On Sunday, 16 August 2009, Al-Haq and Adalah held a symposium at the Palestinian Red Crescent Society headquarters in Al-Bireh, West Bank to discuss the recent report of the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC), "Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid?: A Re-Assessment of Israel's practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territories under International Law". The symposium was held with the participation of researchers, lawyers and academics from several countries, including Israel, Palestine, South Africa, Ireland and the United Kingdom who wrote the study. The symposium was attended by around 150 lawyers, academics, human rights and political activists, representatives of civil society institutions, and various government and political bodies.
The symposium opened with introductory remarks by Al-Haq General Director, Shawan Jabarin, and Adalah General Director, Hassan Jabareen. The two speakers welcomed the participants and presented the main idea behind holding the symposium, which was to open a dialogue on the concepts raised by the study and their legal consequences. The symposium also aimed to examine and review the possibilities of taking future practical steps based on the report and its conclusions.
The coordinator of the project and the editor of the studyt, Dr. Virginia Tilley, a researcher in the Middle East project of the HSRC, participated via "video-conference" from South Africa. She presented the background of the report and the idea and intentions behind its writing.
Ronnie Kasrils, a former Minister in the South African government and a former leader of the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa, gave the keynote address of the conference, also via video-conference from South Africa. He presented his observations on the study and an analysis of the current situation in the Palestinian territory in light of his experience with the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa.
John Reynolds from Al-Haq, a principal contributor to the study, presented the findings of the study on the subject of apartheid in the OPT. Other principal contributors, Adalah Attorney Fatmeh El-Ajou and international law Professor Iain Scobbie from the School of Oriental and Asian Studies (SOAS), University of London presented the findings of the research on colonialism, and their manifestation in Israeli Supreme Court judgments concerning the OPT. Shane Darcy from the National University of Ireland-Galway and Michael Kearney from York University, further contributors to the study, spoke about the international law of apartheid, and the concept of “lawfare” and its implications, respectively. Professor Max du Plessis discussed the relevance of the study, and the possibilities and consequences of trying to obtain an International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on these matters as well as international criminal accountability.
The General Director of Adalah, Attorney Hassan Jabareen, analyzed the implications of the study vis-à-vis Israeli legal discourse. In so doing, hereviewed the historical development of the Palestinian legal struggle for rights, and the various legal strategies used by both the Palestinians and the Israelis before the Israeli Supreme Court and its jurisprudence regarding the OPT.
On the Report:
The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) of South Africa commissioned this study to test the hypothesis posed by Professor John Dugard in a report he presented to the UN Human Rights Council in January 2007, in his capacity as UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the OPT. Professor Dugard posed the question: "Israel is clearly in military occupation of the OPT. At the same time, elements of the occupation constitute forms of colonialism and of apartheid, which are contrary to international law. What are the legal consequences of a regime of prolonged occupation with features of colonialism and apartheid for the occupied people, the Occupying Power and third States?" Al Haq, Adalah and a team of lawyers and legal academics from Ireland, Israel, South Africa, the UK and West Bank contributed to the writing of this study.
The 300-page study was published in May 2009. The researchers concluded that the Israeli occupation, through its laws and practices in the 1967 OPT, has breached the international legal prohibitions of both colonialism and apartheid. According to the study, these findings entail legal consequences not just for the Palestinians and the Israelis, but also for the UN, individual States, and the international community as a whole.
Summary of the report in Arabic
Summary of the report in English
Full report in English available at: http://www.hsrc.ac.za/Media_Release-378.phtml