Accusing Israel of committing the crime of apartheid is anti-Semitic, the European Union has said. The extraordinary claim was made on Friday in a written response to a question addressed to the Union last year, following the publication of reports by major human rights group such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch accusing Israel of committing the crime of apartheid.
"Apartheid" is a legal term defined by the 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Like all legal terms, there are clear definitions and standards which determine if states are guilty of committing the crime. The EU has argued that of out of 195 countries in the world, Israel should not only be shielded from being designated an apartheid state, but to do so is racist.
Following Amnesty International's report, several EU lawmakers asked the Vice-President of the Commission and the High Representative of Foreign Policy last year about his view about Israel being an apartheid state.
"Does the VP/HR regard the report as anti-Semitic in the light of the non-legally binding International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism?" the EU lawmakers asked. They argued that the IHRA, which has been adopted by the EU, declares that describing the "existence of the State of Israel is a racist endeavour" is anti-Semitic. The claim is one of seven examples listed in the highly controversial IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, which conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish racism.
In his reply, EU Foreign Policy Chief, Josep Borrell, said that the Commission that the IHRA is a "non-legally binding working definition of anti-Semitism" and that it uses the controversial definition as "a practical guidance tool and a basis for its work to combat anti-Semitism." Borrell went on to say that "claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour is amongst the illustrative examples included under the IHRA definition".
Borrell went on to stress that the EU is committed to international law. "The respect of international humanitarian law and international human rights law by state and non-state actors, and accountability for violations committed, are a cornerstone for peace and security in the Middle East region," said Borrell, without any mention of the fact that apartheid is clearly defined in the very legal system he claimed to be upholding.
Borrell's assessment would mean that major rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Israel's B'Tselem – which is funded by the EU – are guilty of anti-Jewish bigotry.