The Crimes of Apartheid

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Photo by jasonwhat | CC BY 2.0

Photo by jasonwhat | CC BY 2.0

 

Apartheid is a powerful word, with evocations of the South African experience and with implications of crimes against humanity. The United Nations does not use this word loosely. It rarely enters UN reports, and is not heard from the lips of UN officials. But now, in a report released on March 15 in Beirut, Lebanon, the UN has proclaimed that Israel ‘is guilty of the crime of apartheid’. This is a very significant judgment, one with important ramifications for the UN, for the International Court of Justice and for the international community.

In 2015, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) was charged by its member-states – the eighteen Arab states in West Asia and North Africa – to study whether Israel has established an apartheid regime. ESCWA asked two American academics — Richard Falk and Virginia Tilley — to undertake the study. Falk had been the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories from 2008 through 2014. Tilley had served as a Chief Research Specialist in South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council, which had produced a study in 2009 showing apartheid-like conditions in Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territory. The report that they have now produced makes the ‘grave charge’ that Israel is guilty of apartheid not only in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem — the Occupied Territory — but also within its own…

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