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UN told Israel's imposition of apartheid must be 'wake-up call' to end impunity

A participant holds up a sign reading "Stop Israeli Apartheid" during a protest in solidarity with the Palestinians called over the ongoing conflict with Israel in front of the Israeli embassy in Warsaw, 15 May 2021. [WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP via Getty Images]
A participant holds up a sign reading 'Stop Israeli Apartheid' during a protest in solidarity with the Palestinians on 15 May 2021 [WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP/Getty Images]

Israel's imposition of the crime of apartheid must come as a "wake-up call" to end "impunity on steroids", the UN Security Council was told on Thursday. The president of the US/Middle East Project and former Israeli government advisor Daniel Levy delivered a stark message to the world body in which he warned of the "structural violence" committed by Israel against Palestinians; the failure to uphold international law and deliver a solution based on justice; and the danger of ignoring Israel's countless violations.

Other speakers urged the Security Council to consider the long-term effects of allowing the status quo to remain in the Occupied Palestinian Territory following Israel's recent bombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip. Some members welcomed economic measures to allay the dire humanitarian situation in the enclave, while others stressed that this relief is no substitute for a genuine political horizon. Levy criticised the paralysis within the council and denounced routine "condemnation", "formulas" and "slogans" for which the world body has become famous when it comes to Israel's decades-long illegal occupation.

According to Levy, the reason for the stalemate is because the world body continues to hold on to the same false assumptions and beliefs that allow the perpetuation of regular violations of international law and crimes against humanity. Listing the false assumptions, he pointed to the "structural violence" to which Palestinians are subjected daily. His argument was that aid and relief, although essential, cannot be a substitute for genuine peace based on justice. The illegal blockade of Gaza and the unlawful occupation represent forms of structural violence and collective punishment that cannot be ignored, he insisted.

Read: 'Israel is an apartheid state – legally, politically and morally', landmark conference concludes

Any attempt to resume negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians without addressing power asymmetries "is a hollow and redundant exercise," said Levy. He urged a focus on power relations rather than "both sides-ism".

"Economic palliatives under occupation deepen dependence and enmity," he pointed out, noting that profound shifts are occurring because of the unwillingness to hold Israel to account. He described the decades of failing to do this, largely due to the US veto and Washington subsiding the apartheid state, as "impunity on steroids".

The former Israeli advisor noted that the failure to generate accountability was the reason why the situation in Palestine is one of apartheid, as documented by all major human rights groups. "The increasingly weighty body of scholarly, legal and public opinion that has designated Israel to be perpetrating apartheid [including] the African group, the Arab group and the OIC group… must be a wake-up call." He went on to argue that the current trend is more worrying for Israel than anyone else because the death of the two-state solution will leave no "off ramp" for the occupation state to come down from its racist, apartheid reality.

The significance of the use of the term apartheid by rights groups as well as Arab, African and Islamic groups at the UN Human Rights Council earlier this year cannot be ignored, Levy added. "It will come as little surprise if this echoes and resonates in parts of the world that have experienced apartheid and settler colonialism and have gone through decolonisation. It is a paradigm that will also bring the discrimination faced by Palestinian citizens of Israel into sharper relief."

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International OrganisationsIsraelMiddle EastNewsPalestineUN
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International perspectives on apartheid and decolonization in Palestine
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