Israel is an apartheid state, Amnesty report says

Rights group says decades-long campaign against Palestinians is crime against humanity

Amnesty International has accused Israel of subjecting Palestinians to a system of apartheid in a decades-long campaign that deprives them of their rights under international law and amounts to a crime against humanity.

In a comprehensive report released on Tuesday, Amnesty cites Israeli, Palestinian and international rights activists, groups, organisations and testimony, providing a historical, political, economic and social overview of the explosive situation.

In the report entitled Israel's Apartheid against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime against Humanity, Amnesty documents and analyses "Israel's institutionalised and systematic discrimination against Palestinians" and its use of "inhuman and inhumane acts" to maintain this system which "amounts to the crime against humanity of apartheid".

It is the second international rights organisation in the last year to accuse Israel of engaging in apartheid after Human Rights Watch did so last April.

In the report, Amnesty secretary general Agnes Callamard states: "Governments who continue to supply Israel with arms and shield it from accountability at the UN are supporting a system of apartheid, undermining the international legal order, and exacerbating the suffering of the Palestinian people. The international community must face up to the reality of Israel's apartheid, and pursue the many avenues to justice which remain shamefully unexplored."

Amnesty says that before Israel’s creation in 1948, Palestinians comprised 70 per cent of the population and owned 90 per cent of privately owned land while Jews were 30 per cent of the population and owned 6.5 per cent. During the 1947-49 conflict, 800,000 of 1.2 million Palestinians were “displaced in what amounted to ethnic cleansing”.

The 150,000 who remained were granted citizenship but were placed under military rule until 1966 and have faced dispossession, discrimination and political marginalisation.

Since 1948, Amnesty says, “Israel has pursued an explicit policy of establishing and maintaining Jewish demographic hegemony and maximising its control over land to benefit Jewish Israelis while minimising the number of Palestinians and restricting their rights and obstructing their ability to challenge this dispossession.”

Israel extended this policy to East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 when another 350,000 Palestinians were driven into Jordan, the report says.

Methods

The report lists means which Israel employs to achieve its objectives, including land expropriation, deportation, denial of building permits, home demolitions, movement restrictions, administrative detention and imprisonment, closure of civil society organisations, and separate legal systems for Palestinians and Israeli Jews.

Israel uses both its military and settlements to dominate Palestinians, Amnesty states, adding, “All Israeli settlements in the [occupied Palestinian territories] are illegal under international law, regardless of their status under Israeli law.” There are 441,600 settlers in the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem, living in 132 authorised settlements as well as 140 unauthorised outposts, and controlling 40 per cent of the area.

Palestinians, Amnesty writes, “overwhelmingly regard themselves as Palestinian and have deep and shared political, ethnic, social and cultural ties” wherever they reside while Israel “considers and treats Palestinians as an inferior non-Jewish racial group”.

In its response, the Israeli government rejects “all the false allegations that appear in the report”, claiming it is “biased and based on lies spread by terrorist organisations”.

Foreign minister Yair Lapid states: "Amnesty was once an esteemed and respected organisation, Today, it stands for anything BUT human rights. It's become simply one more radical grouping of uninformed activists that echoes propaganda with no serious examination of the facts."

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen contributes news from and analysis of the Middle East to The Irish Times