Israel’s treatment of Palestinians amounts to “an institutionalized regime of oppression and domination defined as apartheid under international law,” according to Amnesty International in a report released February 2022.
Amnesty, a UK-based human rights NGO, released the 200+ page report accusing Israel of being an apartheid state. On February 23, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a mainline Protestant denomination, issued a letter in agreement with Amnesty’s report. In doing so, the Disciples joined the United Church of Christ in labeling Israel an apartheid state.
Republican and Democratic politicians denounced the report, in a unique moment of bipartisan agreement.
The International Criminal Court defined apartheid as the “maintenance of a system of legalized racial segregation in which one group is deprived of political and civil rights.” Inhumane actions against the members of a racial group must be evident for an apartheid classification.
According to Amnesty’s report, Israel meets the requirements of apartheid. The report stated, “Palestinian Israelis are not considered nationals, and don’t have the same rights and privileges as Jewish Israelis.” Amnesty contends that the Israeli government subjects Palestinians to forced evictions, restrictions of movement, and deliberate targeting of “medics, journalists, and human rights defenders during protests.” Palestinians are forced into “higher rates of poverty, lower levels of labor force participation, educational attainment, and health status.”
The report concludes that Israeli’s practices towards the Palestinians qualify it as an apartheid state.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, defended Israel on the Senate Floor.
“I am deeply disturbed by Amnesty International’s report,” Menendez stated. “This outrageous accusation belies history, facts, and common sense.”
The Biden Administration issued a formal response on Feb 1.
“We certainly reject the label that has been attached to this when speaking about Israel.” said State Department spokesman Ned Price.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) are also among a growing number of U.S. Senators and Representatives condemning the report.
“While countries around the world commit mass atrocities, starve and barrel bomb their own citizens, and threaten war against their neighbors, the obsessive attention towards Israel is truly confounding.” Menendez said, asserting that Amnesty places a double standard on Israel.
In agreement with Menendez, Yair Lapid, the Israeli Foreign Minister, said, “Amnesty does not call Syria an ‘apartheid state’ – a country whose government murdered half a million of its own citizens – nor Iran or any other corrupt and murderous regime in Africa or Latin America.”
U.S. officials also note that Israel is a democratic state that grants civil and political rights to Palestinians. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North African, and Global Counterterrorism stated “Arab and Jewish Israelis serve side by side in the same governing coalition.”
The Wall Street Journal noted that Israel is a democracy in which Arab Israelis participate in elections and hold seats in the Knesset. An Arab serves in the Israeli cabinet.
Schumer wrote that Israel is “a fellow democracy and the world’s only Jewish state.” He said that the report “brings the parties no closer to peace, but simply hardens the extremes who do not wish to ever see a two-state solution.”
The term apartheid was first used in 1948. The National Party of South Africa instituted systematic segregation in which the minority white population dominated the nation politically, socially, and economically.
Menendez stated that the report, “diminishes the very real apartheid that brutalized black South Africans for decades and does a great disservice to the pursuit of true equality and progress under the law.”