March 2013



Restrictions on Education

Israel has denied full enjoyment of the rights of education to the Palestinian students. Education in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) is segregated as part of the larger policy of racially fragmenting the territory as discussed earlier. Access to education is restricted using numerous means; attacks on students and destruction of schools are one of the main ways. Some of these incidents include: 300 schools and 22 universities being shelled, shot or raided by Israeli forces between 2000 and 2005; in 2006 F-16s bombed the Islamic University of Gaza; in September 2004 a ten-year old girl was shot in the head at her desk; in January 2005 the Israeli army opened fire on an elementary school and killed an 11-year old; two universities were closed by military orders for 6 months in 2003 – suspending education of 6000 student; 25 schools were demolished in 2009 alone; 6000 children have been arrested and detained since September 2000.[1][2]

Checkpoints and restrictions on movement greatly hinder education as well: Berzeit University showed that 91% of students missed classes due to delay at checkpoints; since 2004, students from Gaza have been banned from studying in the West Bank; in 2007, 3700 Gazan students were prevented from continuing their studies abroad; in 2008, visas of 7 winners of US Fullbright Scholarships were revoked and they were not allowed to leave Gaza. In East Jerusalem, where Israel provides funding for education, Palestinian schools are severely underfunded, face lack of classrooms and other essentials. As a result, only 39,400 Palestinians attend school out of the 79,000 that are eligible. High school dropout rates are 50% of Palestinians compared to 7.4% for Jewish students in the same city.[3]

All the obstacles to education described above are only applicable the Palestinians in the OPT while Jewish students face no such restrictions from the Israeli army. The systematic attack on education is a strategy to stifle intellectual growth of the Palestinian people. Despite all these unimaginable restrictions, students are determined to pursue their studies. Enrollment is comparable to middle-income countries and in 2005 it was 88% for secondary education in Gaza and the West Bank; 40% for post-secondary education. When schools and universities are raided, Palestinians continue holding classes in homes, churches, mosques and community centers – they often get arrested for doing so.[4]

Demographic Engineering and Ethnic Control

One of the most alarming aspects of this conflict is the extent to which Israel has planned the systematic removal of Palestinian presence from this historic and hallowed land. Legislation that explicitly calls for stifling Arab life and administering ethnic control has been adopted by the Israeli government. The Drobles Plan, adopted by the Israeli cabinet in 1981, is one such piece of legislation.[5] It states quite explicitly:

The civilian presence of Jewish communities is vital for the security of the state…There must not be the slightest doubt regarding our intention to hold the areas of Judea and Samaria [i.e. West Bank] forever…State and uncultivated land should be seized immediately for the purpose of settlement in the areas located among and around the population centres with the aim of preventing as much as possible the establishment of another Arab state in these territories. It will be difficult for the [Arab] minority to form a regional connection and political unity when split by Jewish colonies …[6][7]

Another such piece of legislation is the Jerusalem municipal plan. The most recent plan, Jerusalem 2000, stated that “according to state decisions,” municipal planning should attempt to maintain a demographic balance of 70 percent Jews to 30 percent Arabs in the city. To ensure this, the plan proposed a number of means to “maintain a Jewish majority in the city while attending to the needs of the Arab minority,” The plan recognizes the “acute housing shortage” affecting “the Arab population,” but proposes “thickening and densification” of existing Palestinian neighborhoods as a response, and building new residential areas only for “wealthy Arab households”.[8]

Israel’s legal racism and obsession with maintaining demographic control is sickening and alarming. Three decades after the adoption of the Drobles Plan, it is quite clear that it has implemented the plan to a tee. The epitome of Israel’s hypocrisy lies in signing the Oslo Accords and committing to a two-state solution; while at the same time expanding the colonist enterprise and eating up the very land it will supposedly grant as a state to the Palestinians one day.

Conclusion

This series has barely scratched the surface of the human right abuses Palestinians suffer on a regular basis. These articles have focused mainly on the discriminatory practices in the OPT in order to highlight the apartheid nature of the 45-year-old occupation. It is common practice to dismiss the charge of apartheid against Israel as ‘sloganeering’ or ‘anti-Semitism’. With the lack of information available on this subject, an exposition on this topic was necessary. It is hoped that this series will garner public recognition of the brutality of the apartheid experienced by the Palestinian people.

It is important to recognize that apartheid is not a mere analogy. It is defined specifically as a crime against humanity under international law. Some dismiss the charge of Israeli apartheid simply because of the differences with South African apartheid. It is important to recognize that both regimes had their unique features and both constitute apartheid independent of each other.

It is hard for us to fathom living under occupation where every single aspect of life subject to draconian laws. Everyday tasks such driving to work, going to school, picking up the groceries or visiting the doctor – all become a nightmare. The brutality of this reality is multiplied with the knowledge that this oppression exists to privilege one race over the other; to give superior treatment to one group of people who live in the same vicinity and yet face none of these restrictions. The eventual hope of this regime is make life so miserable for Palestinians that they are left with no choice but to leave their land.

As the occupation enters its 45th year and Palestinian land continues to be usurped, the urgency to highlight the brutality of Israeli apartheid is now more than ever. While pretending to be the bastion of democracy in the Middle-East, it is clear that Israel has implemented one of the most racist, brutally oppressive and inhumane occupations known in history – all with the backing of our Western governments.

Next Post:  How you can help end Israeli Apartheid

References:

[1] Separate and Unequal: Israel’s Discriminatory Treatment of Palestinians in the OccupiedPalestinianTerritories. Human Rights Watch, New York 2010 – pg 11

[2] Occupation, Colonialism and Apartheid? Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa, 2009 – pg 232

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Separate and Unequal: – pg 27

[6] Ibid

[7] Occupation, Colonialism and Apartheid? Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa, 2009 – pg 264

[8] Separate and Unequal: Israel’s Discriminatory Treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Human Rights Watch, New York 2010 – pg 47

 


The death toll from riots that have enraged the streets of Dhaka for over a month has risen to 61. Fresh set of protests were sparked when Delwar Hossain Sayedee, a politician and religious leader, was sentenced to death last week.  Police and protestors have clashed violently leading to these deaths; hundreds more have been injured. The police have been accused of firing openly on protesters according to witnesses on the ground.

Protests erupted over a month ago when the Bangladesh’s war crimes tribunal sentenced Abdul Qader Molla to life imprisonment. He is a senior leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami; the nation’s largest Islamic political party and the current opposition. Government officials, members of the ruling Awami League party, and segments of the public reacted with outrage that Mollah was not sentenced to death. Large crowds assembled in the Shahbag area of Dhaka demanding the death penalty for Molla.

Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), a domestic court, was set up in 2010 to try people suspected of crimes under international law, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, committed during the country’s 1971 war of independence from Pakistan. The brutal civil war led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands; estimates vary between 300,000 and 3 million. Murder, rape and bloodshed were rampant during this period. Some estimates suggest over 200,000 women were raped by militias.

The Jamaat-e-Islami party, part of the current opposition, is widely viewed in the country as a supporter of Pakistan during the war and their leaders are accused of perpetrating war crimes. However, the party contends that while some of its leaders did not want a new state, it did not commit any such atrocities.

The war crimes tribunal has been criticized as being politically motivated and out of step with international standards. All of the 10 people indicted for war crimes by the tribunal are opposition politicians, eight of them from the Jamaat-e-Islami.

Human Rights Watch has found trials conducted thus far to be replete with irregularities. The defense has alleged intimidation and harassment of their witnesses, including the November 2012 abduction of a witness from the gates of the courthouse. In December 2012 The Economist published a series of intercepted communications between the senior judge and an external adviser, suggesting close and prohibited collaboration between the judge, prosecutors, and the government.

In response to the mass protests calling for the execution of Molla, originally sentenced to life imprisonment, Bangladesh’s parliament amended a law allowing the state to appeal any verdict in war-crimes trials it deemed inadequate and not in sync with public opinion. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was reported by media as saying she would talk to the judges to convince them to take the sentiments of the protesters into account in formulating their decisions.

While recognizing the need to serve justice for war crimes of 1971, human rights organizations have strongly criticized Bangladesh’s government for making these legal amendments to please protestors. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) stated that that the tribunal does not adhere to international standards of a fair trial and due process. It urged the government to serve justice, instead of perpetrating vengeance.

Amnesty International has also condemned the move. Human Rights Watch stated that these amendments violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ICCPR states that “no one shall be liable to be tried or punished again for an offense for which he has already been finally convicted or acquitted in accordance with the law and penal procedure of each country.”

This episode has sharply widened the secular and religious divide in the country. Some view it as a movement for righting a historical wrong, while other considers it to be a veiled, government-sponsored attempt to curb the influence of Islam. Pro-execution supporters have been accused of blasphemy and insulting Islam using their platforms.

Protests and strikes have intensified since Delwar Hussian Sayedee was sentenced to death on March 2nd; he is vice-president of the Jamaat and a vocal Muslim orator.  Supporters of Sayedee attacked police and government offices, uprooted railroad tracks, and set fire to trains and houses belonging to government supporters. Police responded with bullets and tear gas. Violence continues in Dhaka and protestor from both sides continue rally support to advance their objectives.

Compiled from Al-JazeeraHuman Rights WatchThe Guardian and BBC


In what has become a routine exercise of obsequious bowing and servile complacence, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney yet again pays homage to the State of Israel. Similar to last year, he released a statement condemning Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), which is currently being organized on university campuses across the globe.

Kenney likens IAW to ‘hateful and intolerant rhetoric’ and ‘anti-Semitism’. Based on the statement, it is fair to assume that the honourable Minister has never actually visited the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT); or perhaps he did, but his love for Israel might have blinded him from seeing the atrocities being committed in these lands.

If he were to visit the OPT, Minister Kenney would be able to witness the Jewish-only colonies that Israel has established there. These cantons are luxurious settlement blocks designed with the intention of ‘Judiazing’ Palestinian land. 220 settlements currently mean that 43 per cent of the West Bank is reserved for exclusive Jewish use. Palestinians can’t live there and need special permits to enter for occasional work. They are confined to their own ethnic enclaves where they live largely under sub-standard conditions, thanks to the now 46-year-old Israeli occupation.

If he were to visit, the honourable Minister would also notice the Israeli-only roads connecting Jewish colonies to each other and to Israel. While being built on occupied Palestinian land, this network of modern highways is practically inaccessible to Palestinians. A draconian regime of permits and checkpoints ensure that they use an inferior system of circuitous dirt roads, tunnels and sub-level streets to avoid the Jewish settlements. Palestinians are humiliated and delayed at these checkpoints on a daily basis; students miss class, patients aren’t able to make it to hospitals in time. At least 39 cases of deaths at check points have been documented. All the while Israeli residents in the same area have unfettered access to modern highways.

If he were to visit, Minster Kenney would also notice the dual legal systems that are implemented in the West Bank. In areas under Israeli control, Jewish settlers are subject to civilian law while Palestinians are subject to brutal military laws. This system violates the basic essence of equality before the law; especially given the vast difference in the two systems. Two sets of laws for two people; the ethnicity of the culprit determines one’s chances at a fair trail.

It is particularly ironic, and distasteful, for this statement to be coming from our Minister of Immigration. Israel openly exercises one of the world’s most blatantly racist immigration and citizenship policies. The Law of Return guarantees that Jews from anywhere in the world can immigrate to Israel or the OPT and live there. Yet, it disallows Palestinians who were expelled or fled during the 1948 and 1967 wars to return to their homes. Jews with no prior ties to Israel can immigrate to it; indigenous people of the land are barred for entering their homes – a policy in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Citizenship policies are also just as discriminatory. While a Jewish immigrant living in the West Bank is granted citizenship, Palestinians in the adjacent neighbourhoods are not given the same privilege. Furthermore, Palestinians are who have ‘permanent residency’ status in East Jerusalem have to continually prove their ‘center of life’ is in Jerusalem in order to hold on to this status. Jews in the same area are not subject to any of these bogus polices.

Minister Kenny naively wonders why organizers of Israeli Apartheid Week chose to ignore other atrocities around the globe and focused on Israel. His press release is the answer to the very question: The Canadian government is complicit in whitewashing and supporting a brutally oppressive occupation regime.

By invoking the anti-Semitism card, our government has actively stifled voices of those criticizing the Israeli occupation; this gives us all the more reason to continue organizing Israeli Apartheid Week.

Our government’s scandalous and unholy love affair with Israel needs to come to an end. This blinding and decadent ordeal has lasted far too long. Passions have run high and judgments have been impaired. Cupid no doubt made a mistake, but oppression cannot justify love. Oppression must end and so must this love story.

Also published in the Silhouette