HRW accuses Israel of ‘apartheid and persecution’


Human Rights Watch on April 27 issued a report accusing Israeli authorities of crimes against humanity, specifically those of apartheid and persecution, targeting the Palestinian people. The report charges that there is “an overarching Israeli government policy” to mitigate what authorities have openly described as a “demographic threat” from Palestinians. The 213-page report, A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution, cites the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid  and the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Both documents define apartheid as a crime against humanity consisting of three elements: intent to maintain domination by one racial group over another, a context of systematic oppression by the dominant group over the marginalized group, and inhumane acts. The report bases its findings on many years of human rights documentation, case studies, and a review of government documents and official statements on “policies and practices” of Israeli authorities towards Palestinians living in the Occupied Territory, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip.

Said HRW executive director Kenneth Roth: “Prominent voices have warned for years that apartheid lurks just around the corner if the trajectory of Israel’s rule over Palestinians does not change. This detailed study shows that Israeli authorities have already turned that corner and today are committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.”

The Israeli authorities have rejected the report’s findings, with Strategic Affairs Minister Michael Biton terming it “distorted reality” and “part of [HRW’s] ongoing political and obsessive campaign against Israel in recent years.”

From Jurist, April 27. Used with permission.

Note: The International Criminal Court in March announced an investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes in the Palestinian territories. Israel has rejected the Court’s authority. In January, the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem issued a report accusing Israel’s authorities of practicing “apartheid” on both sides of the Green Line.

Image: HRW
  1. Ramadan escalation in Jerusalem

    The HRW report comes amid a new eruption of violence in Jerusalem. Dozens were wounded in street clashes in the city following a march by far-right Jewish activists April 22. The march, organized by the anti-Arab group Lehava, followed a week of violent assaults on Palestinian residents in Jerusalem, which began after a number of videos of Palestinians assaulting Jews were posted on TikTok. The unrest has centered around the area of the Damascus Gate, traditionally a popular public gathering point during Ramadan, which started last week. Israeli police this year erected barricades barring access to the plaza, as an ostensible pandemic containment measure. (Haaretz)

    January saw nights of clashes on the West Bank and a wave of setter attacks on Palestnians, sparked by a Dec. 21 incident in which Israeli police chased after “hilltop youth” suspected of throwing rocks at Palestinians near the Bat Ayin settlement. In the chase, the settlers’ car flipped over, leaving one dead, aged 16. Israeli rights group Yesh Din reports that settlers committed more than 50 violent acts against Palestinians in the weeks after the youth’s death. In 37 of those cases, the settlers blocked central junctions along Route 60—one of the West Bank’s central highways—and threw rocks at Palestinian cars. Yesh Din reported that 14 Palestinians, including two children, were wounded in the rock-throwing attacks. (+972, NPR, ToI)

    Israel was also accused of “vaccine apartheid” when authorities barred a Palestinian Authority delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to the Gaza Strip earlier this year. After an outcry and protests from the PA, Israeli authorities on Feb. 17 allowed a shipment of 2,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine to pass through to the Strip. (AP, ToI)

  2. As Palestinians are barred from gathering for Ramadan in Jerusalem…

    At least 44 people were crushed to death and more than 100 people hurt, including many in critical condition, in a stampede after midnight April 29 at a mass gathering to celebrate the Lag B’Omer holiday at Mount Meron, medics said. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the incident “a terrible disaster.” Huge crowds were attending the annual gathering in the northern Galilee, which include visits to the gravesite of the second-century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai and massive bonfires on the mountainside. (ToI)