Israel condemns ‘preposterous’ report accusing it of ‘crimes against humanity’ and ‘apartheid’ towards Palestinians
- Human Rights Watch released a new 213-page report on Tuesday accusing Israel of pursuing policies of apartheid and persecution against Palestinians and its own Arab minority
- Israel has rejected the report which has been welcomed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
- The report comes just weeks after the International Criminal Court announced it would investigate war crimes in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip
Israel has condemned a report by an international rights watchdog that accused the country of pursuing policies of apartheid and persecution against Palestinians and its own Arab minority that amount to crimes against humanity.
Israel’s foreign ministry said claims made in Human Rights Watch’s report were ‘both preposterous and false’ and accused the New York-based organisation of harbouring an ‘anti-Israeli agenda,’ saying it had sought ‘for years to promote boycotts against Israel’.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the 213-page report, published on Tuesday.
‘It is urgent for the international community to intervene, including by making sure that their states, organisations, and companies are not contributing in any way to the execution of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Palestine,’ a statement from Abbas read.
HRW said the report is not aimed at comparing Israel with apartheid-era South Africa, but rather at assessing ‘whether specific acts and policies’ constitute apartheid as defined under international law.
The report’s release comes just weeks after the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced it would investigate war crimes in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, with the Israeli military and armed Palestinian groups including Hamas named as possible perpetrators.
Israel has condemned a report by an international rights watchdog that accused the country of pursuing policies of apartheid and persecution against Palestinians and its own Arab minority that amount to crimes against humanity [File photo]
In its report, HRW pointed to Israeli restrictions on Palestinian movement and seizure of Palestinian-owned land for Jewish settlement in territory occupied in the 1967 Six-Day War as examples of policies it said were crimes of apartheid and persecution.
‘Across Israel and the (Palestinian territories), Israeli authorities have pursued an intent to maintain domination over Palestinians by exercising control over land and demographics for the benefit of Jewish Israelis,’ the report says.
‘On this basis, the report concludes that Israeli officials have committed the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution,’ as defined under the 1973 Apartheid Convention and the 1998 Rome Statute.
Israeli officials fiercely object to apartheid accusations.
‘The purpose of this spurious report is in no way related to human rights, but to an ongoing attempt by HRW to undermine the State of Israel’s right to exist as the nation state of the Jewish people,’ Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Michael Biton said.
Israel’s foreign ministry claimed that HRW’s Israel programme was being ‘led by a known (BDS) supporter, with no connection to facts or reality on the ground,’ referring to the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
The report’s author, HRW Israel and Palestine Director Omar Shakir, was expelled from Israel in 2019 over accusations that he backs BDS.
Shakir denies that his HRW work and pro-Palestinian statements he made before being appointed to the HRW post in 2016 constitute active support for BDS.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the 213-page report, published on Tuesday [File photo]
Shakir told Reuters news agency that HRW would send its report to the ICC prosecutor’s office, ‘as we normally do when we reach conclusions about the commissions of crimes that fall within the Court’s jurisdiction.’
He said HRW also sent the ICC its 2018 report about possible crimes against humanity by Abbas’s Palestinian Authority and the militant and political group Hamas.
The ICC’s prosecutor said in March that she would formally investigate war crimes in the Palestinian territories, after ICC judges ruled that the court had jurisdiction there.
The Palestinian Authority welcomed the ruling but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced it as anti-Semitism and said Israel does not recognise the court’s authority.
Israeli officials fiercely object to apartheid accusations. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced an ICC ruling in March that the court had jurisdiction to formally investigate war crimes in the Palestinian territories [File photo]
HRW called on the ICC prosecutor to ‘investigate and prosecute individuals credibly implicated’ in apartheid and persecution.
HRW also said Israel’s 2018 ‘nation state’ law – declaring that only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country – ‘provides a legal basis to pursue policies that favour Jewish Israelis to the detriment’ of the country’s 21 per cent Arab minority, who regularly complain of discrimination.
Palestinians seek the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, areas occupied by Israel since their capture in the 1967 conflict, for a future state.
Under interim peace deals with Israel, Palestinians have limited self-rule in the West Bank; Hamas runs Gaza.
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