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Former European ministers accuse Israel of apartheid as UN Commission announces investigation into claim

25th Nov 2022
Former European ministers accuse Israel of apartheid as UN Commission announces investigation into claim

Navi Pillay,  former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
(Credit: Jean-Marc Ferré/Human Rights Council – 20th Session)

Nadine Osman

Five former European ministers have labelled Israel’s policies against Palestinians a “crime of apartheid” in a joint open letter, published on the same day a UN Commission of Inquiry into rights abuses by Israel and the Palestinians said it will investigate apartheid charges against Israel.

The UN Human Rights Council, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and others have accused Israel of apartheid in the past two years. In the letter published on October 28 former Foreign Minister of Denmark, Mogens Lykketoft, former Foreign Minister of Finland, Erkki Sakari Tuomioja, former Foreign Minister of Slovenia, Ivo Vajgl, former Foreign Minister of France, Hubert Vedrine and former British Minister, Sayeeda Warsi, said, “We see no alternative but to acknowledge that Israel’s policies and practices against the Palestinians amount to the crime of apartheid.”

The former ministers also lambasted the international community’s failure “to act in the face of serious of international law” when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In the letter published by the French daily Le Monde, the former ministers said as the occupation of Ukraine forced “conversation around the urgency of protecting a rules-based global order is dominating political and public discourse.

The international community has rallied behind multilateralism and the need to adhere to international law and protect human rights. Indeed, it is the only way forward in an increasingly polarized global landscape.”

“At the same time, we are reminded how the international community has too often remained silent and failed to act in the face of grave violations of international law and impunity for serious abuses in other contexts,” the letter added, while also stressing the importance of “applying principles uniformly and consistently.”

“The same standards and commitment to protecting the Ukrainian civilian population and demanding accountability for Russia’s international law violations should be applied globally, including to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” it continued.

The former ministers reminded the EU member states of their two-state solution approach based on sovereignty and equality for both Israelis and Palestinians.

“Yet the reality on the ground in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory is moving in the complete opposite direction. And our inaction could have wide-reaching implications in the region as well as for the validity and efficacy of European diplomacy globally,” they added.

Three members of the commission said future reports will investigate apartheid by Israel, during a briefing at the UN in New York. They said the investigation had so far focused on the “root causes” of the conflict, which they ascribe to Israel’s presence in the West Bank.

Navi Pillay, a former UN human rights chief who chairs the commission, called apartheid “a manifestation of the occupation.”

The ongoing UN investigation was set up by the Human Rights Council following Israel’s 11-day bombardment of Gaza terrorists to probing rights abuses in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

“We’re focusing on the root cause which is the occupation and part of it lies in apartheid,” Pillay said. “We will be coming to that. That’s the beauty of this open-ended mandate, it gives us the scope.”

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