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Ban Ki-moon and Mary Robinson: 'Growing evidence' of apartheid in Palestine

Former UN secretary-general and ex-head of UN's refugee agency warn of 'one-state reality'
Chair of the Elders Mary Robinson, the first woman President of Ireland, left, and Ban Ki-moon, former UN Secretary-General, right, Deputy Chair of the Elders, speak during an interview in Tel Aviv, Israel, Thursday, June 22, 2023 (AP)
Former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and ex-head of the UN's refugee agency Mary Robinson in Tel Aviv, 22 June (AP)

There is "ever-growing evidence" that the situation in Israel and Palestine meets the legal definition of apartheid, warned former United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and ex-head of the UN's refugee agency Mary Robinson following a trip to the countries.

The two senior figures made a three-day visit on behalf of the Elders, an organisation composed of former statespeople and human rights activists, during which they suggested Israel-Palestine was on course for a "one-state reality" as the prospect of two states becomes increasingly remote.

In a statement, the Elders said that Robinson and Ban heard "no detailed rebuttal of the evidence of apartheid" that was described to them by human rights groups, and said the behaviour of the Israeli government in the occupied West Bank showed "an intent to pursue permanent annexation rather than temporary occupation, based on Jewish supremacy".

“I leave Israel and Palestine with a heavy heart. I have seen and heard compelling evidence of a one-state reality, with systemic impunity for violators of international law and human rights," said Ban, who is also deputy chair of the Elders.

"There is a lack of political vision and leadership in Israel and Palestine and among Israel’s allies, who continue to revert to a short-term approach."

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'I have seen and heard compelling evidence of a one-state reality, with systemic impunity for violators of international law and human rights'

- Ban Ki-Moon

There has been an upsurge in violence in the occupied West Bank in the past year, with scores of Palestinians shot dead, frequent Israeli military raids, and regular attacks by settlers on Palestinian towns and villages.

On Tuesday night, Israeli settlers rampaged through several Palestinian towns in the West Bank, torching cars, setting farmland on fire, and vandalising homes following the fatal shooting of four Israeli settlers by Palestinian gunmen.

The next day, hundreds of settlers, many of them armed, descended on the town of Turmusaya, protected by Israeli soldiers. The settlers attacked Palestinian residents, destroyed their property, and a 27-year-old Palestinian man was shot dead.

Israel's government has handed much of the authority of the West Bank over to far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, in what anti-occupation groups have branded "legal, de jure annexation" of the territory.

Since Israel conquered the West Bank in 1967, the Palestinian territory had been under military rule. However, in February Israel transferred much of the administration of the region to Smotrich, including enforcement powers over land allocation and authority over planning and construction for Jewish settlements, which are illegal under international law.

'Oppression of Palestinians'

Robinson, who also served as president of Ireland, said she was "profoundly shocked" at the changes that had taken place in the region since her last visit.

"The policies of successive Israeli governments have entrenched the oppression of Palestinians, and also jeopardise the security and democracy Israelis have fought so hard for," she said.

She also criticised the Palestinian Authority, including over its repeated delay in holding new elections and the "shrinking civic space" in the areas it administers.

"All parties, including the international community, must act urgently to avert a calamitous descent into uncontrollable violence," she said.

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