Nelson Mandela International Day: Mobilizing against Apartheid. Lessons for the Israel-Palestinian context
- Published on Wednesday, 18 July 2012 13:09
PNN Reporter/ Exclusive
Today, July 18th, we celebrate the Nelson Mandela International Day in honor of his work for peace, his struggle against apartheid, and for justice. On this day, in 1976, the "Convention against Apartheid" of the UN was implemented.
This day is not only special for South Africans, who after more than 40 years under a racist regime ended the system of apartheid and founded, with the leadership of Nelson Mandela, a South African nation based on multiculturalism, equality, reconciliation and peace; it is also a day of great importance for everyone who works for peace and unity, and with an important relevance for the Israeli-Palestinian society who today live under a system of government which, as the apartheid regime of South Africa, is based on racial division.
It is also a day to alert the international community and to remind them that their commitment to end apartheid is fundamental in order to bring justice and peace to Palestinians. This day symbolizes the struggle against the crime of apartheid.
History of the global mobilization against apartheid
The global struggle against segregation and racial discrimination was made visible from the very first session of the United Nations in 1946, as the nation of India called for the condemnation of the Union of South Africa for its racial policies.
South Africa would continue to be targeted by the international community due to its implementation of the legalized system of racial segregation which favored the white race above the black race. This is how the term ´apartheid´ came to be, which in the Afrikaan language, means "separate-ness."
The Security Council of the UN officially condemns the systematic practice of racism on April 1st 1960, and in 1963 the Convention against the Politics of Apartheid of the Republic of South Africa was organized, which would be later renamed as "The Especial Convention against Apartheid." Over the following three decades, the UN adopts hundreds of resolutions that impose embargoes against the racist government of South Africa, including requests to the international community to suspend any type of intercultural, educational, or sporting exchange with the regime and with institutions in South Africa which practiced apartheid. This is how the Convention against Apartheid is established and declares that apartheid constitutes a violation of the law because it goes against the UN Charter, and more directly, it declares apartheid a criminal act.
The crime of apartheid, which is a human rights crime, is defined as policies and practices of segregation, as the South African regime implemented, as "inhuman actions committed with the purpose of establishing and maintaining the control of one racial group of people over another racial group of people and to oppress them systematically" (Article 2 Apartheid Convention). The actions include killings, tortures, inhuman treatment, arbitrary arrests of people of a certain racial group; imposition to a racial group of life conditions that cause their physical destruction; legislations that discriminate in the political, social, economic, and cultural areas; measures that divide the population according to their race due to the creation of residential areas separated from other racial groups; the prohibition of interracial marriages; and the persecution of persons that oppose apartheid.
Israel, Apartheid, and the Palestinian people
Without a doubt, the Israeli government is based on ideologies and policies similar to those imposed by the South African apartheid regime. The global community of nations mobilized for four decades to stop the South African regime and it is shameful that the apartheid government of Israel continues with impunity into the 21st century.
Let us now see some indications that constitute the crime of apartheid in the Palestinian-Israeli context:
- The killing, tortures, arbitrary arrests of Palestinians, which under the label of "administrative detention" the Israeli government attempts to "legalize" its violence and repression against the Palestinian people. One of the visible realities of the apartheid practices of Israel is the more than 4,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, and the persecution of activists and reporters that oppose to these racist and unjust practices.
- The physical separation into sections throughout the territory: The wall under construction will be more than 600 kilometers long; it is the great visible evidence of the policies of racial division which is a violation of Human Rights. The wall is totally militarized and asphyxiates the towns and villages in Palestine. In reality, this wall can be labeled "The Apartheid Wall."
- There are more than 120 Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory, all of them protected by military checkpoints and electrified fences to "protect" the Jewish population, even though in reality, the Palestinians are the victims of settler violence. The victimizers are protected by the Israeli forces while their victims are inhumanely ignored and marginalized. There are more than 4 million Palestinian refugees in their own land.
- The construction of the Apartheid Wall has permitted the forced displacement of thousands of Palestinian families and has destroyed hundreds of shops and stores from which the people subsisted. Equally, the construction of settlements is done by demolishing Palestinian houses. The living conditions of the Palestinians are deteriorating each day by this racial separation which intends to expand Israeli control and to ensure impunity to its colonizing population.
- Even though the West Bank is rich in water resources, thousands of Palestinians who reside in this territory consume only 50 liters of water per person a day, while Israelis consume on average 300 liters of water per person. (blueplanetproject.net)
- Interracial marriage is illegal under Israeli law. An Arab-Israeli marriage is not recognized under the law. Couples are forced to marry through Orthodox Jewish ceremonies. The Israeli government excuses these laws of apartheid under the emblem of "security" and "conservation of Jewish identity."
- The enormous legal obstacles for Palestinian to have access to work in Israeli territory; also, the negation of certain rights to Palestinians who live in Israel.
The system of apartheid is carried out through these and many other forms of discrimination and racial segregation from which Palestinian Arabs suffer and which widely favor Israeli Jews.
The Responsibility of the International Community
The territorial expansion of the Israeli government through settlements and the Apartheid Wall is already condemned by the international community. The General Assembly of the UN has passed several resolutions condemning these violations of International law, as well as requesting on embargoes and sanction against the Israeli regime. However, many of these resolutions are shattered once they get to the Security Council which is conformed of five permanent members: USA, England, France, China and Rusia. In addition, the International Criminal Court declared the Wall and the settlements to be in violation of international law.
The approval of the Convention against Apartheid in 1976 was not a unanimous decision, since the United States voted against this resolution, along with South Africa, Portugal and the United Kingdom, however, 96 countries voted favorably. This resembles what happens today in world politics. Today, the State of Palestine is recognized by 132 state members of the UN. However, due to the power imbalance in this global institution, the United States and England have been victorious in negating the right to statehood to Palestine thanks to their veto power in the Security Council.
History teaches us that the struggle against racism and injustice is not easy. Global empires have always been in charge of obstructing the efforts of the international community to unmask the truth. Even though the UN is under the control of the powerful, its member states have been able, in several occasions, to condemn the violation of Human Rights as well as pressuring unjust governments, such as Apartheid South Africa, to cease its dehumanizing and oppressive policies.
It has been demonstrated that if there is political will, the world can agree on resolutions that support the struggle of the marginalized and bring out to light the racist and unjust practices of the powerful. The international community must mobilize to condemn Israel as an Apartheid State as the reality of the Palestinians reveals.
The UN is committed to fight against Apartheid. Hence, all the governments of the world must ensure that this crime is denounced and punished, and the victims restituted. Only with serious and convincing political will, and by mobilizing together against apartheid, justice, peace, and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians can be possible.