HRW: Israel is Committing Crimes Against Palestinians

Wednesday 28 April 202106:29 pm
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"هيومان رايتس ووتش" تعترف بجرائم إسرائيل بحق الفلسطينيين، وإسرائيل تتهمها بمعاداتها

In a report issued on Tuesday, April 27, 2021, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) organization said that Israel is committing “crimes against humanity” in Palestine — namely the two crimes of apartheid and persecution — in reference to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in both the occupied territories and Jerusalem.

Under the title “A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution”, the 213-page report presents the reality of the occupied territories, as there is one main authority — the Israeli government — that governs the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, populated by two groups of roughly equal size. This “government” methodologically grants privileges to the Jewish Israeli population while blatantly persecuting and repressing Palestinians. According to the report, the oppression is practiced “most severely” and on a much larger scale in the occupied territories.

This “government” methodologically grants privileges to the Jewish Israeli population while blatantly persecuting and repressing Palestinians.

Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth said, “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. This detailed study shows that Israeli authorities have already turned that corner and today are committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.”

The leading human rights watchdog held a press conference on Tuesday, April 27th, to accompany a preview of the report’s findings on the discriminatory rule that Israel exercises against Palestinians.

Adopting the Term “Apartheid” State

The report stated that “an overarching Israeli government policy” aims “to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians,” stressing that this is not the first time that Israel has faced similar accusations of committing violations against the Palestinian people. However, the Human Rights Watch report says that “the Israeli government has exceeded the legal limit” and must face the consequences for adopting an “apartheid” policy against the Palestinians.

After the term “apartheid” was coined in a related context in South Africa (where there was heavy racist segregation against the non-white citizens), it is today a universal legal term. In addition, the prohibition against severe institutionalized discrimination and oppression constitutes a core principle of international law. The 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, and the 1998 Rome Statute to the International Criminal Court (ICC) define apartheid as a crime based on three elements: the intent to maintain the domination of one racial group over another, a context of systematic oppression by the dominant group against the marginalized group, and inhumane acts.

Human Rights Watch report says that “the Israeli government has exceeded the legal limit” and must face the consequences for adopting a policy of “apartheid” against Palestinians

Razi Nabulsi, political and strategic analyst and researcher at the Masarat Palestinian Center for Policy Research and Strategic Studies, tells Raseef22, “This report actually constitutes a continuation of previous reports, especially the report issued by the Israeli B’Tselem Center, which previously considered the regime in historic Palestine as an apartheid system. The continuity of these reports constitutes, for Israel, another blow that is added to the files of international crimes and necessarily affects its international and regional status. These institutions indicate without question to the occupation and the world that: the situation cannot continue as it is in Palestine.”

At a Time When Israel Thinks it Has Settled the Discord

Political analyst and strategist Antoine Shalhat says in an interview with Raseef22 that, “There is no doubt that this recognition is important. First, in terms of its essence, the criticism it carries against Israeli policy, and the widespread awareness about Israeli practices that it can raise around the world. Secondly, it is important in terms of the context in which it has surfaced, especially timewise. The report comes at a time when Israel believes that the Palestinian cause is no longer at the top of the regional or global agenda, in light of the so-called ‘Abraham Accords’ to normalize the relations of some Arab countries with Israel despite its policy towards the Palestinians, as well as the decisions, procedures and laws presented by the previous US administration in support of Israel’s policies — which the new US administration has not abandoned either. Also, this position highlights a special significance regarding Jerusalem in particular, which Israel thinks that it has settled the conflict in its regard.” Shalhat continues, “Of course, this position supports the Palestinians in their quest to find a solution for the Palestinian cause. We must add that the support is directed towards advocacy for a two-state solution, noting that the Palestinian cause necessitates a solution that achieves justice for all Palestinians. I do not make this observation to discredit the recognition made by Human Rights Watch, but rather to confirm its importance and for representing a significant step towards achieving that justice.”

Will Palestinians Benefit

Speaking on the importance of obtaining international recognition on the practices made by the occupation against Palestinians, Antoine Shalhat says, “The importance lies in a dual purpose, first: to support the Palestinian struggle to get rid of the occupation and obtain their national rights, foremost among which is their right to self-determination. Second, to exert pressure on Israel to give up the occupation and change its general policy towards the Palestinians.”

It is important to emphasize here that — for reasons that would take too long to explain — they are mainly related to the specifics of the so-called “settlement process” for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and the transformations that have taken place in the Israeli political and partisan scene. The importance of relying on external pressures to wipe the Israeli occupation and to force Israel to change its general policy towards the Palestinians, has increased. Such pressure has not yet been exercised properly up till now.”

Razi Nabulsi adds, “There is a possibility to benefit from the report and other reports, and most importantly: from the Israeli colonial policies. However, in reality the crisis lies in the division and fragmentation of the Palestinian political situation, which does not really allow for any sort of benefit in light of a state of political paralysis and the absence of a unified national strategy.”

“The report comes at a time when Israel believes that the Palestinian cause is no longer at the top of the regional or global agenda, in light of the so-called ‘Abraham Accords’ to normalize the relations of some Arab countries with Israel”

The Issue Calls for the International Community to Shoulder its Responsibilities

The Palestinian presidency welcomed this report and considered it an “international testimony” affirming the injustice inflicted on the Palestinians on a regular basis. The official spokesman for the Palestinian presidency, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, commended the expanded report published by the rights organization, calling it “a powerful testament to the struggle of the people of Palestine under Israel’s belligerent military occupation and its colonial and oppressive policies.” Abu Rudeineh added in his statement, “This report is very well made and documented, and proves that Israel has committed crimes of apartheid and persecution, which calls for the international community to assume its immediate responsibilities towards Palestine and hold Israel accountable for its multiple crimes against our people.” He also stated, “We firmly believe that justice based on resolutions of international legitimacy and non-impunity is the only way to achieve lasting peace in Palestine, Israel, and the entire region,” stressing that this report comes at a time when Israeli violations and crimes are escalating fiercely against the Palestinian people — especially in occupied Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine — and against Palestinian citizens in Israel itself.

“This recognition promotes opportunities for Palestinians to address the world and delegitimize the occupation and its policies. In my opinion, in light of the existing situation between Israel and the Palestinians — which is due in large to the dismal internal Palestinian situation, which is unfortunately not a secret to anyone, and to regional and international situations — it strengthens the Palestinian position in the world as a whole, as well as in international institutions. I believe that the position of the world and international legitimacy institutions towards the occupation has become the most important arena for Palestinian political and diplomatic action. It goes without saying that this work needs tools similar to the Human Rights Watch report,” so says analyst Antoine Shalhat to Raseef22.

“The position of the world and international legitimacy institutions towards the occupation has become the most important arena for Palestinian political and diplomatic action.”

Israel Accuses Human Rights Watch

“The initial and primary Israeli reaction was to question the neutrality of the organization and its director, Omar Shakir, and accuse them of acting against Israel in the first place without bearing responsibility for its politics, racism, and behavior,” says Razi Nabulsi.

For its part, Israel’s Foreign Ministry responded to the Human Rights Watch report, saying, “The Israeli Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem rejects the allegations stated in the Human Rights Watch report about Israel committing crimes against humanity and practicing racial discrimination. Human Rights Watch is known to have a longstanding anti-Israeli agenda, actively seeking for years to promote boycotts against Israel.” It also claimed that the “Human Rights Watch's decision not to seek a comment from any competent Israeli authority regarding these allegations is clear evidence that the content of this report is nothing but propaganda that lacked any credibility.”

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