Israel vs Palestine

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By PAULO SERGIO PINHEIRO*

Human Rights Watch: Israel must be held to account for how it treats Palestinians.

At the Good Shepherd Sunday mass, Father Júlio Lancelotti observed that it cannot be said that Israel vaccinated its entire population, simply because not all Palestinians were vaccinated. Indeed, the Israeli government, although it has immunized most of its citizens, including those living in illegal settlements, has not provided vaccines to the vast majority of the nearly 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank, occupied for over 50 years, and in the Gaza, under blockade.

A Human Rigths Watch (HRW), an international human rights non-governmental organization and its representation in Brazil, our partner, have just published the 213-page report “A Limit Exceeded: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution”. Most likely, the media's compulsive celebration of Israel will enforce an obsequious silence of rigor against any allegation of human rights violations by Israel, or placing the blame for selectivity – which, in this case, will be difficult. HRW has been investigating, for more than forty years, numerous reports of crimes against humanity, in the most different regions of the globe, including in other countries in the Middle East.

In the report in question, it examines Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. About 6,8 million Jewish Israelis and an equivalent number of Palestinians now live between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, an area that encompasses Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) – the latter formed by the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. In most of this area, Israel is the sole governing power; in the rest, it exercises primary authority alongside limited Palestinian self-government.

In all these areas and in most aspects of life, Israeli authorities privilege Israeli Jews and discriminate against Palestinians, who have been victims of widespread land seizures, forced displacement and widespread restrictions on their civil rights. “Denying fundamental rights to millions of Palestinians, without legitimate security justification and solely because they are Palestinians and not Jews, is not simply a matter of abusive occupation,” said Ken Roth, executive director of HRW. "These policies, which grant Jewish Israelis the same rights and privileges wherever they live, while discriminating against Palestinians to varying degrees wherever they live, reflect a policy of privileging one people over another." In certain areas, as HRW documents, these deprivations are so severe that they amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.

The 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid and the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court define apartheid as a crime against humanity. It contains three main elements: the intention to maintain the domination of one racial group by the other, the context of systematic oppression of the dominant group by the other; and inhuman acts.

The crime against humanity of persecution, as defined in the Rome Statute and customary international law, consists of the serious deprivation of fundamental rights of a racial, ethnic or other group with a discriminatory purpose.

The report suggests that the prosecution of the International Criminal Court (ICC) – which in February 2021 confirmed the jurisdiction of the court for the situation in Palestine – investigate and prosecute those with serious indications of involvement in those crimes. It proposes that “the international community reassess its engagement with Israel and Palestine, and adopt an approach centered on human rights and accountability”.

All these recommendations will receive deaf ears from the Brazilian extreme right-wing government, hostage of evangelical fundamentalists who reject any criticism of Israel in the name of the future coming of the Messiah in its territory. Given this, it is at least hoped that Brazilian human rights entities, which value international solidarity so much, when it is for us, do not abandon the confrontation of the iniquitous treatment for more than half a century by the Israeli authorities to the Palestinians.

*Paulo Sergio Pinheiro is a retired professor of political science at USP and former Minister of Human Rights. Author, among other books, of Strategies of illusion: the world revolution and Brazil, 1922-1935 (Companhia das Letras).

 

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