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UN official points to 'apartheid' in Palestinian areas

Israel adopts policies in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip which amount to racial discrimination and apartheid by systematically repressing the Palestinian people and confiscating their land, the United Nations Special Rapporteur in the Palestinian territories Richard Falk said.

Falk said: "The Israeli occupation violates Palestinian rights and carries out ethnic cleansing against them in East Jerusalem. Israel also violates the Palestinians' rights with regards to employment, education, freedom of movement and residence, expression and assembly.

"Despite Israel's decision to disengage from Gaza in 2005, the enclave is still occupied under the Israeli blockade which illegally controls the borders, airspace, coasts and particularly hurts farmers and fishermen."

Falk described the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, run by the Hamas government, as horrible due to the acute shortage of fuel.

In his latest report to the UN Human Rights Council after spending six years in his post, he recommended the council's member states consider banning imports from settlements in the West Bank.

The report included a special analysis of Israeli policies entitled "acts potentially amounting to segregation and apartheid". In it he says: "Israeli security forces use excessive force and unlawful killings as part of their plan to dominate the Palestinians."

According to the report Palestinians in the West Bank are subject to military laws while Jewish settlers are subject to civil law.

The report notes to the International Court of Justice ruling nearly ten years ago of the illegality of the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank which Israel insists on calling a "security barrier".

Falk wrote in his 22-page report: "The Israeli measures to divide the occupied Palestinian territories and confiscate their lands are indisputably racial. The combined effect of the measures aimed at ensuring security for Israeli citizens to facilitate the expansion of settlements and the annexation of land is systematic segregation, discrimination and repression of the Palestinian people to dominate them."

There was no immediate reaction from Israel, which boycotted the council it accuses of bias for 19 months, returning in October 2013.

Falk is an American professor of international law who is known for his controversial views.

After taking office in May 2008 Falk described the Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip of committing the same atrocities of the Nazi regime during wartime Europe. Months later, he was detained at Ben Gurion airport and deported by Israeli authorities after being barred from crossing into Palestinian areas to carry out his investigation.

The United States and an organisation called UN Watch, which Falk described as a pressure group loyal to Israel, have demanded his resignation. Falk said in June that he would not resign and accused his critics who accuse him of being anti-Semitic of aiming to divert attention from his scrutiny into the Israeli policies.

Falk said in his latest report that companies and countries should investigate the real beneficiaries of the "Israeli settlements and other illegal Israeli activities" and take the necessary steps.

He said: "Given that the European Union continues to be one of the most important trading partners with the settlements with annual exports valued at $300 million, the ban on the settlements products would have a big impact."

His prior appeals for divestment achieved results and encouraged governments to be more vigilant including Royal Dutch Haskoning which ended its engagements with the Jerusalem municipality to build a wastewater treatment plant in East Jerusalem, as well as the Swedish-Norwegian Nordea Bank which excluded Israeli Cemex company from its investment portfolio because it extracting non-renewable natural resources from the Palestinian territories.

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