Human Rights Watch accuses Israel of Committing Apartheid Against Palestinians

Kamilla Sorskar Engen, International Law and Affairs Officer

26 Apr 2021

The violations described in the report concern Israeli treatment of Palestinians and Arabs in the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip, and annexed East Jerusalem. The Israeli Foreign Ministry called the claims “both preposterous and false.”

The report refers to human rights documentation, scrutiny of Israeli laws and government planning documents, as well as statements by officials, and asserts that there exists a ‘present-day reality of a single authority, the Israeli government … methodologically privileging Jewish Israelis while repressing Palestinians, most severely in the occupied territory." Kenneth Roth, executive director of HRW, stated “the oppression of Palestinians there has reached a threshold and a permanence that meets the definitions of the crimes of apartheid and persecution." He also noted, "Denying millions of Palestinians their fundamental rights, without any legitimate security justification and solely because they are Palestinian and not Jewish, is not simply a matter of an abusive occupation. These policies, which grant Jewish Israelis the same rights and privileges wherever they live and discriminate against Palestinians to varying degrees wherever they live, reflect a policy to privilege one people at the expense of another."

The term ‘apartheid’ was initially used to describe South Africa’s segregation of non-white citizens, but is now, according to the report, a ‘universally recognized legal term’ amounting to a crime against humanity under international criminal law. It is defined by the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Rome Statute as “an effort to maintain domination by one racial group over another, a context of systematic oppression by the dominant group over the marginalized group (and) inhuman acts." Additionally, persecution is also a crime against humanity, and is defined in the Rome Statute as “the intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights contrary to international law by reason of the identity of the group or collectivity.” HRW called upon the ICC to investigate and prosecute those involved in the crimes. The ICC announced in March that it would investigate war crimes committed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, however Israel has responded that it will not cooperate.

To read more about the report, see this Al Jazeera article:
https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/4/27/israel-uses-apartheid-to-subjugate-palestinians-hrw-report

To read the HRW report:
https://www.hrw.org/report/2021/04/27/threshold-crossed/israeli-authorities-and-crimes-apartheid-and-persecution