Why Israel labelled Amnesty International ‘anti-Semitic’ over ‘apartheid’ report

Israeli government accused of treating Palestinians as ‘inferior racial group’ in leaked report

A Palestinian protester argues with an Israeli soldier in the West Bank
A Palestinian protester argues with an Israeli soldier in the West Bank
(Image credit: Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP via Getty Images)

Israel has accused Amnesty International of anti-Semitism following the leak of a report that claims Palestinians live under “apartheid”.

Lior Haiat, a spokesperson for the Israeli foreign ministry, branded the report, extracts of which were published by NGO Monitor, a “collection of lies” which had served to “deny the right of existence of the state of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people”.

“This is a double standard, demonising Israel in order to delegitimise the existence of the state of Israel. Those are the components of modern anti-Semitism,” he said. “We have no other choice but to say that this whole report is anti-Semitic.”

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‘Apartheid state’

According to the report, which was leaked ahead of its planned publication next week, Israel is responsible for “enforcing a system of apartheid against the Palestinian people” and of treating Palestinians as “an inferior racial group”.

It also refers to an effort to create “Jewish domination”, as well as stating: “Demographic considerations have from the outset guided Israeli legislation and policymaking.”

Israel’s demography was “changed to the benefit of Israeli Jews”, the report says, while Palestinians “were perceived as a threat to establishing and maintaining a Jewish majority, and as a result were to be expelled, fragmented, segregated, controlled, dispossessed of their land and property and deprived of their economic and social rights”.

The NGO’s conclusions state that Palestinians should be granted “right of return”, adding: “Since its creation, the Israeli state has enforced massive and cruel land seizures to dispossess and exclude Palestinians from their land and homes.”

The report continues: “Israel has used similar land expropriation measures across all territorial domains under the Judaization policy, which seeks to maximize Jewish control over land while effectively restricting Palestinians to living in separate, densely populated enclaves to minimize their presence.”

Israeli pressure group NGO Monitor said that the Amnesty report “reflects its political agenda of exploiting tragedy to delegitimize Jewish sovereign equality and self-determination”.

It continued that the report “demands the elimination of the Jewish State, and justifies doing so by perverting international law, misrepresenting Israeli laws and practices, and presenting an apologetic view of the murder of Israelis by Palestinian terrorists”.

This is “exactly what you would expect from an organization that thrives on a culture of anti-Israel delegitimization and demonization and has been marred by antisemitic incidents”, it added.

‘False accusations’

In a statement to The Telegraph, Amnesty said that it stood by its upcoming report, describing it as a critique of “the Israeli government, not the Israeli or Jewish people”.

But foreign ministry spokesperson Haiat said Israel “rejects all the false accusations that are made by Amnesty International UK”, stating that the report is “a collection of lies”, “is biased” and “copies from other reports from anti-Israel organisations”.

“What we want to say here is that even if you repeat a lie once, and again, it doesn’t make this lie the reality or the truth,” he said. “But it does make Amnesty International UK an illegitimate anti-Israeli organisation.”

The Forward, a Jewish news organisation based in New York, said Amnesty has “previously condemned Israeli policies in the occupied West Bank and accused it of committing war crimes during the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza”.

But this report is the first time the NGO has used the term “apartheid”, it added, echoing “a similar report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) last April” that “came after two leading Israeli human-rights groups began using the term apartheid”.

The HRW report included a detailed explanation behind its use of the term, stating that “since its establishment in 1948, Israel has pursued an explicit policy of establishing and maintaining a Jewish demographic hegemony”.

“Almost all of Israel’s civilian administration and military authorities” are involved “in the enforcement of the system of apartheid against Palestinians across Israel”, HRW said, as well as “against Palestinian refugees and their descendants outside the territory”.

At the time, a spokesperson for Israel’s foreign ministry described HRW’s report “pure anti-Semitism” that “legitimizes attacks against Jews”.

Loaded term

The term “apartheid” evokes “the policy of racial segregation and discrimination used by white South Africans from 1948 to 1991”, The Telegraph said. It originates from the Afrikaans word for “separateness”.

Amnesty is the “fourth left-wing NGO to accuse Israel of the crime of apartheid in the last two years”, The Jerusalem Post said. “But it is not the sole county [sic] against which it has issued such a charge.” It accused Myanmar of apartheid over its “treatment of the Rohingya”.

A spokesperson for Amnesty International UK told The Telegraph that the report is “part of our commitment to exposing and ending human rights violations wherever they occur”, adding: “No government is above criticism, and that includes the Israeli government.

“Our research shows that Israeli authorities are enforcing a system of apartheid against the Palestinian people in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Palestinian refugees.

“The report documents how Israel treats Palestinians as an inferior racial group, segregating and oppressing them wherever it has control over their rights.”

But Haiat hit back, stating that Israel is a multi-ethinc democracy in which an Arab party constitutes part of the governing coalition.

“We can say that one photo is worth more than 200 pages of false reports,” he said.

“The one photo is the photo of the Israeli government that is now sitting. In that photo you have people of colour, you have Arabs and Jews, you have immigrants and people that were born in Israel.”

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