Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released a report that essentially questions Israel’s right to exist and claims that Israeli authorities are “committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.” It comes after Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas said earlier this month that Israel is on the path to becoming an apartheid state.

The 217-page report, however, has been met with significant pushback against its far-reaching allegation of apartheid, and its findings have been refuted by experts and others as being baseless” and applying a double standard to Israel.

Arsen Ostrovsky, an international human-rights lawyer and CEO of the International Legal Forum, told JNS that the HRW report “is replete with malicious lies and gross distortions of law while peddling in unhinged hate, incitement and racist stereotypes.

“In short,” he said, “this report is tantamount to an anti-Semitic ‘blood libel’ against the Jewish state.”

According to a U.S. State Department spokesperson, “It is not the view of this administration that Israel’s actions constitute apartheid.”

Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan-Nahum called the allegations “preposterous.”

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations and the United States Gilad Erdan called the report “a collection of lies and fabrications, bordering on anti-Semitic.”

According to HRW, “Inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders, Palestinians hold citizenship, the right to vote and free movement, and encounter less severe policies and practices, but still face institutional discrimination and other abuses.”

But contrary to HRW’s accusations of discrimination and abuse, Arabs like Abdel Rahman Zuabi, Salim Jubran and George Karra have all served as justices on Israel’s Supreme Court.

According to Ha’aretz, an Israeli left-wing daily, Arabs currently make up more than 17 percent of the country’s doctors and 24 percent of nurses.

Former Israeli Supreme Court Judge Salim Jubran attends the Annual International Conference of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv on Jan. 31, 2018. Photo by Flash90.

Furthermore, Ali Yahya and George Deek are Israeli Arab ambassadors, and Ishmael Khaldi is Israel’s first Bedouin ambassador.

As Ostrovsky noted, “You can repeatedly say the earth is flat, but that won’t make it any truer.”

‘Negates the fact that Israel is an open, vibrant, democracy’

The report calls on Israel to “dismantle all forms of systematic oppression and discrimination that privilege Jewish Israelis at the expense of Palestinians and otherwise systematically violate Palestinian rights in order to ensure the dominance of Jewish Israelis.”

Ostrovsky said HRW attempts to paint a picture of Israeli domination over Arabs living in Israel or in Judea and Samaria; however, it distorts the facts to vilify Israel for the sole reason that it is a Jewish state. In making such accusations, the organization ignores the reality on the ground, which is the opposite of apartheid, and purposely ignores Israel’s legitimate security concerns.

According to Ostrovsky, the report’s central accusation that Israel is guilty of “apartheid” under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court “is completely baseless.”

“It entirely negates the fact that Israel is an open, vibrant, democracy, where Israeli Arabs enjoy full political and civil rights, whereas the vast majority of Palestinians are under the autonomous rule of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank or Hamas in Gaza,” he said.

“This report is just the latest attack in HRW’s longstanding and relentless obsession and lawfare campaign against the State of Israel,” said Ostrovsky.

Ostrovsky also slammed Omar Shakir, HRW’s lead researcher and author of the report, who was forced to leave Israel in 2019 after he was found in violation of Israeli law by actively promoting the anti-Semitic BDS campaign.

Human Rights Watch Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir. Credit: Human Rights Watch.

“This man is not an authority in international law, but a purveyor in hate, bigotry and Palestinian propaganda,” he said.

HRW’s double standard is clear, according to Ostrovsky, “by seeking to invoke the heinous crime of apartheid and compare Israel to South Africa, which is a classic anti-Semitic trope.”

According to HRW, Israel is purportedly committing apartheid since it seeks Jewish domination through its “Law of Return,” which gives every Jewish individual the right to move to Israel.

‘Final nail in the coffin of deceitful false narrative’

Avi Bell, a lecturer at the University of the San Diego School of Law and Bar-Ilan University’s Faculty of Law, told JNS that there are “hundreds of things that are wrong with the report. The real question is: Can one find anything in it that is right?”

“Why is it that Israel’s granting people of Jewish ancestry citizenship is a crime, while Spain and Portugal and Germany giving people of Jewish ancestry citizenship or Ireland giving people of Irish ancestry is not?” he asked.

Ethiopian immigrants to Israel, part of “Operation Tzur Israel” (“Rock of Israel”), after exiting the plane at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Dec. 3, 2020. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi/The Jewish Agency for Israel.

“More generally,” he added, “why is it that the standard that HRW insists is the law for Israel is not the law anywhere else in the world? Can HRW really be right that there is a special international law that lays down one harsh rule for the Jewish state and a different laxer rule for everyone else?”

The only solution for Israel to avoid being labeled criminal by HRW is “to cease to exist,” said Bell. “The report labels the very desire to have a Jewish state a criminal intent to dominate, and every benign immigration law or land-use regulation in the Jewish state as persecution or oppression.”

“The report is a 217-page version of U.N. General Assembly resolution 3379 from 1975, which called Zionism a ‘form of racism and racial discrimination,’ ” Bell said, noting that in 1991, “the Secretary-General of the United Nations admitted that resolution 3379 was anti-Semitic and the GA voted to revoke it.”

“Perhaps in 16 years, HRW will admit that its report is anti-Semitic, too,” quipped Bell.

Eugene Kontorovich, director of International Law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum, told JNS the report “is merely hate propaganda—a big lie they hope if repeated enough will gain credibility.”

Kontorovich said that HRW “has gone even beyond the International Criminal Court and Mahmoud Abbas, who both said Israel does not practice apartheid.”

He added that HRW’s “anti-Semitism is further revealed by its failure to mention the real apartheid in the West Bank, evident in the Palestinian Authority’s paying for the murder of Jews, banning real estate sales to them and similar laws.”

Report is ‘a complete hurdle to peace’

Michal Cotler-Wunsh, an Israeli politician who previously served as a member of Knesset for the Blue and White Party, told JNS “after decades of ‘Israel Apartheid’ weeks on campuses around the world, this report is just the final nail in the coffin of the deceitful false narrative.”

This report is “a complete hurdle to peace,” she said, “driven by blind hate” and singles out the Jew among the nations.

“It is vital to identify and expose it for what it is—yet another example of a systematic strategy to use not bullets, but words, in the war waged to destroy the State of Israel in the name of human rights,” she said.

Cotler-Wunsh said the most dangerous part of the report is that “people who do not know better will believe it.” Moreover, she said, it “creates a barrier to peace with the Palestinians and makes a complete Orwellian, inverted reality of what apartheid actually was.”

Cotler-Wunsh said HRW itself notes that “there is no such thing as an apartheid state, as far as international law is concerned,” but has redefined the term “apartheid” in the report in order to fit its anti-Israel obsession.

Israel must use the “lingua franca,” the “rhetoric” and “language of human rights,” and “not to sit in the dock of the accused and react, but to go on the offensive,” she emphasized.

“We have a responsibility to identify, expose and address the double standards. From a perspective of law, double standards are the worst offense you can commit because if you don’t apply the law equally and consistently, it is not worth the paper it is written on,” said.

Cotler-Wunsh explained that HRW founder Robert Bernstein “acknowledged that the tools he had championed in order to uphold, promote and protect human rights were being weaponized in order to turn Israel into a pariah state. ‘Only by returning to its founding mission … can Human Rights Watch resurrect itself as a moral force in the Middle East … ,’ Bernstein warned. ‘If it fails to do that, its credibility will be seriously undermined and its important role in the world significantly diminished.’ ”

“How right he was,” she said.

JNS

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