JERUSALEM, Israel – The Biden administration on Wednesday rejected a report from Human Rights Watch’s accusing Israel of being an apartheid state due to what it considers to be discriminatory policies towards Palestinians living in the land.
“It is not the view of this administration that Israel’s actions constitute apartheid,” a State Department spokesperson said.
The spokesperson instead called on both Israel and the Palestinians to “refrain from unilateral actions that exacerbate tensions.”
On Tuesday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch issued a 213-page report alleging that Israel systematically denies Palestinians the basic rights it affords to Jews.
Citing public statements by Israeli leaders and official policies, the report argued that Israel has “demonstrated an intent to maintain the domination of Jewish Israelis over Palestinians” in Israel, the West Bank – biblical Judea and Samaria – and Gaza, coupled with “systematic oppression” and “inhumane acts.”
"When these three elements occur together, they amount to the crime of apartheid," it said.
HRW claims Israel is committing “grave abuses” in the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem, and Gaza, including land confiscation, the systematic denial of building permits, home demolitions, and “sweeping, decades-long restrictions on freedom of movement and basic human rights.”
Israel rejects claims of apartheid, saying is Arab minority enjoys the same rights as its Jewish majority.e
Human Rights Watch “is known to have a long-standing anti-Israel agenda,” the Foreign Ministry said. "The fictional claims that HRW concocted are both preposterous and false.”
Israel also rejects the use of the term “occupation” to describe its activity in the West Bank and Gaza. Israeli considers the West Bank to be “disputed territory” whose final status should be determined through peace negotiations – which collapsed more than a decade ago. Israel points to the existence of the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority, which governs scattered West Bank enclaves. Israel has exclusive control over about 60% of the West Bank and its borders and imposes restrictions on movement and residency. There, nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers have full Israeli citizenship, while the territory's 2.5 million Palestinians live under military control.
Israel also points out that it withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, which is now ruled by the hostile Islamic terror group Hamas. Israel and Egypt imposed a heavy blockade on the coastal enclave when Hamas took power and heavily restrict the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza. Israel has also fought several large-scale wars with Hamas.
Israel critics maintain that Israel’s restrictions on Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank amount to full-blown apartheid.
“Prominent voices have for years warned that Israeli conduct risked turning into apartheid,” Omar Shakir, the author of the HRW report, told AP. “This 213-page report finds that the threshold has been crossed.”
Eugene Kontorovich, director of international law at the Kohelet Policy Forum, a conservative Israeli think tank, argues that the Palestinians are responsible for their fate. "They have chosen it by rejecting alternatives,” he said.
He also accused HRW of unfairly singling out Israel by labeling it an apartheid state.
“Why say it’s apartheid? Why not just say Israel has some discriminatory policies that we don’t like?” he said. "Because for discriminatory policies, what do you do? You change the policies. ... What do you do with an apartheid regime? You have to replace it.”
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