Human Rights Watch of United Nations released a 213-page report named ‘A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution’. It examines the treatment of Palestinians by the state of Israel. It said that Israel has used apartheid and persecution to overpower Palestinians which is a grave human rights abuse. Their findings were based on a predominant government policy by Israel that maintained the Jewish Israeli dominance over Palestinians in the land.
According to the current geographic situation of the region, Israel has been ruling all the areas between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. It is populated by two equally sized groups but provides methodical privilege to Jewish Israelites while severely repressing Palestinians, who are the indigenous ones of this occupied territory.
Many individuals and groups in the international community deny the crimes of Israel since 1948 when the state came into being out of thin air and started ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
Human Rights Watch Urges the World to Recognize Reality for What it is
The executive director of HRW insisted that for many years, a lot of prominent voices have warned that if Israel’s trajectory of oppressive rule doesn’t change then there could be another apartheid (referencing the historic legal system of racial segregation in South Africa). The recent report suggests that Israeli authorities have already done that in a time when apartheid is illegal. Therefore, it is not only violating human rights but has also become a criminal state. The world is shocked at how can Jewish Israel oppress an entire ethnic population legally in plain sight for so many years.
The single authority system of Israel has laws and policies in place that discriminate against Palestinians and maintain Jewish Israel’s control over political power, demographics, and land. Even though the population of Palestinians and Jewish Israelites are equal in numbers in three different territories. In some areas, the level of subjugation was so severe that HRW amounted it to the crimes of apartheid and persecution.
However, this finding does not change the legal status of the illegally occupied Palestinian territories, which include Gaza, West Bank, and East Jerusalem.
Apartheid and Persecution According to International Law
Apartheid is known as institutional discrimination and oppression against a racial group. Here, a broader understanding of race is required because it is not limited to the color of the skin. It includes the national, religious, and ethnic origins of a group. It is prohibited according to international law and regarded as a crime against humanity. There are main benefits to the state if it uses apartheid; first, it can maintain domination of one racial group over another, second, to systematically oppress the marginalized group, and third, to conduct inhumane acts legally.
HRW also found the Israeli policy as persecution, which is another crime against humanity like apartheid. This crime involves denying the fundamental rights of an ethnic group. The report cited ‘1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid’ and ‘1998 Rome Statute to the International Criminal Court (ICC)’ to declare Israel as a criminal state. Both crimes against humanity are tied together in the occupied territory to keep systematic oppression and inhumane acts against Palestinians alive.
What Has Israel Done in the Palestinian Land?
Israel occupied the Palestinian territories in a six-day war in 1967. A bloody battle took place between Israel and its neighboring states of Jordan, Syria, and Egypt after years of the diplomatic rift. Israel was able to defeat Egypt and its allies after a successful combination of ground and airstrikes that crippled Arab forces. During the war, Israel seized control of the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaze strip from Egypt, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria.
This victory of Israel took away home from hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, who received the status of refugees. Israel pretended that it pulled out of Gaza in 2005 but its control of the borders, airspace, and waters was apparent. There were even reports of serious violence in the region like last year’s bombing followed by the normalization deal between UAE and Israel.
There are about 140 Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem which most of the international community considers illegal under international law but Israel denies that. HRW claimed that it investigated years of documentation on government planning and official statements to compare how policy is practiced towards Palestinians and Jewish Israelites living in the same region. It further claimed that it approached the Israeli government multiple times on this issue but received no response.
The report revealed that Israelite authorities have system in place to maximize available land for Jewish communities and segregate most Palestinians in densely populated areas across all occupied territories. Authorities have adopted these policies after citing that Jewish community faced demographic threat from Palestinians. In the capital, Jerusalem, the municipality legally maintains a solid Jewish majority in entire city (both east and west parts) and works to achieve and maintain a particular demographic ratio.
There are laws that allow even small Jewish towns and villages to legally exclude Palestinians. The budget for Palestinian schools is only a fraction as compared to Jewish schools. HRW found draconian military rule against most Palestinians while Jewish Israelites living freely in a socially privileged manner. Israelites have maintained that they face security threats from the Palestinians.
The Pretext for Oppressive Policies
HRW disregarded the ‘security concerns’ of Israelite forces that involve an entire ethnic group. It found no justification for countless oppressive policies Israel has placed on Palestinians. For example, categorically refusing to issue building permits for the Palestinians and then demolishing thousands of homes for not having permits.
Israel manages a population registry in each of its occupied territories according to Human Rights Watch report. It found that Palestinians are blocked from having family reunification in occupied territories and Gaza residents are banned from living in the West Bank. It just had to use the pretext of security to make all of this legal and further its demographic ambitions.
What Does the Report Mean for International Community?
The report aims to prompt Israel to seriously dismantling all forms of repression and discrimination that favor Jewish Israelites at the expense of Palestinians. It further recommends allowing them freedom of movement, access to water, electricity, and other facilities, proper allocation of land and resources, and the issuance of building permits.
The watch also expects the international community to reevaluate their relationships with Israel and base their approach on human rights and accountability rather than the peace promises of Israel. UAE received criticism from some parts of the Muslim world when it signed a friendship deal with Israel. Apartheid is grave misconduct for which countries are required to establish the UN commission of inquiry and global envoy to investigate apartheid and persecution. HRW encourages the countries to help to end it from the world.
Furthermore, countries are also requested to recondition weapon deals with Israel including assistance of military and security. Nations who are friends with Israel can persuade the authorities to take real action toward ending its regularity of crimes against Palestinians before carrying on diplomatic relations successfully. HRW stressed that because it found that the funding Israel receives from doing business with the whole world, directly contributes in serious crimes against Palestinians.