last Tuesday, leading human rights organisation, Human Rights Watch (HRW), became the first major international human rights group to declare that Israel was committing the crime of Apartheid against the Palestinian people. HRW released a lengthy report, which may now lead to further action being taken against Israel.
The 224 page document, released last Tuesday, takes a look at Israel’s policies practiced against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, West Bank and inside Israel itself, defining the situation as having one single Apartheid system with different parts – all which commit persecution.
One of the most important aspects of the report, comes in its language and definitions, with which it frequently quotes the Rome Statute and uses the definition by which the International Criminal Court’s (ICC)’s legal framework defines Apartheid. The reason that this aspect of the report is so relevant, is that it seems to be providing the ICC with the push it needs to investigate Israel for the crime of Apartheid.
Back in January of this year, leading Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, also put out its ‘A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea’ position paper, concluding that Israel was committing the crime of Apartheid.
In March, the ICC announced that its chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda had opened up a formal investigation into possible war crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territories. As of now we are still left in the dark as to what exactly the court will be investigating in specific, however, we do know that they have limited themselves to crimes committed since June 13, 2014.
If the ICC investigation does conclude that individual war crimes were committed, then it may end up going after Israeli generals and/or leading political figures. If it were to decide for instance that Israel was operating an Apartheid system, then it would be the whole Israeli State up for prosecution.
It is no certain thing that the court is going to look into the crime of Apartheid, but in the event that it does, it has no jurisdiction over any more than what is being committed inside of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. This means that it cannot decide on the situation inside of Israel itself, like HRW and B’Tselem have.
Nonetheless, an investigation into Apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territories would also implicate the Israeli State itself. A legal opinion released last year by another Israeli rights group, Yesh Din, had concluded that what Israel was doing in the West Bank was Apartheid; so even looking just at the West Bank there is an argument to make.
Regardless of whether the ICC is to look into the crime of Apartheid in Palestine or not, the take away here is that Israel is coming under immense pressure, and now reputable mainstream groups are openly labelling them as an Apartheid regime. If the HRW report is to stand, it may even prompt further reports or conclusions being reached by the likes of Amnesty International or even the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). This coupled with the coming ICC investigation, does not look good for the Israeli regime.
It is coming to a point where Israel is being viewed, at a mainstream level, as a pariah state. If pressure then comes from an uprising from the Palestinians, which is nearing a full-scale unified revolt at this point, Israel may be in real trouble.
If we couple this together with perhaps trading blows militarily with the likes of Iran and Hezbollah, which both vow responses for actions committed against them by Israel, the regime could be up against an all out offensive against its oppressive apartheid system on all fronts. This situation is one never envisioned just months ago, with the developments really coming in the past weeks.
The Palestinian uprising this time, if it develops, will come with a strong armed resistance from Gaza and non-violent resistance in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and even maybe inside Israel itself. The Palestinian cause for justice, and to pressure Israel to make concessions, is perhaps at one of its highest points in history in terms of the potential the current situation holds. It all comes down to how things proceed from here as to whether the Palestinians will see tangible results.