Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Amnesty International Gets It Right: Israel Is an Apartheid State. But NGO Reports Won’t Free Palestine

A report issued yesterday by Amnesty International spells out how Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory amounts to “apartheid,” and calls on the world to “bring perpetrators of apartheid crimes to justice.”

Scott Cooper

February 2, 2022
Facebook Twitter Share

The findings in Amnesty International’s report on Israel released yesterday could not be stated more clearly. As Agnès Callamard, the group’s secretary general, put it:

Our report reveals the true extent of Israel’s apartheid regime. Whether they live in Gaza, East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, or Israel itself, Palestinians are treated as an inferior racial group and systematically deprived of their rights. We found that Israel’s cruel policies of segregation, dispossession, and exclusion across all territories under its control clearly amount to apartheid. The international community has an obligation to act.

It is notable that the report identifies that the apartheid system that the settler-colonialist Zionist state has built is not limited to the so-called Occupied Territories, but extends into Israel itself.

“Apartheid” as a term is usually associated with South Africa’s system of institutionalized racial segregation that was dismantled in the early 1990s. It’s no coincidence that during that period, as a worldwide movement against the South African government grew to a point where the country became an international pariah, its one reliable ally was Israel. Even today, the struggles for Palestinian liberation and against continued exploitation of Black workers in South Africa cannot be separated, as the Clover strike in South Africa makes clear.

Specifics of the Report

Amnesty International’s report comes after several years of investigation into the specific legal structures and policies Israel employs against the Palestinians, with a special focus on living conditions. It concludes that “massive and brutal” seizures of Palestinian land and property from the very beginning of Israel’s existence, along with the killing of Palestinians, drastic restrictions of movement, and denial of citizenship constitute apartheid. “The inhuman or inhumane acts committed within the context of this attack have been committed with the intention to maintain this system and amount to the crime against humanity of apartheid under both the Apartheid Convention and the Rome Statue.”

Israel subjects Palestinians to all of this on a daily basis, declares Amnesty International.

Among its many specific findings, Amnesty International points to the crystallization of discrimination against Palestinians in the 2018 law that enshrined the Zionist state as the “nation state of the Jewish people,” promoted more settlements, and downgraded Arabic as one of Israel’s official languages. It explains that racist land seizures and a “web” of discriminatory laws on land allocation, planning, and zoning effectively block Palestinians from leasing on 80 percent of Israel’s state land. The report uses the Negev/Naqab region of southern Israel as a prime example to show how the apartheid system has been erected. Since 1948, the Zionists have enacted policies to “Judaize” the region, including everything from designating large areas as nature reserves or military firing zones to setting quotas for increasing the Jewish population.

This has had particularly devastating consequences for the tens of thousands of Palestinian Bedouins who live in the region. Some 68,000 Bedouins in 35 “unrecognized” villages have been cut off from the national water and electricity supplies, their homes are repeatedly targeted for demolition, and they are excluded from healthcare and education. The report states:

Israel has deliberately destroyed homes and displaced civilians during military operations, rendering tens of thousands of Palestinians homeless and displaced. The evidence suggests that most of the destruction was not justified by military necessity and amounted to violations of international humanitarian law. Considered within the context of the system of oppression and domination, the violations contribute to maintaining this system of apartheid.

These policies, regulations, and conduct, Amnesty International states, “have involved the crime against humanity of deportation or forcible transfer.”

Israel Cries “Antisemitism”

Of course, Israeli leaders responded with the usual false claim of antisemitism, part of a decades-long conflation of Judaism and Zionism — their racist, murderous ideology — that is cynical to its core. They want the report withdrawn.

Yair Lipid, the Israeli foreign minister, characterized the report as “divorced from reality” and said Amnesty International “quotes lies spread by terrorist organizations.” Playing the antisemitism card, he added, “I hate to use the argument that if Israel were not a Jewish state, nobody in Amnesty would dare argue against it, but in this case, there is no other possibility.”

Those “terrorist organizations” that Amnesty International drew on for some of its research are the very human rights organizations that Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz designated as “terrorist” last October to silence their voices. The Zionist government, though, has not been able to suppress the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, better known as B’Tselem, which a year ago concluded that the “regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea” amounted to apartheid.

For an International Movement to Free Palestine

South African apartheid was crushed by a concerted struggle inside that country by its victims and allies, along with a massive international solidarity effort. The Palestinians will never be freed from the yoke of Zionist apartheid without the same kind of international fight, which means taking on U.S. imperialism — which props up its Israeli client state with more aid than any other country in the world.

Despite how useful and important it is to have a report like that of Amnesty International, Palestinian freedom isn’t going to come from NGOs or an International Criminal Court established by bourgeois governments to free Palestinians from their oppression. Amnesty International USA made clear in a tweet yesterday that the group’s “focus has been on the Israeli government’s obligations, as the occupying power, under international law, but Amnesty has taken no position on the occupation itself.”

An international movement has to be organized independent of governments, NGOs, and those who legitimize Israel’s “right to exist.” It cannot be based on accepting any claims to territory by the Israelis. It cannot be about going back to the pre-1967 borders or stopping further settlements without dismantling the nearly 250 “government-approved” and unofficial ones in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with more than 400,00 occupiers. It must fight for dismantling the Zionist state and for a democratic, secular Palestine.

Palestine must be free, from the river to the sea!

Facebook Twitter Share

Scott Cooper

Scott is a writer, editor, and longtime socialist activist who lives in the Boston area.

Middle East-Africa

There’s No Democracy Under Apartheid

75 years after its founding, the state of Israel is being rocked by massive protests in defense of democracy. Yet Israel never was a democracy — and never can be.

Nathaniel Flakin

May 15, 2023

75 Years of Nakba: The Catastrophe Is Ongoing

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Nakba, or “catastrophe” in Arabic. Yet the displacement and dispossession of Palestinian people from their homeland began even before the creation of the Zionist State of Israel in 1948, and continues to this day.

Luigi Morris

May 15, 2023

75 Years of Israeli Violence against Palestinians

75 years since the Nakba, it is increasingly clear that Israel is a violent occupier of the Palestinian people. In the last three quarters of a century, it has also served the interests of U.S. imperialism and trained and aided other capitalist states in methods of violence and repression.

Sam Carliner

May 14, 2023

Nigeria’s Unprecedented Election Shows Importance of Politicized Youth in Time of Crisis

Nigeria’s national election is shaped by deepening capitalist crisis, outsider candidates, and an activated youth.

Sam Carliner

February 28, 2023


Image by the Economist, Satoshi Kimbayashi

The Debt Ceiling Agreement is an Attack on the Working Class and on the Planet

Joe Biden and Kevin McCarthy’s deal to raise the debt ceiling is a handout to the military industrial complex and an attack on the working class and the planet. Rather than just raising the debt ceiling, a relatively standard practice that allows the U.S. to pay the bills for spending that already happened, this debt ceiling deal caps discretionary spending on everything but “defense” and fast-tracks the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

Image in The Stand

SCOTUS v. Labor Movement: The Court Rules Against Workers

The Supreme Court issued a ruling which aims to weaken strikes. It is no coincidence that this comes at a time when unions have massive support among the general population. The labor movement must fight back against the state's attacks on our collective power.

Luigi Morris

June 3, 2023

This Pride Month, There is Hope In Fighting Back. Pride is in the Streets.

Pride is in the streets. It is the history of our community, it is the history of our struggle. Let us do them honor.

Ezra Brain

June 2, 2023
A rainbow display at the supermarket Target during Pride Month 2022.

Target Doesn’t Care about LGBTQ+ People

At Target and Anheuser-Busch, policies of inclusion and diversity have clashed with profit ambitions.

Pablo Herón

June 2, 2023