Almost a hundred human rights organisations have told the UN that Israel's settler-colonialism and apartheid are the root cause of the situation in occupied Palestine. The groups made the assertion in a joint submission to the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Palestine.
The submission's signatories pointed out that Palestinians have been mobilised in a collective struggle for decades. They are challenging "73 years of fragmentation, imposed by Israeli settler-colonisation and apartheid in what is known as the Unity Intifada/Uprising."
In their submission, the groups objected to the framing of Israel's takeover of Palestine as a conflict over territory between two parties. This narrative marks Israel's occupation since 1967 as the main reason for the ongoing violence and ethnic cleansing.
"Adopting the settler-colonialism and apartheid framework allows for consideration of the plight of the Palestinian people in its entirety," they noted. "This shifts the discourse from a focus on so-called political solutions to a struggle for self-determination, aimed at dismantling Israel's regime of settler colonialism, rather than seeking 'reforms' to living conditions under the reign of Zionism."
Palestinians have argued that the 1967 framing of their subjugation distorts the nature and reality of their condition. Since the beginning of Israel's takeover of Palestine, the choice for them is between a brutal military occupation and a less brutal military occupation. No people should be expected to choose which form of oppression and indignity they wish to live under, the groups argue.
The submission traces the history of the Zionist settler-colonial movement and argues that Israel is a settler-colonial state and a product of this movement. It addresses the Zionist movement's emergence at the end of the 19th century, and its adoption of a highly racialised identity. Implementing the Zionist vision in Palestine inevitably required the elimination of the indigenous people and the annexation of their land for the benefit of the newly-constructed, colonising racial group.
Israel's practice of the crime of apartheid and its fragmentation of Palestine into various zones of control to cement the racist ethno-nationalist regime were also mentioned in the submission.
Set up in May 2021 following Israel's aggression on Gaza and Al-Aqsa Mosque, the mandate of the COI is to "investigate, in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel, all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law."
In its first report earlier this month, the commission said: "The continued occupation by Israel of Palestinian territory and discrimination against Palestinians are the key root causes of the recurrent tensions, instability and protraction of conflict in the region."
It also noted that impunity is feeding increased resentment among the Palestinian people. It identified forced displacement, threats of forced displacement, demolitions, settlement construction and expansion, settler violence and the blockade of Gaza as contributing factors to recurring cycles of violence.