• Irungu Houghton

AU should back Amnesty report on Israel, revoke status


This week’s Amnesty International findings and conclusions that Israel is an apartheid state and has committed gross human rights violations comes days before President Kenyatta and 54 other Heads of States physically attend the African Union Summit this weekend. The report must inform how Kenyan and African Governments respond to the recent admission of Israel as an observer to the African Union.


Imagine coming from an ethnic or racial community where your identity card prevented you freely travelling across Kenya, locked you out of essential services and increased the risk of forced evictions, arbitrary detention, torture and death. Imagine your identity being the very basis for segregating, discriminating, and oppressing you.


Recently, most Kenyans quickly identified the danger of ethnic cleansing in post-colonial Kenya in their visceral public reaction to Senator Mithika Linturi’s reckless “madoadoa” remark recently.However, only Kenya’s First Liberation generation, now in their seventies and eighties, could authentically re-create the experiences described in this week’s 276-page Amnesty International report.


The report graphically documents the collective experience of 6.8 million Palestinians living in Israel and the Israeli occupied territories of Gaza, West Bank and East Jerusalem. A staggering 49 per cent of Palestinians are registered as refugees by Israeli authorities elected by an Israeli population of 8.3 million. A carefully calibrated set of legal, policy and administrative measures restrict movement, under-investment in services and enable forced evictions, arbitrary detention, torture and unlawful killings of Palestinians.


Two wars in 1947-49 and 1967 and Israel’s ongoing military rule of the Palestinian territories have separated Palestinian communities from each other and segregated them from Jewish Israelis. Fragmented politically and geographically, Palestinians experience discrimination based on their status and where they live.


For several decades now, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have been stateless, requiring ID cards from the Israeli military to live and work in the territories. Unlike Jewish Israelis, Palestinian citizens in Israel are denied a nationality. In areas like Negev Naqab, East Jerusalem and elsewhere, authorities deny building permits to Palestinians, forcing them to build illegal structures which can be arbitrarily demolished.


Jewish Israeli settlements today cover 10 per cent of the West Bank and 38 per cent of Palestinian land in East Jerusalem. More recently, Sheikh Jarrah, has become the site of frequent protests over the last year as families battle to keep their homes. Each wave of relentless migration privileges Jewish Israelis with more land and resources and minimizes Palestinian presence and rights.


Military checkpoints, 700-kilometre fences and other barriers restrict Palestinian travel into Israel or abroad. With 90 percent having no access to safe drinking water, 47 percent unemployed and 56 percent living in poverty in Gaza, Israeli policies are causing a humanitarian crisis. Protest is also costly. Nearly 10 percent of the 4,236 Palestinians currently in Israeli prisons are being held without charge or trial. 4,868 Palestinians, two fifths of them children, have been killed in armed conflict over the last few decades.


Israeli authorities and Jewish groups in the United States and across Europe swiftly condemned the Amnesty report as biased and “anti-semitic”. The US Administration, Israel’s most powerful state ally, is still studying the report. The report will fuel a South Africa led continental campaign to reverse the unilateral decision by AU Commission Moussa Faki to controversially admit Israel as an observer to the African Union last year.


There are several reasons why the Kenyan Government should support Amnesty’s recommendations and the revocation of Israel’s observer status. They include Kenya’s own experience of settler colonialism, our two-state solution position, and our current critical role in the UN Council. Lastly, let us not provoke another domestic terrorist attack based on misguided foreign policy positions.


Jews and Palestinians have an equal right to self-determination, to be called Jewish and Palestinian states and to govern under international human rights law. Let us not betray our own historical struggle for freedom, commitment to stateless people and Kenya’s role as international player at this juncture.


Global solidarity is a verb, let’s consistently practise it.


This opinion was also published in the Saturday Standard, 5 February 2022


To read the Amnesty report for yourself

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2022/02/israels-apartheid-against-palestinians-a-cruel-system-of-domination-and-a-crime-against-humanity/

On South Africa's leadership on the revocation of Israel's observer status at the African Union

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2022-02-02-south-africa-leads-charge-to-cancel-israels-observer-status-at-the-african-union/