In a context whereby Israel’s ongoing occupation is steadily mutating into a system of Apartheid, the text of the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, has become of greater pertinence than ever before in any case outside of that of the former Apartheid regime in South Africa.
"Palestinians under occupation are now facing a fully-fledged Apartheid system characterised by systematic discrimination," said PNI Secretary General, Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi MP.
"Tell me of any other case in the world where roads are segregated on the basis of ethnicity? Where a population of illegal settlers consumes 48 times more water per capita per year than the local population? Where an occupied people pay twice the amount for basic utilities such as water and electricity, than those who occupy them? Where Palestinians are obliged to purchase goods at the same market prices as Israelis - whose income per capita is 30 times higher - and who are prevented from building their own independent economy? Where the chronically ill are denied access to health treatment because of their nationality, and are simply left to die?"
"These are practical manifestations of Apartheid to an extent never before witnessed, not even at the height of the Apartheid regime in South Africa," added Dr. Barghouthi.
The existence of an Apartheid system in Palestine has been reported on by United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Professor John Dugard, himself a South African. In his January 2007 report to the Human Rights Council, Dugard wrote: "Israel’s laws and practices in the OPT certainly resemble aspects of apartheid […] and probably fall within the scope of the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid."
This Convention declared that "discrimination between human beings on the grounds of race, colour or ethnic origin is an obstacle to friendly and peaceful relations among nations and is capable of disturbing peace and security among peoples and the harmony of persons living side by side even within one and the same State."
"The Olmert government has posited itself as one that will bring peace to the region through the Annapolis process," commented Dr. Barghouthi. "But this is the same government that has pursued construction of the Apartheid Wall; which has recently given the green light to expansion in several settlements; that is actively seeking the fragmentation of Palestinian lands occupied in 1967; that allows violence against Palestinians by its military and settler population with impunity; that has imposed unprecedented levels of collective punishment on the people of the Gaza Strip; and that has left sick Gazans to die at its borders simply because they are Palestinians."
"Until the international community rescinds the impunity is has allowed Israel in its continuous violations of Palestinians’ individual and collective human rights, and until it holds Israel to account within the framework of international law, the further entrenchment of racism and Apartheid is the only prospect that Palestinians can expect in the future," he concluded.
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on 21 March. On that day in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid "pass laws". Proclaiming the Day in 1966, the General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.
The International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 30 November 1973, and came into force on 18 July 1976.
Israel signed the Convention on 7 March 1966, and ratified it on 3 January 1979.