Say Israel is committing apartheid? It’s not a decision we reached lightly

Israeli soldiers
Israeli security forces on a street during clashes with Palestinian youth in Hebron on April 25. (photo: Hazem Bader / AFP via Getty Images)
Fading hope for an end to Israeli military rule compelled HRW to raise the political price for Israel to maintain the status quo of oppression and discrimination.

By Eric Goldstein | Forward | Apr 27, 2021

But hopes for a breakthrough in the peace process obscured the repressive status quo, and the increasingly clear intention of Israeli authorities to perpetuate a system designed to enable the flourishing of Jewish Israelis at the expense of Palestinians — that is, one of domination.

When I arrived in Jerusalem in 1989 as Human Rights Watch’s first Israel-Palestine researcher, I did not imagine the word “apartheid” applying to the Israeli and Palestinian context. But this week, HRW published a report that I edited, as the organization’s acting Middle East director, finding that Israeli officials are committing the crimes of apartheid and persecution — crimes against humanity.

I knew 30 years ago that apartheid had legal meaning beyond its origins in South Africa. For more than a decade there had been an international convention that defined apartheid as a crime committed when officials systematically oppress one group in the territory under their control, and subject it to inhumane acts, with the intent to maintain the domination over that group for the benefit of another group.

At the height of the first intifada, I documented inhumane acts as the Israeli army used brutal tactics to repress the popular uprising in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. And it has become clear over the years that there is systematic oppression of the Palestinians in the occupied territory.

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