Renowned Palestinian-Canadian human rights lawyer, Diana Buttu, has accused the Israeli regime of operating a system bent on stifling the development of the Palestinian people. This was in relation to Israel’s recent assault on the Gaza Strip, which included the targeting of schools in the region.
A prominent Palestinian activist and former spokesperson for the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), Buttu is currently in South Africa as a guest speaker at the 35th annual Crime Stoppers International Conference, taking place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) this week. She will also be conducting talks at universities across the country.
Speaking to VOC Drivetime, Buttu hailed the Palestinian spirit and resilience in the face of oppression by the Israeli leadership. This was particularly in their determination to rebuild their homes, and to return to return to the very schools that were targeted during conflict, to continue with their education.
She compared the current situation in the occupied territories to that of Apartheid South Africa, with the exception that crime amongst Palestinians was not as common. This was because the Palestinian society was more ‘smaller, more coherent, and had more effective mechanisms to deal with crime’.
“That being said, there is still crime being inflicted by the Israeli settlers, who go unprosecuted by the Israeli government,” she noted.
Buttu described the Crime Stoppers conference as a natural extension of the type of work done by herself and other human rights lawyers, which was to hold governments accountable for their human rights violations. Hence, she would seek to use the conference as a means of stressing the need to hold Israel accountable for its violations of human rights.
“In particular as we saw during its attacks on Gaza this past summer, Israeli committed a number of war crimes, and they continue to commit those war crimes with nobody holding them accountable,” she explained.
It was recently reported that global donors have collectively pledged to donate a total of $5.4 Billion towards the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. However, Buttu said the donations would mean little should Israel launch another attack on the region.
“Rather than focusing on how much money is coming through, I think the international community would be better off spending their time and money imposing sanctions in Israel. They need to ensure that with any money given to the Palestinians to reconstruct, those structures should not become targets again,” she said.
Having been involved in negotiation proceedings on behalf of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Buttu expressed doubt that any such talks could truly bring about the freedom of the Palestinian people.
“I ended my participation in the negotiations in 2005, and have been a very vocal critic of that process ever since. That process will never lead to Palestinian freedom. It’s only going to serve as a facade for Israel to continue to build and expand settlements,” she said.
Buttu will be attending the Crime Stoppers International Conference from the 12th until the 15th October. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)