Human Rights Watch Accuses Israel of Apartheid

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters) -
Omar Shakir speaks during a news conference in Yerushalayim in 2019. (Reuters/Ammar Awad)

An international rights watchdog accused Israel on Tuesday of pursuing policies of apartheid and persecution against Palestinians – and against its own Arab minority – that amount to crimes against humanity.

New York-based Human Rights Watch published a 213-page report which, it said, was not aimed at comparing Israel with apartheid-era South Africa but rather at assessing “whether specific acts and policies” constitute apartheid as defined under international law.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry rejected the claims as “both preposterous and false” and accused HRW of harboring an “anti-Israeli agenda,” saying the group had sought “for years to promote boycotts against Israel.”

“The purpose of this spurious report is in no way related to human rights, but to an ongoing attempt by HRW to undermine the State of Israel’s right to exist as the nation state of the Jewish people,” Strategic Affairs Minister Michael Biton said.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said HRW’s Israel program was being “led by a known [BDS] supporter, with no connection to facts or reality on the ground,” referring to the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

The report’s author, HRW Israel and Palestine Director Omar Shakir, was expelled from Israel in 2019 over accusations he backs BDS.

Shakir denies that his HRW work and pro-Palestinian statements he made before being appointed to the HRW post in 2016 constitute active support for BDS.

Shakir told Reuters that HRW would send its report to the ICC prosecutor’s office, “as we normally do when we reach conclusions about the commissions of crimes that fall within the Court’s jurisdiction.”

Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the report.