Anti-Apartheid Struggle Highlights


  • During the NGO Forum of the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR), held in Durban, South Africa, in 2001, and attended by representatives of close to 3,000 NGOs from all continents, the Palestinian delegation achieved recognition that Israel is guilty of apartheid in the NGO Forum Declaration and Programme of Action. The Forum declared that the Palestinian people endure a colonialist, discriminatory military occupation that violates their fundamental human right of self-determination and amounts to “Israel’s brand of apartheid”; it also called for “the launch of an international anti-Israeli Apartheid movement as implemented against apartheid in South Africa.”
  • From 2002 - 2004 Palestinian organizations and movements continued to denounce Israel’s apartheid system within a settler-colonial framework (PACBI, Palestinian grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Badil, etc.)
  • Launch of Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) in Toronto, Canada, by Palestinian student activists. Since then, IAW has been held globally every year, raising awareness about Israeli apartheid and mobilizing support of the Palestinian-led BDS movement. 
  • The historic 9 July 2005 Palestinian Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel Until it Complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights, is inspired by the struggle that ended apartheid in South Africa and the U.S. Civil Rights movement. The BDS movement is led by the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the largest coalition in Palestinian society, in historic Palestine and in exile, including all major grassroots, political and social organizations and movements. BDS plays the leading role worldwide in building the Palestinian-led anti-apartheid struggle.


  • In 2007, South African jurist John Dugard was the first UN Special Rapporteur to alert the UN (A/HRC/4/17) that Israel’s occupation shows many of the features of colonialism and apartheid. The reports of UN Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights in the OPT in 2011 (A/HRC/16/72) and 2014 (A/HRC/25/67) include similar conclusions.
  • In 2008, the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) issued the Palestinian Civil Society Strategic Position Paper: “United against Apartheid, Colonialism and Occupation, Dignity and Justice for the Palestinian People” for presentation to the Durban World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) Review Conference, Geneva, April 2009. Endorsed by nearly 100 Palestinian and international civil society organizations and networks, this was the first major effort at building a broad grassroots consensus about Israel’s regime of oppression against the entire Indigenous Palestinian people (across historic Palestine and in exile) as constituting a system of military occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid.
  • Concluding observations by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) repeatedly denounced Israel’s policies as forms of racial discrimination and apartheid in the subsequent periodic reviews of 2007, 2012, 2020. In 2012, CERD urged Israel, pursuant to Article 3 of the Convention, to prohibit and eradicate policies or practices of racial segregation and apartheid that “severely and disproportionately affect the Palestinian population.” (CERD/C/ISR/CO/14-16 - 9 March 2012)
  • In 2009, the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa published the study, “Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid?,” which confirmed the applicability of these three complementary legal frameworks to Israel’s regime over Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory (1967) specifically. It laid out the legal consequences for Israel and all other States. 

2011 - 2016

  • In 2011, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, held in Cape Town, South Africa, found Israel guilty of the crime of apartheid. 
  • In 2013, the European Journal of International Law (EJIL) published an extensive analysis on “Apartheid, International Law, and the Occupied Palestinian Territory” by John Dugard and John Reynolds, which is based on the South African Human Sciences Research Council-sponsored study from 2009.
  • 2013 - 2015: Civil society organizations in Palestine and abroad in collaboration with the Birzeit University's Institute of Law organized the conferences entitled Law & Politics: Options and Strategies of International Law for the Palestinian People (2013) and Alternative Strategies for Realizing Justice in Palestine (2015). These conferences raised awareness among Palestinian academic, human rights and political actors of the pitfalls of exclusive focus on the IHL paradigm of occupation, and of the advantages of settler-colonialism and apartheid as legal frameworks guiding the Palestinian struggle against Israel’s oppressive regime.  The advocacy guide for activists, which was produced in this context to explain why and how Israel should held accountable for settler-colonialism, ethnic cleansing and apartheid, was disseminated globally and used as an educational tool by the BDS movement.  


  • In 2017, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia  (ESCWA) set a historic precedent by becoming the first UN agency to commission and publish a report, titled “Israeli Practices toward the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid.” Subsequently, under immense Israeli-US pressure, the report was removed from ESCWA’s website upon instruction of the UN Secretary General.
  • In 2018, Palestine submitted to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) an interstate complaint against Israel for racial discrimination. The complaint was admitted by CERD. Outcomes are still pending.
  • In 2019, Palestinian human rights organizations submitted a report on Israeli apartheid to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.


  • On July 1, in response to Israel’s annexation plans, Palestinian social and political movements, human rights organizations and networks issued a united call on “all States and international organizations to respect their legal obligations to cooperate to end Israel’s illegal occupation, annexation and apartheid.” It specifically asked them to:
    • Support efforts at the UN to reconstitute the UN Special Committee against Apartheid and the UN Centre against Apartheid to investigate Israeli apartheid.
    • Investigate and prosecute individuals and corporate actors responsible for war crimes/crimes against humanity in the context of Israel’s regime of illegal occupation and apartheid.
    • Ban arms trade and military-security cooperation with Israel. 
    • Suspend trade and cooperation agreements with Israel.
    • Prohibit trade with the illegal Israeli settlements and terminate corporate business with Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise.
  • Later in July, 10 ex-presidents and over 700 members of parliament, diplomats and cultural figures from Asia, Africa and Latin America endorsed the Palestinian call for a UN investigation into Israel’s apartheid


  • In January , B’Tselem, a leading Israeli human rights organization, published a damning report titled, “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid.” 
  • In April, Human Rights Watch issued an in depth analysis of Israeli laws and policies directed at Palestinians, concluding that they amount to a system of apartheid in present-day Israel and the OPT, and to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution in the OPT.


  • In February,  Amnesty International published its rigorously researched report detailing how Israel enforces a system of oppression and domination against all Palestinians, including refugees, and that it must be held accountable for committing the crime against humanity of apartheid against them. Among others, it recommended activating UN mechanisms and called on states to end military ties with Israel.   
  • In March, the outgoing UNHRC Special Rapporteur report on Israel’s apartheid in oPt, Micheal Lynk, concluded that the ongoing situation subjugating Palestinians meets the legal standard of apartheid. His report recommends reactivating UN mechanisms such as the Special Committee Against Apartheid.
  • The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, establishes an anti-apartheid department.
  • In November, Palestinian human rights organizations led by al Haq published “Israeli Apartheid: a Tool of Zionist Settler-Colonialism”, the most comprehensive Palestinian analysis of Israeli apartheid as rooted in and serving to maintain practices of settler-colonial ethnic cleansing, dispossession and oppression of the Palestinian people that have lasted for more than a century. Reiterating the accountability measures called for by Palestinian civil society and international experts, the report makes detailed recommendations to states, the UN and business enterprises for dismantling the criminal regime.


  • The PLO, the BDS movement and Palestinian civil society and human rights organizations issue a historic call to intensify global pressure to dismantle Israel's regime of settler-colonialism and apartheid.
    Read it here: