UN Special Rapporteur: Israel imposed apartheid reality on Palestinians in post-apartheid world

UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine, Michael Lynk delivers a video message on May 18, 2018 in Geneva (Fabrice Coffrini - AFP)

Middle East Monitor  /  May 17, 2022

The Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) held a webinar to discuss the latest report by the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), Michael Lynk, who ended his mandate at the end of April.

Chairperson Nasim Ahmed expressed his and Palestinians’ deep sorrow over the brutal killing of veteran Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akelah by the Israeli military during a raid on Jenin refugee camp, in the occupied West Bank.

Professor Lynk opened his speech by thanking PRC for inviting him to speak about his latest report issued in March 2022 to the Human Rights Council. In the report, he addressed whether or not Apartheid exits in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.

“When I was first appointed in 2016 as Special Rapporteur I had no intention of wanting to address the question of Apartheid”, said Lynk. “I must confess I thought It would be difficult for me to speak with political and diplomatic decision makers on this issue”.

“After four years in this position, I began to realize that whatever the quality of reports I was issuing, whatever the nature of the topics that I was focusing upon, whatever many speeches editorials and writings I would do on this, there didn’t seem to be much of an apartheid for the international community to fulfill its responsibilities and pressure Israel to bring this to an end”, he said.

“It struck me that the issue of the now 55-year-old occupation, that this is becoming a legal oxymoron to have a forever occupation is contrary to all of the founding principles of the Fourth Geneva Convention and international humanitarian law which governs occupations”, added Lynk.

“Occupations are supposed to be temporary and short-term; The occupying power is supposed to administer occupation in the best interest of the people under occupation, in this case the Palestinians; The occupying power has no right whatsoever to occupy the territory of the occupied people”, stated Professor Lynk. “Yet, ,one of these principles were being obeyed by Israel”.

Lynk slammed the apathy maintained by the international community, particularly the West, Europe and North America. “Criticism without consequences is meaningless in situations like these”.

The Special Rapporteur condemned Israeli annexation as illegal, saying “the occupation of a territory by force or by war is impermissible”. He referred to Resolution 2334 of the UN Security Council, the highest-decision making body, which says that Israeli settlements “are a flagrant violation under international law”.

“I came to the conclusion that this occupation is indistinguishable from annexation, indistinguishable from apartheid”, said Lynk.

In his report, the academic concluded that the political system of entrenched rule in the occupied Palestinian territory satisfied the prevailing evidentiary standard for the existence of apartheid and the systematic racial oppression and discrimination of the people with the intent to maintain the domination of one racial-national-ethnic group over another.

In his view, to say that apartheid exists in the occupied territories is not identical to what occurred in South Africa during the 1940’s and 1980s . There are some parts of Apartheid in South Africa that don’t exist in the occupied Palestinian territories. But, on the other hand, there are features of apartheid in the occupied territory that appear to be much harsher than anything that existed in Apartheid South Africa in its heydays such as segregated highways, high walls, checkpoints, barricading significant parts of the population, and missile strikes against a civilian population.

“This was apartheid.  With the eyes of the international community wide open, Israel had imposed upon Palestine an apartheid reality in a post-apartheid world”, he concluded.

Professor Lynk is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law, Western University, in London, Ontario. He joined the Faculty in 1999, and has taught courses in labour, human rights, disability, constitutional and administrative law. He served as Associate Dean of the Faculty between 2008-11. Professor Lynk has also taught labour law courses at the University of Ottawa, Carleton University and Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand).

He is a native of Halifax, and a graduate of Dalhousie University (LL.B.) and Queens’ University (LL.M.). Before becoming an academic, he practiced labour law in Ottawa and Toronto for a decade. Professor Lynk is a vice-chair with the Ontario Grievance Settlement Board, and has served as a vice-chair with the Ontario Public Service Grievance Board. He has written widely on the issues of labour law and human rights in the unionized Canadian workplace, and is a frequent speaker at industrial relations and labour law conferences across the country.

Professor Lynk is the co-author, with Michael Mac Neil and Peter Engelmann, of Trade Union Law in Canada (Canada Law Book). He is  the co-editor, with John Craig, of Globalization and the Future of Labour Law (Cambridge University Press, 2006), and the co-editor, with Susan Akram, Michael Dumper and Iain Scobbie, of International Law and the Middle East Conflict (Routledge, 2011).  He is part of the academic team that produced the Labour Law Casebook (8th ed.), which is the national casebook used in law schools across the country. As well, he is the revising author of the human rights chapter in Employment Law in Canada (4th ed.) (LexisNexis), whose lead revising author is Peter Barnacle.

Prof. Lynk was also an editor of the Canadian Labour and Employment Law Journal from 2000 to 2008. During recent years, his academic work has appeared in the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, the Canadian Bar Review, the Osgoode Hall Law Journal, the Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights, the Literary Review of Canada, the University of New Brunswick Law Journal and the Journal of Palestine Studies.

In March 2016, the United Nations Human Rights Council appointed Professor Lynk as the 7th Special Rapporteur for the human rights situation in the Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967.