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UN report compares israel to south africa { February 23 2007 }

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U.N. human rights expert says Israeli occupation resembles apartheid

By Bradley S. Klapper

2:28 p.m. February 23, 2007

GENEVA – An independent report commissioned by the United Nations compares Israel's actions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to apartheid in South Africa – charges that have drawn angry rebukes from Israel.

The report by John Dugard, independent investigator on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the U.N. Human Rights Council, is to be presented next month. It has already been posted on the body's Web site.

In the report, Dugard, a South African lawyer who campaigned against his country's system of state-sanctioned racial segregation in the 1980s, says “Israel's laws and practices in the (Palestinian territories) certainly resemble aspects of apartheid.”

The report catalogues a number of accusations against the Jewish state ranging from restrictions on Palestinian movement, house demolitions and preferential treatment given to Jewish settlers in the West Bank.

“Can it seriously be denied that the purpose of such action is to establish and maintain domination by one racial group – Jews – over another racial group – Palestinians – and systematically oppress them?” he wrote in the report.

Israel maintains that its actions are aimed at preventing Palestinian suicide bombings and other attacks that have killed more than 1,000 Israelis in the past six years. Officials say the violence broke out in 2000 after Israel's proposal to pull out of the vast majority of the West Bank and Gaza in exchange for peace was rejected.

Israel's ambassador in Geneva criticized Dugard for directing attacks only at the Jewish state.

“Any conclusions he may draw are therefore fundamentally flawed and purposely biased,” said Yitzhak Levanon.

The report will be presented next month at the 47-nation Human Rights Council's first session of the year. The new body has been widely criticized – even by its founder, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan – for censuring only one government in the world, Israel's, over alleged abuses.

Dugard's report says war crimes have been committed by both sides, though it reserves its harshest criticism for Israel.

“This applies to Palestinians who fire Qassam rockets into Israel; and more so to members of the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) who have committed such crimes on a much greater scale,” he wrote.

Dugard was appointed in 2001 as an unpaid 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.

Former President Jimmy Carter was criticized late last year for entitling his most recent book on the Israel-Palestinian peace process, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.”

The reference to apartheid angered some Jewish leaders because it appeared to equate the South African system with Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

Carter has said his use of the term “apartheid” did not apply to circumstances within Israel, and that he was referring to the desire of a minority of Israelis for Palestinian land and the resulting suppression of protests that involve violence.

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