Thursday, 25 October 2007

UN expert reveals extent of Israel’s rights abuses

"Many of Israel's laws and practices violate the 1966 Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination," UN human rights envoy John Dugard said.

Some Israelis agree with Mr Dugard that
the occupation is fuelling Palestinian resistance

Amina Anderson
Aljazeera Magazine

It's highly unlikely to hear fierce criticism against Israel or the United States from somebody with a serious job title. But John Dugard, the special rapporteur to the UN Human Rights Council for the Palestinian territories, proved otherwise.

Earlier this year, the retired South African law professor wrote a report for the UN General Assembly in which he compared Israel’s actions to those of apartheid South Africa.

According to the BBC, the word “apartheid" appeared 24 times in the 24-page report.

"It is difficult to resist the conclusion that many of Israel's laws and practices violate the 1966 Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination," the report said.

Although Dugard has been visiting the occupied West Bank and Gaza for the past seven years, his position as a UN human rights monitor doesn’t allow him to make any decisions on UN policy; only to offer recommendations and critical analysis.

But now it seems that Mr Dugard is fed up. He used to accuse Israel of collectively punishing the Palestinians, but now he also holds the international community, and the United Nations itself, responsible for the Palestinians’ suffering.

A few week ago, Mr Dugard was reported to have criticised the UN Secretary General for failing to stand up to Israel. In a recent interview with the BBC, he said that his catalogues of what he sees as Israeli human rights abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories fall on "deaf ears" in the Secretary General's office.

He also said that he would urge the United Nations to withdraw from the "Quartet" of Middle East mediators -- which includes the U.S., Russia, EU and UN -- unless it properly addresses Palestinian human rights.

"In my most recent report to the General Assembly, which I will present later this month, I will suggest that the Secretary General withdraw the UN from the Quartet, if the Quartet fails to have regard to the human rights situation in the Palestinian Territories," he told the BBC.

Instead of overseeing the “peace process” between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the Quartet is hampering the Palestinian right to self-determination, Mr Dugard says.

His argument is not just that the Quartet is failing to heal the rift between the resistance group Hamas, which controls Gaza, and President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction, but that the UN, through the Quartet, is siding with the president’s party.

“The weak response by the quartet is because it’s heavily influenced" by the U.S.,” he said. “The UN is not playing the role of an objective mediator that behoves it.”

Mr Dugard also warned that Palestinian leaders have high hopes about next month’s peace conference with the Israelis. He fears that a third intifada, or uprising, could be unleashed if the Palestinians’ expectations are not met.

According to the BBC, many Western diplomats and UN officials based in the Middle East agree with Mr Dugard’s political analysis, but most of them are not as outspoken as him.

Even inside Israel, many believe that the occupation has distorted and damaged Israel’s global image. Some Israelis also agree with Mr Dugard that the occupation is fuelling the Palestinian resistance.

Mr Dugard even compared the actions of Palestinian fighters to those of the French Resistance during World War II.

"History is replete with examples of populations that have resisted military occupation," he said. "I can't see why one shouldn't draw these analogies."


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