition of Israel’s Apartheid Regime, States Must Take Concrete Steps to End this unjust reality

In Arab Countries, International Advocacy Program, United Nations Human Rights Council by CIHRS

Geneva – The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) delivered a joint statement on behalf of 114 Palestinian, regional, and international civil society organizations, sending a strong message to UN member states that now is the time to recognize Israel’s establishment and perpetuation of an apartheid regime over the Palestinian people as a whole, including Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line and Palestinian refugees and exiles abroad.

 “Civil society from around the world has resoundingly affirmed its support for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and their pursuit of international justice and accountability. It is only by recognizing the reality of Israel’s apartheid regime that we can begin to work together to overcome apartheid in the 21st century,” said Elizabeth Rghebi, Levant Researcher for CIHRS.

Delivered during the 43rd regular session of the UN Human Rights Council under item 9, which addresses issues of racism, racial discrimination, and xenophobia, the joint statement reiterated the persistent failure of third states to put an end to Israeli impunity. Beginning 1 July 2020, the Israeli government is set to move forward with plans to illegally annex large parts of the occupied West Bank, which will further entrench Israel’s apartheid regime of systematic racial domination and oppression over the Palestinian people. As annexation looms, forty-seven UN rights experts have warned that “The morning after annexation would be the crystallization of an already unjust reality: two peoples living in the same space, ruled by the same state, but with profoundly unequal rights. This is a vision of a 21st century apartheid.”

Accordingly, the organizations called for the reconstitution of the UN Special Committee against Apartheid and the UN Center against Apartheid as critical steps towards ending Israel’s institutionalized impunity and apartheid regime. These mechanisms would serve as an important avenue to monitor Israel’s widespread and systematic human rights violations against the Palestinian people and ensure that third States abide by their responsibility under international law responsibility not to aid or assist in the maintenance of Israel’s apartheid regime and to cooperate to bring an end to apartheid through the auspices of the UN.

In addition, the organizations called on UN member states to endorse the December 2019 concluding observations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which recognized, for the first time, the disproportionate impact of Israeli policies and practices of racial segregation and apartheid on Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line. This followed the submission of a comprehensive joint parallel report to CERD by Palestinian, regional, and international civil society organizations, which detailed Israel’s establishment and maintenance of an apartheid regime over all Palestinians.

Countries including South Africa, Namibia, and Pakistan raised concerns about Israeli apartheid during the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council. In a statement under agenda item 7 – on the situation of human rights in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories – South Africa said, “My delegation expressed concern last year that the annexation of Palestinian territory was highly likely. The CERD found in its December 2019 observations that the strategic fragmentation of the Palestinian people formed part of a policy and practice of segregation and apartheid. Annexation would be yet another example of complete impunity that makes a mockery of this Council and would gravely breach international law.”

Pakistan underscored the right to self-determination as a fundamental human right of people under illegal foreign occupation or alien domination – a right that Palestinians and millions elsewhere continue to be deprived decade after decade: “During the past 70 years, [Palestinians] have been driven from their homes and their homeland, militarily occupied and obliged to live in conditions resembling apartheid.”

During the general debate under item 9, Namibia drew a parallel to its own historical experience under occupation and apartheid and said, “We remain steadfast in our pursuit to see increased concrete action towards the elimination of racism, racial discrimination and related intolerances globally, including those under foreign occupation such as Western Sahara and Palestine.

“Yesterday, South Africa and Namibia, countries which overcame apartheid, spoke out against Israel’s apartheid regime and denounced the widespread and systematic human rights violations committed against the Palestinian people. They know apartheid when they see it. We call on all UN member states to follow South Africa and Namibia’s lead and to take a courageous stand against Israeli apartheid imposed on the Palestinian people as a whole and to work to bring this injustice to an end,” said Rania Muhareb, Legal Researcher and Advocacy Officer with the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq.

  • 43rd Regular Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council
  • Joint Oral Intervention: International Community Must Recognize and Counter Israel’s Apartheid Regime
  • Item 9: Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action
  • Date: 16 June 2020
  • Speaker: Ms Nada Awad, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

Madam President,

Since 1948, Palestinians have faced an ongoing Nakba of continued displacement and dispossession, as part of Israel’s endeavour to uproot the indigenous Palestinian people from their homes, lands, and property. For 72 years, Israel has strategically fragmented, segregated, and isolated the Palestinian people, denying the right of return of Palestinian refugees, revoking residency rights and banning family unification – thus imposing an apartheid regime over the Palestinian people, as defined under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Embedded in a system of impunity, civic space continues to deteriorate as Israel systematically silences opposition to its apartheid regime through mass arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment, and widespread collective punishment, including through the illegal Gaza closure, as well as Government-led smear campaigns to delegitimise human rights defenders and organisations, a process fuelled by racist hate speech and incitement to racial hatred and violence.

In the coming weeks, the Israeli government seeks to illegally annex large parts of the occupied West Bank. The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Palestine has warned that Israel’s plans “would crystalize a 21st century apartheid, leaving in its wake the demise of the Palestinians’ right to self-determination.”[1]

Your Excellency,

Third States have systematically failed to put an end to Israeli impunity and to uphold the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. It is time to recognise that Israel has established and continues to maintain an apartheid regime of institutionalised racial oppression and domination over all Palestinians, on both sides of the Green Line, and refugees and exiles that are denied their right of return.

Accordingly, we urge all UN Member States to:

  1. Recognise and address Israeli apartheid over the Palestinian people;
  2. Endorse UN CERD’s 2019 concluding observations on Israel, which recognised policies of racial segregation and apartheid over Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line; and
  3. Recommend the reconstitution of the UN Special Committee against Apartheid and the UN Centre against Apartheid to put an end to this injustice.

Thank you.



  1. Agir pour le changement et la Démocratie en Algérie
  2. Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights


  1. Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)


  1. Women in Black Vienna


  1. Association Belgo-Palestinienne WB
  2. Broederlijk Delen
  3. Palestina Solidariteit vzw


  1. Just Peace Advocates


  1. Belady Center for Rights and Freedoms
  2. Committee for Justice
  3. Egyptian Front for Human Rights
  4. The Freedom Initiative


  1. Finnish-Arab Friendship Society
  2. The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions – Finland


  1. Association France Palestine Solidarité
  2. Association Démocratique des Tunisiens en France –ADTF
  3. Association des Travailleurs Maghrébins Maghrébins de France
  4. Association des universitaires pour le respect du droit international en Palestine (AURDIP)
  5. Collectif des Familles de Disparu(e)s en Algérie
  6. Collectif Judéo Arabe et Citoyen pour la Palestine
  7. Immigration- Développement- Démocratie
  8. Le Comité de Vigilance pour la Démocratie en Tunisie – Belgique
  9. Mouvement contre le Racisme et pour l’Amitié entre les peuples (MRAP)
  10. Réseau Euromaghrébin Citoyenneté et Culture
  11. Union Juive Française pour la Paix (UJFP)


  1. Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign
  2. Sadaka – The Ireland Palestine Alliance


  1. The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)


  1. Associazione Cultura è Libertà


  1. Center for Arab Unity Studies
  2. Palestinian Human Rights Organization (PHRO)


  1. Belaady Organization for Human Rights
  2. Libyan Judges Organization
  3. Libyan Organization for Independent Media
  4. Independent Organisation for Human Rights
  5. International Arabic Organization for Women’s Rights
  6. Jurists Without Chains
  7. Youth Gathering for Tawargha


  1. Comité pour une Paix Juste au Proche-Orient


  1. Association de Défense des Droits de l’Homme au Maroc


  1. Netherlands Palestine Committee (NPK)


  1. Coordination Committee for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of the State of Israel

Occupied Syrian Golan

  1. Al Marsad – Arab Human Rights Center in Golan Heights


  1. Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association
  2. Al Dameer Association for Human Rights
  3. Al-Haq
  4. Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights
  5. Applied Research Institute Jerusalem
  6. Bait AlMostuqbul Association
  7. Baitona For Community And Development
  8. Balsam Rehabilitation Society
  9. Center for Defense of Liberties and Civil Rights (Hurryyat)
  10. Community Action Center, Al-Quds University
  11. Fares Al Arab for Development and Charity Works
  12. Filastiniyat
  13. Forsan Al-Ghad Youth Association‏
  14. Human Rights and Democracy Media Center (SHAMS)
  15. Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC)
  16. MA’AN Development Center
  17. Nuseirat Rehabilitation and Social Training Association (NRSTA)
  18. Palestinian Agricultural Development Association
  19. Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)
  20. Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network
  21. Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies (RCHRS)
  22. The Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem
  23. The National Society for Rehabilitation
  24. The Palestinian Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession (MUSAWA)
  25. The Palestinian Counselling Centre (PCC)
  26. The Palestinian Developmental Women Studies Association “PDWSA”
  27. The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy – MIFTAH
  28. The Palestine Institute for Public Policy
  29. Union of Health Care Committees
  30. Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC)
  31. Women’s Studies Centre
  32. Youth Political Forum
  33. Zakher Association


  1. Bytes for All

South Africa

  1. Lawyers for Human Rights
  2. South African Jews for a Free Palestine


  1. Association Switzerland-Palestine
  2. Human Rights Solidarity


  1. Baytna Syria
  2. Dawlaty
  3. Local Development and Small-Projects Support (LDSPS)
  4. Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM)


  1. Coalition Togolaise des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CTDDH)


  1. Fédération Tunisienne pour une Citoyenneté des deux Rives
  2. L’Union des Tunisiens pour l’Action Citoyenne
  3. National Observatory for the Defense of the Civil State
  4. Syndicat National des Journalistes Tunisiens
  5. The Committee for the Respect of Freedoms and Human Rights in Tunisia
  6. Tunisian Association Defending Individual Liberties
  7. Tunisian Association for the Defense of Universal Values
  8. Tunisian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
  9. Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State

United Kingdom

  1. Manchester Palestine Action
  2. Scottish Palestinian Forum
  3. The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions – United Kingdom

United States of America

  1. Albuquerque Peace and Justice Center
  2. American Muslims for Palestine
  3. Center for Constitutional Rights
  4. Jewish Voice for Peace
  5. Santa Feans for Justice in Palestine
  6. US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR)


  1. Mwatana for Human Rights
  2. Watch for Human Rights

Regional Organizations


  1. European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine (ECCP)
  2. The European Legal Support Center

Middle East and North Africa:

  1. Arab Network for Tolerance
  2. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)

East and Horn of Africa:

  1. DefendDefenders

West Africa:

  1. West African Human Rights Defenders’ Network

International Organizations

  2. Housing and Land Rights Network – Habitat International Coalition

[1] OHCHR, “Israeli annexation plans would lead to ‘cascade of bad human rights consequences’ says UN expert,” 1 May 2020, available at: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=25857&LangID=E.

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