Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hisham B. Sharabi Memorial Lecture: Apartheid and Occupation under International Law

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Palestine Center
Washington, D.C.
26 March 2009

Edited Transcript of Remarks by Professor John Dugard
Transcript No. 311 (30 March 2009)

While international law tolerates military occupation, it does not approve it, specifically one that has continued for over 40 years as in the case of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory. Furthermore, during that time, Israel has introduced two other elements—colonialism and apartheid. Although there are many similarities between apartheid as it was applied in South Africa and Israel’s policies and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the systems are not identical. There are features of the Israeli regime in the occupied territory that were unknown to South Africans. This year’s Hisham B. Sharabi Memorial Lecture was delivered by Professor John Dugard.

John Dugard

Thank you very much for your invitation to speak today. I am very honored. It’s a great occasion for The Jerusalem Fund, and I’m really pleased to be part of this memorial lecture. As Samar told you, I’ve just recently been to Gaza, but I can’t speak freely about my visit to Gaza. I was part of a mission established by the League of Arab States to investigate violations of human rights and humanitarian law in Gaza. We visited at the end of February for a week, and we’re still writing the report. So at this stage, I cannot really comment on our findings. You will appreciate that any attempt to attach responsibility to Israel is a sensitive issue and is bound to result in considerable criticism. So, we want to do a very careful job in preparing our report.

But what I can say is that I have been visiting Gaza twice a year since 2001, and I have on previous occasions witnessed evidence of horrendous bombings and killings and house destructions. But the most recent attack surpassed all the others. There were more killings--1,434 deaths of which 288 were children, 121 women--and it’s estimated that of the 1,400 over 900 were civilians. Of course, the Israeli government disputes this, but I think this is largely because the Israeli government tends to view anyone over the age of 16 as a potential terrorist. And certainly, the Israelis view policemen as militants whereas in fact policemen are, under international law, classified as civilians. And one must remember that the opening salvo, which was very much like an attack on Pearl Harbor, was an attack directed at a police parade in which fifteen new recruits were killed. It’s not only the number of deaths but also the manner of killing. We spoke to a number of eyewitnesses who spoke about the way in which their parents, children had been shot in cold blood between their eyes by a member of the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] at fairly short range. I find it very difficult to believe some of these stories, but they have now been confirmed by members of the IDF. You may have read that at a military academy in Israel there was an open discussion about the conduct of the war, and many members of the IDF spoke with some horror about the way in which their fellow soldiers had behaved.

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