Apartheid

Human Rights Watch (HRW) investigates and reports on abuses happening in all corners of the world. Recent reports covered Myanmar, Bangladesh, and the Congo. On April 27, 2021, HRW published a report identifying Israel’s crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.

As reported in The Forward, HRW did not take this decision lightly. Eric Goldstein, Acting Executive Director, Middle East and North Africa Division (who holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and a master’s in international affairs from Columbia University), writes, “At the height of the first intifada, I documented inhumane acts as the Israeli army used brutal tactics to repress the popular uprising in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. And it has become clear over the years that there is systematic oppression of the Palestinians in the occupied territory….Human Rights Watch, alongside other watchdogs, reported on Israel’s continued use of unjustified lethal force against Palestinian demonstrators; systematic torture of suspects; widespread prolonged detention without charge; punitive home demolitions; other abuses…Israeli authorities justify these measures as necessitated by security concerns, including deadly attacks by Palestinians on Israeli troops and civilians. But we have found that even policies that have a genuine security component are implemented with little effort to balance security against the human rights of millions of Palestinians. Other policies, such as massive confiscation of land in the West Bank and the revocation of residency rights for many Palestinian Jerusalemites, have more to do with establishing Jewish Israeli control over demography and land than security. A settler can acquire residency for a foreign spouse; their Palestinian neighbor cannot. This kind of two-tiered treatment was always there. What’s gone is the possibility of saying, with a straight face, that it is temporary. Israeli authorities today clearly intend to maintain this system of severe discrimination into the future — an intent that constitutes the third prong of the crime of apartheid.”

The 213-page report is entitled, “A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution.” A summary is available at https://www.hrw.org/report/2021/04/27/threshold-crossed/israeli-authorities-and-crimes-apartheid-and-persecution. The full report is available at https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/media_2021/04/israel_palestine0421_web_0.pdf

The Human Rights Watch position was lauded by Independent Jewish Voices, a Canadian organization. “This report makes even clearer what Palestinians have known for decades: that Israel constitutes an apartheid state,” says Aaron Lakoff, IJV’s Communications and Media Lead. “Far from being a simple comparison to apartheid in South Africa, HRW explains in painstaking detail precisely how Israeli officials are contravening international legal norms, including – though not limited to – the International Convention on the Crime of Apartheid. This should be a wake up call to all of us.”

The Human Rights Watch report follows the Israeli organization Btselem’s report identifying “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid.” The Btselem report can be found here: https://www.btselem.org/sites/default/files/publications/202101_this_is_apartheid_eng.pdf. B’Tselem is The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz published this editorial on the Human Rights Watch report: We Can Keep Lying to Ourselves on ‘Apartheid,’ but Israel Has Crossed the Line.

Updated here on August 8, 2021, according to Mondoweiss, the United Church of Christ, a mainline Christian denomination, labels Israel’s treatment of Palestinians Apartheid, too. https://mondoweiss.net/2021/07/mainline-church-labels-israel-an-apartheid-state-and-more-churches-are-sure-to-follow/ “We reject Israel’s apartheid system of laws and legal procedures,” stated a resolution at the United Church of Christ general synod and approved by a remarkable 83 percent of members.

You can learn more about Israel/Palestine human rights issues in our museum at http://promisedlandmuseum.org/civil-rights/.

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