John Dugard; the prominent international figure in the field of international law and Human Rights protection has gained his reputation as one of the leading advocates against Apartheid in his own country; South Africa. In the years 2001-2008 Professor Dugard was appointed as Chairman of a UN Commission on Human Rights inquiry commission on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). During this period he contributed significantly to the efforts to uncover Israeli violations of Human Rights (HR) against the Palestinian people. As a special Rapporteur his revelations on HR situation in the OPT are very well cited.
Soon following his arrival to the OPT and the exploration of HR status under Israeli military rule, Dugard came to realize that the apartheid system that Israel applies in these territories is more brutal and inhuman than the one imposed in his home country by the Afrikaners during the Apartheid era. Right thereafter, Mr. Dugard did not spare an effort to expose Israeli apartheid. He wrote more than once: "as a former activist against the Apartheid system that prevailed in South Africa, and one who visits the OPT regularly for the purpose of assessing HR situation there as the UN Human Rights Commission Rapporteur, I find the comparison between the two cases of Palestine and racist South Africa very interesting".
In spite of the evident differences between the two cases, Palestine and South Africa, especially the historical contexts there exists ample indicators that reveal the brutality of the ongoing Israeli apartheid in the OPT. Indicators that Professor Dugard and other international convoys, politicians and law specialists brought to the attention of the world.
This essay is not meant to introduce and analyze the similarities and differences of the two cases; rather this writer seeks to emphasize a crucial issue that Dugard raised in his Report to the UN Human Rights Commission in December 2007 as part of Dugard's mission. The issue deserves critical attention especially at the time the Palestinians are pursuing the UN recognition of the Palestinian state on the OPT including East Jerusalem this coming September. Dugrad's observation we are talking about here is that inasmuch as Israel practices belligerent Occupation in the OPT she, simultaneously applies forms of colonialism and racial systems of segregation. All of which violates international law.
To the current day neither the Palestinians nor the Arab governments have given this observation the attention and magnitude it merits. Follows from this position, both of these parties failed to turn the issue into the focal point of the struggle as one against belligerent occupation since 1967 that has been consolidated through a set of racial systems of segregation which makes it a colonial system par excellence. Both attributes of Israeli domination over the OPT stand anathema to international law. Moreover, international law position varies as to a belligerent occupation that results from an armed dispute on the one hand and another that occurred following such a dispute but turned into a colonial occupation.
Human modern history has witnessed, on different scales, a lot of armed disputes that ended in the occupation of one side's country by the other. Japan as well as Germany were occupied.
However, that was a temporary state of affairs in which the victors did not seize the sovereignty of the defeated, rather the former practiced temporary administration of the occupied territory. The same goes to the circumstances in both Afghanistan and Iraq since the American (and allies) occupation of those two countries. Such cases of belligerent occupation do not subscribe under the category of colonialism but remain a temporary condition that comes to an end as soon as an agreement is stroke between the adversaries; between the occupying force and the political authority of the occupied country.
The case for the Israeli occupation differs significantly: Israel has not and does not behave as a belligerent occupying force subject to the responsibilities and duties of administering the occupied territory; in this case the OPT. In this sense Israel has not given any measure of respect and did not abide by UN Security Council, General Assembly, and other Un agencies Resolutions pertain to the OPT including related verdicts by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Israeli authorities continued to challenge international legitimacy through the allegation that the OPT is a disputed territory to which the Hague Convention of 1907 and the Geneva Fourth Convention of 1949 are not applicable. Moreover, as the Israeli argument goes on, the law of armed conflicts does not apply as well, not even the ICJ verdict of 2004 on the Israeli segregation Wall.
Therefore, Israel does not act as an occupying force as much as a colonial force in the OPT since 1967. A state of affairs through which Israel has violated international as well as HR convention especially those pertain to the right of Self-Determination for the Palestinian people. It has constrained and prevented the realization of this right through sets of institutional (administrative, economic, educational…etc) procedures and military commands, all of which has racist properties. This aspect should attract the attention and be positioned at the top of priorities while struggling against Israeli domination over the Palestinians. In this sense Israel represents a form of colonial domination in its most brutal shapes. In order to bring this logic home; the Palestinian side must bring this issue into the fore and raise it before the hands of the UN Security Council, the Quartette, the UN General Assembly. Those parties should be reminded of the UN Declaration of the decomposition of colonialism of 1960 and the international convention on the demise of colonialism and all forms of racism of 1965; all of which is applicable to Israeli domination in the OPT since 1967.
Israeli occupation of the OPT is not any more a belligerent occupation; it turned into a form of settler-colonial project that has a crystal clear object; that is the annexation of the OPT to Israel and the prevention of Palestinians' right of Self-Determination which is unlawful according to all abovementioned conventions. Settler-Colonial enterprise in the OPT (especially in the West Bank and East Jerusalem) is a brute violation of international law and is subject to Article 8 of Rome Treaty on War Crimes. The same criteria is applicable to the Israeli segregation wall. ICJ verdict on the wall is explicit in terms of demanding Israel to halt the construction of the wall and the destruction of the already built parts of it. Moreover, it demands Israel to compensate for the losses and damages it dealt to Palestinians and their institutions. The wall that extends to 700 Km along the green line and goes deep into the OPT is meant to annex 9.8% of these territories and further annexes all water aquifers (except the least important North-East one) and a long with major settlement blocks it draws the boundaries of political settlement with the Palestinians.
To be expedient in conducting the struggle against Israel, the Palestinians must turn to a discourse that does not emphasize Israel domination as military occupation. Israeli rule in the OPT has gone beyond such an occupation and can, and should, be subscribed under the category of colonialism. International Law and other pertained conventions outlaw and criminalize this form of rule and domination. Those laws and conventions are succinct and the obedience to them is not a matter of choice for the colonial power. Otherwise, a state subject to those laws; Israel in this case should be carried by the international community to abide.
Oslo accords and related agreements should not stand as an obstacle in the face of the Palestinian efforts in this endeavor on the international arena of different scales and level. The reasoning is simple: all those agreements including Paris Economic Accord of 1994 in essence violate international law for the fact that Israel aimed, through them, to legitimize its colonial enterprise in the OPT by Palestinian consent. Paris agreement, for example, is based on articles and procedures that turns the Palestinian economy and market into a periphery zone to Israeli economy through a custom union that was imposed on the Palestinian side in clear violation of international law that prevents procedures of de facto annexation of the territory.
Israeli domination systems over the Palestinians goes beyond colonial enterprise towards the enactment of series of procedures and rules that protect it and have the properties of a racial segregation system. Those properties can be easily observed through the nature of settlement project and its territorial extensions deep into the occupied region. These procedures are consolidated and "legitimized" by Israeli domestic laws which stands, once again, anathema to international law. Israel in this sense has established a system of domination and enacts policies that are considered crimes including the oppression of peaceful resistance to occupation, extra-judicial termination of Palestinians, torture, unlawful detention including Administrative Detention, the establishment of buffer zone along the segregation wall and in the Jordan Valley, military check-points and the complimentary system of by-pass roads and tunnels all of which is designed to constrain if not prevent Palestinian free movement within the OPT, and the establishment of a dual system of law in the OPT; a military system imposed on the Palestinians and a civil system that applies to the Jewish settlers live on the same territory.
Finally we bring it home to the work of Professor Dugard. In his report (above-mentioned) he suggested to the Palestinians to carry on their struggle against occupation as a colonial enterprise. Dugard's suggestion for the Palestinians to follow the model of South African struggle against Apartheid, as I submit, has the potential to give the Palestinians a political and legal edge over Israel. A new strategy that breaks with the old policy that enabled Israel to avoid responsibility and escape accountability as a colonial state that consolidated its domination over the Palestinians through racial systems of rule.
* Member of the Executive Committee of the PLO and of the Political Bureau of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine