PRC insight into the Colonial Project of Israel

PRC insight into the Colonial Project of Israel

Reviewing the Apartheid Wall after Six Years, An insight into the Colonial Project

London- 21/07/2010On the Sixth anniversary of the advisory opinion given by International Court of Justice (ICJ)on the Wall the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) is pleased to offer a short assessment of the moral and legal victory that was won in 2004 and its aftermath.One would have hoped that as a result of the legal opinion we would see a more chastened Israel, reassessing its past and its future but instead the six years following the moral and legal defeat it has continued its policy of colonialism and apartheid.



Reviewing the Apartheid Wall after Six YearsAn insight in to the Colonial project------------------------------------------------


July is the anniversary of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) advisory opinion on the Wall. The 2004 opinion was a major victory for the Palestinians and all those championing justice, human rights and international law. Six years on the moral and legal victory has made no political impact on the ground. Israel has not shifted from its colonial policy and instead has adopted legal mechanisms to expel more Palestinians from their land.

Four elected MPs, born in East Jerusalem, are facing expulsion. They are currently taking refuge with the Red Cross. The reaction has been one of outrage but Western governments have been timid in their response.

The Wall and the unremitting expulsion under legal pretence are born from a colonial apartheid regime. At its core is an illegal and racist ideology that seeks to ethnically cleanse the indigenous population in order to tackle what it sees as the demographic problem in preserving its contradictory identity of a Jewish and a democratic state.


Unlike global systems of the past the international system is in a unique and privileged position to discuss political problems using clear normative frameworks. The machinations of the different components of this international framework were clearly demonstrated in July 2004 when the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, was tasked by the UN General Assembly to issue an advisory opinion on the "Legal Consequences of Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT)".  Amongst its many conclusions were:


The construction and operation of the wall violates international humanitarian law. The Wall is part of a continuing attempt by Israel to change the legal status of the OPT including East Jerusalem. The construction is a form of collective punishment. The Wall is a disproportionate response to any threat faced by Israel.

•    The wall violates the rights of the Palestinian people to self determination(1).


This was an unprecedented moral and legal victory for the Palestinian cause. However, Six years on, instead of finding a more chastened Israel we find a rogue, pariah state, beyond the pale of international law displaying yet more aggression against the Palestinians and cementing its colonial project.

If there were any doubts that Israel is a colonial, occupying force and if there were any doubts that Israel is an apartheid state then the wall and its policies towards the Palestinians should enlighten the incredulous.  Israel's policies since the ICJ ruling are reminiscent of South African Apartheid, and a supremacist ideology that has no compunction in flouting morality and law.

Too often words evoking visceral response like colonialism and apartheid are sensationally and politically used and have no historical and factual basis. This is not true for Israel. In January 2007 Professor John Dugard, in his capacity as UN special Rapporteur on human rights in the OPT, stated that Israel's military occupation displays elements of colonialism and apartheid. Professor Dugard in his report to the Human Rights Council also suggested that an advisory opinion on the legal consequences of Israel's conduct should be sought from the ICJ to compliment the opinion on the Wall.

Colonialism and Apartheid both constitute serious violations of fundamental human rights. Both have been consistently condemned by the international community and both, like the crimes of ethnic cleansing, genocide and torture, are amongst the peremptory norms: i.e. rules from which no derogation is permitted.

To explore these very serious accusations an international team of scholars were assembled by the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa, a research body commissioned by the South African Parliament in 1968. Its finding corroborated John Dugard's position and made many disturbing conclusions amongst which were that:


Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem is manifestly an act based on colonial intent. Israel's acquisition of territory in the West Bank starkly illustrates colonial intent. By portioning contiguous blocs of Palestinian areas into cantons, Israel has violated the territorial integrity of the OPT in violation of the Declaration of Colonialism.

•    Israel has introduced a system of apartheid in the OPT(2).


The aggregate wisdom of the international community is palpably recoiled by Israel's intransigence to no great effect. Instead what we have witnessed is further aggression and a slow but affective implementation of the Zionist goal to cleanse Palestinian lands of its indigenous population. Beyond the everyday events and commentaries on single catastrophic events like siege and war there is a common thread that unites Israel's policy.  It is the simple but silent truth that has been cardinal throughout Israel's existence and continues to be so. It is the truth that Israel was founded on a policy of ethnic cleansing and it has remained committed to this policy ever since its inception.

Throughout history Israel rarely missed an opportunity to implement its core principal of population transfer and it has relentlessly pursued this course through its many wars, creeping colonisation in the form of settlement building, a regime that combines occupation, apartheid and colonisation.

Israel's entire legal structure in the occupied territory is designed to serve this end. Since 1967, in order to control the occupied Palestinian population, Israel enacted more than 1,200 military orders and has altered the administrative and legal situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory in violation of international humanitarian law.

In securing its aspiration and maintaining Jewish privileges over the land Israel enacted the Law of Return (1950), the Law of Absentee Property (1950), the Law of the State's Property (1951), the Law of Citizenship (1952), the Status Law (1952), the Israel Lands Administration Law (1960), the Construction and Building Law (1965), and the 2002 'temporary' law banning marriage between Palestinians in Israel and Palestinians of the occupied territories. Consistent with this trend it enacted in April 2010 two further military orders, an Order regarding Prevention of Infiltration (Amendment No. 2) and the Order regarding Security Provisions (Amendment No. 112).

A vivid illustration of how the April military order will impact the Palestinians in East Jerusalem was highlighted in June 2010 when four elected MPs were arrested for refusing an Israeli order expelling them from their birth place in East Jerusalem. Many Palestinians fear their expulsion could set a precedent for the removal of more of the nearly 270,000 Palestinians living in east Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in 1967, an occupation that has never been accepted internationally.

Richard Falk, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, cited the four MP's case in a statement on saying that he saw it as part of "a larger, extremely worrying pattern of Israeli efforts to drive Palestinians out of East Jerusalem - all of which are illegal under international law". 

When Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967, the government did not dream of conferring citizenship on the inhabitants, which would have significantly increased the percentage of Arab voters in Israel. Neither did they invent a new status for them. Lacking other alternatives, the inhabitants became "permanent residents", a status devised for foreigners who wish to stay in Israel. The Minister of the Interior has the right to revoke this status and deport such people to their countries of origin.

Clearly, this definition of "permanent residents" should not apply to the inhabitants of East Jerusalem. They and their forefathers were born there, they have no other citizenship and no other place of residence. The revoking of their status turns them into politically homeless people without protection of any kind.

This forced expulsion and illegal revocation of residency rights is not only happening to parliamentarians and public figures, but it is happening to many ordinary Jerusalemites as well. No one, it seems, is safe from Israel's insistence on gradually emptying the land of Palestinians. In 2008, Israel revoked 466 Jerusalem residency cards, with the number expected to skyrocket in 2010 as a consequence of its April military order.

 What is being played out is unbridled hubris, an impenetrable sense of exceptionalism and a clear desire to have immutable ownership and unchallengeable control over Palestinian lives. These core sentiments have lead to the series of acts that would cause utter shock and outrage if carried out anywhere else in the world.


Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem and its legal framework in the occupied territories is manifestly an act of colonial intent. Israel has no sovereignty and no legitimacy in these territories to enforce such policies. 

It goes without saying that Israel bears the primary reasonability for remedying the illegal situation it has created. It has a duty to cease its unlawful activity and dismantle its colonial and apartheid institutions.

Thus far Palestinians have been failed by the formal international system which continues to stall and buckle in meeting its responsibility. The international outrage against the Gaza siege and assault on the Freedom Flotilla suggests that calls for effective action are greater than ever. The call for justice is at the level of apartheid South Africa and global institutions should respond appropriately or risk their own credibility.

The case of the four elected MPs is just a small part of the mechanism that Israel has refined over the decades in fulfilling its colonial objectives and tackling what it regards as the demographic problem. Changing facts on the grounds has been a constant goal in order to prejudice any future negotiations.  

Israeli 'democracy' is moving further and further to the right. The Knesset, as was illustrated by the mob assault on Haneen Zoabi, an elected member of the Knesset, highlights a worrying trend towards greater extremism.     RECOMMENDATIONS

If states fail to full fill their responsibilities they too are acting outside the law. If a state aids or assists in this land theft and allowing for the slow and gradual ethnic cleansing then it is complicit in maintaining a colonial and apartheid system.      It also goes without saying that states, inter governmental and non governmental agencies also have a duty to prevent and bring to book all breaches of peremptory norms of international law. States must not recognise the unlawful situation in Palestine and must issue robust condemnation of Israel's annexation of Palestinian territory in East Jerusalem and its criminal intent to expel Palestinians from their lands.

At the very least individual states and parliamentarians from around the world must reject Israeli decision to expel the four elected MPs from East Jerusalem. The MPs, who were all born in East Jerusalem and currently taking protection under the Red Cross, need the support of the international community. This policy must be seen for what it is; a gradual step to remove Palestinians from their homeland through legal pretence. If Israel succeeds many more expulsion will follow. The international community must act before Israel becomes emboldened in pursuing this outrageous course.


(1) International Court of Justice, Legal Consequences of Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, p 175(2) Human Science Research Council, Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid? A re-assessment of Israel's practices in the OPT under international law. May 2009 Cape Town   Palestinian Return Centre100H Crown House, North Circular RoadLondon NW10 7PNTel: +44 20 84530919Fax: +44 20 84530994website:

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