What makes Amnesty’s apartheid report different?

Palestine Update 524

What makes Amnesty’s apartheid report different?
israel-anti apartheid protest-2021-afp_0.jpgWhat makes Amnesty International’s new report determining that Israel practices the crime of apartheid against Palestinians any different from those that came before it? Certainly, Israel’s “hysterical” reaction – (in the words of one Haaretz headline) – to the Amnesty study is notably different from its relatively understated response to similar reports recently issued by B’Tselem, a human rights group in Israel, and the New York-based Human Rights Watch. Palestinian human rights groups like Al-HaqAdalah and Al Mezan have been advancing an apartheid framework for far longer and the reports from the above-mentioned Israeli and international groups build on their work.

Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem examined Israel’s system of control throughout historic Palestine that privileges Israeli Jews and marginalizes Palestinians and violates their rights by varying degrees, largely depending on where they live. And in contrast to the analyses published by Palestinian groups, those three reports, welcomed as groundbreaking and paradigm-shifting, fall short of placing Israel’s system of apartheid in the context of settler-colonialism. (A keyword search of Amnesty’s report yields three results for the terms “colonialism” and “colonial” – found in the titles of works cited in the footnotes.)

Amnesty repeatedly stresses Israel’s “intent to maintain this system of oppression and domination” without making the explicit point that apartheid is a means towards the end of settler colonization: removing Palestinians from the land so that they may be replaced with foreign settlers. The rights group does state that “since its establishment in 1948, Israel has pursued an explicit policy of establishing and maintaining a Jewish demographic hegemony and maximizing its control over land to benefit Jewish Israelis while minimizing the number of Palestinians and restricting their rights and obstructing their ability to challenge this dispossession.”

Credit where credit’s due: Amnesty blasts away Israel’s foundational mythology, acknowledging that it was racist from the beginning – a departure from the typical liberal attitude that Israel strayed from its ideals somewhere along the way. Amnesty even points out that “many elements of Israel’s repressive military system in the OPT [West Bank and Gaza] originate in Israel’s 18-year-long military rule over Palestinian citizens of Israel,” beginning in 1948, “and that the dispossession of Palestinians in Israel continues today.”

Amnesty also acknowledges that “in 1948, Jewish individuals and institutions owned around 6.5 percent of Mandate Palestine, while Palestinians owned about 90 percent of the privately owned land there,” referring to all of historic Palestine prior to the establishment of the state of Israel.
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Why doesn’t the West accept that Israel is an ‘apartheid’ state?
Amnesty International released the findings of a detailed investigation on Wednesday, which has been conducted over the past four years. It concluded that the occupation state imposes “a system of oppression and domination against Palestinians” across all of the Palestinian territories under its control, those occupied in 1948 as well as those occupied in 1967.

An Israeli woman holds a sign that reads "Don´t make Apartheid Great Again" as she protest against Israel goverment's plan on June 23, 2020 in Tel Aviv, Israel [Amir Levy/Getty Images] The London-based human rights group stated that Israel does this “in order to benefit Jewish Israelis”, and pointed out that “this amounts to apartheid as prohibited in international law.” Amnesty is the third major human rights organisation after B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch to allege Israeli apartheid since January last year. “Laws, policies and practices which are intended to maintain a cruel system of control over Palestinians, have left them fragmented geographically and politically, frequently impoverished, and in a constant state of fear and insecurity,” said Amnesty.

Introducing the findings at a press conference in Jerusalem, Amnesty’s Secretary General, Agnès Callamard, said: “Whether they live in Gaza, East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, or Israel itself [the parts of Palestine occupied in 1948], Palestinians are treated as an inferior racial group and systematically deprived of their rights. Israel’s cruel policies of segregation, dispossession and exclusion across all territories under its control clearly amount to apartheid.”
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Why BBC insists on whitewashing Israeli crimes against Palestinians?
BBC Broadcasting House [Alexander Svensson/Flickr]Early this week, the BBC published an article about a twitter campaign carried out by a group of Palestinians living abroad who are critical of the Palestinian Islamic Movement, Hamas, which is the de facto government in the Gaza Strip. The twitter campaign was under the heading “They Kidnapped Gaza”, a reference to the Hamas leadership. According to the BBC, “Hundreds of Palestinian activists have been taking part in a rare online event strongly criticising Hamas governance of the Gaza Strip.”

 I live and work in the Gaza Strip, and I believe that the aim of the campaign was clearly to whitewash Israeli crimes and blame Hamas for the “dire” living conditions. The BBC seems to have adopted this narrative, given that contentious claims by the online activists weren’t challenged. A Twitter post by the now Belgium-based Mahmoud Nashwan was quoted by the BBC: “Imagine your one-month-old son dies because of the cold. Imagine your son dying because there is no electricity, no money, no wages and no home.” The root cause of these problems, the Israeli occupation and, over the past 15 years, the siege imposed by Israel and its supporters, weren’t mentioned. The impression given is that Hamas is responsible; nobody else. And this impression looks very deliberate.
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Washington ignores Amnesty Israel ‘apartheid’ report at its peril
shutterstock_68981002-scaled.jpgNot holding partners to account for human rights abuses makes them burdens rather than assets to the U.S.
By blatantly ignoring the findings of human rights abuses against Palestinians as the United States did this week upon the release of a seminal report by Amnesty International, Washington is ultimately emboldening bad behavior while further entrenching itself in Middle East security crises. Here’s why.

Amnesty’s latest assessment on Israel’s treatment of the Palestinaians, deemed a “crime of apartheid,” stems from a five-year analysis of Israeli civilian and military law. The organization reached the same conclusion as Human Rights Watch and Israel’s own main human rights organization, B’Tselem (Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories). The Israeli government has presented no counter argument to these findings, except false accusations of antisemitism.

The 274-page report has also further embarrassed the United States, which also rejected Amnesty’s report, all the while regularly citing Amnesty and HRW when those organizations issue reports on the human rights abuses of countries not aligned with Washington. This episode further highlights two ways in which this approach undermines U.S. national security.

First, the United States loses further credibility on human rights when it applies it selectively. Some rules are for our partners — and an entirely different standard for our adversaries. This selectivity instrumentalizes and undermines the very concept of human rights. It is not a value to be upheld but a stick to use against those we don’t like, while turning a blind eye to partners such as Saudi Arabia, Israel, and other systematic human rights abusers. Second, Biden’s Mideast strategy is increasingly defined by the goal of “strengthening alliances.” Biden views America’s security partnerships as a critical asset in the competition against China. But two negative and mutually reinforcing developments follow from this approach:

To begin with, U.S. partners will behave increasingly recklessly and in contrast to American values as they correctly perceive Washington as having given them a permanent carte blanche, and because they calculate that the U.S. — because of the China competition — cannot afford to be tough on them.  Case in point: Israel’s de facto annexation of Palestinian territory and elimination of any viable two-state solution is partly the result of decades of American deference to Israel even though the U.S. itself has defined a two-state solution as central to American interests.

Moreover, Washington will be forced to more frequently defend the worsening  behavior of its partners. Whatever double standards we saw in the past, it is likely to get substantially worse going forward. Forget the rhetoric about centering human rights or pursuing more prudent goals.Ironically, it is difficult to see how this approach, which fuels recklessness among U.S. partners and makes them even greater burdens rather than assets to Washington, ultimately strengthens America’s position vis-a-vis China. Rather, this will further entangle the United States in the problems and conflicts these partners have started or are embroiled in. The day America will come home from the Middle East is being pushed further and further away.
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Amnesty International Defends Report on Israeli Apartheid, Rejecting Criticism from U.S. & Israel
download (1).jpgAmnesty International has become the third major human rights organization to accuse Israel of committing the crime of apartheid against Palestinians in a new report released on Tuesday. Amnesty finds Israel’s system of apartheid dates back to the country’s founding in 1948 and has materialized in abuses including massive seizures of Palestinian land and property, unlawful killings, forcible transfer, drastic movement restrictions, and the denial of nationality and citizenship to Palestinians — all of which constitute apartheid under international law. We speak with Amnesty International USA’s executive director Paul O’Brien, who calls on the United States to “put pressure on the Israeli government to dismantle this system of apartheid,” despite both the Biden administration and the Israeli government rejecting the report’s findings.

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