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Former ANC leader backs study finding Israel guilty of apartheid

Aug. 16, 2009 4:09 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 26, 2009 9:28 A.M.)
Ramallah – Ma’an – Israel is an apartheid state that should be boycotted by the international community, former South African Minister of Intelligence Ronnie Kasrils told an assembly of Palestinian rights advocates on Sunday.

Both contemporary Israel and the apartheid regime in South Africa, “proclaim their state on the basis of exclusive citizenship, monopolizing rights in law,” giving one group superior access to services, he said.

The former African National Congress (ANC) leader also denounced the “dehumanization of the monstrous Apartheid Wall” and the “horrific bombardment of Gaza.”

The architects of South African apartheid, he said, “would have greatly admired the machinations that have enclosed Palestinians in ghettos.”

Kasrils, who spent five years in exile for his anti-apartheid activism, was speaking via videophone from Cape Town to a symposium in Ramallah on a new report that assesses whether Israel is violating international law through the practices of occupation, colonialism, and apartheid in the Palestinian territories.

The report was written by British, Irish, South African and Palestinian legal experts under the auspices of the South African Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). The report finds Israel is committing crimes against humanity, which should trigger legal sanctions.

While the report does discuss historical comparisons between Israel and apartheid South Africa, the 300-page study is primarily an attempt to examine Israeli policy under the paradigm of international law, which define apartheid and colonialism as specific crimes which can theoretically take place anywhere.

As one of the report’s authors, Virginia Tilly said on Sunday, the study came about from “The need to test seriously whether Israel is an apartheid state. … What type of animal are we really dealing with?”

“An apartheid regime has indeed arisen outside of South Africa,” Tilly concluded, “And it is the Palestinians who must face it.”

The report was initiated in response to a remark by the UN’s former human rights watchdog in the Palestinian territories, John Dugard, who suggested that Israel was committing these crimes.

The report is a “rigorous moral and legal examination of the highest order,” Kasrils said.

Regarding apartheid, the team found that Israel's laws and policies in Palestine fit the definition of apartheid in the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.

Speaking at the symposium sponsored by Palestinian human rights groups Al-Haq and Adalah, Irish attorney Shane Darcy said that, although Israel is not party to the Apartheid Convention, Israel should still be held accountable for its obligations under statutes that constitute customary international law.

Darcy also explained that the legal prohibitions against colonialism and apartheid are “peremptory norms” which obligate other states to take certain actions. One of these, the report’s authors argue, is that of “abstention.” “States must not recognize as lawful situations created by serious breeches of peremptory norms,” the report reads, “nor render aid or assistance in maintaining that situation.”

Darcy also said that under universal jurisdiction statutes, the perpetrators of apartheid could be tried in courts across the world.

"A policy of apartheid is especially indicated by Israel's demarcation of geographic 'reserves' in the West Bank, to which Palestinian residence is confined and which Palestinians cannot leave without a permit," the study's authors alleged.

However, the study’s co-author, scholar Virginia Tilly cautioned, “this finding of apartheid should not just be another way to strike at Israel, to insult Israel … it should be debated carefully as the key to a new future.”
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