John Dugard, a UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories likened Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories to “apartheid,” and said that failure to address the situation will make it hard to solve abuses elsewhere.
Dugard, a South African lawyer, told the UN Human Rights Council March 23 that restrictions on movement and separate residential areas gave a sense of “deja vu” to anyone with experience of apartheid. “Of course there are similarities between the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories] and apartheid South Africa,” he said.
Dugard told the council that the situation “places in danger the whole international human rights enterprize,” saying action in places such as Sudan’s Darfur will be impossible unless Western states tackled the plight of Palestinians.
Dugard said some 500,000 Israeli settlers are now living in territories seized by Israel during the 1967 war. “Settlers, largely unrestrained by the Israel Defence Forces, subject many Palestinians to a reign of terror—particularly in Hebron,” he said.
Itzhak Levanon, Israel’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, said such language was “inflammatory and inciteful” and would not contribute to a “process of constructive dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians.” Israel has dismissed Dugard’s regular reports to the council as “one-sided, highly selective and unreservedly biased.” (AlJazeera, March 22)
Meanwhile, a Palestinian two-year-old boy was shot dead in Gaza March 23 as Fatah and Hamas fighters clashed in a second day of factional violence since the formation of a unity government. (AlJazeera, March 23)