Human Rights Watch has just released a 200-page report accusing Israel of the heinous crime of apartheid and calling for severe sanctions and political pressure on the Jewish state by the international community.
The report was authored by Omar Shakir, who was forced to leave Israel in 2019, after his visa was not renewed, for actively promoting the anti-Semitic BDS campaign against Israel.
Written under the guise of international law and human rights, the report is, in reality, an amalgamation of misrepresentations, false claims and misleading facts, signaling an escalation of HRW’s long-standing ideological and lawfare campaign against Jewish self-determination and the State of Israel.
The association of the Jewish national movement—Zionism—with racism and apartheid has its origins in the 1960s in Soviet anti-Western propaganda. This canard is aimed at vilifying Jewish self-determination, with the goal of ultimately destroying the Jewish state.
The apartheid smear falsely portrays the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as motivated by Jewish racism against Palestinians, as opposed to a complex conflict between two national groups with competing territorials claims.
The charge of apartheid is at once extremely grave and quite vague from a legal standpoint. Although the Rome Statute contains a definition of apartheid, it has never been applied to any state or practice worldwide.
Indeed, the international community has never labeled any country or practice as apartheid since the South African regime, even those—such as China and Iran—which carry out systematic policies of racial discrimination. By contrast, Israel is a liberal democracy whose laws guarantee equal rights for all citizens, Jews and non-Jews alike. International jurists have long rejected the absurdity of such a comparison.
The HRW report misrepresents numerous Israeli practices as evidence of Jewish racial domination. For example, HRW presents the Israeli Law of Return as anti-Arab legislation.
In fact, the Law of Return allows automatic citizenship to every Jew, fulfilling the State of Israel’s most fundamental raison d’être: to provide a safe haven for Jews worldwide. It must be seen in the context of millennia of Jewish homelessness, dispersion and persecution, culminating in the Holocaust.
Furthermore, the extension of citizenship rights to members of a national diaspora is not unique to Israel. Similar laws exist in countries such as Greece, Ireland, Armenia and Poland.
The report then goes on to compare the Law of Return with Israel’s refusal to allow unfettered, mass Palestinian immigration. Contrary to HRW’s assertions, Israel is under no obligation to provide citizenship to millions of Palestinians, who do not meet the internationally accepted definition of refugees in any case. Additionally, mass Palestinian immigration would confine Israeli Jews to a minority status, which would thereby mean the end of Jewish self-determination; that is, Israel’s intentional politicide.
HRW also refers to 6.8 million Jewish Israelis and 6.8 million Palestinians living between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River, maliciously blurring the distinctions between Arab-Israeli citizens, and Palestinians living under autonomous self-rule in the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority, and in Gaza, under Hamas’s brutal dictatorship.
HRW further erases the distinct identity of Israel’s Arab citizens by lumping them under the blanket term “Palestinian,” although only 7 percent identify as such, and many belong to minority religious or cultural communities, such as Druze, Bedouin, Christian Aramean and Circassian.
In HRW’s fantasy world, Palestinian terror is practically non-existent. According to HRW, most Israeli security measures “have no legitimate security justifications.” HRW’s dismissal of Israeli security concerns entirely ignores or whitewashes the thousands of Israelis brutally murdered or maimed by ongoing Palestinian terror.
Finally, HRW dishonestly claims that Gaza is under Israeli occupation and blames the humanitarian crisis there solely on Israel, despite Egypt’s blockade of its borders and the fact that Israel withdrew from it completely in 2005. The Hamas terror organization has exclusively ruled Gaza since 2007, and is solely responsible for its failed rule and resulting humanitarian catastrophe.
It is worth recalling that this compulsive singling out of Israel for unjustified opprobrium led HRW’s own founder, Bob Bernstein, to write in 2009 that the organization had “lost critical perspective” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, warning that if it failed to rectify this, it risked seriously undermining its credibility. Twelve years later, one must ask, does HRW have any real credibility on this topic?
HRW’s report is another shot fired in the war to disenfranchise the Jewish people and criminalize the Jewish state.
Jews are no strangers to hysterical blood libels, hurled throughout history. Our response must be the same as that of Ambassador Chaim Herzog to the infamous 1975 U.N. “Zionism is Racism” resolution, of which this report is a natural continuation: “For us, the Jewish people, this resolution, based on hatred, falsehood and arrogance, is devoid of any moral or legal value.”
Russell A. Shalev is an Israeli attorney at the International Legal Forum, a Tel Aviv-based NGO dedicated to fighting antisemitism, delegitimization of Israel and terror.