As world leaders meet at UN, violation of Palestinian rights must be on the agenda | Hanan Ashrawi and Lakhdar Brahimi


TThis week, world leaders gathered in New York for the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly, struggling to prove its continued relevance in a battered world. The major themes so far have been the climate crisis, vaccinating the world against Covid-19 and the new regime in Afghanistan – and rightly so. But there is another issue that also requires our attention, where progress could restore confidence in the ability of the General Assembly to act: the deepening of the regime of Israeli Jewish supremacy over millions of Palestinians, which has been recognized by more and more observers as an apartheid regime. We join many world leaders in calling on the General Assembly to investigate this regime and, therefore, take the necessary accountability steps to dismantle it.

Last year, in response to Israel’s plans to annex new land in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, we were joined by dozens of civil society leaders and Arab diplomats in calling for sanctions against Israel and in defending the right of Palestinians to engage in legitimate resistance, including through boycott, divestment and sanctions. It is about safeguarding not only the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, in particular self-determination, but also the sanctity of the rule of international law.

Through its relentless annexation and the expansion of absolute control over all of Palestine, Israel blatantly denies the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to existence and sovereignty in their own homeland. It also destroys the basis of any solution based on the principles of international law, while further entrenching a legislative system of institutionalized discrimination, segregation and inequality, through laws and policies, throughout Palestine. historical. This system meets the UN definition of apartheid.

The Palestinian people – whether under occupation in Gaza and the West Bank, including Jerusalem, inside Israel, or living as refugees and forced exiles – have waited decades for the UN to implement the dozens of resolutions it has adopted in favor of Palestinian rights. Working to defeat Israeli apartheid would give Palestinians, and all other communities suffering injustice around the world, hope that justice can indeed prevail.

Apartheid anywhere is a crime against humanity, and states as well as the United Nations are responsible for its abolition. The General Assembly played a pivotal role in the defeat of apartheid in southern Africa, which it saw as a threat to international security and a flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter and the right to self-determination of peoples. under colonial and foreign domination. He called on all states to sever military, economic, cultural and diplomatic relations with South Africa and established a special United Nations committee and center to help eradicate apartheid. It is high time the United Nations did the same with Israel.

Major Palestinian organizations have for decades condemned and documented Israel’s commission of the crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people. In June 2020, 47 independent UN human rights experts authoritatively declared that the Israeli government’s plan to illegally annex large parts of the occupied West Bank would constitute “a vision of 21st century apartheid.” .

Since July 2020, 10 former heads of state, more than 700 MPs and dozens of social and indigenous movements from Asia, Africa and Latin America have joined the Global South Response, expressing their support for the call to Palestinian civil society to a UN inquiry. apartheid and the targeted and legal sanctions that result from it to put an end to it.

In January 2021, the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem released a damning report, titled “A Regime of Jewish Supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: It’s Apartheid.”

In April 2021, Human Rights Watch released its own landmark report, “A Threshold Crossed,” detailing how Israel’s policies against millions of Palestinians constitute crimes against humanity of persecution and apartheid.

The states of South Africa and Namibia, where people succeeded in defeating apartheid, recognized Israel as an apartheid regime and suggested UN mechanisms to investigate it.

In June 2021, Ban Ki-moon, the former UN chief and vice-president of The Elders, also suggested that Israel impose apartheid on the Palestinians, arguing that it was “a conflict. between a powerful state, Israel, controlling the Palestinians by ending the occupation ‘”.

It is therefore incumbent on the United Nations to urgently investigate Israeli apartheid as a first step towards its dismantling. In the meantime, states are called upon to adopt effective accountability measures to show Israel that there are grave consequences for its violent and relentless violations of Palestinian rights and its disregard for the rule of law. Silence, vague diplomatic statements or rhetorical condemnations will not deter Israel from continuing to methodically dispossess and oppress the Palestinians. A serious response must involve a wide range of effective sanctions targeted by the global community that respects international legality and human rights.

UN member states can start by imposing a military and security embargo on Israel and prohibiting all trade with complicit companies listed in the United Nations database of companies involved in Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise. By standing up against Israeli apartheid, the United Nations General Assembly can truly express the conscience of the world and demonstrate its relevance in the global pursuit of freedom, justice and equality for all.

  • Hanan Ashrawi is a Palestinian politician, lawmaker, activist and scholar who served as the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization; Lakhdar Brahimi is an Algerian and UN diplomat. He was Algeria’s foreign minister from 1991 to 1993 and is also a member of The Elders, a group of world leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela in 2007


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