FEATURE: Human Rights Watch releases report: Israel ‘crimes of apartheid’

On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch accused Israel of committing apartheid crimes and persecution against the Palestinian people in the occupied territories.

On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch accused Israel of committing apartheid crimes and persecution against the Palestinian people in the occupied territories. Picture: Israel/Pexels

CAPE TOWN, April 27 (ANA) – Human Rights Watch said in a 213-page study issued Tuesday that Israel’s dual policies, enshrined in its rules, benefit Jewish Israelis while oppressing Palestinians and had “crossed the threshold” into Apartheid.

The report titled: “A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution” states that Israel has a policy “to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians”, including its citizens.

“The finding 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 Human Rights Commission said in the statement on Tuesday.

“I think it’s quite clear that that threshold has been crossed,” Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, said to AFP.

Apartheid is defined as “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them,” as per the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.

On March 3, the ICC’s chief prosecutor revealed that they had launched a comprehensive inquiry into the Israeli-occupied territories, infuriating Israel, which is not a member of the court headquarters in The Hague.

On March 9, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a deferral notice, granting Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) one month to warn judges if they are investigating offences close to those investigated by the ICC.

“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 statement reads.

Apartheid is considered a crime against humanity since it is state-sanctioned racial segregation and discrimination.

Israel’s foreign ministry has dismissed the ICC report as “preposterous and false.”

On Thursday, the statement from Israel marked the first time that Netanyahu had made it clear Israel would not directly engage with the ICC.

“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.

The discovery of segregation and repression currently has little impact on the legal status of the occupied territories, which includes the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza, or on the occupation’s objective facts.

The Gaza Strip, which the UN considers to be occupied by Israel, is home to about 1.9 million Palestinians.

The group B’Tselem recorded 8,166 conflict-related deaths in just over a decade, of which 7,065 are Palestinian and 1,101 Israeli. The number of Palestinian fatalities is highly disproportionate to Israeli fatalities, as Arabs remain a minority in the region.

Israeli officials claimed that many of the destroyed structures lacked Israeli-issued permits, which are almost challenging to secure for Palestinians, or were located in closed military areas.

Amnesty International forced hundreds of Palestinians from their homes in Israel and the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, by home demolitions and other punitive actions.

“Israel continued to deny Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza married to Palestinian citizens of Israel the right to nationality by enforcing the discriminatory Entry to Israel Law,” Amnesty stated.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Israel destroyed 848 Palestinian residential buildings in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, displacing 996 civilians.

“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 HRW.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement in which it claimed that the government had decided “to not cooperate” with the ICC.

Since 1967, when Israel annexed East Jerusalem, Israel has controlled the West Bank.

Fatou Bensouda, the ICC prosecutor, stated that her investigation would focus on the situation in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem since 2014. It will mostly concentrate on the 2014 Gaza war and examine Palestinian demonstrator deaths beginning in 2018.

– African News Agency (ANA); Editing by Naomi Mackay

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