Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New report on Israeli apartheid advances anti-apartheid discourse

In 2006, the US Campaign Assembly overwhelmingly resolved to adopt the language of apartheid and Jim Crow segregation in describing Israeli policies towards Palestinians. Of course, we weren't the first to make use of this language. In 2002, no less an authority on the crimes of apartheid than Archbishop Desmond Tutu, writing with Ian Urbina of the Middle East Research and Information Project, described the similarities between apartheid South Africa and the Occupied Palestinian Territories: "Yesterday's South African township dwellers can tell you about today's life in the Occupied Territories." (Tutu's landmark article has since become the subject of a comic by Ethan Heitner, which you can see over at The Arabist). Since then, the term apartheid has been slowly making its way into the discourse on Israel and Palestine. From the title of President Carter's book to Israeli Apartheid Week on the front page of the New York Times, more and more people are becoming aware of the connections between the struggle against racism and apartheid and the struggle against Israeli occupation. Recently even such pro-occupation figures as Daniel Pipes and AIPAC Executive Director Howard Kohr have been forced to comment on this anti-apartheid framework and the boycott and divestment work that springs out of it. And recent news that a letter from South African theologian Farid Esack will be spraypainted on the Apartheid Wall had even CNN talking about apartheid. So we are looking forward to reading a new report that was released this past week by the School of Oriental and Asian Studies in London. The report, entitled "Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid: A re-assessment of Israel's practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law," is a response to a 2007 query by former UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories:
What are the legal consequences of a regime of prolonged occupation with features of colonialism and apartheid for occupied people, the Occupying Power, and third states?
The SOAS report examines these questions from the nonpartisan standpoint of international law. It concludes that "Israel, since 1967, has been the belligerent Occupying Power in the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories], and that its occupation of these territories has become a colonial enterprise which implements a system of apartheid."
Check out the executive summary of the report here, and also be sure to make use of the US Campaign's anti-apartheid resources as we continue to spread the word about Israeli apartheid.