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Why it is crucial to keep a spotlight on Israel’s apartheid

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In April this year, Human Rights Watch issued a report, titled “A Threshold Crossed”, condemning Israel for “committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution against Palestinians”.

“Israeli authorities methodically privilege Jewish Israelis and discriminate against Palestinians. 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 leading international NGO flatly stated. “In pursuit of this goal, authorities have dispossessed, confined, forcibly separated, and subjugated Palestinians by virtue of their identity to varying degrees of intensity. In certain areas, as described in this report, these deprivations are so severe that they amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.”

The bluntness of the claims in the 213-page report shocked some, but the debate on whether or not Israel has imposed an apartheid regime over the Palestinians has a long history.

The Apartheid Convention of 1973 defined apartheid as “inhuman acts committed for the purposes of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them”. Since then, dozens of political and religious leaders, rights groups, legal scholars and international institutions used the term “apartheid” to describe Israel’s actions against the Palestinians. In 2017, for example, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UNESCWA) conducted an inquiry on “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid,” and concluded that “Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole”.

In the face of these accusations, Israel always maintained its innocence, claiming that it is treating Palestinians living under its rule – both in Israel and in the occupied Palestinian Territories – fairly.

It decried efforts to label it as an “apartheid state” by pointing to its own declarations about its institutions’ commitment to equality. And, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Israel’s powerful allies and the wider international community refrained from officially labelling Israel as an apartheid state and censuring it for its racist and discriminatory policies. After the publication of the damning HRW report, for example, a spokesperson for the US State Department simply said: “It is not the view of [the Biden] administration that Israel’s actions constitute apartheid.”

While countless articles, scholarly papers and reports have been written demonstrating the ways in which Israel has established an apartheid regime over........

© Al Jazeera

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