U.S. Jewish Groups Slam Amnesty International's 'Israeli Apartheid’ Report

Mainstream Jewish groups, including the ADL and AJC, slam the new report as biased and one-sided, accusing the human rights group of presenting an unbalanced, inaccurate and incomplete review

Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
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A pro-Palestinian protest in Washington against Israeli policies last May.
A pro-Palestinian protest in Washington against Israeli policies last May.Credit: YURI GRIPAS/REUTERS
Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels

WASHINGTON – Several of the most significant U.S.-Jewish establishment organizations issued a rare joint statement Sunday, vehemently condemning Amnesty International UK’s upcoming report accusing Israel of being guilty of “the crime against humanity of apartheid.”

The report, slated to be released Tuesday, marks the first time the group is officially using the term “apartheid” to describe the state of affairs in Israel, going further than last year’s Human Rights Watch report that limited its description of apartheid to Palestinian areas under Israeli occupation. Various human rights organizations within Israel proper, including B’Tselem and Yesh Din, have also begun using the term in recent years.

“Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has pursued an explicit policy of establishing and maintaining a Jewish demographic hegemony,” the 211-page report states, as reported by Jacob Kornbluh in the Forward, “and maximizing its control over land to benefit Jewish Israelis while minimizing the number of Palestinians and restricting their rights and obstructing their ability to challenge this dispossession.”

In response, The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Anti-Defamation League, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith International and the Jewish Federations of North America slammed the “biased and one-sided report” and accused Amnesty of presenting an “unbalanced, inaccurate and incomplete review.” The report “inexplicably focuses on one aim: to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish and democratic State of Israel,” they charged.

The Amnesty report also argues that “almost all of Israel’s civilian administration and military authorities” are involved “in the enforcement of the system of apartheid against Palestinians across Israel” and in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as “against Palestinian refugees and their descendants outside the territory,” the Forward noted. It quoted a spokesperson for Israel’s Foreign Ministry as calling the report “pure antisemitism” that “legitimizes attacks against Jews” and accusing Amnesty International of a double standard.

The U.S. organizations accused the “libelous” report of resorting to baseless accusations, in turn committing what they describe as a “double injustice: It fuels those antisemites around the world who seek to undermine the only Jewish country on Earth, while simultaneously cheapening and downplaying the horrific suffering that was a result of apartheid in South Africa.”

The organizations stated that South Africa’s apartheid system was characterized by tyranny, segregation and dehumanization established in both law and practice, positing that such a system has no equivalence to a democracy where all citizens have rights and representation in the national legislature.

“The report makes no secret of its true intention – which is to cast aspersions on the State of Israel, which it portrays as illegitimate, starting ‘at its creation in May 1948’ (page 20). It disregards the fact that Israel’s robust democracy grants its Arab citizens full rights and equality, includes an Arab Muslim nationalist party in Israel’s governing coalition, as well as a history of senior Israeli Arab governmental officials, including Supreme Court justices, government ministers, high-level diplomats, military officers and members of Knesset,” they note.

“At the very time when many Arab countries are forging new agreements and accords with Israel, and relations between Arabs and Jews are flourishing in numerous corners of the Middle East, Amnesty-UK’s misguided and backward-looking effort to vilify Israel seems to be trying to turn back the peace clock, inflame existing tensions and incite violence, while obstructing the path to peace and the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the organizations concluded.

They called on “all parties of good faith to condemn this ideologically-driven polemic, and instead focus on efforts that will bring the parties together – rather than instigate more distrust and divisiveness.”

Reporting by The Forward's Jacob Kornbluh was included in this article.

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