Decades of Israeli lies are finally being exposed
Amnesty International joined, on 01 February, the New York-based Human Rights Watch, Jerusalem-based B’Tselem rights group B’Tselem and other leading human rights groups in stating that Israel’s “system of oppression and domination” over the Palestinians amounts to the international definition of apartheid. In its new 278-page report, which has been compiled over a period of four years, the London-based rights group has details “inhuman or inhumane acts of forcible transfer, administrative detention, torture, unlawful killings and serious injuries, and the denial of basic rights and freedoms or persecution committed against the Palestinian population,” creating “an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination over Palestinians.”
The comprehensive report, Israel’s Apartheid against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime against Humanity, sets out how massive seizures of Palestinian land and property, unlawful killings, forcible transfer, drastic movement restrictions, and the denial of nationality and citizenship to Palestinians are all components of a system which amounts to apartheid under international law. This system is maintained by violations which Amnesty International found to constitute apartheid as a crime against humanity, as defined in the Rome Statute and Apartheid Convention.
“Amnesty International concludes that the State of Israel considers and treats Palestinians as an inferior non-Jewish racial group,” the report said. In the words of Agnès Callamard, secretary general of Amnesty International, “What we have found is a system, a system of laws, policies, practices, intricate bureaucratic bureaucratized, that are there in order to ensure control and domination of the Palestinian people.”
Israeli representatives — after failing to stop Amnesty from publishing the report — were quick to denounce it, calling it radical and antisemitic. Commentators, meanwhile, applauded the “groundbreaking” reports, calling this moment a “reckoning.”
The fact is that Palestinians have painstakingly documented the reality of apartheid for the past seven decades. Their voices shouldn’t require validation from international organizations. Yet it’s still sobering to see these organizations receiving the same attacks that Palestinians often get for speaking the truth.
The Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reports detail four major pillars of Israeli apartheid across the whole of Palestine and Palestinians: intent to oppress and dominate the Palestinian people; fragmentation into domains of control; segregation and control; and dispossession of land and property.
However, Amnesty makes the distinction of saying that apartheid and domination include Palestinians across the entirety of historic Palestine. This is a step in the right direction, given that human rights groups have often focused on Israeli discriminatory practices only in the West Bank and Gaza.
For too long, the media, politicians and even human rights organizations have ignored the deep essence of apartheid. This isn’t just about the intentional discrimination between non-Jewish Palestinians and Jewish Israelis. The settler-colonialist practices of Israeli abuse and apartheid vary across the West Bank, Gaza, Jerusalem, historic Palestine and the diaspora, and have fractured the collective Palestinian experience.
The findings of human rights organizations are not just mere accusations and allegations; they outline Israeli apartheid practices through concrete evidence. But why are these organizations doing work that should be carried out by the International Criminal Court? It’s clear even our own corrupt Palestinian “representatives” have also failed in making the case, since they are more concerned with securing their own power rather than justice.
For too long Israel has been able to avoid deep scrutiny over its practices of systemic repression. But the campaign to discredit and vilify is intensifying. Rights groups are being targeted and labelled terrorist organizations.
But there are other, perhaps less obvious, ways in which Israel distracts from its abuses. The fact that rights groups are now echoing each other, for instance, traps us all in a debate loop, protracting the necessary legal actions. Another strategic approach is the way Israel weaponizes charges of anti-Semitism to manipulate and gaslight.
An Israeli ambassador to the United Nations once accused the international body of colluding with “supporters of terror” for addressing Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The head of the American Jewish Committee warned that to “equate the liberal democratic State of Israel with the system of apartheid in South Africa is nothing short of a canard, a libel.” Yet until today, as a state recognized in the United Nations, Israel has not ratified the apartheid Convention.
The baseless attacks would be tragically comical if they didn’t pose a serious obstruction to our pursuit of dignity and freedom. One day Israel supporters are calling movie stars and ice cream companies antisemitic over social media, the next they’re trying to shut down debate with “What about Hamas?” or the paternalistic “Palestinian leadership is the real problem for Palestinians, not Israel.” They falsely conflate confronting Israeli repression as attacking the right of Jewish people to exist.
But now, some are seeing the reality that Palestinians have decried for decades. Israel, for its part, seems more intent on attacking the apartheid label than doing anything to actually dismantle its apartheid regime.
The writer is a member of staff.