Monday, August 21, 2017

Israel practices "apartheid worse than South Africa,Ē say activists and leaders at UN forum


By Ayesha Khan - July 05, 2017
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [BDS]
Tags: [Apartheid] [UN] [Mustafa Bargouthi]

On Friday, a UN-sponsored two-day forum, Ending the Occupation: The Path to Independence, Justice and Peace for Palestine, took place with anti-zionist activists and Palestinian political leaders, who collectively denounced the Israeli occupation, comparing its policies to apartheid South Africa.
“Whether it’s two states or one state, that doesn’t matter,” said Mustafa Barghouti, secretary general of the Palestinian National Initiative. “The Zionist plan has failed. There are more Palestinians than Jewish Israelis. They could not get us out of Palestine,” he added.
The forum was held by the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP), which is led by Ford Seck, Senegal’s Ambassador to the UN.
The event was advocated by the Division for Palestinian Rights that supports CEIRPP, which is funded by its member-states, and was established in 1975 by the General Assembly to address the “question of Palestine.”
Although, the recent forum received backlash from Israeli officials for inviting Wesam Ahmed Al Haq, a supporter of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and presenters working with Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, which associates with Hamas –an organization considered as terrorist by the US and the EU, as well as Israel.
For Danny Danon, Israeli Ambassador to the UN, the inclusion of such presenters was highly contentious, “[i]t is beyond comprehension that UN funds are supporting organizations which aid terrorists and incite against Israel. We call on the secretary-general to intervene immediately and prevent these individuals from appearing at the UN,” he said prior to the event.
Comparisons to apartheid in South Africa
Through presentations and panel discussions, Palestinian NGOs and BDS activists voiced their narratives of life under “Fifty Years of Occupation,” among which the prominent topic of discussion was the continued silencing of criticism of Israel based on the argument that is connected to anti-Semitism.
A representative of the Zochrot (an Israeli anti-Zionist NGO), Jessica Nevo, who came to Israel in 1976 after her and her family escaped the military dictatorship of Argentina, offered an apology by stating, “I want to apologize for making use of the Law of Return.” Nevo also praised the moderator of the final panel discussion, Helena Cobban, a pro-Palestinian activist, for mentioning the word “Nakba” in her opening statement in reference to the displacement of Palestinians in 1948 due to the Israeli occupation - a word often censored or undermined because of its historical significance in contributing to the Palestinian history and humanitarian crisis.
Furthermore, during this panel discussion with Cobban, Barghouti declared the Israeli occupation to be “a much worse form of apartheid than what prevailed in South Africa.” He also continued on to discuss the “psychological terror” BDS activists are subjected to, and advocated for focus on the intransigent nature of Israeli policies, which are overlooked by the mainstream discourse regarding the occupation, whose premise tends to pertain solely to the outcome of Palestinian statehood rather than the current fragmented reality that Palestinians experience.
Comparisons to the apartheid in South Africa are legitimized by analyzing the socio-political relevance of the Israeli wall or barrier - often referred to as the “apartheid wall” -  whose erection was approved in 2002, and has been significant in physically dividing the Palestinian population from Israelis. It resembles the separated residential territories called, Bantustans, which were designated to the black population under apartheid in South Africa. In addition, according to B’Tselem, Israel has banned Palestinians from using forty-one roads throughout the West Bank under the Forbidden Roads Regime that extends 700 kilometers.
Earlier this year, Richard Falk, a former investigator for UN human rights concerns in the Palestinian territory, published a report for a UN agency, which also categorized Israel as an “apartheid regime.”
According to Tali Shapiro, BDS activist for Boycott from Within, told Palestine Monitor, Falk’s report “was a huge success, but it was also scratched by the UN. So it's a great example of the changing of discourse in the higher echelons of power, but it also shows us that we still need to work to make Israel's whitewashing pressure less effective in the UN.”
Future for BDS
With the strides being made by the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement in boycotting Hewlett Packard (HP), SodaStream, and Caterpillar, along with many others, the momentum seems to be picking up for the movement especially due to international solidarity shown for it at the recent UN forum.
One of the participants at the forum, Rebecca Vikomereson, head of the BDS group Jewish Voice for Peace, called the movement a “set of tactics” that aim to “tip the balance of power.”
The movement initially gained support after the attacks on Gaza in 2008, especially among university campuses that chose to pass bills asking their respective academic institutions from divesting from any companies or organizations that fund Israel.
For Tali Shapiro, “the main challenge currently is Israel's tightening crackdown on the movement. Arrests of Palestinians are specifically made around BDS now, there's also the Anti-Boycott Law, and the movement and its members are vilified constantly in the Israeli press.” She added, “abroad Israel is exerting its diplomatic connections to create anti-democratic laws to target international human rights defenders and outlaw criticism of the state of Israel in general and BDS, in particular. So now we are not only appealing to corporations, artists, and civil society representatives, but we're also paying higher prices for it.”
In November 1975, resolution of 3379 was passed by the General Assembly that declared, “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” The resolution was repealed in 1991 due to US and Israeli pressure, along with the fall of the Soviet bloc. Hence, the BDS movement is now a continuous target of the anti-Semitic rhetoric thrown towards its political action and its criticism for Israel. States like North Carolina in the United States, have passed bills that allow it to refuse to do business with companies that support the BDS movement and boycott of Israel.
According to Shapiro, “I think the future of the BDS movement is less a relevant topic for me than the future of the indigenous Palestinian people. For us as a movement, these kinds of statements [Barghouti’s comments] are milestones on the way to achieving our stated goals and we celebrate our successes and analyze our next steps accordingly.”
 

 

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