As members of JCall and La Paix Maintenant, we have always affirmed our total—but critical—solidarity towards the State of Israel, taking action whenever its right to existence or its legitimacy were challenged. At the same time, we have always considered that it is our responsibility to denounce the settlers’ growing violence in the occupied territories, the ongoing colonization and the dangers this policy implies for the country’s future and its populations. We always stood with those committed in Israel to finding a political solution—based on two States—to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
For that reason, we strongly denounce the report published on February 1st by Amnesty International, entitled “The Israeli apartheid towards the Palestinian people“.
That report, in contrast to the legitimate commitment of Amnesty International to the defence of human rights everywhere in the world, including in the territories occupied by Israel, presents itself as a political and partisan accusation.
By asserting that Israel applies “an apartheid policy against Palestinians living in Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, and against Palestinian refugees and their descendants living in third countries as well“, Amnesty International sows confusion between the State of Israel and the occupied territories. That confusion appears to be a deliberate political choice.
The continuation, since 1967, of the occupation of the West Bank by Israel does indeed put Palestinians in a situation that some people might qualify as “apartheid“, fearing, perhaps, that it would create a logic of apartheid, but such an accusation is unfounded when it comes to Israeli Arabs living within the borders existing before the Six Day war—and with regard to those “living in third countries“, it is just absurd.
Without ignoring the difficulties caused by the minority experience of Arab citizens of Israel, it is enough to mention the number of Arab deputies sitting in the Knesset, the number of judges (including one in the Supreme Court), of engineers, of students in universities, or Arab physicians in Israeli hospitals, to disprove this qualification of “apartheid“. Several Arab deputies,such as Minister Mansour Abbas, have clearly disproved the use of that word, which is itself objected to within the ranks of Amnesty International.
Israelis who fight for a political solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict insist on the difference of status between Israel and the occupied territories, while the annexationist right tries to muddy the waters. Ironically, by mixing both situations, Amnesty International seems to be in line with the positions of the Israeli right.
Worse still, by mentioning “a system of apartheid—all territories where the country controls the lives of Palestinians born since 1948“, and by recognizing “the right of Palestinian refugees and of their descendants to re-enter the places where their families or themselves lived once“, Amnesty International thus questions the right of Israel to exist since 1948, within its 1967 borders officially recognized by the international community.
Criticizing the report of Amnesty International does not mean we align ourselves to the position of the current Israeli government, which won’t discuss occupation and its dangers for the country’s future, and reacted to the report by invoking antisemitism. Even while they are inappropriately denounced by that report, coloniz ation and occupation remain untenable and must be denounced.
It is however important to underline the counterproductive effects of such untrue and groundless statements, considering all the Israelis who continue to fight occupation and to reject texts—like the July 19th 2018 Nation-State law of the Jewish people—questioning the democratic foundations of the State of Israel. It is undoubtebly harmful for Amnesty International which will lose some of its credibility, while its work all over the world, which we have all praised, was based on the the indisputable and non-partisan nature of its analyses.