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Israel Is An Apartheid State, Which The UN Refuses to Recognise

An apartheid state which is brokering the normalisation of relations with Arab states makes a mockery of international humanitarian law. The UN has ignored its obligations, and individual governments have followed suit, despite the prohibitions on colonialism and apartheid incumbent on all states. 

The Israeli non-governmental organisation B’Tselem, which reports regularly on Israeli human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt), has been gradually rethinking its approach to Israel’s colonisation of Palestine.

In May 2016, a report titled “The Occupation’s Fig Leaf: Israel’s Military Law Enforcement System as a Whitewash Mechanism” highlighted a system of impunity that protects high ranking military officials from being investigated with regard to violence against Palestinian civilians. In its report, B’Tselem acknowledged the Israeli military’s exploitation of human rights organisations by Israel, which it described in terms of becoming “subcontractors for the military investigative system”. 

In the absence of any justice being meted out, B’Tselem had stated it will “no longer play a part in the pretense posed by the military law enforcement system and will no longer refer complaints to it.” 

Since then, and especially throughout US President Donald Trump’s tenure, Israel has swiftly moved to consolidate its colonisation project, while enacting legislation that excludes Palestinians, such as the “nation-state law” which only gives the right of self-determination to Jewish people: “Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination.”  While the move attracted widespread condemnation, it was quickly forgotten. Palestinians pointing out the swift rise of apartheid were not paid any heed.

This month, however, Israel’s apartheid character was condemned by B’Tselem’s executive director Hagai El-Ad, in an op-ed penned for The Guardian. El-Ad spoke the truth when he described Israel’s play on Jewish supremacy and how this is being used to deny Palestinians’ political rights. 

“Separated by the different personal statuses allotted to them, and by the many variations of inferiority Israel subjects them to, Palestinians living under Israel’s rule are united by all being unequal,” El-Ad wrote. 

That mainstream media carried such an op-ed is not reflective of its commitment to addressing Israel’s human rights violations. While certainly powerful, as the accusation of apartheid is coming from within Israel, Palestinians have been raising awareness of their displacement, marginalisation, and segregated reality, only for their voices to be discarded and their claims simplified into statistical data that does not make it beyond “settlement expansion”. 

The international community can list its missed opportunities in declaring Israel an apartheid state, given that its expansion and surveillance tactics are all based upon encroaching on Palestinian freedom. For Palestinians, B’Tselem’s op-ed is not news – they have been living an apartheid reality rooted in settler-colonial politics since 1948. 

At least, however, in light of Israel’s suspended annexation plans, B’Tselem’s assertion should have provoked serious discussion within the international community. Yet silence still emanates, largely because anything Israel does, despite the evidence, is still subject to possibility. In addition, the UN has misrepresented Israel’s temporary suspension of annexation as a reversal of its policy, in order to promote the Abraham Accords, which facilitated normalisation between the settler-colonial state and Arab countries. 

However, although Israel is having to contend with criticism coming from within, to the point that it is seeking to ban lectures by human rights groups declaring it an apartheid state, it is business as usual for the international community. This will be amplified when Biden takes office, assuming the two-state politics through the lens of Trump’s policy for Israel.

An apartheid state which is brokering the normalisation of relations with Arab states makes a mockery of international humanitarian law. The UN has ignored its obligations, and individual governments have followed suit, despite the prohibitions on colonialism and apartheid incumbent on all states. 

To come to a point where a mention of apartheid merely irks Israel into petty retaliation against human rights organisations, while the UN remains complicit in Israel’s violations through its silence, speaks volumes about how the Palestinian cause is just an agenda item with no significant value at an international level.

Call Israel a settler-colonial apartheid state, and do not forget the UN’s role in facilitating human rights violations against the Palestinian people. 

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