LONDON: A new report by Israel’s most prominent human rights organization that labels the country an “apartheid regime” has been hailed by rights groups.
The ground-breaking paper, published by B’Tselem on Tuesday, says Israel “is not a democracy” but an “apartheid regime” that enforces Jewish supremacy, in warnings that echo those made by Palestinian rights groups.
“One organizing principle lies at the base of a wide array of Israeli policies: Advancing and perpetuating the supremacy of one group — Jews — over another — Palestinians,” the report said.
Hagai El-Ad, executive director of B’Tselem, said: “Israel is not a democracy that has a temporary occupation attached to it. It is one regime between the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, and we must look at the full picture and see it for what it is: Apartheid.”
Chris Doyle, director of the Council of Arab-British Understanding, said the report is an “important step” by the “most respected” Israeli rights group, and has been a “long time coming.”
Palestinian and Arab rights groups have been using the apartheid description for decades, he added.
The report is crucial to “challenging the false notion” that democracy and occupation can coexist, and Israel’s two-tiered rights system is proof of that falsehood, Doyle said.
He added that the coronavirus pandemic highlights the “parallel worlds” that the two peoples inhabit within the state, where Israelis “have greater rights” than Palestinians and receive superior health and medical care.
As Israel is an occupying power under international law, it has an explicit legal obligation to provide adequate healthcare to Palestinians, something it has failed to do, he said.
The use of apartheid as a description must fit specific legal terminology, and Israel’s “systemic discrimination based on race” means the term can be fairly applied in this case, Doyle added. Despite B’Tselem’s promising move, he warned: “It’s hard to see how the occupation ends.”
The UK-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign praised the report as “immensely important” after B’Tselem “added its voice to the chorus recognizing that Israel is an apartheid state.”
Israeli rights group Yesh Din published a legal opinion last year that also argued that apartheid is being committed.
In 2017, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia became the first UN body to label Israel an apartheid regime.
But the UN leadership did not support the report’s publication and it was wiped from its website.
Last year, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would annex parts of the West Bank, UN experts warned that it “would be the crystallization of an already unjust reality: Two peoples living in the same space, ruled by the same state, but with profoundly unequal rights.” They added: “This is a vision of a 21st-century apartheid.”