U.S. State Department Rejects Amnesty's Apartheid Claim Against Israel

'The Jewish people must not be denied their right to self-determination, and we must ensure there isn't a double standard being applied,' says U.S. State Department spokesman following Amnesty International report

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A newly opened segregated West Bank highway near Jerusalem, January 10, 2019. Critics have branded the road an "apartheid" highway.
A newly opened segregated West Bank highway near Jerusalem, January 10, 2019. Critics have branded the road an "apartheid" highway.Credit: Mahmoud Illean / AP
Ben Samuels

The United States dismissed the view that Israel's actions towards the Palestinians constitute apartheid, the State Department said on Tuesday after Amnesty International accused Israeli authorities of enforcing such policies.

"I reject the view that Israel's actions constitute apartheid. The department's own reports have never used such terminology," State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters.

Price added: "I think that it is important, as the world's only Jewish state, that the Jewish people must not be denied their right to self-determination, and we must ensure there isn't a double standard being applied."

Earlier Tuesday, Amnesty International published a report saying that Israel enforces apartheid against Palestinians living in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as well as against Palestinian refugees and their descendants outside the territory. 

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides called the report "absurd," adding "that is not language that we have used and will not use."

Other senior U.S. politicians also chimed in. Nine staunchly pro-Israel Jewish Democrats — Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Brad Schneider, Lois Frankel, Elaine Luria, Kathy Manning, Josh Gottheimer, Dean Phillips, Brad Sherman and Jake Auchincloss — issued a joint statement wholly rejecting Amnesty's report, claiming the report is "steeped in antisemitism and is part of Amnesty’s broad, decades-long campaign to criminalize and delegitimize the world’s only Jewish state."

"This report will only further fuel antisemitism and intolerance by those seeking to undermine the only Jewish nation in the world," they argue, adding that its bias is "further revealed with its tacit endorsements of the ICC ongoing investigation of Israel, and the Palestinians’ broader international efforts to isolate Israel at the UN and in other world bodies," the statement read.

Sen. Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was "deeply disturbed" by the report, noting that "this outrageous accusation belies history, facts, and common sense."

Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey and among Israel's closest friends in the Senate, further noted that the report "ascribes little agency to the Palestinian people or responsibility on their leaders, who have consistently failed to deliver any kind of meaningful economic, political, or civil reforms that could truly improve the lives of both Palestinians and Israelis."

Rep. Ted Deutch, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and Global Counterterrorism, said the report was "full of the same mischaracterizations, the same false accusations, and the same biased language that have been hurled at Israel and its advocates for decades."

He added that "most shocking of all is that this report appears to question Israel’s founding in 1948 as a modern Jewish state, ignore Israel’s entire history, and even question the legitimacy of the state’s entire existence."

A number of Congressional Republicans — including Reps. Jason Smith, Fred Upton, Joe Wilson, David Kustoff (one of the two Jewish Republicans in the House), Tim Walberg and Mario Diaz-Balart — added their own condemnations of the report.

Agnes Callamard, Amnesty's secretary general, said, “Our report reveals the true extent of Israel’s apartheid regime. Whether they live in Gaza, East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, or Israel itself, Palestinians are treated as an inferior racial group and systematically deprived of their rights. We found that Israel’s cruel policies of segregation, dispossession and exclusion across all territories under its control clearly amount to apartheid."

Israel's Foreign Ministry refused to address specific arguments made in the report, and while it did not contest the credibility of some of the claims, officials said its methodology was biased.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Foreign Ministry welcomed the report, saying it was "a detailed affirmation of the cruel reality of entrenched racism, exclusion, oppression, colonialism, apartheid, and attempted erasure that the Palestinian people have endured since the Nakba."

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