Welsh Secretary calls for Cardiff conference which calls Israel an ‘apartheid state’ to be cancelled
Welsh Secretary David TC Davies has called on Sir Keir Starmer to discipline a Welsh Labour MP if she addresses a conference in Cardiff which labels Israel as an “apartheid state”.
Cynon Valley MP Beth Winter is billed to make a speech alongside other speakers including Dr Husam Zomlot, head of the Palestinian Mission to the UK and representatives of Amnesty International UK and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) at a conference to be held in Cardiff’s Temple of Peace on November 4.
In a letter to Sir Keir, Mr Davies stated: “Amnesty International and the Palestine Solidarity Group [sic – actually Campaign rather than Group] will be holding an event … to discuss what they call ‘apartheid’ in Israel. Neither of these organisations have unequivocally condemned the appalling atrocities being committed against innocent civilians … It has been drawn to my attention that at present one of your MPs has agreed to participate in the conference.
“I have asked her to withdraw and called for the conference to be cancelled. I would be grateful if you could tell me whether you will ask other Welsh Labour MPs to refrain from supporting [PSC] events and take disciplinary action against those who do so.
“I hope you agree [that the event] runs the real risk of fuelling further fear for British Jews living in Wales and elsewhere and should not be given any political support.”
A calling notice for the conference posted on social media states: “Hear from outstanding speakers who will shed light on the facts behind reports from leading organisations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and B’Tselem, unequivocally recognizing Israel’s policies towards Palestinians as apartheid.”
All three human rights organisations have condemned Israel for its “apartheid” policies.
Last year Amnesty International released a report which said: “A system of apartheid is an institutionalized regime of oppression and domination by one racial group over another. It is a serious human rights violation which is prohibited in public international law. Amnesty International’s extensive research and legal analysis, carried out in consultation with external experts, demonstrates that Israel enforces such a system against Palestinians through laws, policies and practices which ensure their prolonged and cruel discriminatory treatment.
“In international criminal law, specific unlawful acts which are committed within a system of oppression and domination, with the intention of maintaining it, constitute the crime against humanity of apartheid. These acts are set out in the Apartheid Convention and the Rome Statute, and include unlawful killing, torture, forcible transfer, and the denial of basic rights and freedoms.
“Amnesty International documented acts proscribed in the Apartheid Convention and Rome Statute in all the areas Israel controls, although they occur more frequently and violently in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) than in Israel. Israeli authorities enact multiple measures to deliberately deny Palestinians their basic rights and freedoms, including draconian movement restrictions in the OPT, chronic discriminatory underinvestment in Palestinian communities in Israel, and the denial of refugees’ right to return. The report also documents forcible transfer, administrative detention, torture, and unlawful killings, in both Israel and the OPT.
“Amnesty International found that these acts form part of a systematic and widespread attack directed against the Palestinian population, and are committed with the intent to maintain the system of oppression and domination. They therefore constitute the crime against humanity of apartheid.
“The unlawful killing of Palestinian protesters is perhaps the clearest illustration of how Israeli authorities use proscribed acts to maintain the status quo. In 2018, Palestinians in Gaza began to hold weekly protests along the border with Israel, calling for the right of return for refugees and an end to the blockade. Before protests even began, senior Israeli officials warned that Palestinians approaching the wall would be shot. By the end of 2019, Israeli forces had killed 214 civilians, including 46 children.”
In 2021, Human Rights Watch issued a report which also referred to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as “apartheid”. The report said: “About 6.8m Jewish Israelis and 6.8m Palestinians live today between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River, an area encompassing Israel and the OPT, the latter made up of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Throughout most of this area, Israel is the sole governing power; in the remainder, it exercises primary authority alongside limited Palestinian self-rule. Across these areas and in most aspects of life, Israeli authorities methodically privilege Jewish Israelis and discriminate against Palestinians. Laws, policies, and statements by leading Israeli officials make plain that the objective of maintaining Jewish Israeli control over demographics, political power, and land has long guided government policy.
“In pursuit of this goal, authorities have dispossessed, confined, forcibly separated, and subjugated Palestinians by virtue of their identity to varying degrees of intensity. In certain areas, as described in this report, these deprivations are so severe that they amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.”
Also in 2021, B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories published a report which accused Israel of being guilty of apartheid. The report said: “The Israeli regime … seeks to advance and cement Jewish supremacy throughout the entire area. To that end, it has divided the area into several units, each with a different set of rights for Palestinians – always inferior to the rights of Jews. As part of this policy, Palestinians are denied many rights, including the right to self-determination.
“This policy is advanced in several ways. Israel demographically engineers the space through laws and orders that allow any Jew in the world or their relatives to obtain Israeli citizenship, but almost completely deny Palestinians this possibility. It has physically engineered the entire area by taking over millions of dunams of land and establishing Jewish-only communities, while driving Palestinians into small enclaves. Movement is engineered through restrictions on Palestinian subjects, and political engineering excludes millions of Palestinians from participating in the processes that determine their lives and futures while holding them under military occupation.
“A regime that uses laws, practices and organized violence to cement the supremacy of one group over another is an apartheid regime. Israeli apartheid, which promotes the supremacy of Jews over Palestinians, was not born in one day or of a single speech. It is a process that has gradually grown more institutionalised and explicit, with mechanisms introduced over time in law and practice to promote Jewish supremacy. These accumulated measures, their pervasiveness in legislation and political practice, and the public and judicial support they receive – all form the basis for our conclusion that the bar for labelling the Israeli regime as apartheid has been met.”
The PSC issued a statement which said: “Every humanitarian will be appalled and horrified at the scenes we are witnessing after the severe escalation of violence since October 7.
“International law must be the framework within which we judge acts of violence and their legitimacy. International law makes it clear that the deliberate killing of civilians, hostage-taking and collective punishment are war crimes. International law also enshrines the right of a people to resist oppression and military occupation.
“An offensive launched from Gaza can only be understood in the context of Israel’s ongoing military occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land, and imposition of a system of oppression that meets the legal definition of apartheid, which under international law constitutes a crime against humanity.”
Amnesty International, Beth Winter and the Labour Party have been invited to comment.
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