‘World turns a blind eye to Israeli Apartheid’
Israel has brought Apartheid back to life, with US backing preventing Tel Aviv from prosecution at the International Criminal Court, former UN Special Rapporteur on human rights John Dugard told RT in an exclusive interview.
According to Dugard, the main reason preventing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from being solved is the international community’s unwillingness to look into the region’s problems.
He believes that in order to settle the dispute fairly a Palestinian state with a capital in east Jerusalem must be created, with Israel existing in the boundaries set in 1948-49.
The professor of international law has compared Israel’s current policies in the West Bank to Apartheid, a system of racial segregation, which curtailed the rights of the black people in South Africa during the rule of National Party governments 1948-1994.
RT: As a South African, who campaigned against Apartheid in your country, you’ve spoken about a certain type of Apartheid existing within Israel. Could you elaborate on that a little?
JD: Increasingly, Israel’s policies in the occupied
Palestinian territory are described as a form of Apartheid. And,
like most South Africans, who have visited the occupied Palestinian
territory, I do believe that there are great similarities between
Apartheid as practiced in South Africa and the policies perused in
the occupied Palestinian territory.
First of all, there’s discrimination. There are two groups: there are Jews – settlers – and the Palestinians. There are two separate legal systems for the settlers and for the Palestinians. Secondly, there’s clear repression. There’s torture applied in respect of Palestinian militants, checkpoints, restricted freedom of movement on every level. There’s detention without trial. There are the same forms of political repression that we experienced in Apartheid South Africa.
RT: Would you say that there’s a certain Apartheid, which exists in Israel or it’s just in the occupied territories?
JD: There’s clearly discrimination against Palestinians in Israel itself. That is Israeli Arabs. But the feature, which distinguishes Israel from Apartheid in South Africa, is that the Israeli Arabs do have the vote. The blacks didn’t have the vote in South Africa. And that does mean that if the Palestinian Arabs used their vote intelligently they might constitute a major force in the Israeli Knesset (parliament).
RT: We’ve seen how the oppressive regimes like Apartheid and others in the past outlive themselves. Why this conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is going on for so long?
JD: I think the main reason is that Israel has the
support – an active support of the US and, to great extent, the
support of the European Union and even the Russian Federation. One
can’t underestimate the Holocaust guilt factor that in many
countries such as the Netherlands, for instance. The Netherlands’
foreign policy in respect of Israel is largely determined by the
factor of Holocaust guilt. In the US there’s a powerful Israeli
lobby, consisting of the Jewish lobby and Evangelical lobby.
Together these forces in the Israeli lobby ensure that no action
can be taken to compel Israel to comply with its international law
RT: In the Hague, the home for the International Criminal Court, there have been calls for some Israeli officials to appear before the ICC. Why hasn’t it happened?
JD: The situation is that in 2009, following Israel’s invasion of Gaza, the Palestinian authority accepted the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and requested that an investigation would be made into international crimes committed during that conflict and thereafter. But the prosecutor of the ICC doesn’t have the courage to take action of this kind.
And it’s quite clear that this is because of the influence of the US. The US is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, but its presence is ever felt. It does attend meeting of the assembly of the Statute parties, it makes its position clear.
RT: In which way does the US exert its influence over the International Criminal Court?
JD: Well, there’s hope and expectation that the US will join the International Criminal Court. The belief is that if the International Criminal Court institutes an investigation, prosecution into the events in Palestine that the US will certainly not join the ICC. But I think it runs deeper than that. There’s reluctance on the part of the international institutions and states throughout the world to take action on Israel because they know that this would offend the US.
RT: So, essentially, is the whole somewhat toothless without the US?
JD: As I see the situation, the International Criminal Court would also be competent to initiate an investigation into the construction of settlements in the occupied territory. It’s not necessary for Palestine to become a party to the ICC Statute because it has already accepted the jurisdiction of the Court. And I think that without the firm action of this kind, the settlements will continue to grow until the ideal of two-state solution is completely destroyed.
RT: But what can the ICC do to stop expansion of the Israeli settlements?
JD: It’s quite clear that Israel is in violation of the international law on the subject. The European Union, the US and other states condemn the extension of settlements, but they don’t do anything about it. The language isn’t translated into action. And what one really needs is firm action on the subject of settlements. And I believe that if the International Criminal Court were to initiate an investigation that would send out a message loud and clear to those Israelis responsible for the settlement program and for those settlers in the occupied territory that what they are doing is an international crime.
RT: But what happens to an Israeli farmer, who worked hard over many years on that land? Does he just lose his farm?
JD: Well, I think it’s essential to see Israel’s
settlement policy as a form of colonialism. During the colonial
period, the colonists settled in territories, started farms and
other enterprises. And when decolonization came they had the choice
– they either went back to the mother country or they stayed on and
lived under the new sovereign rule. And that’s essentially the
choice the settlers would have. Either go back to Israel or they
can continue to live in the Palestinian state, subject to the
Palestinian government and Palestinian laws. It’s their
RT: Are the settlements a major issue, which has to be resolved, before any kind of real peace talks can take place?
JD: The settlements are important because they do constitute a form of de facto annexation. Today we have some 600,000 settlers in the Palestinian territory. They are taking more and more land. The result is that the idea of a Palestinian state becomes nonviable. And what troubles me is that the present Israeli government doesn’t see that its policies don’t serve the best interests of the Jewish people. I believe that it’s in the best interests of the Jewish people to continue to build the state of Israel within the borders established in 1948-49 and to encourage the creation of a Palestinian state nearby. But the present trend in the region is, unfortunately, in favor of an Apartheid state.
Do you think that the International Criminal court has to bring prosecutions against the people involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
JD: I don’t think that prosecuting Israelis is going to solve the political problem. I think it simply sends out a message to Israel that the international community and its institutions see what Israel is doing as an international crime. That’s the purpose of the prosecution. It’s not for retribution. And it won’t settle the problem, politically. There has to be a settlement. And I believe the settlement or the rules for that settlement are fairly clear.
Most people agree that what one needs is a Jewish state within the 1948-49 boundaries and the Palestinian state on the other side of the region, with East Jerusalem as its capital. And some compromise arrangement in respect of the return of refugees. I can understand that Israel finds it difficult to accept the notion that all refugees and their descendants should be allowed to return to Israel because it’ll flood the state of Israel with Palestinians. I can see Israel’s point of view. So some compromise arrangement would have to be made in respect of refugees. But otherwise the lines are fairly clear – it’s two states, with East Jerusalem as a capital of Palestine.
RT: What are the main problems with achieving that two state solution?
JD: Land is the determining factor in the Middle East. Israel wishes to expand its territory and it does this by means of expansion of settlements. It does this by constructing an alleged security wall within the Palestinian territory, which has resulted in the seizure of Palestinian land. And we’re going to see some form of legislative control exercised over the Area C. So in other words we see de facto annexation in Palestine taking place. And what is very sad for me is that it’s so obvious, but the international community turns a blind eye – the US, the EU, Russian Federation, China – the whole international community simply turns a blind eye to the facts that are very very clear.