Noura Erakat

by Noura Erakat* and Rania Madi*

Between mid-February and early March 2012, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (Committee) held its 80th session where it evaluated the compliance of several states with the 1966 International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). Among those states was Israel who became a party to the treaty in 1979. The Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations are notable because they establish that Israel’s policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) are tantamount to Apartheid and that many of its policies within Israel itself violate the prohibition on Apartheid as enshrined in Article 3 of the Convention. 

The Human Rights Council’s (HRC) most recent session came to a close in mid-June 2011, thus marking the 17th session of the Council since its establishment in March 2006. The Human Rights Council supplanted the Commission on Human Rights, which was established as a subsidiary organ of the Economic and Social Council in 1947 but disregarded as ineffective and too politicized by the time it was replaced in 2006.

The Human Rights Council has faced similar criticisms of politicization, primarily from the United States and Israel, since it commissioned the Fact-Finding Mission to Gaza in 2009.1 Although attacks on the Council may have abated since it voted to move the “Goldstone Report” out of Geneva and back to the UN General Assembly where it can be underpinned by actionable follow-up, the Special Rapporteur to the Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt) continues to be a target for attack.

Palestinian human rights advocates have written off the U.S. Congress as an agent for positive change in the lives of Palestinians. Rightly so, advocates for Palestinian human rights have been disillusioned by the deluge of biased legislation and the incessant waves of military aid provided to Israel. However, dismissing Congress is not an option. Although grassroots, media, and legal activism can tarnish the U.S.’s foreign policy in the Middle East, such admirable efforts cannot change it. To the contrary, Congress can reverse the gains made by advocates in one fell swoop. Harvesting the gains of grassroots, media, and legal advocacy will require a complementary legislative strategy.