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Israel’s policies constitute apartheid - Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reported that Israel’s policies constitute apartheid; with the intention to “maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians and grave abuses committed against Palestinians living in the occupied territory, including East Jerusalem.

HRW highlights that currently, Israel presents a single authority “ruling primarily over the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, populated by two groups of roughly equal size, and methodologically privileging Jewish Israelis while repressing Palestinians, most severely in the occupied territory”.

In their report, HRW notes that the term apartheid was originally termed in relation to South Africa but has since become a universal legal term. Apartheid, defined under the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid and the 1998 Rome Statute to the International Criminal Court (ICC), is defined as a crime against humanity consisting of three primary elements:

- An intent to maintain domination by one racial group over another.

- A context of systematic oppression by the dominant group over the marginalized group.

- Inhumane acts.

Racial groups are understood not only by strictly genetic traits but also in terms of descent and national or ethnic origin. Persecution is understood under the Rome Statute and customary international law consists of severe deprivation of fundamental rights of a racial, ethnic, or other group with discriminatory intent.

Occupation

HRW further notes that Israeli authorities have sought to maximise the land available for Jewish communities whilst simultaneously concentrating Palestinians in dense population centres. Israelis have consistently presented Palestinians as a “demographic threat”.

In Jerusalem, the government’s plan for the municipality for both the west and occupied east parts of the city is to “maintaining a solid Jewish majority in the city” and specifies the demographic ratio it hopes to maintain.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, states on this issues that:

“Denying millions of Palestinians their fundamental rights, without any legitimate security justification and solely because they are Palestinian and not Jewish, is not simply a matter of an abusive occupation”.

He adds that “these policies, which grant Jewish Israelis the same rights and privileges wherever they live and discriminate against Palestinians to varying degrees wherever they live, reflect a policy to privilege one people at the expense of another.”

Authorities have imposed legislation that permits “hundreds of small Jewish towns to effectively exclude Palestinians”. This is along with budgets that “allocate only a fraction of resources to Palestinian schools as compared to those that serve Jewish Israeli children”.

Palestinians are forced to live under military rule whilst Jewish Israelis living in a segregated manner and are able to exercise their full rights. This amounts to “the systematic oppression required for apartheid”.

Inhumane acts

The report further details abuses such as “sweeping movement restrictions in the form of the Gaza closure and a permit regime, confiscation of more than a third of the land in the West Bank”, and harsh conditions in the West Bank which has led to “the forcible transfer of thousands of Palestinians out of their homes”. This is alongside a denial of residency rights to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and their relatives” and “the suspension of basic civil rights to millions of Palestinians”. “Denying millions of Palestinians their fundamental rights, without any legitimate security justification and solely because they are Palestinian and not Jewish, is not simply a matter of an abusive occupation,” Roth said. “These policies, which grant Jewish Israelis the same rights and privileges wherever they live and discriminate against Palestinians to varying degrees wherever they live, reflect a policy to privilege one people at the expense of another.”

Recommendations

HRW calls for the ICC to investigate and prosecute “those credibly implicated in the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution”. They further call on countries to act in accordance with their national laws under the principle of universal jurisdiction and to impose sanctions, travel bans, and freeze assets.

Roth adds that whilst “much of the world treats Israel’s half-century occupation as a temporary situation that a decades-long ‘peace process’ will soon cure, the oppression of Palestinians there has reached a threshold and a permanence that meets the definitions of the crimes of apartheid and persecution”.

Read the full report by HRW. 

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