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International advocacy bodies urge African Union to withdraw Israel’s observer status

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
People walk through the main lobby at the headquarters of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 18, 2013. (File by Getty Images)

At least three international advocacy organizations have called on the African Union (AU) to withdraw the Israeli regime’s observer status over its human rights violations and crimes against humanity.

The US-based Democracy for Arab World Now (DAWN) together with the Legal Resource Center (LRC) in South Africa on Monday signed and supported a legal submission to the executive council of the AU, which was drafted by the International Center of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP).

The submission vehemently argues why the 55-member union should not have granted the regime in Tel Aviv an observer status, and why it should be immediately revoked.

On July 22, Israel announced that it had joined the influential pan-African body, which debates continental issues, as an “observer state,” after unsuccessful lobbying for nearly 20 years.

The news elicited lukewarm response from some member countries of the union, who had for years blocked the move, citing the regime’s horrendous war crimes in Palestine.

For almost two decades, since the disbandment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 2002, Israel had made futile attempts to join the African Union, which replaced the OAU.

However, the move was always thwarted by members of the union, who even called for an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories in February.

In a statement endorsed by more than a dozen organizations, the three advocacy groups asserted that the apartheid Israeli regime is involved in gross violations of human rights and crimes against humanity that directly contravene the principles and purpose of the AU.

“Israel’s actions—especially its commission of the crime of apartheid and persecution—stand in fundamental opposition to the express terms of the AU’s founding document, the Constitutive Act of the African Union, which stresses political independence, human dignity, and economic emancipation, as well as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which calls for genuine independence and the elimination of apartheid, colonialism, and all forms of discrimination,” said the statement.

Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of DAWN, said granting Israel an observer status in the AU, despite its recent atrocities in the besieged Gaza Strip, was “unconscionable.”

“The African Union should be in the vanguard of the struggle against the brutal domination of one group over another but instead has lent legitimacy to Israel’s apartheid government,” she noted.

In the 24-page legal submission, the groups document how Israel “in no way meets” the AU requirements for observer status, and focuses on its blockade on Gaza, illegal occupation and forced transfers, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, and extrajudicial killings.

Crispin Blunt MP, the director of the ICJP, said the Tel Aviv regime “does not embody the values and ideals that the African Union supports and aspires.”

“The well-documented crimes and violations of such an oppressive nature that the human dignity and independence of the Palestinian people is decisively suppressed plainly demonstrates that Israel does not embody the values and ideals that the African Union supports and aspires, and that the AU Commission’s decision—made without considering the serious concerns of nearly half its membership—was in error,” he remarked.

Sherylle Dass, the regional director of the LRC, said it was an affront to both the people of Palestine and to black South Africans for the AU to grant the apartheid Israeli regime an observer status.

“The plight of the people of Palestine is undeniably similar to the plight of many Black South Africans under apartheid rule and we cannot condone or be indifferent to any state that colonizes and illegally occupies another and oppresses and subjugates its people,” she said.

Raed Jarrar, the advocacy director at DAWN, stated that the AU should, instead of welcoming the Israeli regime, “recognize its special responsibility to oppose apartheid wherever it exists.”

The three groups have accused the AU commission chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, of engaging in a process that was “neither transparent nor consultative.” It comes as many independent civil society groups in South Africa have been demanding his resignation.

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