Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday accused Israeli authorities of crimes against humanity, specifically that of apartheid and persecution, against the Palestinian people. The report finds that there is “an overarching Israeli government policy” working to maintain Israeli domination over Palestinians through land and demographical control as well as grave human rights abuses against Palestinians living in the occupied territory.
The 213-page report focuses on evaluating whether specific acts and policies of Israel amount to apartheid as understood in international law. It cites the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid of 1973 and the Rome Statute to the International Criminal Court (ICC) of 1998, which define apartheid as a crime against humanity comprising 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 review of government documents and official statements to compare “policies and practices” of the Israeli government towards Palestinians and Jewish Israeli living in the occupied territory.
Kenneth Roth, the executive director of HRW, said the denial of fundamental rights to millions of Palestinians, solely due to their identity as Palestinian and not Jewish, is a policy to privilege one community at the expense of another. He further stated:
This detailed study shows that Israeli authorities have already turned that corner and today are committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution. … While much of the world treats Israel’s half-century occupation as a temporary situation … the oppression of Palestinians there has reached a threshold and a permanence that meets the definitions of the crimes of apartheid and persecution. … Those who strive for Israeli-Palestinian peace … should in the meantime recognize this reality for what it is and bring to bear the sorts of human rights tools needed to end it.
HRW’s report follows the ICC’s March announcement of an investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes in Palestinian territories. The Israeli authorities have rejected the report’s findings, with Strategic Affairs Minister Michael Biton terming it as “distorted reality … part of its ongoing political and obsessive campaign against Israel in recent years.”