United Nations: In response to Unprecedented Recognition of Israel’s Apartheid Regime, States Must Take Concrete Steps to End this unjust reality

Geneva – The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) delivered a joint statement on behalf of 114 Palestinian, regional, and international civil society organizations, sending a strong message to….

Geneva – The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) delivered a joint statement on behalf of 114 Palestinian, regional, and international civil society organizations, sending a strong message to UN member states that now is the time to recognize Israel’s establishment and perpetuation of an apartheid regime over the Palestinian people as a whole, including Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line and Palestinian refugees and exiles abroad.

“Civil society from around the world has resoundingly affirmed its support for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and their pursuit of international justice and accountability. It is only by recognizing the reality of Israel’s apartheid regime that we can begin to work together to overcome apartheid in the 21st century,” said Elizabeth Rghebi, Levant Researcher for CIHRS.

Delivered during the 43rd regular session of the UN Human Rights Council under item 9, which addresses issues of racism, racial discrimination, and xenophobia, the joint statement reiterated the persistent failure of third states to put an end to Israeli impunity. Beginning 1 July 2020, the Israeli government is set to move forward with plans to illegally annex large parts of the occupied West Bank, which will further entrench Israel’s apartheid regime of systematic racial domination and oppression over the Palestinian people. As annexation looms, forty-seven UN rights experts have warned that “The morning after annexation would be the crystallization 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 a 21st century apartheid.”

Accordingly, the organizations called for the reconstitution of the UN Special Committee against Apartheid and the UN Center against Apartheid as critical steps towards ending Israel’s institutionalized impunity and apartheid regime. These mechanisms would serve as an important avenue to monitor Israel’s widespread and systematic human rights violations against the Palestinian people and ensure that third States abide by their responsibility under international law responsibility not to aid or assist in the maintenance of Israel’s apartheid regime and to cooperate to bring an end to apartheid through the auspices of the UN.

In addition, the organizations called on UN member states to endorse the December 2019 concluding observations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which recognized, for the first time, the disproportionate impact of Israeli policies and practices of racial segregation and apartheid on Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line. This followed the submission of a comprehensive joint parallel report to CERD by Palestinian, regional, and international civil society organizations, which detailed Israel’s establishment and maintenance of an apartheid regime over all Palestinians.

Countries including South Africa, Namibia, and Pakistan raised concerns about Israeli apartheid during the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council. In a statement under agenda item 7 – on the situation of human rights in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories – South Africa said, “My delegation expressed concern last year that the annexation of Palestinian territory was highly likely. The CERD found in its December 2019 observations that the strategic fragmentation of the Palestinian people formed part of a policy and practice of segregation and apartheid. Annexation would be yet another example of complete impunity that makes a mockery of this Council and would gravely breach international law.”

Pakistan underscored the right to self-determination as a fundamental human right of people under illegal foreign occupation or alien domination – a right that Palestinians and millions elsewhere continue to be deprived decade after decade: “During the past 70 years, [Palestinians] have been driven from their homes and their homeland, militarily occupied and obliged to live in conditions resembling apartheid.”

During the general debate under item 9, Namibia drew a parallel to its own historical experience under occupation and apartheid and said, “We remain steadfast in our pursuit to see increased concrete action towards the elimination of racism, racial discrimination and related intolerances globally, including those under foreign occupation such as Western Sahara and Palestine.

“Yesterday, South Africa and Namibia, countries which overcame apartheid, spoke out against Israel’s apartheid regime and denounced the widespread and systematic human rights violations committed against the Palestinian people. They know apartheid when they see it. We call on all UN member states to follow South Africa and Namibia’s lead and to take a courageous stand against Israeli apartheid imposed on the Palestinian people as a whole and to work to bring this injustice to an end,” said Rania Muhareb, Legal Researcher and Advocacy Officer with the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq.

43rd Regular Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council
Joint Oral Intervention: International Community Must Recognize and Counter Israel’s Apartheid Regime
Item 9: Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action
Date: 16 June 2020
Speaker: Ms Nada Awad, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

Madam President,

Since 1948, Palestinians have faced an ongoing Nakba of continued displacement and dispossession, as part of Israel’s endeavour to uproot the indigenous Palestinian people from their homes, lands, and property. For 72 years, Israel has strategically fragmented, segregated, and isolated the Palestinian people, denying the right of return of Palestinian refugees, revoking residency rights and banning family unification – thus imposing an apartheid regime over the Palestinian people, as defined under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Embedded in a system of impunity, civic space continues to deteriorate as Israel systematically silences opposition to its apartheid regime through mass arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment, and widespread collective punishment, including through the illegal Gaza closure, as well as Government-led smear campaigns to delegitimise human rights defenders and organisations, a process fuelled by racist hate speech and incitement to racial hatred and violence.

In the coming weeks, the Israeli government seeks to illegally annex large parts of the occupied West Bank. The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Palestine has warned that Israel’s plans “would crystalize a 21st century apartheid, leaving in its wake the demise of the Palestinians’ right to self-determination.”[[OHCHR, “Israeli annexation plans would lead to ‘cascade of bad human rights consequences’ says UN expert,” 1 May 2020, available at: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=25857&LangID=E.]]

Your Excellency,

Third States have systematically failed to put an end to Israeli impunity and to uphold the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. It is time to recognise that Israel has established and continues to maintain an apartheid regime of institutionalised racial oppression and domination over all Palestinians, on both sides of the Green Line, and refugees and exiles that are denied their right of return.

Accordingly, we urge all UN Member States to:

Recognise and address Israeli apartheid over the Palestinian people;
Endorse UN CERD’s 2019 concluding observations on Israel, which recognised policies of racial segregation and apartheid over Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line; and
Recommend the reconstitution of the UN Special Committee against Apartheid and the UN Centre against Apartheid to put an end to this injustice.

Thank you.



Agir pour le changement et la Démocratie en Algérie
Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights


Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)


Women in Black Vienna


Association Belgo-Palestinienne WB
Broederlijk Delen
Palestina Solidariteit vzw


Just Peace Advocates


Belady Center for Rights and Freedoms
Committee for Justice
Egyptian Front for Human Rights
The Freedom Initiative


Finnish-Arab Friendship Society
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions – Finland


Association France Palestine Solidarité
Association Démocratique des Tunisiens en France –ADTF
Association des Travailleurs Maghrébins Maghrébins de France
Association des universitaires pour le respect du droit international en Palestine (AURDIP)
Collectif des Familles de Disparu(e)s en Algérie
Collectif Judéo Arabe et Citoyen pour la Palestine
Immigration- Développement- Démocratie
Le Comité de Vigilance pour la Démocratie en Tunisie – Belgique
Mouvement contre le Racisme et pour l’Amitié entre les peuples (MRAP)
Réseau Euromaghrébin Citoyenneté et Culture
Union Juive Française pour la Paix (UJFP)


Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Sadaka – The Ireland Palestine Alliance


The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)


Associazione Cultura è Libertà


Center for Arab Unity Studies
Palestinian Human Rights Organization (PHRO)


Belaady Organization for Human Rights
Libyan Judges Organization
Libyan Organization for Independent Media
Independent Organisation for Human Rights
International Arabic Organization for Women’s Rights
Jurists Without Chains
Youth Gathering for Tawargha


Comité pour une Paix Juste au Proche-Orient


Association de Défense des Droits de l’Homme au Maroc


Netherlands Palestine Committee (NPK)


Coordination Committee for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of the State of Israel

Occupied Syrian Golan

Al Marsad – Arab Human Rights Center in Golan Heights


Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association
Al Dameer Association for Human Rights
Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights
Applied Research Institute Jerusalem
Bait AlMostuqbul Association
Baitona For Community And Development
Balsam Rehabilitation Society
Center for Defense of Liberties and Civil Rights (Hurryyat)
Community Action Center, Al-Quds University
Fares Al Arab for Development and Charity Works
Forsan Al-Ghad Youth Association‏
Human Rights and Democracy Media Center (SHAMS)
Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC)
MA’AN Development Center
Nuseirat Rehabilitation and Social Training Association (NRSTA)
Palestinian Agricultural Development Association
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)
Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network
Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies (RCHRS)
The Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem
The National Society for Rehabilitation
The Palestinian Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession (MUSAWA)
The Palestinian Counselling Centre (PCC)
The Palestinian Developmental Women Studies Association “PDWSA”
The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy – MIFTAH
The Palestine Institute for Public Policy
Union of Health Care Committees
Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC)
Women’s Studies Centre
Youth Political Forum
Zakher Association


Bytes for All

South Africa

Lawyers for Human Rights
South African Jews for a Free Palestine


Association Switzerland-Palestine
Human Rights Solidarity


Baytna Syria
Local Development and Small-Projects Support (LDSPS)
Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM)


Coalition Togolaise des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CTDDH)


Fédération Tunisienne pour une Citoyenneté des deux Rives
L’Union des Tunisiens pour l’Action Citoyenne
National Observatory for the Defense of the Civil State
Syndicat National des Journalistes Tunisiens
The Committee for the Respect of Freedoms and Human Rights in Tunisia
Tunisian Association Defending Individual Liberties
Tunisian Association for the Defense of Universal Values
Tunisian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State

United Kingdom

Manchester Palestine Action
Scottish Palestinian Forum
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions – United Kingdom

United States of America

Albuquerque Peace and Justice Center
American Muslims for Palestine
Center for Constitutional Rights
Jewish Voice for Peace
Santa Feans for Justice in Palestine
US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR)


Mwatana for Human Rights
Watch for Human Rights

Regional Organizations


European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine (ECCP)
The European Legal Support Center

Middle East and North Africa:

Arab Network for Tolerance
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)

East and Horn of Africa:


West Africa:

West African Human Rights Defenders’ Network

International Organizations

Housing and Land Rights Network – Habitat International Coalition