In a televised interview with the Al Mayadeen news outlet on July 17th, Michael Lynk shared his thoughts on the Israeli occupation of Palestine during his six-year tenure as Special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the region.
When asked by the T.V anchor he described the situation saying that although he hadn’t anticipated to be tackling apartheid at the beginning of his term and initially thought that bringing up such a word might “have doors closed” in front of him leaving him unable to speak to or be heard by politicians, decision-makers, or diplomats.
Calling a spade, Apartheid
Lynk resorted, for the first four or five years, of his mandated special rapporteur to focus on Israeli breaches of international human rights law and international humanitarian law covering various topics until the terminology of occupation no longer fit the situation on the ground.
“So I wrote about the right to health care, the right to natural resources, I wrote about the accountability of international organizations and their failure to hold Israel to account for its breaches of international law for its breaches view and resolutions but as I was becoming towards the end of my tenure, say this time last year I began to realize that uh this occupation this 75-year-old occupation by Israel of the Palestinian territory: east Jerusalem the west bank and Gaza, well the term occupation and the framework of international humanitarian law no longer accurately captured what was going on.”
Why an Apartheid?
After Israel had made it very clear that they were going to rule between the Jordan river and the mediterranean sea permanently. Lynk realized that there always would be a segregated systemic discriminatory system in place between Jews and Palestinians and this seems to me to meet the definition of apartheid.
as the Special rapporteur began to ‘explore more deeply’ and he concluded in his 12th and final report that certainly in the occupied Palestinian territory this was apartheid seeing that no other term found in the English language or the international vocabulary to sum it better
“What other term do you have in the international vocabulary to describe a situation where one group of people live with all of the rights and privileges of citizenship of high standards of living in deeply segregated communities and the indigenous people–the vast majority–live with no rights at all, neither under domestic nor international law, and suffer from inhumane acts and have no prospect of independence or self-determination on their political horizon. There’s no other word in the English language or in the international political vocabulary to describe this but Apartheid”
Lack of accountability: The path of willful blindness
The special rapporteur mentioned that despite the massive, 55-years-long, well-documented instances of the atrocities–that have been equally and independently presented by both Israeli and Palestinian professionals and international organizations such as amnesty and human rights watch– the Israeli occupation has imposed on the Palestinians, we find Israel in a state of impunity.
“The international community with This wealth of information in front of it chooses… the path of willful blindness and not wanting to impose meaningful accountability measures.
“An international community that allows one of its members [israel] to go rogue, … particularly among the key decision-makers in North America and Europe there is no appetite at all for wanting to challenge Israel they’re content to allow Israel to manage this conflict and show no path uh for a political future for the Palestinians and so what would you expect when there is uh when there is a constant rebellion”
when asked about the criticism and prejudices he faced, Lynk stated that during his six-year-old tenure he wasn’t allowed by the Israeli Occupation authorities into either Israel or the Palestinian territories. this led Lynk to what he describes as ‘a plan B’ that is that he’d visit Amman instead and arrange meetings with researchers and review the literature that had enabled him to write his 12 reports with immense accuracy.
“I had I have enough statistics I have enough law to be able to say accurately what is going on there, but it would have helped my reports had I’ve been able to meet the victims of human rights abuses: to be able to tell their stories, to be able to see with my own eyes what military occupation actually means for Palestinians in Gaza or East Jerusalem or the west bank as it is I think my reports stand on them stand by themselves as a solid piece of you and reporting”
The situation in Gaza:
Lynk described the situation in Gaza as “An alien power barricading in a medieval siege, a large population… and we’re talking about two million plus people living in Gaza. Probably 90 percent of them have never been outside of the Gaza strip in their entire lives. [where lives] a very young population around 70 percent of the population Gaza is under the age of of 30.”
Lynk described the economy in Gaza as “flat on its back” with an unemployment rate of around between 45 and 50 percent–which is the highest unemployment rate in any economic unit that the world bank looks at.
He described the issues faced by the health care system as its “inability to import medicines and medical equipment to be able to meet the health needs of the population.”
He also talked about the situation in relation to the water resource. “97 of the one water coastal aquifer underneath Gaza is undrinkable because of pollution by sewage and seawater. He also addressed the low water per capita consumed per citizen in Gaza
He described the power shortage in the strip, “Gazans have somewhere between four and 12 hours of power each day. that’s all, so you can imagine having to live your lives with planning about what goes into the fridge what doesn’t go into the fridge when you shop, and so on.
He addressed low income in the strip that is “much lower than the west bank and east Jerusalem”
Lynk summed up by saying, “So the kind of siege that is imposed upon Gaza and the many wars since 2008, 2009, 2012, 2014 the great march of return 2018 and the bombardment in 2021, all of this has drawn uh independent commissions of inquiry coming from the UN human rights council to examine what happened and what should be the recommendations going to the international community.”
He continued by saying, “Each occasion these international reports have said there is an accountability crisis. Israel does not investigate the violence and the human rights violations that its military commits, and there is no meaningful accountability imposed by the international community for the thousands of deaths and the millions and millions of dollars of destruction imposed upon Gaza by this repeated cycle of wars and violence visited upon it.
“Until and unless the international community is willing to stand up to Israel demand accountability and bring an end to the occupation I’m afraid we’re going to continue seeing these patterns,” Lynk expressed concern.
Include Hamas and End Blockade
Lynk called for the end of the blockade on Gaza and stressed the importance of including Hamas on the negation table. saying that excluding Hamas only prolongs the conflict and used Irlend as a parallel in comparison.
“Ireland offers all kinds of interesting parallels for approaching our understanding of Israel and Palestine and among others, you know the British would have abhorred the strategy and tactics of the IRA during the 1970s and 1980s into the 1990s, but they realized they had to talk to the IRA along with other political representatives of the people in Northern Ireland in order to be able to get a good Friday agreement and that’s the same issue.”
“You don’t talk to your friends when you want peace you talk to your enemies and if Israel is an enemy of Hamas and vice versa then it means talking to them, including them, and beginning to hand them the responsibility… and if you want to deliberately exclude Hamas you are prolonging the conflict”
The issue of Israel and Palestine in a nutshell
“The outline for a solution for Israel has been known for decades and decades the problem is Israel refuses to accept it Israel demands the ability to keep on colonizing because there’s no better word than that colonizing Palestinian territory in order to be able to expand its boundaries and expand its uh its control of one people over another that’s the issue of Israel and Palestine in a nutshell.”