Human Rights Watch says Israel’s actions against Palestinians are crimes of apartheid

Destroyed Palestinian homes

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released a report on 27 April naming Israeli policies against Palestinians crimes of apartheid and persecution.

The advocacy group’s 213 page report compares policy and practices in Israel and occupied territories towards Palestinians and Jewish Israeli people.

HRW concluded that there is “an overarching Israeli government policy to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians”. It also detailed evidence of “grave abuses” against Palestinians.

Kenneth Roth, HRW executive director, said:

Prominent voices have warned for years that apartheid lurks just around the corner if the trajectory of Israel’s rule over Palestinians does not change.

This detailed study shows that Israeli authorities have already turned that corner and today are committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.

“Systematic oppression”

HRW examined years worth of documents for the report, including human rights documentation, planning documents, official statements, and case studies. The group said its research showed Israeli authorities are concentrating Palestinians in dense population areas to maintain “demographic ratios”.

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HRW found further evidence of laws that allowed exclusion of Palestinians. This consists of allocating less resources to Palestinian schools and keeping them under “draconian military rule” in occupied areas.

The report also details Israeli authority abuses against Palestinians. These include movement restrictions, land confiscation, house demolition, and blocking families reuniting.

Call to action

HRW said that added up these actions amount to crimes of apartheid and persecution. Roth said:

Denying millions of Palestinians their fundamental rights, without any legitimate security justification and solely because they are Palestinian and not Jewish, is not simply a matter of an abusive occupation.

These policies, which grant Jewish Israelis the same rights and privileges wherever they live and discriminate against Palestinians to varying degrees wherever they live, reflect a policy to privilege one people at the expense of another.

As a result of its findings, HRW called for Israel to end “all forms of repression and discrimination” against Palestinians. It also urged the International Criminal Court to prosecute those involved in the crimes detailed.

The group said other nations should be centering  relations with Israel on “human rights and accountability”. This would mean imposing sanctions on those who have committed inhumane crimes and establishing a UN inquiry. HRW said this inquiry could then mobilise action against “apartheid worldwide”.

International response

In response to the report, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the claims the report makes “preposterous and false”. It said:

Human Rights Watch is known to have a long-standing anti-Israeli agenda, actively seeking for years to promote boycotts against Israel. This report is yet another part of the organization’s ongoing campaign … with no connection to facts or reality on the ground

In contrast, Palestine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed the report on “Israel’s colonial occupation and its discriminatory and racist policies against the Palestinian people”. The ministry echoed HRW’s calls to the international community:

Accordingly, the international community must take immediate and effective action to compel an end to Israel’s apartheid regime enshrined in supremacy of one group over the other. … The Ministry reiterates that Israel’s apartheid regime is the main obstacle to the exercise of the right of self-determination and fundamental freedoms by the Palestinian people.

The report follows recent statements by Israeli rights groups. In January, B’Tselem, which documents human rights violations, said Israel was an “apartheid regime” that was “perpetuating the supremacy of one group”. Yesh Din, another human rights group published a legal opinion that concluded Israel is an “Apartheid state”.

Featured image via B’Tselem field-researcher ‘Atef Abu a-Rub and camera volunteer Yusef Bani ‘Odeh

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  • Show Comments
    1. The term apartheid is inadequate to describe what is happening here..the term genocide, defined below, is now apposite.

      …..1944 Raphael Lemkin, Polish Jewish jurist, Nuremberg. defines Genocide :-

      By “genocide” we mean the destruction of an ethnic group…. Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. The objectives of such a plan would be disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups…. (Axis Rule in Occupied Europe ix. 79)
      This is one of the more recent definitions.
      2016 John Cox, historian :-
      Genocide is the attempt to destroy any recognised, stable, and permanent group as it is defined by the perpetrator: [It] is a concerted effort to eliminate its individual members and to destroy the group’s ability to maintain its social and cultural cohesion and, thus, its existence as a group. The perpetrators’ genocidal goals — i.e., intent, which is central to the 1948 UN definition but is often analysed too legalistically and narrowly, can be uncovered by examining policies, actions, and outcomes.

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