A dossier on Israeli Apartheid: Pressing Call to Churches around the World

Palestine Update 569

A dossier on Israeli Apartheid:
Pressing Call to Churches around the World

Members of Kairos Palestine and Global Kairos for Justice have created a theological study for Christians and other civil society organizations who want to learn more about the crime of apartheid and why Palestinians and a growing number of churches and human rights organizations are using the word to describe Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. In this guide, you will find: a clear description of apartheid and how Israel’s laws, policies and practices meet the international definition; a Biblical/theological reflection describing the sin of apartheid; a heartfelt call to the global church to hear the pleas of Palestinian Christians; and a list of recommended actions. Also included are brief summaries of and links to many of the reports cited above, statements made by churches, faith groups, and international leaders (including prominent Israeli Jews), and a short book list.

Kairos Palestine members call upon the churches around the world to receive and study this Dossier and respond to the evidence and the call to do justice. It is the hope that this study will equip the global church to rise up and join Palestinian Christians as we work to end Israel’s apartheid regime for the sake of all who live in the Holy Land.

APARTHEID: Defined
Three important documents define the crime of apartheid and describe its features: The Geneva Conventions; The International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid; and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Article 85, 4c of The Geneva Convention considers the practice of apartheid a war crime and a crime against humanity. It specifically cites that “the implementation of the system of Apartheid is a grave breach of International Law.” The International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid defines apartheid as “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.” The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Article 7, 1, describes apartheid as “the inhumane acts of a character…committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” The ICC’s mandate lists apartheid as within its criminal jurisdiction.

APARTHEID: Reports and Statements documenting Israel’s complicity
For decades, Palestinian civil society organizations have pointed to the harsh realities of Israel’s apartheid regime. Over the years, a few internationally recognized leaders have concurred, including U.S. President Jimmy Carter and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. But over the past three years a rapidly growing number of globally respected human rights organizations have issued thoroughly researched reports describing Israel’s laws, policies and practices as apartheid. It is important to note that, while each of the following documents have been subjected to repeated accusations of “antisemitism” and “delegitimization of the State of Israel,” there has not been a single response that disputes the charges in these reports.

APARTHEID: A Biblical/Theological Reflection
“We affirm that the continued oppression of the Palestinian people remains… a matter of theological urgency and represents a sin in violation of the message of the biblical prophets and the Gospel, and that all efforts to defend or legitimate the oppression of the Palestinian people, whether passive or active, through silence, word or deed by the Christian community, represent a fundamental denial of the Gospel.” Declaration for a Just Peace Between Palestine and Israel, Adopted by the 33rd General Synod of the United Church of Christ, July 2021 In 2009, Palestinian Christian leaders representing a wide range of denominations issued the historic document, “A Moment of Truth: A Word of Faith, Hope and Love from the Heart of Palestinian Suffering.” The profoundly theological document—grounded in Biblical texts—is a bold, prophetic call naming Palestinian realities as they are and declaring the leaders’ commitment to life in accord with God’s purpose for all to live in love and free from oppression. In 2020, Kairos Palestine and Global Kairos for Justice, a worldwide coalition born in response to A Moment of Truth, released “Cry for Hope: A Call to Decisive Action.” Cry for Hope is an urgent plea to Christians, churches and ecumenical bodies “for decisive action on a matter that we believe relates to the integrity of our Christian faith.” Cry for Hope calls the global church to seven specific actions, insisting, “It is time for the international community… to recognize Israel as an apartheid state in terms of international law.”

APARTHEID: What does the Lord require of the Global Church?
“Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands at a distance; for truth stumbles in the public square, and uprightness cannot enter. Truth is lacking… The LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, and was appalled that there was no one to intervene…” Isaiah 59:14-16 The realities of Israel’s apartheid have been described from every perspective: legal, social, political, biblical and theological. The cries of Palestinians have exposed their long and brutal experience of apartheid. As the Prophet Isaiah might proclaim, “The Lord sees it, too”—the injustice, truth stumbling in the public square. Faced with the undeniable truth of Israel’s apartheid, we know what the Lord requires of the Global Church: “To do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).” The church has named and resisted the sin and injustice of apartheid in the past. The church is called to rise up once again.

The Palestinian Plea: “Are you able to help us get our freedom back?”
In 2009, Palestinian Christian leaders issued the historic document, “A Moment of Truth: A Word of Faith, Hope and Love from the Heart of Palestinian Suffering.” We named Palestinian realities as they are and described life as God is working to redeem it. We wrote, “Our question to our brothers and sisters in the Churches today is: Are you able to help us get our freedom back, for this is the only way you can help the two people attain justice, peace, security and love? (KP 6:1)” Now, thirteen years later, as conditions in Palestine rapidly worsen, our question is an urgent, earnest plea: “Are you able to help us get our freedom back?” The venerated Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem, titled its January 2021 report, “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid.” Palestinians have been saying it for decades. Now, human rights organizations have said it. United Nations officials have said it. Politicians have said it. Theologians have said it. South African leaders, who lived apartheid and understand apartheid, have said it. Even Jewish Israeli politicians and legal experts have said it. Facts on the ground speak loudly and clearly. The evidence is here to see. “What will you do about it?” we Palestinians ask the Church, “How will you respond? Are you able to help us get our freedom back?

Additional Reports on Apartheid The following are additional significant reports.

  1. Amb Palestina al Cor’s, “Apartheid Against the Palestinian People”
    In 2007, thirty Catalan organizations committed to peacebuilding in the Middle East began a solidarity campaign with the Palestinian people. The group issued an 80-page report in 2009, pointing to the “negation and non-respect of [the Palestinians’] dignity as human beings, which itself has a specific legal denomination: crime of apartheid.” The report further stated, “It is clear that the discrimination to which the Palestinian population is subjected by Israel constitutes a crime of apartheid.”
    https://novact.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Apartheid-against-the-palestinian-people.pdf

  2. The Russell Tribunal on Palestine
    The Russell Tribunal on Palestine, supported by the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, was “an international citizen-based Tribunal of conscience created in response to the demands of civil society (NGOs, charities, unions, faith-based organisations) to inform and mobilise public opinion and relevant institutions and decision-makers in light of continuing failures to uphold international law in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” In its 9-page 2012 report, the Tribunal found “multiple grounds to refute [Israel’s] claim that no apartheid or segregation practices exist under Israeli jurisdiction.”
    https://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/docs/ngos/RussellTribunalOnPalestine_Israel80.pdf

  3. UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)’s “Israel”
    In its 2012 9-page report, CERD expressed its concern about “the consequences of [Israel’s] policies and practices which amount to de facto segregation, such as the implementation by [Israel] in the Occupied Palestinian Territory of two entirely separate legal systems and sets of institutions for Jewish communities grouped in illegal settlements on the one hand and Palestinian populations living in Palestinian towns and villages on the other hand. The Committee is particularly appalled at the hermetic character of the separation of two groups, who live on the same territory but do not enjoy either equal use of roads and infrastructure or equal access to basic services and water resources. Such 1 separation is concretized by the implementation of a complex combination of movement restrictions consisting of the Wall, roadblocks, the obligation to use separate roads and a permit regime that only impacts the Palestinian population.”
    https://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/docs/CERD.C.ISR.CO.14-16.pdf

  4. Birzeit University Institute of Law’s “Advocating for Palestinian Rights in Conformity with International Law: guidelines”
    This guide “is an outcome of the conference ‘Options and Strategies of International Law for the Palestinian People’ held at the Birzeit University Institute of Law in May 2013. It aims to help nonlawyers understand and apply international law to Israel’s oppressive regime over the entire Palestinian people: those in the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 1967 (OPT), Palestinian citizens of Israel and the refugees since 1948. It explains briefly: 1) Why speaking only about ‘occupation’ is not enough; 2) Why we should rather speak about (settler) colonialism, population transfer (ethnic cleansing) and apartheid, in addition to occupation; 3) How we can do so in accordance with international law; and, 4) Why colonialism, population transfer and apartheid, as legal frameworks, are helpful for building pressure on third parties to take action against Israel’s oppressive regime.

http://lawcenter.birzeit.edu/lawcenter/attachments/article/1482/Advocating%20for%20Palestinian%20rights.pdf  

 

  1. UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)’s
    “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid” In a 64-page report commissioned in 2017 by the UN’s ESCWA, its authors established “on the basis of scholarly inquiry and overwhelming evidence, that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid.” The report “accordingly recommends that the international community act immediately, without waiting for a more formal pronouncement regarding the culpability of the State of Israel, its government and its officials for the commission of the crime of apartheid.”
    https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/wp-content/uploads/downloads/201703_UN_ESCWA-israeli-practices-palestinian-people-apartheid-occupation-english.pdf  

  2. Statements & Resolutions
    Following are statements and resolutions made by UN, church, Palestinian Christian, and Jewish groups, as well as other internationals including prominent Jewish leaders. Archbishop Desmond Tutu and President Jimmy Carter are the two most recognized world leaders to use the word apartheid before the rest of the world was ready to use the label. A 2014 article in Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, reported on a visit by Tutu to Palestine and Israel. Tutu was quoted as saying, “Israel’s treatment of Palestinians reminds him of South 2 African apartheid… I have witnessed the systemic humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces. Their humiliation is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government.” The title to President Carter’s 2007 book, widely demonized at the time, spoke—and speaks still—for itself: Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.
    https://www.amazon.com/Palestine-Peace-Apartheid-Jimmy-Carter/dp/0743285034/ref=sr_1_1?adgrpid=1330409640462096&hvadid=83150674522111&hvbmt=be&hvdev=c&hvlocphy=44647&hvnetw=o&hvqmt=e&hvtargid=kwd-83150959370918%3Aloc-190&hydadcr=24601_10624361&keywords=jimmy+carter+peace+not+apartheid&qid=1652396106&sr=8-1  

  3. World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Durban, South Africa, “Declaration”
    In 2001, the General Assembly of the United Nations hosted a global gathering to address racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Included in the Declaration was a strong rejection of “any doctrine of racial superiority….” Participants wrote, “We recognize that apartheid and genocide in terms of international law constitute crimes against humanity and are major sources and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and acknowledge the untold evil and suffering caused by these acts and affirm that wherever and whenever they occurred, they must be condemned, and their recurrence prevented.”
    https://www.hurights.or.jp/wcar/E/ngofinaldc.htm  

  4.  NGO Forum of the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR), Durban, South Africa, “WCAR NGO Forum Declaration”
    Concurrent with the 2001 UN General Assembly’s Conference (above), representatives of local, national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other civil society groups from around the world gathered in their own forum. The forum’s Declaration is the first time that a wide gathering of civil society accused Israel of practicing apartheid against Palestinians. In addition to affirming the right of Palestinians to self- 3 determination, statehood, independence and freedom, along with the right of return as stipulated in UN Resolution 194, the document recognized that the Palestinian people are “currently enduring a colonialist, discriminatory military occupation that violates their fundamental human right of self-determination including the illegal transfer of Israeli citizens into the occupied territories and establishment of a permanent illegal Israeli infrastructure; and other racist methods amounting to Israel’s brand of apartheid and other racist crimes against humanity.” The document further recognized that “the Palestinian people have the clear right under international law to resist such occupation by any means provided under international law until they achieve their fundamental human right to selfdetermination and end the Israeli racist system including its own brand of apartheid.”
    https://www.hurights.or.jp/wcar/E/ngofinaldc.htm

  5. American Friends Service Committee, “Why AFSC uses the term “Israeli apartheid”
    “As early as 2003, Palestinian human rights organization (with support from South African anti-apartheid activists) began to describe the situation in Israel and Palestine as a situation of apartheid. Over the next two decades a variety of international and Israeli leaders including former President Jimmy Carter, Israeli Prime Ministers Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak, and former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry all warned that without change Israel would become an apartheid state. “We use the term to accurately describe the realities of inequality and discrimination that exist on both sides of the green line in Israel and Palestine. We use it to make clear our commitment to the realization of not just the end of Israel’s occupation, but justice and equality for all people in Israel and Palestine regardless of their location.”
    https://www.afsc.org/blogs/news-and-commentary/why-afsc-uses-term-israeli-apartheid

  6. Dr. Jerry Pillay, “Apartheid in the Holy Land: Theological Reflections on the Israel and/or Palestine situation from a South African perspective”
    We use it to make clear our commitment to the realization of not just the end of Israel’s occupation, but justice and equality for all people in Israel and Palestine regardless of their location.” Dr. Jerry Pillay, “Apartheid in the Holy Land: Theological Reflections on the Israel and/or Palestine situation from a South African perspective” In 2016, the HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies, an Open Access resource, published an article by Dr. Jerry Pillay, a faculty member in the Department of Church History and Church Polity at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. According to Dr. Pillay, “The central thesis of this [9-page] article is that the Israel-Palestine situation shows great resemblances to the experience of apartheid in South Africa which can be seen in the colonisation, the war and the forced displacement of people in Palestine. This article attempts, firstly, to 4 show this apartheid comparison and then proceeds to discuss the theological implications of the issues of justice and reconciliation in Israel-Palestine by referring to the same in the South African context. Drawing from the South African experience, the article also offers some reflection on the role of the Church in the Israel-Palestine context.”
    https://hts.org.za/index.php/hts/pages/view/journal-information  

  7. National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine (NCCOP), “Open letter to the World Council of Churches and the ecumenical movement”
    In 2017, thirty-three Christian organizations—members of NCCOP—gathered in Bethlehem and wrote an open letter to the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the global ecumenical community. Among other requests, they called on the WCC to “recognize Israel as an apartheid state.” They pled, “We need your costly solidarity. We need brave women and men who are willing to stand in the forefront. This is no time for shallow diplomacy Christians.” They wrote, “Things are beyond urgent. We are on the verge of a catastrophic collapse. The current status-quo is unsustainable….”
    https://www.kairospalestine.ps/index.php/resources/statements/nccop-open-letter-to-the-wcc   

  8. UN Independent Human Rights Experts, “21st century apartheid”
    In June 2020, forty-seven independent human rights experts called for the international community to oppose Israel’s announced plan to annex significant parts of the occupied Palestinian West Bank beginning in mid-2020. They wrote, “Israel has recently promised that it will maintain permanent security control between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. Thus, the morning after annexation would be the crystallisation of an already unjust reality: two peoples living in the same space, ruled by the same state, but with profoundly unequal rights. This is a vision of 21st century apartheid.”
    https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/06/1066452

 

  1. Global Kairos for Justice, “Cry for Hope: A Call to Decisive Action”
    In July 2020, Global Kairos for Justice (GKJ)—a worldwide coalition born in response to the Kairos Palestine document, “A Moment of Truth”—released an urgent call to Christians, churches and ecumenical institutions to embark on seven concrete actions to recognize and end Israel’s apartheid. Citing a list of actions by the U.S. administration that blindly supported Israel, the document said, “In light of these events, it is time for the international community to recognize Israel as an apartheid state.”
    https://cryforhope.org/media/attachments/2020/06/30/cry-for-hope-english.pdf  

  2. International Criminal Court, “Statement of ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, respecting an investigation of the Situation in Palestine”
    In 2021, the International Criminal Court printed a statement by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in a news release announcing the opening of the court’s investigation into allegations of violations of human rights and international law. Bensouda said, “The decision to open an investigation followed a painstaking preliminary examination undertaken by my Office that lasted close to five years. During that period, and in accordance with our normal practice, the Office engaged with a wide array of stakeholders, including in regular and productive meetings with representatives of the Governments of Palestine and Israel, respectively.” In her statement, the prosecutor cautioned, “Investigations take time and they must be grounded objectively in facts and law.”
    https://www.icc-cpi.int/news/statement-icc-prosecutor-fatou-bensouda-respecting-investigation-situation-palestine   

  3. United Church of Christ General Synod, “Declaration for a Just Peace Between Palestine and Israel”
    At its 2021 church-wide Synod, the United Church of Christ passed a resolution that described Israel’s oppression of Palestinians as “a matter of theological urgency [representing] a sin in violation of the message of the biblical prophets and the Gospels.” The resolution cited “Israel’s apartheid system of laws and legal procedures.”
    https://www.globalministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/General-Synod-2021-Resolution-I-P.pdf   

  4. Former Israeli ambassadors, “It’s apartheid…”
    In 2021 on the South African website Ground Up, two former Israeli ambassadors to South Africa penned an OpEd, declaring, ““It is clearer than ever that the occupation is not temporary, and there is not the political will in the Israeli government to bring about its end.” Ilan Baruch served as Israeli Ambassador to South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe; Dr. Alon Liel served as Israeli Ambassador to South Africa and as Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They wrote, Israel is the sole sovereign power that operates in this land, and it systematically discriminates on the basis of nationality and ethnicity. Such a reality is, as we saw ourselves, apartheid. It is time for the world to recognize that what we saw in South Africa decades ago is happening in the occupied Palestinian territories too. And just as the world joined the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, it is time for the world to take decisive diplomatic action in our case as well and work towards building a future of equality, dignity, and security for Palestinians and Israelis alike.
    https://www.groundup.org.za/article/israeli-ambassadors-compare-israel-south-africa/

  5. Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the U.S. & Canada, “Compelled to Witness”
    In February 2022, leaders of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) issued Compelled to Witness, a Pastoral Letter endorsed by the church’s Division of Overseas Ministries board that speaks both to the Disciples denomination and for the denomination to the world. It reads, in part, “Israeli policies and practices that discriminate against Palestinians—Christians and Muslims alike—are consistent with the international legal definition of the crime of apartheid.”
    https://cdn.disciples.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/22222959/Compelled-to-Witness-DoC-I-P-Feb-2022.pdf 

  6. Jewish Voice for Peace, “Israeli Apartheid and the Path to Teshuvah”
    A February 2022 Open Letter to the Jewish Community from the Rabbinic Council of Jewish Voice for Peace states, As Jews of conscience, Israel’s system of apartheid has created a moral emergency for us. We cannot turn away. Instead, we long for the kinds of conversation which accurately reflect the reality on the ground, a reality that B’Tselem calls Jewish Supremacy….”
    https://www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org/2022/02/jvp-rabbinic-council-apartheid/   

  7. Jewish Electoral Institute
    A July 2021 survey commissioned by the Jewish Electorate Institute found that 34% of American Jews agreed “Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is similar to racism in the United States.” Some 25% agreed “Israel is an apartheid state” and 22% agreed “Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians.” 58%, said 7 it would be appropriate to restrict aid to Israel so it could not spend US money on settlements. The numbers climbed among younger Jews; more than a third of those under 40 gave Israel the “apartheid state” label. A July 2021 survey commissioned by the Jewish Electorate Institute found that 34% of American Jews agreed “Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is similar to racism in the United States.” Some 25% agreed “Israel is an apartheid state” and 22% agreed “Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians.” 58%, said 7 it would be appropriate to restrict aid to Israel so it could not spend US money on settlements. The numbers climbed among younger Jews; more than a third of those under 40 gave Israel the “apartheid state” label. A July 2021 survey commissioned by the Jewish Electorate Institute found that 34% of American Jews agreed “Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is similar to racism in the United States.” Some 25% agreed “Israel is an apartheid state” and 22% agreed “Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians.” 58%, said 7 it would be appropriate to restrict aid to Israel so it could not spend US money on settlements. The numbers climbed among younger Jews; more than a third of those under 40 gave Israel the “apartheid state” label. A July 2021 survey commissioned by the Jewish Electorate Institute found that 34% of American Jews agreed “Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is similar to racism in the United States.” Some 25% agreed “Israel is an apartheid state” and 22% agreed “Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians.” 58%, said 7 it would be appropriate to restrict aid to Israel so it could not spend US money on settlements. The numbers climbed among younger Jews; more than a third of those under 40 gave Israel the “apartheid state” label. https://www.jewishelectorateinstitute.org/july-2021-national-survey-of-jewish-voters/

  1. Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), Together Against Apartheid
    In March 2022, Independent Jewish Voices Canada, launched a campaign called Together Against Apartheid. According to the press release, the campaign is aimed at educating and empowering people across the country to end Israel’s oppression against Palestinians.
    https://togetheragainstapartheid.org/

    For complete text please view
    https://www.kairospalestine.ps/index.php/resources/publication/a-dossier-on-israeli-apartheid-a-pressing-call-to-churches-around-the-world