Human Rights Watch is the latest major organisation to accuse Israel of apartheid.
In a detailed report released on Tuesday the mainstream, widely respected NGO said Israel is guilty of crimes of apartheid against Palestinians.
It describes how “In most aspects of life, Israeli authorities methodically privilege Jewish Israelis and discriminate against Palestinians.” And it says the aim of this discrimination is to ensure Israel’s control over Palestinian people and land.
“Laws, policies, and statements by leading Israeli officials make plain that the objective of maintaining Jewish Israeli control over demographics, political power, and land has long guided government policy,” the report says.
The report describes Israel’s methods of control and discrimination of Palestinians in each area under its control.
It highlights how in the “occupied Palestinian territories”—the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip—Israel controls them through “draconian military rule.” This includes control of Palestinian borders, airspace and registry of people, despite Palestinians’ limited self-rule there.
Human Rights Watch says forcing this military rule on Palestinians there, while allowing Israeli “living in a segregated manner in the same territory their full rights under Israel’s rights-respecting civil law,” amounts to apartheid.
The report also describes how Palestinians living inside Israel’s official borders face “institutional discrimination” under Israeli laws and policies.
These include “laws that allow hundreds of small Jewish towns to effectively exclude Palestinians and budgets that allocate only a fraction of resources to Palestinian schools as compared to those that serve Jewish Israeli children.”
For all of that, Human Rights Watch says Israel is only guilty of crimes of apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territories—East Jerusalem, West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
But it does acknowledge that Israel’s control and persecution of Palestinians has existed since it was created in 1948.
Significantly, it says this exists “from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.” That’s the whole of Palestine since 1948—regardless of Israel’s “official” borders.
And it says Israel’s aim is to keep Palestinians in a minority—viewing their very existence as a “demographic threat.”
“The authorities have adopted policies to mitigate what they have openly described as a ‘demographic threat’ from Palestinians,” said Human Rights Watch.
“In Jerusalem, for example, the government’s plan for the municipality, including both the west and occupied east parts of the city, sets the goal of ‘maintaining a solid Jewish majority in the city’ and even specifies the demographic ratios it hopes to maintain.”
This mirrors the aim of Israel’s founders in 1948, who expelled some 850,000 Palestinians from their homes to ensure Arabs would be a minority.
The report is the latest blow to defenders of Israel who want to deny that it is guilty of racism and apartheid. It follows a similar report by Israeli human rights monitor B’Tselem, released in January, which branded Israel an apartheid regime.
Human Rights Watch called on the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israel for the crimes of apartheid and persecution.
It also said governments should “revaluate” their approach to Israel, and “condition arms sales and military and security assistance to Israel” on taking steps to end those crimes.
But the report should also give ammunition to everyone who wants to campaign in solidarity with Palestine—and the confidence to say Israel is an apartheid state.