n Wednesday a UN agency – the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) published a report accusing the state of Israel of imposing an “apartheid regime” of racial discrimination on the Palestinian people. Apartheid was the legislation of racial segregation imposed by the White South Africans on non-white people in that country. It’s goal was not only to separate South Africa’s white minority from its non-white majority, but to decrease their political power.
A series of Land Acts set aside more than 80 per cent of the country’s land for the white minority. “Pass laws” required non-whites to carry documents authorizing their presence in restricted areas. Apartheid denied non-white participation in national government. The promoters of apartheid in then S. Africa promoted the concept of ‘separate development’ creating 10 Bantu homelands dividing black Africans from each other to claim there was no black majority.
One of the worst aspects of apartheid was the government’s ejection of black South Africans from rural areas designated as “white”, and selling their land at low prices to white farmers.
More than 3.5 million, mainly black people, were forcibly ejected from their homes and plunged into poverty and helplessness. When black children in Sweto – a town just outside the capital -- protested against imposition of various unjust laws, the police opened fire using tear gas and live ammunition…
The UN General Assembly denounced apartheid in 1973, and in 1976 the UN Security Council voted to impose a mandatory embargo on the sale of arms to South Africa and on April 27, 1994 apartheid in South Africa came to an end.
Today Israel illegally occupies 22.6% of Palestinian territory in the West Bank and Gaza and has imposed laws even more draconian than the those of the apartheid regime in South Africa.
More than 4.3 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants have been displaced since 1948.
As a result of Israel’s house demolition policies, revocation of residency rights and construction of illegal settlements on confiscated Palestinian-owned land, at least 57,000 Palestinians have become internally displaced in the occupied West Bank. In addition Israel has built an ‘Annexation Wall’ which separates Palestinians, one from another displacing another 150,000 people.
This policy continues today under a law passed in January 2017, which gives any Israeli citizen the right to take over any Palestinian house land or orchard in the Occupied Territories for him/herself
The ESCWA in its 2015/2017 resolution to the Secretary General expressed concern over the practices of Israel, the occupying Power in Occupied Palestinian Territory that are in violation of international humanitarian law. It has accused Israel of practices which have ranged from causing death and injury to civilians, including children, women and peaceful demonstrators. The findings include violence by illegal armed Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians and their properties, to the continued detention of thousands of Palestinians, including children and women, under harsh conditions.
The Commission confirmed Israel’s closure and severe restrictions on the movement of persons and goods to the Gaza Strip amounted to a blockade.
It was on the basis of these findings that on Wednesday, the UN’s ESCWA accused Israel of imposing an apartheid regime on the Palestinian people… and a diplomatic bomb exploded.
The new UN Secretary General Guterres distanced himself from the report and accepted the resignation of Under Secretary General Rima Kalef who authored the report. Ms. Kalaf at a news conference said Guterres had asked her to renounce the report, but she refused and resigned.
That the UN caved in to pressure from the Israeli lobby is sad because the UN itself was set up in the aftermath of the failure of the League of Nations, to ensure justice for all and to protect especially weaker nations and peoples from the powerful and rapacious.
The UNSG’s call to the Under Secretary General of ESCWA to renounce the very report she authored stinks of a refusal to face up to issues of justice and a failure of the UN to live up to the very purpose for which it was set up.
What we need today is action – like Angela Merkel’s cancellation of a summit with Israeli PM Netanyahu – widely stated to reflect her anger at the new law expropriating private Palestinian land, a good example of how leaders can make themselves felt. Unfortunately the message going out from the UNSG’s action appears to be, “if you stand up for justice at the UN be prepared to pay the price”.