Amnesty International, the world’s largest human rights organization, has for the first time accused Israel of committing “the crime of apartheid against Palestinians.”
Amnesty becomes the third major human rights group to decry Israel’s apartheid system over the past year, joining Human Rights Watch and the Israeli group B’Tselem. In its report, Amnesty says the roots of the apartheid system date back to Israel’s founding in 1948. Amnesty unveiled their findings in occupied East Jerusalem on Tuesday, 1 February 2022. This is Amnesty’s Secretary General Agnès Callamard:
We are here today to call on the international community to take resolute action against the crime of humanity being perpetrated in order to maintain the system of apartheid.
Here are excerpts of the video produced by Amnesty:
Narrator: Here, in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Palestinians are being forced off their land and out of their homes, separated and segregated by laws, walls and checkpoints. They live in a constant state of fear and insecurity, and deliberately impoverished, while, on the other hand, Israeli authorities have given the Jewish Israeli population privilege over Palestinians in just about every facet of life. The question is: Does this all amount to the crime of apartheid?
First, the definition of “apartheid”: The crime against humanity of apartheid is perpetrated when particular serious human rights violations are committed with the “purpose of establishing and maintaining” a system of “domination by one racial group … over [another] and systematically oppressing them.”
But does this system exist in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories?
Philip Luther: There’s been a growing debate about whether the situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories is apartheid. And now is the time for us, as the world’s largest human rights organization, to offer up our analysis. Our findings and criticism are directed not at the Jewish people, but at the Israeli state. It’s the Israeli state that put in place the policies that implement the laws and the practices that oppress Palestinians.
One way to understand this segregation and oppression is to look at the ID system. Jewish Israelis have only one ID card, with a status that grants them the rights to live almost anywhere they wish in the country. They can move freely with access to healthcare and vast resources. Palestinians, on the other hand, have four types of ID cards, if any at all. The kind of ID card you are given determines the level of rights you can enjoy and controls where you can go and what you can do.
If you hold a green card, you are subject to military rule. And if you have a green card with a Gaza address, it means you’re trapped in a 365-kilometer-square open-air prison under Israeli military blockade in place since 2007. Israel controls what goes in and what goes out, from children’s toys to medical supplies. Ninety percent of the people have no access to safe drinking water. Forty-seven percent are unemployed. Fifty-six percent live in poverty. Palestinians with a Gaza ID are forbidden from going to Jerusalem and the West Bank even if they have family there.
If you hold a green card which has a West Bank address, then you live in enclaves. This green card means you can live within specific enclaves surrounded by illegal Israeli settlements. And there’s a separation wall and fences built around you since 2002, which Palestinians call the “apartheid wall.” It’s eight meters high in places and 700 kilometers long. That’s twice the height of the Berlin Wall and more than four times its length. Eighty percent of it is built inside the West Bank, occupying even more Palestinian land. There are separate roads for Israelis and Palestinians, hundreds of checkpoints scattered throughout, not to mention the 54 years of occupation which has devastated the lives of millions of Palestinians. Palestinians with a West Bank ID can travel to Gaza or East Jerusalem, but only if they receive a permit from the military to do so.
Then there are ID cards for Palestinians in East Jerusalem. They can travel to the occupied West Bank, as well as to Israel, but they are not citizens of Israel. They have only been granted a residency status. This means that they cannot vote in Israeli national elections. And if they leave East Jerusalem for too long — for example, to study or work abroad or in other parts of the occupied West Bank — their residency is revoked, so they can’t return. Since 1967, Israel has revoked the residency status of more than 14,600 Palestinians from East Jerusalem.
Finally, Palestinian citizens of Israel. They are the group that remained in Israel despite the ethnic cleansing in 1948. They were made citizens but can never become nationals [huge difference!] or enjoy equality unless they become Jewish, which Israeli law prohibits. They are the only Palestinians who can run and vote in Israeli elections and they can move relatively freely, but the inequality against them was never dismantled. They face daily institutional discrimination, including members of parliament.
If this complex ID system wasn’t enough to segregate the Palestinian community, in 2002 Israel introduced a law that prohibits family unification. That’s right, denying Palestinians the right to live with their loved ones if their ID cards are different.
Of course, the U.S. has rejected Amnesty’s report despite there being nothing controversial about it. They are merely stating facts. Heck, even the Israeli prime minister would agree with the report:
Israel is not a state of all its citizens … [but rather] the nation-state of the Jewish people and only themMessage posted online March 2019 by Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu
Now, personally, I believe Israel declared itself an apartheid state in July 2018 when the Israeli parliament passed the “Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People” by a vote of 62-55. the legislation essentially defines Israel first and foremost as a Jewish state. Among its 11 provisions, it describes Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” and says the right to exercise national self-determination there is “unique to the Jewish people”.
The law singles out Hebrew as the “state’s language”, effectively prioritizing it above Arabic which has for decades been recognized as an official language alongside Hebrew. And it also reiterates the status of Jerusalem as “complete and united… capital of Israel”.
Israel’s prime minister [Netanyahu] praised the bill’s passage as a “defining moment”.
A hundred and twenty-two years after [the founder of modern Zionism Theodore] Herzl made his vision known, with this law we determined the founding principle of our existence,… Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, and respects the rights of all of its citizens.Benjamin Netanyahu, BBC News, July 19, 2018
Here’s a list of articles that I’ve published on this subject:
Palestinian Loss of Land 1946-2010
Palestine 2012 — Gaza and the UN resolution
The Charade of Israeli-Palestinian Talks
Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: The Crisis
Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: The Other Players
Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: Recent History
Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: Looking Backwards
Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: The Future
Israel’s Role in Containing “Irresponsible and Radical Elements in Certain Arab States”
“The Occupation of the American Mind” – Documentary Looks at Israel’s PR War in the United States
The Gaza Diet and Israel’s Politicization of Hunger
U.S. Vetoes of UN Resolutions Critical of Israel: 1972 – Present
Thanks for reading,
Here’s the link to Amnesty’s new report, “Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime Against Humanity,” and to the full video that accompanies it.
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