A major Israeli human rights group has for the first time called Israel a “apartheid regime”, sparking a fierce controversy using the term that Israeli leaders have vehemently rejected.
B’Tselem, a leading rights organization, said in an explosive report on Tuesday that Israel cannot be a democracy while maintaining occupation in Palestinian territories.
“This is a regime between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and we should look at the whole picture and see what it is: apartheid,” the group’s executive director, Hagai El-Aid, said in a statement.
Some Israeli critics have used the term “apartheid” to describe how Palestinians have fewer rights than Jews in the occupied West Bank, blocking Gaza, canceling East Jerusalem and Israel itself.
Nevertheless, the term came to an end in 1994, exposing the system of white governance and racial segregation in South Africa.
The Israeli embassy spokesman in Britain, Ohad Zamit, dismissed the organization’s report, saying it was nothing more than a “propaganda tool”.
“Israel rejects false claims in the so-called report because it is not based on reality but on a distorted ideological view,”. “Israel is a strong and vibrant democracy, giving full rights to all its citizens, regardless of religion, race or gender.”
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According to The Associated Press, Palestinian citizens make up about 20 percent of the Israeli population of 9.2 million. Israel also exercises various levels of control over Palestinian territories as it seized East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip from Jordan and Egypt in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the land Palestinians want for a future state.
Most international communities consider Palestinian territories to be occupied. However, in early 2017, US officials began to leave public references to the West Bank as “occupied” and in 2019 the US reversed its decades-old position that Israeli settlements in the West Bank were illegal.
In recent years, rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have said that Israeli authorities have sought to undermine the work of rights defenders, including those advocating for Israeli rights and arresting Palestinian activists.
In 2019, Israel expelled Omar Shakir, the local director of Human Rights Watch, for allegedly supporting an international boycott movement against the country. Human Rights Watch said that neither it nor Shakir called for a boycott of Israel.
In its report, B’Tselem stated that an organizing principle lay behind a whole array of Israeli policies: “One group – the Jews – over the other – advancing and maintaining the dominance of the Palestinians.”
The organization said that Israel used the land, among other means, to enforce the doctrine of “Jewish supremacy”, with Jews living in a place where they enjoy full authority and self-determination, while the people of Palestine Live in separate territories, each living with their own set of rights granted or denied by Israel, but always inferior to rights for Jews.
Two recent developments suggest that Israel was more outspoken with its “Jewish supremacist ideology”.
The first, it said, was a controversial law passed in 2018 that declared, among other provisions, that only Jews have the right to self-determination. Critics of the law said that it would end the inferior status of Arabs in Israel.
Another said, in 2019 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he planned parts of the West Bank. The group said it rejected Israel’s long-term intentions and claims of “temporary occupation”.
Eugene Kantorovich, director of international law at the Jerusalem-based Cohlet Policy Forum, called a conservative Thanx Thanx, B’Tales’ accusation “shockingly weak, dishonest and misleading.”
“There is no policy of racial or ethnic segregation,” Israel said in a statement.
“By creating big lies,” B’Tselem does not merely want to criticize Israel, but fundamentally assigns Israel and calls for its destruction – because apartheid does not improve the regime, one ends it Is, “he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Lavage Jabari and Paul Goldman has contributed.