South African study: Israel practicing apartheid and colonialism

Human Sciences Research Council, June 9, 2009

The Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) has released a report confirming that Israel is practicing both colonialism and apartheid in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

The HSRC commissioned an international team of scholars and practitioners of international public law from South Africa, the United Kingdom, Israel and the West Bank to conduct this study. The resulting 300-page report, titled “Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid?: A re-assessment of Israel’s practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law,” represents 15 months of research and constitutes an exhaustive review of Israel’s practices in the OPT according to definitions of colonialism and apartheid provided by international law. The project was suggested originally by the January 2007 report by eminent South African jurist John Dugard, in his capacity as Special Rapporteur to the United Nations Human Rights Council, when he indicated that Israeli practices had assumed characteristics of colonialism and apartheid.

The team found that Israel’s laws and policies in the OPT fit the definition of apartheid in the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. Israeli law conveys privileges to Jewish settlers and disadvantages Palestinians in the same territory on the basis of their respective identities, which function in this case as racialized identities in the sense provided by international law. Israel’s practices are corollary to five of the six “inhuman acts” listed by the Convention. 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 system is very similar to the policy of “Grand Apartheid” in Apartheid South Africa, in which black South Africans were confined to black Homelands delineated by the South African government, while white South Africans enjoyed freedom of movement and full civil rights in the rest of the country.

Quoting from the Executive Summary of the report, project leader Dr. Virginia Tilley explained that the three pillars of apartheid in South Africa are all practiced by Israel in theOPT. In South Africa, the first pillar was to demarcate the population of South Africa into racial groups, and to accord superior rights, privileges and services to the white racial group. The second pillar was to segregate the population into different geographic areas, which were allocated by law to different racial groups, and restrict passage by members of any group into the area allocated to other groups. And the third pillar was “a matrix of draconian ‘security’ laws and policies that were employed to suppress any opposition to the regime and to reinforce the system of racial domination, by providing for administrative detention, torture, censorship, banning, and assassination.”