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Why doesn’t the West accept that Israel is an ‘apartheid’ state?

February 3, 2022 at 1:00 pm

A protester holds a sign reading ‘Don´t make Apartheid Great Again’ in Tel Aviv on 23 June 2020 Israel [Amir Levy/Getty Images]

Amnesty International released the findings of a detailed investigation on Wednesday, which has been conducted over the past four years. It concluded that the occupation state imposes “a system of oppression and domination against Palestinians” across all of the Palestinian territories under its control, those occupied in 1948 as well as those occupied in 1967.

The London-based human rights group stated that Israel does this “in order to benefit Jewish Israelis”, and pointed out that “this amounts to apartheid as prohibited in international law.” Amnesty is the third major human rights organisation after B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch to allege Israeli apartheid since January last year.

“Laws, policies and practices which are intended to maintain a cruel system of control over Palestinians, have left them fragmented geographically and politically, frequently impoverished, and in a constant state of fear and insecurity,” said Amnesty.

Introducing the findings at a press conference in Jerusalem, Amnesty’s Secretary General, Agnès Callamard, said: “Whether they live in Gaza, East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, or Israel itself [the parts of Palestine occupied in 1948], Palestinians are treated as an inferior racial group and systematically deprived of their rights. Israel’s cruel policies of segregation, dispossession and exclusion across all territories under its control clearly amount to apartheid.”

READ: Amnesty will do everything possible to expose Israel’s apartheid system

The organisation called on “the USA, the European Union and its member states and the UK, but also those states that are in the process of strengthening their ties [with Israel] – such as some Arab and African states — [to] recognise that Israel is committing the crime of apartheid and other international crimes.”

It also asked countries to “use all political and diplomatic tools to ensure Israeli authorities implement the recommendations outlined in this report and review any cooperation and activities with Israel to ensure that these do not contribute to maintaining the system of apartheid.”

As happened when Israeli rights group B’Tselem said in January last year that Israeli policies are designed to enforce “Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea”, Amnesty’s report triggered a serious backlash from the occupation state and its allies in the West. This was also the case when Human Rights Watch repeated the “apartheid” allegation in April 2021.

Commenting on Amnesty’s findings, the US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides, predictably, tweeted: “Come on, this is absurd. That is not language that we have used and will not use.” According to Reuters, German Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Christopher Burger said: “We reject expressions like apartheid or a one-sided focusing of criticism on Israel. That is not helpful to solving the conflict in the Middle East.”

The lead spokesperson for the EU’s diplomatic service, Peter Stano, said that the EU pays “all due attention” to Amnesty, but the only practical step being taken is to continue to “closely monitor” the developments in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. He reminded all actors in the region to respect international humanitarian law and international human rights law. The EU has huge economic leverage over Israel, but refuses to use it to end the brutal military occupation of Palestine.

READ: With apartheid an irrefutable reality, Israel’s democracy has always rested on blind faith

Why do the US and other countries in the West refuse to see what is fairly obvious to the world and accept that Israel is an apartheid state, according to the legal definition of the crime of apartheid? Amnesty has made it clear that it did not compare Israel with South African apartheid; that its evaluation was based on international law and conventions.

As has become the norm, the EU official paid lip-service to what is happening on the ground, but didn’t announce any concrete action against a state which is clearly in breach of international law. A journalist in the briefing room of the US State Department was right to expose Washington’s hypocrisy in accepting Amnesty’s conclusions about other countries, such as China, Cuba and Russia, for example, but rejecting the latest conclusions about Israel.

A quick glance at those which follow the US lead shows that they are all involved in one shape or form in the criminal Zionist occupation of Palestine, some of them since its earliest days. Israel was, after all, created as a “bastion” of the West, the same West which destroyed the Islamic Caliphate across the Middle East, created client states in its place and uses Israel to keep such disunity as the regional norm. That is one reason why the governments in Washington, London, Paris and Berlin turn a collective blind eye to the frequent massacres of Palestinians by Israel.

Amnesty labels Israel an apartheid state - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Amnesty labels Israel an apartheid state – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Indeed, the West is happy to support any and all tyrannies in the region, overlooking human rights abuses in places like Egypt, the Gulf States, Syria and Iraq, and encouraging links with “the only democracy in the Middle East” — supposedly Israel — which arms and abets them. The whole Middle East is a lucrative market for Israeli and Western arms, of course, which is why the dictators and oppressors are given the red carpet treatment in Western capitals.

All is not lost, however. Many people can see through this hypocrisy. Oliver McTernan, the Director of London-based NGO Forward Thinking, said that such human rights reports and investigations as that published by Amnesty, raise “important concerns” over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. “This cannot be ignored… Sadly the US and Europe are frightened to acknowledge the facts as they are far from the reality [that the Palestinians] have to face each day.”

READ: Israel is hiding behind useless ‘security’ walls yet again

British activist Sarah Wilkinson was more forceful in her observations. “The Israeli propaganda machine is extremely succinct, well-funded and powerful inside Western governments, especially the US, and pro-Israel lobbying organisations donate literally millions of dollars to US federal political candidates.” She reminded the world that the US, Canada and Australia — all avid supporters of apartheid Israel — “have literally buried their substantial crimes against the indigenous peoples” that existed before these countries even came into being. Such crimes are not generally included in the public school textbooks and curriculum. “For them to oppose the Israeli settler-colonial travesty, is to wake up and admit to their own bloody history. These countries, including Britain, have built their ‘successful’ democracies on killing, massacres, subjugation and domination.”

The US and Israel’s other Western allies “are guilty of heinous crimes against humanity,” Wilkinson added. “It would be illogical for them to condemn a government guilty of the same heinous crimes.” Moreover, they are actually “complicit” in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians.

If they were to accept the independent conclusions reached by Amnesty International, B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch that Israel is an apartheid state, then these Western states would have to admit to and accept their own culpability, something that their arrogance (and the pro-Israel lobby’s generous “donations”) will simply not allow them to do. That is why they don’t accept the fact that the settler-colonial state of Israel is, and has always has been, an apartheid state.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.