GENEVA, (AP) -An independent expert told the U.N. human rights council on Thursday that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is comparable to apartheid.
John Dugard, a South African investigator on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said that “anyone who experienced apartheid has a sense of deja vu when visiting the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territories).”
Dugard, a lawyer who campaigned against apartheid in the 1980s, presented his findings on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories to the 47-nation council, which commissioned the report last year.
His comments drew an immediate rebuke from Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, who said Dugard had resorted to “inflammatory and inciteful language” which did not contribute to a constructive dialogue on the Middle East question.
The report was “utterly one-sided, highly selective, and unreservedly biased,” Itzhak Levanon added.
The one-year-old council has so far only passed resolutions critical of one country — Israel. Muslim countries have proposed three further resolutions for the current session of the council that condemn the actions of the Jewish state.
The 24-page document, which was posted on the council’s Web site last month, catalogues a number of accusations against the Jewish state ranging from destruction of Palestinian houses to preferential treatment for Jewish settlers in the West Bank.
Dugard’s account of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians echoes that of former President Carter’s most recent book, “Palestine: Peace not Apartheid.” The work drew widespread condemnation in Israel and the United States and prompted 14 advisory board members of Carter’s foundation to resign.
Dugard said that he had previously refrained from using the term apartheid “on account of the sensitivity of the issue.”
But the uproar over Carter’s book “and the serious attempts to impugn his integrity, particularly in the United States, has led me to reconsider this decision,” Dugard said.
Citing the existence of separate residential areas for Jews and Palestinians in Hebron, as well as separate roads for Jewish settlers and Palestinians in the West Bank and Jordan Valley, he said Israel’s actions clearly violated international conventions.
“Can it seriously be denied that such acts are committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over another racial group,” Dugard said.
Dugard was appointed in 2001 as an unpaid, independent expert by the now-defunct U.N. Human Rights Commission to investigate only violations by the Israeli side, prompting Israel and the United States to dismiss his reports as one-sided. Israel refused to allow him to conduct a fact-finding mission on its Gaza offensive last summer.