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"Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid?" Launching the Study at SOAS, London, 16 May 2009
13، Oct 2010

Joint press release
Ref:. 19.2009
14 May 2009

Press Release:
South African Study finds that Israel is practicing
colonialism and Apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territories

Public Event:
10.00 – 13.00, 16 May 2009
Brunei Gallery, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

The Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) has released findings that Israel is practicing both colonialism and apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT). Titled: "Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid?: A re-assessment of Israel’s practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law," the study represents 15 months of research by a team of experts in international law from South Africa, the United Kingdom, Israel and the West Bank. The team was commissioned by the HSRC to review Israel’s practices in the OPT according to definitions of colonialism and apartheid provided by international law.

The findings and Executive Summary will be presented by members of the research team at the School for Oriental and African Studies, London, on 16 May (Saturday) at 10.00. The Programme is appended to the end of this Press Release. The full 307-page report will go on line on the HSRC website by 21 May.

REGARDING COLONIALISM, the team found that Israel’s policy is to fragment the OPT and annex part of it permanently to Israel, which is the hallmark of colonialism. Israel has appropriated land and natural resources in the OPT, merged the Palestinian economy with Israel’s economy, and dominated the Palestinian people to ensure their subjugation to these measures. Israel has also denied the Palestinians their right to govern their own natural resources and economic affairs. These practices violate the prohibition on colonialism which the international community developed in the 1960s during the great decolonisation struggles in Africa and Asia.

REGARDING APARTHEID, the team found that Israel’s laws and policies in the OPT fit the definition of apartheid in the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. In brief, Israeli law defines the Jewish people as a distinct group with special rights and privileges. These laws are then channelled into the OPT to convey privileges to Jewish settlers and disadvantage Palestinians on the basis of their identities, which function as racial identities in the sense provided by international law. A policy of apartheid is especially indicated by the demarcation of geographic ‘reserves’ in the West Bank to which Palestinian residence is confined and which they cannot leave without a permit. The system is very similar to the policy of ‘Grand Apartheid’ in South Africa, in which blacks were confined to black Homelands (Bantustans).

From the Executive Summary:
‘A troika of key laws underpinned the South African apartheid regime … The first pillar was formally to demarcate the population of South Africa into racial groups … and to accord superior rights, privileges and services to the white racial group … The second pillar was to segregate the population into different geographic areas, which were allocated by law to different racial groups, and restrict passage by members of any group into the area allocated to other groups. … The third pillar was ‘a matrix of draconian ‘security’ laws and policies that were employed to suppress any opposition to the regime and to reinforce the system of racial domination, by providing for administrative detention, torture, censorship, banning, and assassination.’

‘Israel’s practices in the OPT can be defined by the same three ‘pillars’ of apartheid. The first pillar derives from Israeli laws and policies that establish Jewish identity for purposes of law and afford a preferential legal status and material benefits to Jews over non-Jews. … The second pillar is reflected in Israel’s grand policy to fragment the OPT [and] ensure that Palestinians remain confined to the reserves designated for them while Israeli Jews are prohibited from entering those reserves but enjoy freedom of movement throughout the rest of the Palestinian territory. This policy is evidenced by: Israel’s extensive appropriation of Palestinian land, which continues to shrink the territorial space available to Palestinians; the hermetic closure and isolation of the Gaza Strip from the rest of the OPT; the deliberate severing of East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank; and the appropriation and construction policies serving to carve up the West Bank into an intricate and well-serviced network of connected settlements for Jewish-Israelis and an archipelago of besieged and non-contiguous enclaves for Palestinians. … [The third pillar] is Israel‘s invocation of ‘security‘ to validate sweeping restrictions on Palestinian freedom of opinion, expression, assembly, association and movement [to] mask a true underlying intent to suppress dissent to its system of domination and thereby maintain control over Palestinians as a group.’

This study was researched and written by scholars and international lawyers based at the School for Oriental and African Studies (London), the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal (Durban), the Adalah—Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and Al-Haq, the West Bank Affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists. Consultation on the study’s theory and method was provided by eminent jurists from South Africa, Israel and Europe.

The MIDDLE EAST PROJECT of the HSRC is an independent two-year project to conduct analysis of Middle East politics relevant to South African foreign policy. Its funding was provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Government of South Africa. The analysis in this report is entirely independent of the views or foreign policy of the Government of South Africa and does not represent an official position of the HSRC. It is intended purely as a scholarly resource for the Department of Foreign Affairs and the concerned international community.

For more information on the SOAS panels, contact:

HSRC Middle East Project at +27-21-466-7924 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              +27-21-466-7924      end_of_the_skype_highlighting, [email protected],

Or the Sir Joseph Hotung Research Project in Law, Human Rights and Peace Building in the Middle East, SOAS, at [email protected]