In what it calls its most comprehensive report to date on Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, Human Rights Watch on Tuesday accused Israel of committing “crimes against humanity” and said the U.S. and the international have “turned a blind eye.” It advocated an international commission of inquiry and sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, against “officials and entities credibly implicated.
The group’s 213-page report, titled “A Threshold Crossed,” accuses Israel for the first time of “apartheid and persecution,” as defined by international conventions and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. It claims the Israeli government perpetuates structural oppression to “maintain the domination of Jewish Israelis over Palestinians” in both Israel and the Palestinian territories, where today both groups of people are about equal in size.
In a statement, Israel’s Foreign Ministry called the report a “propaganda pamphlet,” accusing Human Rights Watch of a long-standing anti-Israel agenda. The report, it said, has “no connection to facts or reality on the ground. The fictional claims that HRW concocted are both preposterous and false.
While Tuesday’s report does not contain new revelations about Israel’s actions, it synthesizes previous studies into a reframing of the situation and reflects a shift in how human rights advocates are addressing the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict: moving from a focus on the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and blockade of the Gaza Strip to questioning Israel’s commitment to democracy and civil rights even within its own borders.
Human Rights Watch’s Omar Shakir, the report’s chief author, says he does not expect immediate international action on its findings but hopes for a “recognition of the crime.”
“The international community’s approach has been misguided,” Shakir tells NPR. “There is a need for a reorientation to the reality of systematic oppression of Palestinians wherever they live. This approach, which overlooks the deeply entrenched nature of Israeli discrimination and repression of Palestinians there, minimizes serious human rights abuses by treating them as temporary symptoms of the occupation that the ‘peace process’ will soon cure,” the report says.
“The international community has for too long explained away and turned a blind eye to the increasingly transparent reality on the ground,” the report concludes.
Every day a person is born in Gaza into an open-air prison, in the West Bank without civil rights, in Israel with an inferior status by law, and in neighbouring countries effectively condemned to lifelong refugee status, like their parents and grandparents before them, solely because they are Palestinian and not Jewish.
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