It's Settled That Israel Is Committing the Crime of Apartheid—Now What Should We Do About It?
- Written by PHYLLIS BENNIS PHYLLIS BENNIS
- Published: 18 February 2022 18 February 2022
The international movement for Palestinian rights and justice laid the ground for recent declarations by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations. Now we have to follow up.
When Amnesty International released its report "Israel's Apartheid Against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime Against Humanity" earlier the month, it was clearly part of a rapidly expanding trend. Palestinian human rights defenders, members of Congress and faith leaders in the United States, academics, and activists of the Palestinian rights movement around the world have long recognized and condemned Israeli apartheid, and called for accountability.
More recently, influential human rights organizations and experts have produced a spate of reports analyzing and condemning the phenomenon. Amnesty's report emerged after acclaimed Israeli human rights advocacy organizations published their reports: 18 months after Yesh Din's "The Occupation of the West Bank and the Crime of Apartheid: Legal Opinion," and a year after B'tselem's "A Regime of Jewish Supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This Is Apartheid." Amnesty's arrived eight months after Human Rights Watch published "A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution."
The precedents had actually been emerging even earlier—almost five years before, experts commissioned by the UN's Economic and Social Commission of West Asia had authored "Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid" (though pressure from Israel's supporters forced ESCWA to remove the report from its website).
"This slew of recent reports come to the legal conclusion that Israel's actions of discrimination, dispossession, and more, were carried out for the purpose of ensuring the dominance of one racial or national group over another."
The reports all build on each other, though their conclusions differ in some specifics, including where in the varied territories it controls Israel's actions constituted the crime of apartheid, when it started, and more. Yesh Din limited their assessment of apartheid to the West Bank; HRW found the crime of apartheid was being committed in all of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT)—meaning Gaza, the West Bank, and occupied East Jerusalem—while inside the 1948 border of Israel the crime was that of persecution. B'tselem went further, holding Israel guilty of the crime of apartheid throughout all of historic Palestine—"from the river to the sea" as the statement goes. The UN's ESCWA report, written in 2017 by Richard Falk and Virginia Tilley, went furthest, by including the Palestinian refugees, whose right to return to their homes Israel has long been denied.
But crucially, this slew of recent reports come to the legal conclusion that Israel's actions of discrimination, dispossession, and more, were carried out for the purpose of ensuring the dominance of one racial or national group over another—for the purpose of empowering Israeli Jews at the expense of Palestinians—and that therefore Israel was committing the crime of apartheid.
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