We refer to the press statement by the president of the Bar Council on March 18.
The president writes that the "Malaysian Bar is committed to preserving and protecting the international rule of law, and strongly supports the people of Ukraine in their brave defence of their country". Unfortunately, the Bar Council has taken a position without knowledge about the roots of the conflict.
University of Chicago professor John Mearsheimer, an international relations scholar, blames the West for provoking the conflict. He writes:
"… the US and its European allies share most of the responsibility for the crisis. The taproot of the trouble is Nato enlargement, the central element of a larger strategy to move Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit and integrate it into the West… Since the mid-1990s, Russian leaders have adamantly opposed Nato enlargement and in recent years, they have made it clear that they would not stand by while their strategically important neighbour turned into a Western bastion..."
In a 1998 interview, shortly after the US Senate approved the first round of Nato expansion, US diplomat George Kennan warned, "I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anyone else."
We agree with Bar Council’s position that upholding international law is important, and we ask the Council to extend this to the plight of the Palestinian people, too.
The Zionist dream of a state exclusively for Jews in Palestine has morphed into a violent rogue apartheid state there. In 2017, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA) published a report prepared by two eminent jurists which concluded that, on the basis of scholarly inquiry and overwhelming evidence, Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid, which is second only to genocide in the in the hierarchy of criminality.
Subsequently, Israeli and Western human rights organisations B’tselem, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International published reports corroborating the finding of ESCWA B’tselem’s report is headlined "A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid".
In its 2022 report, Amnesty International concluded that "the totality of the regime of laws, policies and practices described in this report demonstrates that Israel has established and maintained an institutionalized regime of oppression and domination of the Palestinian population for the benefit of Jewish Israelis – a system of apartheid –wherever it has exercised control over Palestinians’ lives since 1948".
The report accuses the international community of standing by as Israel has been given free rein to dispossess, segregate, control, oppress and dominate Palestinians. It warns that inaction in the face of these gross violations has contributed to undermining the international legal order and has emboldened Israel to continue perpetrating crimes with impunity. In fact, some states, particularly the US, have been providing diplomatic cover, including at the UN Security Council, to shield it from accountability.
Michael Ben-Yair, a former attorney-general of Israel, wrote in 2022 that Israel’s ongoing domination over the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem is a gross injustice that must be urgently rectified. He said: "It is with great sadness that I must conclude that my country has sunk to such low political and moral depths that it is now an apartheid regime. It is time for the international community to recognise this reality as well."
Early last year, the outgoing UN special rapporteur Michael Lynk submitted his report to the UN Human Rights Council on the human rights situation in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967. He concluded that "the political system of entrenched rule in the occupied Palestinian territory which endows one racial-national-ethnic group (Jews) with substantial rights, benefits and privileges while intentionally subjecting another group (Palestinians) to live behind walls, checkpoints and under a permanent military rule… satisfies the prevailing evidentiary standard for the existence of apartheid".
He recommends that the international community accept and adopt the findings by Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights organizations that apartheid is being practised by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory and beyond. Apartheid is among the most serious crimes under international law and all states have a duty to cooperate to end it. The Apartheid Convention empowers states parties to exercise universal jurisdiction over the crime against humanity of apartheid. Thus, Israeli leaders and top military officials can be prosecuted and punished for the crime against humanity of apartheid.
He calls on the United Nations to re-establish the Special Committee Against Apartheid to investigate any and all practices of systematic discrimination and oppression purportedly amounting to apartheid anywhere in the world, including the occupied Palestinian territory.
Since the Bar Council assets that it is committed to upholding to the rule of international law, we call on it to:
1. Issue a press statement condemning Israel for its practice of apartheid against Palestinians.
2. Support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign launched by Palestinian civil society organisations.
3. Organise conferences, workshops and seminars to study the several reports’ findings that Israel practices Apartheid against the Palestinians and formulate a plan to contribute to the global action to dismantle Israeli apartheid.
Mohideen Abdul Kader is a board member of Citizens International.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.