Human Rights Watch (HRW) yesterday said that Israel is committing the crime of “apartheid” by seeking to maintain Jewish “domination” over Palestinians and its own Arab population, an explosive allegation Israel firmly rejected.
Currently under investigation by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, Israel blasted HRW’s accusations as “preposterous and false,” accusing the New York-based group of having “a long-standing anti-Israeli agenda.”
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh welcomed the “remarkable” HRW report and said that he hoped it might lead the international community to “bear its responsibilities” and hold Israel “accountable for its crimes.”
The 213-page report finds that the Israeli government is the “single authority” with primary control “over the area between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea.”
That area includes the occupied West Bank, the blockaded Gaza Strip, annexed east Jerusalem and all the territory within Israel’s 1948 borders.
Within that territory, there is “an overarching Israeli government policy to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians,” HRW said.
The rights group pointed to Israeli policies targeting Palestinians that include movement restrictions, land confiscation, forcible population transfer, denial of residency rights and suspension of civil rights.
HRW said that while apartheid was initially coined with respect to institutional persecution of black people in South Africa, it is now a universally recognized legal term.
An apartheid system is defined by “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them,” according to the Apartheid Convention.
HRW’s Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir told Agence France-Presse that there have been warnings for years that “apartheid is around the corner.”
“I think it’s quite clear that that threshold has been crossed,” Shakir said from Jordan.
A US citizen, Shakir was the first foreign national deported by Israel for allegedly supporting an international boycott against Israel, an accusation he denied.
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the HRW report amounted to a “propaganda pamphlet” from an organization that has been “actively seeking for years to promote boycotts against Israel.”
Israel maintains it is a democracy where the 20 percent Arab minority enjoys full rights, including voting, but Arab citizens complain of systemic discrimination.
The HRW report said that inequities faced by Arabs inside Israel reflect state policy that privileges Jewish Israelis at the expense of Palestinians in all areas under Israeli control.
Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza and annexed east Jerusalem following the 1967 Six Day War. It withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but severely restricts the flow of goods and people from the enclave.
HRW called on nations to stop viewing the occupation as temporary, and foster accountability by reconsidering their ties with Israel, including military cooperation.
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