Amnesty International Report Titles Israel an Apartheid State
Updated: May 8
Earlier this year on February 1st, Amnesty International released a two hundred and eighty paged document titling Israel an apartheid state. Their comprehensive report outlines the crimes committed against the Palestinian people that they believe fits under the definition of an apartheid by international law. The Human Rights organization is now calling on the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo and targeted sanctions on the Israeli government.
The system of apartheid is defined by Amnesty International as “an institutionalized regime of oppression and domination by one racial group over another.” As a non-government organization, Amnesty International does not have any jurisdiction over countries. However, in the past, their organization has influenced government agendas, and brought issues to international bodies like the United Nations Human Rights Council, thus making this distininction of Israel as an apartheid state significant..
The Israel-Palestine conflict has historically been a polarizing issue around the globe since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, the first Jewish State, in Palestinan territory. Since that point,there have been decades of conflict in the region. After the declaration of the Zionist state, there were wars from 1947-1949 as well as a war in 1967 that resulted in the legal separation of regimes and made distinct Palestinian communities separate from Jewish-Israeli communities. The formation of the Israeli state caused the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. In 1987, many Palestinans living in the West Bank and the Gaza strip rose up against the Israeli government, this was called the first intifada. The intifada consisted of a series of protests and violent riots. In the year 2000, the second intifada was sparked by the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. The second intifada lasted five years and in result the Israeli government built a barrier construction wall around the West bank, limiting Palestinians’ mobility.
In recent years, much of the conflict occurs between the Israeli government and the Palestinian freedom group Hamas, which was designated as a terrorist organization by the United States in 1997. The most recent point of conflict between Israel and Palestine began in April 2021 when the Israeli government deployed military force against Palestinians who were protesting evictions that were happening to citizens from Sheikh Jarrah, a predominantly Palestinan neighborhood located in East Jerusalem. On May 7 2021, after weeks of increasing tensions between the Israeli police and demonstrators, violence broke out at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. The violence that ensued over the next eleven days left more than 250 Palestinians killed, 13 Israelis killed, and thousands more wounded.
This persistent violence that is a presence in everyday life for those living in the occupied Palestinian territory is one of the metrics in which Amnesty International used to designate Israel as an apartheid state in their report. One of the other main key factors that Amnesty International uses to distinguish Israel as an apartheid state is the restriction of the Palestinian people’s movement which is enforced by the Israeli military. The movement restrictions on Palestinians consist of military checkpoints, roadblocks, and fences which restrict their travel into other parts of Israel as well as their travel abroad creating constant tensions. Additionally there is a 700 kilometer long fence which keeps Palestinian communities within military zones.
Israel was formed to be the first Jewish state and a haven for Jews living through the anti-semitism that lingered on long after WWII. However, since Israel is declared as the nation-state for Jewish people, there is institutionalized discrimination against those Israelis who are not Jewish. The Israeli government works to uphold Judaism within Israel by the building of Jewish sentiments which in turn naturally diminishes the status of other religions within the state and the status of the Arabic language.
From their investigation, Amnesty International believes that Palestinians are systematically denied their basic human rights. There are many implications of this report. The report holds weight in the global debate around the world. Additionally in the future, this report could be the basis of court proceedings against Israel. The German Institute for International and Security Affairs made a statement on the report “The EU and its member states should neither adopt nor dismiss the apartheid claim until it has been carefully examined by the competent bodies. But they should view the AI report as a wake-up call to no longer accept grave human rights violations as normal and to not regard the ongoing occupation as a state of affairs that exists detached from a “democratic Israel”. It is possible that this report could play a big part in the future of Israeli-Palestinan relations.
Israelis and Palestinians are neighbors but the two groups are living out different realities due to the regular violence plaguing Palestinians and the acts of terror impacting Israelis. The Israel-Palestine conflict has led to decades of violence and bloodshed in the region. Amnesty International calls on Israel to reform their military occupation of Palestinian territory and dismantle what they see as an apartheid system. It is certain that reform is necessary to achieve peace and security for both groups.