Today, after ten years of evading its international duty to report on its implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), the UN’s antiracism monitoring body, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), questioned Israel about its institutionalized discrimination against Palestinians inside Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
Ten human rights NGOs, including Israeli, Palestinian and international organizations, briefed CERD and documented how Israel bestows certain economic, social and cultural rights, privileges and benefits solely on its citizens holding Jewish nationality. This discriminatory practice has resulted in the systematic dispossession of the indigenous Palestinian population, including over five million refugees. Over 20 human rights organization is also presented a joint parallel report to CERD, documenting Israel”s breaches of the antiracism treaty.
Joseph Schechla, coordinator of the Habitat International Coalition’s Housing and Land Rights Network, characterized Israel’s Basic Laws and parastatal institutions such as the World Zionist Organization/Jewish Agency, and the Jewish National Fund as “principal agents in carrying out Israel’s material discrimination against non-Jewish citizens and long-expelled refugees who inhabited the country before the creation of the state of Israel.” He noted also that, “while these organizations carry out internationally prohibited population transfer as their central task, they nonetheless operate as charitable institutions in many Western countries.”
Gareth Gleed, legal researcher at Al Haq, a human rights organization based in the occupied Palestinian territories, pointed out that “within the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Israel’s policy of separation is inherently discriminatory and based on clear violations of international law.” He asserted that Israel’s occupation policies “serve not only to separate Palestinians from Israeli Jews, but also fragment any continuity among Palestinian areas through movement restrictions, prohibited and restricted roads, settlements, and the Annexation Wall. This wall not only annexes an additional 10% of Palestinian lands, but further separates Palestinian towns and lands, preventing the development of Palestinian communities.”
Zaha Hassan of the National Lawyers’ Guild, a U.S. legal association founded in 1937 in part because of American Bar Associations refused African-American attorneys as members, stated that “almost three years ago, the International Court of Justice called upon the UN to consider further action required to bring an end the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the Annexation Wall, the settlement system and associated regime.” She noted also that, “as the situation has worsened, a former U.S. president has likening the practices in the West Bank to apartheid.”
“As we approach 60 years since Israel’s 1948 dispossession of the indigenous Palestinian population, Israel must be held accountable for continuously violating Palestinian refugee and internally displaced persons’ rights to reparation,” asserted Karine MacAllister, of the Bethlehem-based Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights.
The concerned organizations continue to provide parallel information to CERD during its dialogue with Israel. They will hold a briefing for the press after the Committee’s session, on 23 February 2007 at 13:45, in the UN Press Office, Room #2.