AN international leading human rights watchdog, the Human Rights Watch (HRW), has accused the Israeli authorities in a 213-page report titled ‘A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution’ of seeking to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians through grave abuses committed against Palestinians living in the occupied territory, including East Jerusalem.
‘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.
‘This detailed study shows that Israeli authorities have already turned that corner and today are committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.’
HRW found that the elements of the crimes come together in the occupied territory, as part of a single Israeli government policy.
That policy is to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians across Israel and the occupied territory. It is coupled in the occupied territory with systematic oppression and inhumane acts against Palestinians living there. HRW compared policies and practices toward Palestinians in the occupied territory and Israel with those concerning Jewish Israelis living in the same areas.
Across Israel and the occupied territory, Israeli authorities have sought to maximize the land available for Jewish communities and to concentrate most Palestinians in dense population centres.
The authorities have adopted policies to mitigate what they have openly described as a ‘demographic threat’ from Palestinians. In Jerusalem, for example, the government’s plan for the municipality, including both the west and occupied east parts of the city, sets the goal of ‘maintaining a solid Jewish majority in the city’ and even specifies the demographic ratios it hopes to maintain.
To maintain domination, Israeli authorities systematically discriminate against Palestinians. The institutional discrimination that Palestinian citizens of Israel face includes laws that allow hundreds of small Jewish towns to effectively exclude Palestinians, and budgets that allocate only a fraction of resources to Palestinian schools as compared to those that serve Jewish Israeli children.
In the occupied territory, the severity of the repression, including the imposition of draconian military rule on Palestinians while affording Jewish Israelis living in a segregated manner in the same territory their full rights under Israel’s rights-respecting civil law, amounts to the systematic oppression required for apartheid.
Israeli authorities have committed a range of abuses against Palestinians. These include sweeping movement restrictions in the form of the Gaza closure, and a permit regime, confiscation of more than a third of the land in the West Bank, harsh conditions in parts of the West Bank which has led to the forcible transfer of thousands of Palestinians out of their homes, denial of residency rights to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and their relatives, and the suspension of basic civil rights to millions of Palestinians.
Many of the abuses at the core of these crimes, such as near-categorical denial of building permits to Palestinians and demolition of thousands of homes on the pretext of lacking such permits, have no security justification.
HRW said: ‘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.
‘These policies, which grant Jewish Israelis the same rights and privileges wherever they live but discriminate against Palestinians to varying degrees wherever they live, reflect a policy to privilege one people at the expense of another.’
HRW urges: ‘Israeli authorities should dismantle all forms of repression and discrimination that privilege Jewish Israelis at the expense of Palestinians, including with regards to freedom of movement, allocation of land and resources, access to water, electricity, and other services, and the granting of building permits.
‘The ICC (International Criminal Court) Office of the Prosecutor should investigate and prosecute those credibly implicated in the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.’
HRW adds: ‘While much of the world treats Israel’s half-century occupation as a temporary situation that a decades-long “peace process” will soon cure, the oppression of Palestinians there has reached a threshold and a permanence that meets the definitions of the crimes of apartheid and persecution.’
Palestinian Presidential Spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh welcomed the HRW report as ‘a powerful testament to the struggle of the people of Palestine under Israel’s belligerent military occupation and its colonial and oppressive policies.’ The workers of the world must now intervene to stop Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people and to carry out the report’s recommendations.