Last week, civil society marked a momentous victory. In a landmark report, “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid”, the United Nations finally confirmed what human rights defenders, international law experts, journalists, and public figures have been saying for years: Israel is committing the crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people.
For a brief moment, those of us who have been vying for the recognition- not only of Israel's crimes, but of their definition as Crime of Apartheid- have felt the joy of hope that all our work is finally bearing significant fruit, and that soon we will witness the historic moment we've been waiting for: The end of apartheid.
However, our optimism proved premature, as just two days later, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has pressured the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) to withdraw the report, following which the report has been taken offline. According to UN spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, the removal of the report from the website had nothing to do with the content of the report itself, but rather with the fact that it had allegedly been published without consultation with the UN secretariat.
As human rights defenders, who bear witness to our government's systematic crimes against the Palestinian people on a daily basis, we are shocked and appalled that such a crucial report, which includes a history and outline of current practices which amount to the crime of apartheid, would be buried under the guise of a bureaucratic slip.
With its creation, the United Nations pledged to "defend life, liberty, independence and religious freedom, and to preserve human rights and justice". But over and over again, the organisation has failed to protect the values it professes, and more importantly- to protect human life.
The report reminded each and every one of us of our civil duty:
“... civil society institutions and individuals have a moral duty to use the instruments at their disposal to raise awareness of this ongoing criminal enterprise.”
We who, for many years, have been fulfilling our civil duty, unprotected, continue to do so by both by linking to the report available on Electronic Intifada, and demanding here and now that the UN also fulfil its civil duties. Instead of burying evidence of crimes against humanity, the UN must ask itself why its own sub-organization were forced to act outside its protocols, if indeed that is the case, in order to defend life, liberty, independence and religious freedom, and to preserve human rights and justice.The UN must reinstate the report and act in accordance with the report. The UN must hold Israel accountable for the crime of apartheid.