By Nils-Inge Kruhaug/NTB
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Norwegian-supported Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem have all concluded that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians in the occupied territories falls under the UN’s definition of apartheid, laid down in the so-called apartheid conventionn tion from 1973.
Israel’s embassy in Norway calls it “demonization to delegitimize Israel”
– This is anti-Semitism, and it is a denial of the State of Israel’s right to exist, it said a statement from the embassy when Amnesty presented its report last year.
Norway has not given up on the UN apartheid convention and believes that, despite its general wording, it was only drawn up with a view to South Africa.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs refers to that Norway has signed up to several other UN conventions that prohibit apartheid, and that Norwegian adherence to the apartheid convention therefore “will not add anything”.
Norway has also taken The Rome Statute to the International Criminal Court (ICC) into the penal code. They state that “an institutionalized regime based on one racial group’s systematic oppression of and domination over another racial group or other racial groups” is to be seen as the “crime of apartheid”.
– This is apartheid
The UN’s previous special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, Michael Lynk, was quite clear when he presented his report to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2022.
– This is apartheid, he said, pointing to the incessant confiscation of land, Israel’s constant expansion of settlements for Jews, two different legal systems and the enormous divide in political rights.
Former President of the United States Jimmy Carter concluded the same in 2006and so did South Africa’s archbishop Desmond Tutu before he died. Tutu received the Nobel Peace Prize for his fight against apartheid in 1984.
The former head of the Israeli intelligence organization Mossad, Tamir Pardo, also concluded recently with Israel being an apartheid state.
– It is an apartheid state here, he stated.
But Norway disagrees.
– I agree that the development is going in the direction of a one-state reality where there are not equal rights for everyone who lives there, says Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt (Ap) to NTB.
However, she will not use the word apartheid.
– Apartheid is a legal term with a legally defined content. It is primarily the judiciary’s task to determine whether such a serious international crime has taken place, she says.
NTB has asked the same question to several of Huitfeldt’s predecessors in the foreign minister’s chair.
– In principle, legal questions should not be judged by politicians, but left to the courts, says Ine Marie Eriksen (H).
Secretary General Jon Peder Egenæs of Amnesty Norway calls the argument strange.
– If they were to apply this principle to all situations, then they could not say that the Russians are committing war crimes in Ukraine or that torture is occurring in Iran. It also formally requires legal assessments, he tells NTB.
– It is important that states are willing to criticize other states for abuse without it being confirmed by a court ruling, because states do everything they can to avoid these cases reaching any court, Egenæs believes.
– Our opinion is that Norwegian politicians do not find it politically opportune to use the term apartheid, he says.
Does not take a position
Børge Brende (H) has not responded to NTB’s inquiry. Neither has Thorbjørn Jagland (Ap).
Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre (Ap), who was foreign minister from 2005 to 2012, will not use the word apartheid in his mouth when it comes to Israel.
– The spiral of violence and lack of a political solution lead to poor living conditions and that hope for the future is weakened on both sides. The situation is particularly serious for the Palestinians, he tells NTB.
The predecessor Jan Petersen (H) does not want to take a position either.
– I’m probably a bit rusty when it comes to the Middle East, he says.
– It makes no sense… to discuss whether the Israeli occupation qualifies to be called an apartheid system, says Knut Vollebæk (KrF), who was foreign minister from 1997 to 2000.
Godal is the exception
The only former foreign minister who believes Israel has established an apartheid regime is Bjørn Tore Godal (Ap).
– I mainly support Carter’s and Desmond Tutu’s view, he says to NTB.
Godal took over as foreign minister when Johan Jørgen Holst died in 1994, four months after he had unloaded the Oslo agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. He was foreign minister until 1997 and later defense minister in Jens Stoltenberg’s first government.
As a youth politician, Godal was strongly involved in the fight against apartheid in South Africa, and earlier this year he also advocated that Norway must recognize Palestine as a state.
Facts about apartheid
- The word apartheid means separation in Afrikaans.
- Historically, the term was used for the white minority regime’s systematic oppression of South Africa’s black majority.
- The term is defined in the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, known as United Nations Apartheid Convention adopted in 1973.
- The Convention categorizes apartheid as a crime against humanity.
- The Rome Statute until the International Criminal Court (ICC) states that “an institutionalized regime based on the systematic oppression and domination by one racial group of another racial group or other racial groups” is to be regarded as the “crime of apartheid”.
- Amnesty International , Human Rights Watch Israeli BŽTselem and UN special envoy Michael Lynk have all concluded in reports that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians in the occupied territories falls under the concept of apartheid.