Amnesty joins other rights group in condemning Israeli apartheid

Agnes Callamard, the Secretary-General of Amnesty International (center) attends a press conference together with Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director Philip Luther (left) and activist Orly Noy (right) in Jerusalem, on February 1, 2022. (Photo: AFP)
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Amnesty International on Tuesday labeled Israel an apartheid state that treats Palestinians as “an inferior racial group,” joining the assessment of other rights groups. اضافة اعلان

“Israel’s cruel policies of segregation, dispossession, and exclusion across all territories under its control clearly amount to apartheid,” said Amnesty’s Secretary-General Agnes Callamard.

“Whether they live in Gaza, East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, or Israel itself, Palestinians are treated as an inferior racial group and systematically deprived of their rights.”

Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid strongly rejected the claims as “divorced from reality” and charged that “Amnesty quotes lies spread by terrorist organizations”.

A year ago, Israeli-based rights group B’Tselem drew fire when it asserted that Israeli policies had been designed to enforce “Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea” and met the definition of apartheid.

New York-based Human Rights Watch in April last year became the first major international rights group to publicly level the controversial allegation.

The report by London-based Amnesty builds on those previous calls in asserting that Israeli-enforced apartheid exists in occupied Palestinian territories and within Israel itself, where Arab citizens make up more than 20 percent of the population.

Amnesty stressed it was not comparing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians with conditions in apartheid-era South Africa but said Israeli conduct and policies met the criteria for the crime of apartheid under international law. 

Israel’s foreign ministry has called on Amnesty to “withdraw” the report.

“Amnesty was once an esteemed organization that we all respected,” said Lapid. “Today, it is the exact opposite.”

Lapid, who is also Israel’s alternate prime minister, also charged that Amnesty had an anti-Semitic agenda.

The president of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald Lauder, said Amnesty’s report “does absolutely nothing to offer a constructive way forward and has no real interest in promoting the human rights of Palestinians”.

“It will only serve, like previous similar prejudiced reports, to fuel the fires of anti-Semites under the guise of political correctness.”

Callamard countered that “a critique of the practice of the state of Israel is absolutely not a form of anti-Semitism.”

“Amnesty International stands very strongly against anti-Semitism, against any form of racism,” she said.

Briefing reporters on Tuesday, Callamard also dismissed charges that Amnesty “was singling out” Israel, highlighting the group’s work on Israel’s arch foe Iran and on China, among other places.

‘Avenues to justice’

Israel has occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem since 1967. Some 700,000 Jewish settlers now live alongside Palestinians in both areas, in settlements regarded as illegal under international law.

The Palestinian Authority, which has civilian control over parts of the West Bank, praised Amnesty for its “courageous and fair” work on behalf of the Palestinian people.

Hamas, which has controlled Gaza since 2007 and is considered a terrorist organization by much of the West, also welcomed the report and applauded Amnesty’s “professionalism”.

Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 but has maintained a blockade of the coastal territory since the Hamas takeover.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened an investigation into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict expected to focus in part on possible war crimes committed during Israel’s aggression on Gaza in 2014.

Amnesty called on the ICC “to consider the crime of apartheid in its current investigation”.

It also urged the UN Security Council to “impose targeted sanctions, such as asset freezes, against Israeli officials most implicated in the crime of apartheid”.

It said the international community needed to “face up to the reality of Israeli apartheid and pursue the many avenues to justice which remain shamefully unexplored”.

Callamard also told AFP that international “fatigue” to address the plight of Palestinians was “not an option”.

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