"This is ultimately aimed at the abolition of the Jewish state of Israel"
"The organization has concluded that Israel has committed the international injustice of apartheid." This is how the International Secretariat of Amnesty International summarizes the findings of a new 211-page report, adding, "It has found that almost the entire civil administration of Israel and its military authorities, as well as its governmental and quasi-governmental institutions, are involved in enforcing a system of apartheid against Palestinians in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories and against Palestinian refugees and their descendants outside the territory."
It is such extraordinarily sweeping judgments that have outraged Israel’s government and many Jewish organizations since the report, obtained by WELT, leaked to the public shortly before its scheduled release Tuesday.
"A collection of lies"
"This report is a collection of lies, one-sided representations and repetitions of theses of other anti-Israel organizations," Lior Haiat, spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry tells WELT. He cites a number of factual errors in the report.
Thus, the security context of many of the measures is hidden, such as the fact that access to Israel from the Palestinian territories has been restricted in order to stop recurring waves of terrorism. On the alleged crackdown on Palestinian demonstrations, the report fails to mention that protesters have repeatedly violently attacked Israeli security forces.
Furthermore, it is claimed that Israelis of Arab origin are worse off before the law than Jewish Israelis. This is just as untrue as the claim that the children of Arab Israelis have been banned from attending Arabic-language schools. He says the report undercuts the fact that a first-instance decision to that effect was later overturned.
"Particularly outrageous is the claim that Israel’s goal since 1948 has been to impose an apartheid system," Haiat says. "This would mean that Israel has been an illegitimate system of government since its inception. This is a clear attempt to delegitimize Israel as a state from the very beginning."
The best counter-argument against the apartheid accusation is the group photo of the current Israeli cabinet. "There you see not only two ministers of Arab parties, one Muslim and one Druze, secular and religious, LGBT representatives and people with disabilities. We are a very inclusive society."
In a press release on the report, Amnesty writes that it recognizes "that Jews, like Palestinians, claim a right to self-determination.". Moreover, the organization also does not question Israel’s "desire" to be "a home for Jews". The report itself then explicitly states that it does not want to take a position on the issue of national self-determination for Jews and Palestinians. Instead, "the organization is dealing with the reality of the existence of the State of Israel".
"Modernized form of anti-Semitism"
The apartheid accusation has been leveled against Israel since the Cold War, then by the Soviet Union. Last year, the human rights organizations Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem also formulated this accusation.
Lars Rensmann, professor of European politics and society at the Riksuniversitat Groningen, calls it "decidedly inappropriate and empirically unjustifiable" to transfer the institutional creation of second-class citizens in South Africa’s racist apartheid system to Israel.
Thus, even in the Israeli heartland, there is discrimination against Arab Israelis that should be criticized. But the Amnesty report’s treatment of such isolated examples was inadmissible. "Instead of careful and critical analysis, Amnesty uses killer vocabulary of a hyperbolic nature," says Rensmann. With the apartheid accusation, the Jewish state is demonized and delegitimized. This, she says, is a "modernized form of anti-Semitism".
Rensmann also problematizes Amnesty’s embrace of calls for a "right of return" for Palestinian refugees and the repeal of laws protecting the state’s Jewish identity. "This ultimately aims at the abolition of the Jewish state of Israel," says the political scientist. "That Amnesty, as an important human rights organization, allows itself to be harnessed to this ideological cart is decidedly disappointing."
In fact, through the "hereditability" of refugee status, not only do the 30.000 still living Palestinians who left or were expelled from Palestine after the establishment of the state of Israel, as refugees, but also their descendants. 5.7 million people can thus insist on a "right of return" to a country they have never lived in.
Amnesty International uses the term "Jewish supremacy" in several places to describe Israeli policies. For example, at one point it says that Israel "maintains Jewish domination over the Palestinian economy". Rensmann recognizes in the term borrowings from anti-Semitic stereotypes of Jewish power and domination. The term intifada, on the other hand, is defined by Amnesty in the report merely as "Palestinian uprising against Israeli military rule"; violence and terror against Israeli civilians go unmentioned in this regard.
The anti-Semitism researcher Monika Schwarz-Friesel is of the opinion that the apartheid accusation against Israel serves the "defamation of the democratic state system". "The word is taken out of its historical context and decontextualized," says the professor at the Technical University of Berlin.
The term stigmatizes Israel as a backward state of injustice standing outside the modern world community. Implicitly, this activates the traditional stereotype of Jews who act only out of self-interest and feel no compassion for other people. The "apartheid state of Israel" has become a "fantasy construct", a slogan whose truth value is no longer questioned or examined.
Amnesty claims in the report, for example, that the Israeli parliament’s raising of the electoral threshold from two to 3.25 percent in 2014 "primarily impacted the parliamentary representation of Palestinians and other minority groups in Israel". At least for last year’s elections, this does not apply. While 25 Jewish parties fell under the hurdle, no Arab party did.