LONDON: Amnesty International has criticized the world’s unwillingness to discuss what is occurring in the Palestinian occupied territories.
Reiterating claims from an Amnesty report published in February that said Israel has engaged in a policy of apartheid against the Palestinian people, Secretary-General Agnes Callamard said there was “too much fear to speak” about the situation.
“This research was four years in the making, it was research on the ground, legal research, and expertly peer reviewed,” Callamard said at an event held in London this week.
“Territorial fragmentation, segregation and control, dispossession of land and property, and denial of rights — these characteristics of apartheid can be found in all areas, showing that the policy of apartheid by Israel is imposed over all Palestinians in the territory it controls.
“But there is too much silence, too much fear to speak up and by stating terms — apartheid, crimes against humanity — we expose the issue, open the wound and hope it can be fixed.”
Concurring with Callamard, director of Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, Hagai El-Ad, said “there is a single regime from the river to the sea and that regime is apartheid.”
El-Ad warned that, unable to fight on substance, the Israeli government was “fighting with smears.”
He added that admitting Israel’s regime is inherently built around a policy of apartheid would mean “a fighting chance to move against the injustice and end it.”
Callamard stressed that the system of control exerted by Israel was not applied uniformly across all Palestinian areas under its control, but said that its legal regime was designed to stratify and create boundaries between Palestinian communities.
This, she added, was intended to not only weaken ties between groups but to weaken any dissent against the system.
“As a system it is cruel and preventing hope in a manner I have rarely, rarely recognized anywhere else that I have been, and this is perhaps the most supreme act of cruelty —denying generations the idea that life can be beautiful,” she continued.
“For this reason, we are putting a lot of focus on the international community as it has a great deal of responsibility and must take action.”
Welcoming Amnesty’s recognition of Israeli apartheid, the director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Raji Sourani, described the disavowal of the lived reality of Palestinians by European states as something he could not get his head around.
“The reality on the ground is denied by 29 European states — with its values and standards, its ethics, I cannot digest this European response,” Sourani told the panel.
“It is just misleading and covering up, whitewashing, a crime. A crime that is obvious, clear and very well documented and Europe does this as if there was no concluding lesson from what happened in South Africa.”
Noting that Palestine did not invent international humanitarian law, Sourani said it would nonetheless exhaust all its legal options to show that Israel had legal obligations.
He added: “One day we shall overcome, we are strong.”