LONDON: Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people is a study of the mechanisms and policies through which apartheid systems operate and reproduce oppression, according to a new report by Amnesty International.
In its report, released on Tuesday, the human rights watchdog says there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that these legal, technical and militaristic mechanisms are crimes worthy of prosecution at the International Criminal Court.
An apartheid regime, by definition, systematically strengthens, enriches and emboldens one ethnic group to the direct detriment of another. In South Africa, from 1948 until the early 1990s, it was the whites who advanced at the expense of the blacks. In Israel and Palestine, according to Amnesty, it is Jewish Israelis who benefit from the systemic oppression of Arabs.
Amnesty’s report found that “massive seizures of Palestinian land and property, unlawful killings, forcible transfers, drastic restrictions on movement and denial of nationality and citizenship to Palestinians are all elements of a system which amounts to apartheid under international law”.
As a legal term, the word apartheid is defined as “an institutionalized regime of oppression and domination by one racial group over another”. It was deemed a crime against humanity under the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid – the “Apartheid Convention” – and later the Rome Statute of 1998 of the International Criminal Court.
Although Israel signed the 1998 Rome Statute – but never ratified it – Amnesty has documented ample evidence that the Israeli state is now committed to apartheid in a legal sense, potentially opening the door to prosecution. before the ICC.
Amnesty’s 280-page report presents a host of allegations against Israel. One of the most egregious and widespread is the forced displacement of the Palestinian people, whether through home demolitions, intimidation, legal mechanisms or the creation of adverse living conditions.
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“Throughout Israel and the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territories), Israel’s destruction of homes, farmland and other Palestinian property is intimately linked to Israel’s long-standing policy of land grabbing for the benefit of its Jewish population,” the report said.
“Since 1948, Israel has demolished tens of thousands of Palestinian homes and other properties in all areas under its jurisdiction and effective control.”
These demolitions separate Palestinians from their ancestral homes, opening the door to greater Israeli demographic domination over ethnic Palestinians.
“Israel has pursued an explicit policy of establishing and maintaining Jewish demographic hegemony and maximizing its control over the land for the benefit of Jewish Israelis while minimizing the number of Palestinians,” Amnesty said.
And this dominant demographic – Jewish Israelis – is “unified by a privileged legal status enshrined in Israeli law, which extends to them through state services and protections, regardless of where they live.” they reside in the territories under the effective control of Israel”.
These legal mechanisms, the report adds, “systematically privilege Jewish citizens in law and practice through the distribution of land and resources, resulting in their relative wealth and well-being at the expense of Palestinians.”
The restrictions on movement described as “draconian” by Amnesty are also a visceral reminder of the oppression that Arabs face on a daily basis.
The internet is awash with images of heavily armed Israeli soldiers and police interrogating and ushering crammed masses of Palestinians through checkpoints, many of them hoping only to reach work or school safely and safely. time.
Israel’s network of checkpoints, roadblocks, fences and other structures control the movement of Palestinians into the occupied territories and limit their movement within Israel or abroad, Amnesty said, adding that these restrictions serve ” means of control over land and people.
And for Palestinians in Gaza, the situation is even worse. For them, “foreign travel is nearly impossible under Israel’s illegal blockade, which Israel imposes on the entire population of Gaza as a form of collective punishment.”
But despite the oppression they face from the Israeli state, the Palestinian people have “never ceased to resist”, Saleh Higazi, head of Amnesty International’s office in East Jerusalem, told AFP. Arab News.
Despite all the odds hanging over them, Palestinians have found new and creative ways to resist apartheid, he said.
Higazi highlighted the solidarity expressed in Palestine and around the world when authorities attempted to evict Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem.
In addition, a general strike among Palestinians in all territories – intentionally separated from each other by Israel – has been called “to show that they are one people, one group, who oppose the policies and practices of fragmentation that Israel has imposed on them since its establishment.”
He added: “The Palestinians have not stopped resisting. This is why the reality has unfortunately become more brutal.
Amnesty’s report received a furious reaction from Israel. Senior officials obtained the report before it was released and released it ahead of the scheduled release date.
The Israeli Embassy in London wrote on Twitter: “Amnesty International’s report is a shameful misrepresentation of Israel’s diverse and vibrant society. As a proud democracy, we searched for nuances but found only lies and distortions.
“This anti-Semitic report recycles lies instead of seeking the truth and solidifies the attacks of bad faith by those who seek to demonize the State of Israel.
“Our citizens can speak from lived experience of the challenges we face as we try to create a better society, the goal of any democracy. We need to amplify those voices. We should center people who passionately and openly reflect the complexity and nuances of Israeli society, instead of focusing on misguided and damaging reports that attempt to delegitimize Israel.
“It is a sad truth that if Israel were not a Jewish state, Amnesty would not employ such slander against us,” the statement added.
Higazi vehemently rejected the claim that his organization is anti-Semitic. Accusations like this, he said, are “not new” and have long been “weaponized by Israel.”
“They have used such baseless and false accusations to distract from what really needs to be the focus: the crime against humanity of apartheid.”
Higazi continued, “Any state or authority that commits systematic human rights violations or states that impose systems of oppression amounting to the crime against humanity of apartheid will worry that the truth, that truth , is exposed.
Israel is “worried and scared,” Higazi added. “I hope they’re scared because we’re going to campaign with our partners to dismantle the system, which means holding those responsible accountable.”