Watchdog says Israel commits apartheid against Palestinians

HRW report ‘game changer,’ experts say

The Israeli separation wall in the West Bank is seen as part of apartheid (Photo: Shutterstock)
AMMAN — Israel’s treatment of Palestinians constitutes two crimes against humanity, apartheid and persecution, according to a new report by leading human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW). اضافة اعلان

The report considered Israeli actions both in the occupied territories as well as those against Palestinian citizens of Israel.

The 23-page report “A Threshold Crossed”, released on Tuesday, draws on years of fieldwork and review of Israeli laws, government planning documents, statements by officials, and land records. The watchdog, an international organization based in New York, compared this body of evidence to the international legal standards for apartheid and persecution under the Rome Statute.

The report also follows a recent report from Israeli NGO B’Tselem, which likewise concluded that the Israeli regime meets the threshold for apartheid under the legal definition. HRW found that three elements together constitute Israeli apartheid: the intent to “maintain the domination of Jewish Israelis over Palestinians across Israel and the OPT,”, systematic oppression of Palestinians in the occupied territories and East Jerusalem, and “inhumane acts” committed against Palestinians.

Policy experts in Jordan say that the report represents a turning point in the international community’s approach towards Israel and Palestine.

“I think this is maybe a game changer when it comes to the way the international community, human rights organizations, international civil society, will deal now with this occupation,” said Orayeb Rantawi, founder and director general of the Amman-based Al Quds Center for Political Studies, in an interview with Jordan News. “It’s Human Rights Watch. No one can challenge the credibility of Human Rights Watch.” He said that “now is the time really to put Israel in front of the mirror and see itself, as not a country sharing the same values with the West, but as a country that imposes apartheid (and) occupation.”

Rantawi added that the report vindicates Jordanians and Palestinians who have long called the systematic discrimination policies in Israel apartheid. “We are victims of these policies. More than half of the Jordanian population are Palestinian. We are aware about these findings and we are a victim of this apartheid system and occupation.”

He pointed out that the report constitutes a “very strong tool to argue against all the Israeli lies.” The report itself describes Israel’s misrepresentation of its policies, disputing Israeli claims that measures in the occupied territories are temporary pending a peace agreement by writing that “the government’s actions and policies over more than a half-century make clear the intent to maintain their control over the West Bank in perpetuity.”

“The Palestinians keep talking, the Jordanians keep talking about it, without being listened to by the international community. Now our voices are amplified with this report,” he said.

The analyst added that he hoped the report “will pave the way for most, if not all, the international human rights organizations to report about what’s going on in Palestine and to break the taboo imposed by the Israelis and to a certain extent the Americans that governs these issues.”

Mohammad Momany, former minister of information and chairman of the National Guidance Committee at the Senate, said that he believes reports about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians will damage Israel’s international image. “Israel flourished out of giving the image that it’s a democracy,” he said. “A democracy cannot and should not act in a way that will undermine the human rights of the Palestinians and that will establish an ugly apartheid system.”

He added that a two-state solution “is not only of the best interest of the Palestinians and Jordan, but also of the best interest of Israel. Because the alternative is apartheid.” He pointed out that Jordan has long supported a two-state solution, adding that “what is said by Human Rights Watch is totally consistent with the logic the Jordanian state has been arguing with the international community and with Israel.”

Momany pointed out that the report is especially valuable because under Israel’s current right-wing government, institutional change will only come from outside pressure — not inside.

“We are starting to witness a situation where the international community is starting to call things as they should be,” said Marwan Muasher, former foreign minister and Jordan’s first ambassador to Israel. “I think the international community ignored calling it apartheid for the longest time, in the hope that a solution would emerge, and the question would become moot. Of course, thirty years after Oslo, a two state solution has not emerged. I think it becomes more difficult to ignore the fact that Israel is systematically discriminating against Palestinians.” He added that by persecuting Palestinian citizens of Israel, as determined by the report, Israel “is not practicing apartheid against the occupied only, it’s practicing apartheid against its own citizens.”

Muasher attributed the timing of the report to three main factors: the failure of the Oslo framework to produce a viable solution, the rise of a right-wing government that is explicitly “not interested in withdrawing from the occupied territories and working towards establishment of a Palestinian state,”, and the 2018 passage of the controversial “Jewish nation-state law”, which “obviously places Israeli Jews as a separate category from Arab Israelis.”

Muasher also linked the report and growing change in sentiment towards Israel to a global interest in human rights, sparked by abuses that drew international attention, like the murder of George Floyd by an American police officer. “The issue of rights today is a central issue in the United States. After George Floyd, it is no longer possible to exceptionalize Israel,” he said. If the United States and other global leaders begin to hold themselves accountable for rights violations, they must also hold their allies accountable, he suggested.

“We are saying that this issue needs to be reframed from one that focuses on the shape of the solution to one that focuses on rights. Whatever the shape of the solution, we don’t know what shape it will take, it has to be based on equal human rights.”

Read more region & world