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23rd May 2022

Israel 'guilty of apartheid', says Amnesty International

  • Palestinian shop owners in Hebron placed a wire mesh to prevent garbage, tossed by settlers, from soiling their goods below (Photo: Nikolaj Nielsen)
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Israel was accused of "apartheid" by Amnesty International on Tuesday (February 1) in what amounts to the latest effort by human rights groups to step up pressure on the country to improve Palestinian rights.

In a 182-page document, Amnesty alleged the Israeli state had carried out unlawful killings and evictions over recent decades.

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Amnesty's use of the term comes a year after Human Rights Watch similarly described the Israeli state as guilty of various acts which "amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution."

In response, the US-based World Jewish Congress said the report was one-sided and biased. "The report does absolutely nothing to offer a constructive way forward and has no real interest in promoting the human rights of Palestinians," it said in a statement.

And in a sign of the sensitivity of the use of the term, the Vienna municipality has sued the Austrian branch of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement for having shared a Facebook post stating: "Visit Apartheid – Free Palestine" (a reworking of a vintage 'Visit Palestine' tourism poster.)

Amnesty's secretary general Agnès Callamard said the group had found "cruel policies of segregation, dispossession and exclusion across all territories under" the control of Israel and that those "clearly amount to apartheid."

"The international community has an obligation to act," Callamard said in a statement. Governments supplying Israel with arms and defending the country at the UN were themselves condoning apartheid, she said.

The report said Israel had in 2018 enshrined the country as a "nation state of the Jewish people," excluding everyone else with a different faith. It says some 93 percent of land in Israel and occupied East Jerusalem is now state land.

Convoluted property laws were further used to dispossess Palestinians of their properties to the benefit of settler expansion, the report said. Apartheid was being enforced throughout almost all of Israel's state institutions, civilian or other wise, it said.

The Amnesty report comes after Israel was taken to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for the on-going destruction of Palestinian homes in the occupied territories.

That ICC case links back to the forced evictions of Palestinians from East Jerusalem, annexed by Israel in 1967.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem as their future capital as part of a two-state solution. That aspiration was further eroded when then-US President Donald Trump formally recognised Jerusalem as capital of Israel.

Palestinians are widely confronted with a labyrinth of roadblocks, physical barriers, border checks and other coercive controls.

Among the most visible barriers is a 700km Israeli West Bank wall that runs along a 1949 armistice line known as the Green Line. Most of it is inside the West Bank, a fragmented area home to some three million Palestinians.

In Hebron, Palestinians are not allowed to walk on certain streets accessible only to Israelis and tourists.

As recently as 2018, in the Gaza Strip, Israeli snipers killed 214 Palestinians, including 46 children while wounding over 36,000 during the so-called Great March of Return.

Adding to the pressure on Palestinians is the oppressive Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip, where some two million mostly Palestinian refugees are being squeezed by Hamas' rule and an Israeli blockade.

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