Israel is committing “crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution” against Palestinians and the international community must reassess diplomatic relations with the state, a leading human rights group said in a report on Tuesday.
The 213-page report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) describes how Israel tried to maintain Jewish-Israeli hegemony over the Palestinian people from the Jordan to the Mediterranean.
“While much of the world viewed the occupation of Israel half a century ago as a temporary situation that could soon be cured by a decades-long ‘peace process’, the oppression of the Palestinians there has reached a threshold and permanence that exceeds the definition of the crimes of the Apartheid Equals and Persecution, ”said Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of HRW.
“Those who seek Israeli-Palestinian peace, be it a one- or two-state solution or a confederation, should in the meantime recognize that reality for what it is and promote the kinds of human rights instruments that do are required to finish them. “
Israel rejected the organization’s report, which it labeled “propaganda”.
“Human Rights Watch is known to have a longstanding anti-Israel agenda that has been actively trying to promote boycotts against Israel for years,” the State Department said in a statement.
“Your decision not to send this report to an Israeli agency for review or comment is a clear indication that it is a propaganda pamphlet with no credibility.”
A separate highway in the occupied West Bank near Jerusalem [File: Mahmoud Illean/AP]The HRW report follows a conclusion by the Israeli legal group B’Tselem, which published a study last January that found that Palestinians who are divided into four levels of inferior treatment are denied the right to self-determination.
Ines Abdel Razek, advocacy director of the Ramallah-based organization of the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy in Ramallah, said the HRW report was a welcome development to shift the target posts of international engagement to the application of international law and human rights – instead of “A two-state state to be a holy solution as an empty mantra that only consoled Israel in its impunity”.
“[It] This is clearly of great political importance to advance the urgent need to redefine political understanding about Palestine and Israel, ”she said of Al Jazeera, who has been documenting, analyzing, saying and writing for decades. “
For Mouin Rabbani, co-editor of Jadaliyya, an independent research website, the existence of apartheid has been “well established” for decades by Palestinians and their supporters.
“So it is not Israel, but HRW that has crossed a threshold,” he said. “HRW is the industry leader in its field and having it finally caught up with reality is a significant development in my opinion.”
The significance of the report is that HRW “explicitly denounces Israel as an apartheid regime and calls on Israel to have real and grave consequences for what the report calls” crimes against humanity “”.
“Perhaps most surprisingly, given his records on such matters, [HRW] is for once not “balanced” his analysis of Israel with ritual denunciations of the Palestinians, “added Rabbani.
Calling “apartheid” anti-Semitic
HRW’s report lists a number of Israeli abuses against the Palestinians: extensive restrictions on movement against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, demolition of houses and “near categorical denial” of building permits, military occupation, land expropriation and denial of residence rights of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.
In fact, the Israeli government’s own words and actions – such as the 2018 nation-state law, which defined Israel as the “nation-state of the Jewish people,” and its relentless policy of settlement expansion indicate its intention to maintain its rule, HRW said.
For Israel, the term “apartheid” is explosive and is vigorously rejected by itself and its supporters. It has long referred to itself as the only “Middle East democracy”, but analysts say the rejection of the “apartheid” label is in line with Israel’s tradition of denouncing criticism as “anti-Semitic”.
“While Israeli politicians speak openly of annexation, expansionism and maintaining a presence in the Occupied Territories, the Israeli government is referring to the Palestinian citizens of Israel, a fraction of the total Palestinians under its control, as evidence that they are not Tareq Baconi, an analyst at Crisis Group, told Al Jazeera that it is an apartheid regime.
“They represent a fig leaf that ultimately does not negate the fact that Israel continues to control the majority of the Palestinian people without resorting to rights.”
In responding to criticism or condemnation of its policies, Israel resorted to delegitimizing and, if possible, criminalizing its critics and using the anti-Semitic canard as the core of its response, Rabbani said.
“It’s a worn out playbook that is often supplemented with other dirty tricks and various forms of propaganda, such as denouncing critics as terrorists,” he said.
Anti-Semitism, said Abdel Razek, was deliberately redefined by the Israeli government and its supporters to equate with any criticism of Israel.
“The very problematic definition of anti-Semitism by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) explicitly includes as an example that it is anti-Semitic to call Israel an ‘apartheid state’,” she said.
Moving away from a political solution
The HRW report recommends that the international community take a rights-based and accountable approach to engagement in Israel – including conditioned military aid and scrutiny of all forms of trade and cooperation – rather than relying on the so-called peace process, who has been bogged down for years and has only served Israel to continue its policies with impunity.
“In the current power structure there can be no peace or no negotiations, and as long as the Palestinians are denied their basic national, political and civil rights,” said Abdel Razek.
Baconi agreed, arguing that the current focus should be on increasing the cost of maintaining Israeli hegemony and the continued denial of individual and collective rights for Palestinians.
“Policymakers no longer need to focus on a political solution that could herald peace, but instead oppose a path of expanding Israeli territorial consolidation and Palestinian dispossession across the country,” he said.
“Evictions of Palestinians in East Jerusalem are an example of a systematic state policy by the Israeli government that the international community can impose sanctions on, whether or not a peace process is in progress.”
A Palestinian protester is arrested by Israeli police during a protest in Jerusalem during the holy month of Ramadan [Ammar Awad/Reuters]
‘Threshold not exceeded’
The Palestinians have described their struggle for decades as a struggle against apartheid and settler colonialism, but the international community has largely failed to define the Palestinian pursuit of rights in these terms.
While a leading rights group using the term “apartheid” to describe Israeli policy against Palestinians is progress, it is unrealistic to expect it to have a direct impact on foreign policy.
“This report could serve as a valuable educational resource and aid in advocacy efforts and, as noted above, serve to regulate discussion of the issues raised, including possibly at the political level,” Rabbani said.
“By calling for Israeli apartheid, HRW, as an industry leader and prominent US organization, makes it more acceptable to have discussions about Israeli apartheid and how Israel should be held accountable in polite society and in the mainstream media, particularly in North America and Europe, ”he added.
For Abdel Razek, the framework put forward by HRW is “incomplete” as it leaves out the context that is embedded in the colonialism of the settlers.
“A ‘threshold’ has not been crossed,” she said. “Indeed, Israel’s colonial settler project has existed since 1948 to conquer and systematically displace, dispossess and fragment Palestinians who they see as a ‘demographic threat’ to be replaced by Jewish settlers.”
Although Baconi says that Israeli Jewish and international human rights organizations that consent to the word “apartheid” suggest that the way the Palestinian struggle has changed on the international scene, politics and the political worlds still lag behind.
“HRW’s finding that Israel is practicing the crime of apartheid suggests a future in which it will become increasingly difficult for international governments to uphold the myth that the occupation of Israel and its control over Palestinians are temporary,” Baconi said .
“This is a necessary realignment of how international governments and organizations understand the reality in Israel / Palestine today and will ultimately make it difficult for stakeholders to contact the Israeli government without considering that reality.”