01 Feb 2022

Amnesty Int'l report on Israel apartheid

Amnesty International says that Israel's treatment of Palestinians, whether in the OPT, in Jerusalem or in Israel itself amounts to the internationally recognized crime of apartheid (without making direct comparisons with S. Africa). As such it joins a string of Israeli and international human rights organizations. So the accusation is not new, but the report is certainly thorough, running to 278 pages. Such a report cannot easily be cast as based on "lies", though that is what Israeli officials are attempting to claim. It may be easier to claim that the organization is using "double standards", though I haven't heard of Amnesty sparing any country from censure. If anything it is the governments of western countries who are using "double standards" in giving Israel so much slack. That's true also of the news media. The report did not reach the front page of The Guardian today. I read what CNN, Aljazeera, The Guardian, HaAretz and the Times of Israel had to say about the report. Only AlJazeera had the link to the actual report - but I have often noticed that news organizations, when reporting on such matters, tend to leave out the links to the subject of their reporting - I don't know what journalistic policy lies behind that terrible decision but I find it inexcusable. When an NGO publishes a report, it does so with the intent that it will reach the widest possible audience. News outlets are not doing their job if they don't help them in that.

So is Israel an apartheid state? Of course it is. This is revealed by story after story in Israel's own news media. But apartheid is a modern word for an ancient phenomenon. Until the 20th century most nation states discriminated against minorities. Minorities (such as Jews) were treated differently and if this was not systematized, it is only because systems were not so rigid as they have become in our times. "Modern" liberal democracies are beginning to move beyond apartheid, due in part to the legacy of their imperial past. But this is not so in most Asian countries. To be a member of a religious minority in Pakistan or Bangladesh, a Muslim in Myanmar, a Tamil in Sri Lanka, a Muslim in China, or even a person of foreign ethnicity in Japan or India, means that one is never going to feel quite at home in one's own country. And not all of those examples involve the aspect of a national conflict. To the Israel-Palestine equation must be added the bitter conflict over territory and various other complications like the exile of the Jews from historical Israel and the mechanisms developed by Jews for self-preservation as a minority throughout the centuries.

It's going to take more than a few negative reports by the world's top human rights organizations to bring change. But in some ways, there is a greater potential for change here than in many other places. There is the aspect that Israel wants to be seen as a modern European country. There is the demographic aspect - it is hard to ostracize such a large minority. There is the aspect that eventually Israel and the Palestinian territories will probably end up being integrated. Creating an inclusive nation out of the current mess is going to take a while, but is eventually possible.

Tags: israel-palestine
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