Fourteen Israeli NGOs and human rights groups has signed a statement in support of Amnesty International, condemning the "vicious" attack on the rights group sparked by the recent publication of a report which labelled Israel an apartheid state.
B'Tselem, HaMakod, Adalah, Breaking the Silence, the Israeli Centre for Public Affairs, Physicians for Human Rights, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and Yesh Din, are amongst the 14 signatories to the statement issued in support of Amnesty.
The Israeli government and pro-Israel Zionist groups have slammed the report as anti-Semitic while a number of western governments gave a hostile response to the report's publication.
The 14 Israeli groups said that they were "gravely concerned" by the vicious attack on Amnesty. In their statement the groups stressed that they too have documented, verified and confronted the "ongoing injustice, inequality and violations of human rights and international law that Israel perpetrates against the Palestinians."
"Many of us have used the term and/or have made the legal designation of 'apartheid' in relations to various aspects of Israel's treatment of Palestinians," the statement continued.
The debate around the crime of apartheid of which Israel is accused, and its geographical scope, is not only legitimate, but absolutely necessary.
While the groups stressed that they "wholeheartedly" rejected the idea that Amnesty's report "singles out Israel", they explained that the allegation of anti-Semitism was especially concerning. "Many of the most pre-eminent scholars of Jewish life, history and persecution have warned that the struggle against antisemitism in the world is being weakened by the unbearable, inaccurate and instrumentalized use to which the antisemitism accusation is lodged." They claimed that this was being done for political ends and in order to avoid the debate about Israel's oppressive policies towards the Palestinians.
"Attempts to distract from the violations and to avoid substantive debate by hurling spurious accusations is the standard and ongoing practice of successive Israeli government and their echo-chambers overseas," the statement argued.
"Israel is not being held to a different standard," the groups said, arguing that the "Israeli government apparently wants to be held to no standard at all. The statement points out that it is not a coincidence that the major human rights group including Human Rights Watch (HRW) have turned their attention on Israel because of its "systematic and structural regime of discrimination and inequality."
The group urged the Israeli government to "stop its oppressive discriminatory practices and its dangerous game of defamation and disinformation."