Media Release: Australia must confront the reality of Israel’s apartheid regime
1 February 2022
Amnesty International today released its report finding that Israel practices the crime against humanity of apartheid against the Palestinian people across all the territory under its control, that is in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).
Amnesty International joins dozens of Palestinian, international and Israeli human rights organisations who have called on the international community to face up to the reality of Israel’s apartheid. Amnesty assesses that Israel enforces a regime of systematic oppression and racial domination against the Palestinian people, wherever it has control over their rights. This includes: Palestinians who have citizenship in Israel; Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation in the OPT; and displaced Palestinian refugees in other countries.
The report Israel’s Apartheid against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime against Humanity, can be accessed here and a summary can be accessed here.
Rawan Arraf, Executive Director of the Australian Centre for International Justice said:
“This assessment by Amnesty International represents a growing indictment against the apartheid regime of Israel. Unfortunately, it is shamefully ignored by the international community and allies of the apartheid regime, like Australia, which continues to shield it from accountability, at the UN, at the International Criminal Court (ICC) and in various other forums.”
Australia shields Israel from accountability at the International Criminal Court
“The Australian Government must face the reality of Israel’s apartheid regime. Australia’s irrational support for Israel must end. This was shockingly evident in Australia’s outrageous attempt to prevent an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Palestine at the ICC in 2020,” Ms Arraf said.
Following a decision of the Court accepting it has jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute crimes in the OPT, Australia’s Foreign Minister issued a statement telling the Court it should not exercise jurisdiction.
“This was an appalling statement, and a dangerous attempt to interfere with the independence of an international court. Such a statement would be unacceptable if it were made against an Australian court. Australia should support investigations into international crimes anywhere they occur. Australia is reminded that it is treaty bound to cooperate and not impede any ICC investigation into Palestine,” Ms Arraf said.
No Trade With Apartheid
Australia is currently pursuing strengthening of trade and investment ties with Israel and last year the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade undertook a feasibility study to prepare for a bi-lateral Free Trade Agreement.
“Instead of strengthening ties, the Australian government must systematically review its trade and other cooperation agreements with Israel. It must divest in areas where Australia is complicit in the crime of apartheid, and impose targeted sanctions against perpetrators of the crime. The Australian Government must focus on ensuring Australia is not supporting Israel’s apartheid crimes and the resulting devastating effects on the Palestinian people. Australia must not be complicit with crimes against humanity. It’s important to remember that these crimes are criminal offences against the Commonwealth of Australia, and Australia is obligated to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice,” said Ms Arraf.
BDS and free speech rights
Speaking on the need to protect Palestinians’ right to free speech and democratic freedoms, Ms Arraf said:
“Around the world, governments have unfairly targeted and in some cases criminalised grass roots solidarity efforts to support freedom and justice for the Palestinian people. In Australia, these calls are increasing from conservative politicians, organisations and media, most recently in response to a successful community and artist-led boycott campaign against the Sydney Festival for accepting a star sponsorship deal from the apartheid regime. We should condemn these attempts to silence fundamental protest rights.”
“ACIJ supports the call from Palestinian civil society to join the global anti-apartheid movement, and we call on all Australians to join this growing movement for justice.”
For media enquiries contact: Rawan Arraf on +61(0)450 708 870.
- Apartheid was coined in South Africa and defined as a crime against humanity in 1973, and in the Rome Statute which established the International Criminal Court.
- It is defined as inhuman acts which are committed in the context of an institutionalised regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over another and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.
- Apartheid is a criminal offence in Australian law, Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) Sch1, section 268.22:
268.22 Crime against humanity—apartheid
A person (the perpetrator) commits an offence if:
(a) the perpetrator commits against one or more persons an act that is a proscribed inhumane act (as defined by the Dictionary) or an act that is of a nature and gravity similar to any such proscribed inhumane act; and
(b) the perpetrator’s conduct is committed in the context of an institutionalised regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups; and
(c) the perpetrator knows of, or is reckless as to, the factual circumstances that establish the character of the act; and
(d) the perpetrator intends to maintain the regime by the conduct; and
(e) the perpetrator’s conduct is committed intentionally or knowingly as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against a civilian population.
Penalty: Imprisonment for 17 years.
- The charge of apartheid follows decades of research, analysis and scholarship by Palestinian academics, lawyers,and human rights organisations who examined Israel’s settler-colonial rule over their lives as amounting to apartheid.
- In 2020, the Australian government, at the request of Israel’s government, intervened in proceedings at the ICC to block an investigation into crimes in Palestine. Australia argued the Court had no jurisdiction in Palestine. In February 2021, the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC rejected this argument, and confirmed the Court’s territorial jurisdiction extends to the occupied Palestinian territory.
- ACIJ and Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council wrote a joint submission to DFAT’s Inquiry into strengthening trade with Israel.
- TheBDS movement, is a Palestinian-led global drive launched in 2005 following the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice which found Israel’s construction of an annexation wall in the occupied West Bank to be illegal. It mirrors the global movement which was successful in abolishing the apartheid regime in South Africa. The BDS movement recognises the valuable role that can be played by civil society organisations, trade unions and people of conscience around the world to support freedom and justice for the Palestinian people.
Image credit: ETA