Israel pursues an apartheid policy towards Palestinian citizens of both Israel and the Palestinian territories, says Human Rights Watch in a new report. In this way, according to the human rights organisation, Israel is trying to “maintain the domination of the Palestinians by Jewish Israelis”.
The Israeli Government responds vigorously to the allegations and speaks of a false report. HRW undermines Israels right to exist as a state for the Jewish people, says Minister Biton for Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy.
The use of the term apartheid seems to be a reference to the structural discrimination policy that has been pursued in South Africa for decades, but that is not what HRW says. However, according to international law, specific Israeli acts and rules can be regarded as apartheid, the organisation says. Apartheid is considered a crime against humanity.
“Dispropriation, locked and submissive.”
In the 200-page report, HRW points out that 6.8 million Jewish Israelis live between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, and about the same number of Palestinians, but that the Israelis have been serving for decades.
“ In almost all aspects of life, Jewish citizens are structurally privileged by the Israeli authorities and discriminated against Palestinians,” the report states. Thus, according to HRW, Palestinians are “to a greater or lesser extent expropriated, imprisoned, forced separated and subjugated on the grounds of their origin”.
An important pain point for the human rights organisation is that residents of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank have more rights than Palestinians. For example, there are roads that can only be used by Jews.
In addition, Palestinians on the West Bank are subject to military law and Jews are subject to civil law, which offers much greater protection. The right to self-determination is reserved for Jews, the report concludes.
Hardly freedom of movement
In the occupied East Jerusalem, which Israel considers to be part of Israel itself, the Palestinian inhabitants also have a status which gives them less rights. According to HRW, the fact that the Palestinian population is divided between the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Israel, with hard borders and little freedom of movement, contributes to the repression.
It is true that the 1.6 million Palestinian inhabitants of Israel have the right to vote and stand, but that is not enough to escape institutional discrimination, says the human rights organisation. In practice, they are not allowed to enter much of Israel; according to HRW, they live only 3 percent of Israeli territory.
Israel calls the allegations “ridiculous” and “incorrect” and says that Human Rights Watch is running an anti-Israeli campaign “which is not linked to actual reality”. According to the Israeli Government, HRW has been seeking an international boycott of Israel for years.
Israel points out that the report was written by Omar Shakir, the head of the Israeli-Palestinian division of HRW. Shakir is an American of Iraqi descent, who was expelled by Israel in 2019 for supporting the movement that wants to boycott Israel. He contradicts that, by the way.