MAP speaks out at Human Rights Council as UN expert concludes Israel is committing apartheid

In his final report to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) as UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), Professor Michael Lynk has concluded that Israel is imposing a system of apartheid on Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.

Released to the UNHRC’s 49th regular session this week, Professor Lynk’s report established that Israel has created a “regime of systematic racial oppression and discrimination” over Palestinians, characterised in the West Bank by a “comprehensive dual legal and political system which provides comprehensive rights and living conditions for the Jewish Israeli settlers … while imposing upon the Palestinians military rule and control without any of the basic protections of international humanitarian and human rights law”. For Palestinians this has resulted in the expropriation of land for settlements, unequal access to essential resources and services, frequent demolitions of homes and property, and a “structurally de-developed economy”.

In Gaza, the Special Rapporteur explains that Israel’s comprehensive blockade has resulted in “a multi-decade process of de-development and deindustrialization, resulting in a 45 percent unemployment rate, a 60 percent poverty rate and with 80 percent of the population dependent on some form of international assistance”, as well as a lack of access to essential resources such as clean water and electricity, and the depletion of healthcare services:

“The entry and export of goods is strictly controlled by Israel, which has throttled the local economy. Gaza’s health care system is flat on its back, with serious shortages of health care professionals, inadequate treatment equipment and low supplies of drugs and medicines. Palestinians in Gaza can rarely travel outside of the Strip, a denial of their fundamental right to freedom of movement.”

Professor Lynk states that the “strategic fragmentation” of Palestinian territory, through “an elaborate series of walls, check-points, barricades, military closure zones, Palestinian-only roads and Israeli-only roads” has the effect of “not only sever[ing] the Palestinians under occupation from each other socially, economically and politically, but also from Palestinians living in Israel and the wider world.”

“With the eyes of the international community wide open, Israel has imposed upon Palestine an apartheid reality in a post-apartheid world.”

The Special Rapporteur’s report identifies the commission of “a range of inhuman(e) acts” by Israel including the denial of the right to life and dignity, with 5,988 Palestinians killed in the context of the occupation and conflict between January 2008 and February 2022, including “state-sanctioned extra-judicial killings” committed “with little or no internal accountability.” He further states that Palestinians are prevented from “full participation in all features of society” through restrictions on their rights to freedom of expression, assembly, association and movement; the imposition of checkpoints and an ID system; and impediments to their right to work through a “smothered economy, travel restrictions and the fragmentation of their territory”.

To this dire context, the Special Rapporteur applies a three-part legal test derived from the Convention Against Apartheid (1973) and Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (1998) to identify the existence of the “crime against humanity of apartheid”:

“(a) There exists an institutionalized regime of systematic racial oppression and discrimination,

(b) established with the intent to maintain the domination of one racial group over another, and

(c) which features inhuman(e) acts committed as an integral part of the regime.”

From this, Professor Lynk finds:

“…that the political system of entrenched rule in the occupied Palestinian territory which endows one racial-national-ethnic group with substantial rights, benefits and privileges while intentionally subjecting another group to live behind walls, checkpoints and under a permanent military rule “sans droits, sans égalité, sans dignité et sans liberté” satisfies the prevailing evidentiary standard for the existence of apartheid.”

“With the eyes of the international community wide open”, Professor Lynk concludes, “Israel has imposed upon Palestine an apartheid reality in a post-apartheid world.”

MAP speaks up for Palestinians’ right to health and dignity

In November 2021, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) released a position paper highlighting how policies and practices of systematic discrimination and fragmentation by Israel constitute key barriers to Palestinians’ rights to health and dignity. We provided our conclusions to the UNHRC through a written submission, which highlighted that this situation “is fuelled by the near-total impunity Israel enjoys for violations of international law,” and called on Member States to pursue an end to, and accountability for, such violations.

In the UNHRC’s Interactive Dialogue with Professor Lynk relating to his report, MAP’s Senior Programme Manager in Lebanon, Wafa Dakwar, highlighted that Israel’s policies and practices of systematic discrimination and fragmentation not only violate the rights to health and dignity of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, but also impact Palestinians living as refugees in Lebanon:

“Here in Lebanon, Palestinian refugees have endured more than 70 years of forced exile as a result of Israel’s discriminatory denial of their right to return to their homes. We are kept in a perpetual humanitarian crisis: dependent on diminishing international aid and cut off from our compatriots, unable to contribute to the sustainable development of healthcare institutions to serve the Palestinian people collectively.”

She called on Member States to support votes at the UNHRC upholding the rights of the Palestinian people as a whole, and to expand the mandate of the Special Rapporteur to enable them to assess the human rights situation of Palestinian refugees beyond the oPt.

MAP also supported Dr Mohammed Iskafi, Emergency Programme Director of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) with which MAP partners to provide mobile clinic services to marginalised Palestinian communities in the West Bank, to address the Council. Speaking during the General Debate under the UNHRC’s ‘Agenda Item 7’, Dr Iskafi highlighted the intolerable conditions faced by communities in Area C – the 60% of the West Bank where Israel maintains full military and civil control – and the ongoing incidence of attacks on health workers:

“It is vital that States ask why these Palestinian communities must rely on emergency mobile clinics, and why Palestinian health workers come under attack, despite their protected status.

“The answer is impunity. Impunity for Israel’s decades of systematic discrimination against the Palestinians and violations of international law.”

Dr Iskafi called on Member States to take action to ensure accountability, including by supporting “genuine and independent investigations into potentially serious violations of international law, including through the recently-established Commission of Inquiry.”

You can join MAP’s call for Palestinians’ equal rights to health and dignity by adding your voice to our “Every Palestinian” campaign today.

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