Israel is committing the crimes of apartheid and persecution against Arabs in the occupied territories and Israel itself, Human Rights Watch says.
The 213-page report from the leading human rights group details how Israel has sought to maintain Jewish-Israeli hegemony over the Palestinian people from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
“While much of the world treats Israel’s half-century occupation as a temporary situation that a decades-long ‘peace process’ will soon cure, the oppression of Palestinians there has reached a threshold and a permanence that meets the definitions of the crimes of apartheid and persecution,” Kenneth Roth, executive director of HRW, said.
“Those who strive for Israeli-Palestinian peace, whether a one or two-state solution or a confederation, should in the meantime recognise this reality for what it is and bring to bear the sorts of human rights tools needed to end it.”
Apartheid amounts to state-sanctioned racial discrimination and is considered a crime against humanity.
Israel dismissed the organisation’s report, calling it “propaganda”. It accused the international campaign group of having a “long-standing anti-Israeli agenda” and carrying out an ongoing campaign “with no connection to facts or reality on the ground”.
“Human Rights Watch is known to have a long-standing anti-Israel agenda, actively seeking for years to promote boycotts against Israel,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“Their decision not to share this report for review or comment with any Israeli authority is clear indication that it is a propaganda pamphlet, which lacks all credibility.”
Israel’s Arab minority comprises just over 20% of its population of 9.3 million, while at least 2.5 million Palestinians live in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and 350,000 in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem. About 1.9 million Palestinians live in the Gaza Strip, which the UN considers to also be occupied by Israel.
More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Most of the international community considers the settlements illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
The HRW report follows a conclusion reached by Israeli rights group B’Tselem, which published a study last January that found Palestinians, divided into four tiers of inferior treatment, are denied the right to self-determination.