Occupied Palestine (In Palestine Today)- An international leading human rights watchdog has accused the Israeli authorities of committing crimes of apartheid against Palestinians.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch published a 213-page report on Tuesday titled “A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution,” which examines Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. The finding in HRW’s report is based on an overarching Israeli government policy to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians and grave abuses committed against Palestinians living in the occupied territory, including East Jerusalem,” the group said in a statement released Tuesday.
Drawing on years of human rights documentation, case studies, and a review of government planning documents, statements by officials, and other sources, Human Rights Watch compared policies and practices toward Palestinians in the occupied territory and Israel with those concerning Jewish Israelis living in the same areas.
“Prominent voices have warned for years that apartheid lurks just around the corner if the trajectory of Israel’s rule over Palestinians does not change,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.
“This detailed study shows that Israeli authorities have already turned that corner and today are committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.”
The crime against humanity of persecution, as defined under the Rome Statute and customary international law, consists of severe deprivation of fundamental rights of a racial, ethnic, or other group with discriminatory intent.
“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,” Roth said. “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.”
Statements and actions by Israeli authorities in recent years, including the passage of a law with constitutional status in 2018 establishing Israel as the “nation-state of the Jewish people,” the growing body of laws that further privilege Israeli settlers in the West Bank and do not apply to Palestinians living in the same territory, as well as the massive expansion in recent years of settlements and accompanying infrastructure connecting settlements to Israel, have clarified their intent to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis. The possibility that a future Israeli leader might someday forge a deal with Palestinians that dismantles the discriminatory system does not negate that reality today.
Israeli authorities should dismantle all forms of repression and discrimination that privilege Jewish Israelis at the expense of Palestinians, including with regards to freedom of movement, allocation of land and resources, access to water, electricity, and other services, and the granting of building permits.
The ICC Office of the Prosecutor should investigate and prosecute those credibly implicated in the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution. Countries should do so as well in accordance with their national laws under the principle of universal jurisdiction, and impose individual sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, on officials responsible for committing these crimes.
The findings of crimes against humanity should prompt the international community to reevaluate the nature of its engagement in Israel and Palestine and adopt an approach centered on human rights and accountability rather than solely on the stalled “peace process.”
“While much of the world treats Israel’s half-century occupation as a temporary situation that a decades-long ‘peace process’ will soon cure, the oppression of Palestinians there has reached a threshold and a permanence that meets the definitions of the crimes of apartheid and persecution,” Roth said. “Those who strive for Israeli-Palestinian peace, whether a one or two-state solution or a confederation, 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.”