The UK branch of Amnesty International, a once reputable London-based global human rights group, has issued a 211-page report bashing Israel and even accusing the world’s one Jewish state of “apartheid.” The report, which Amnesty has already had to correct, is riddled with lies and misrepresentations. It tries to show that Israeli Arabs, who have full citizenship and make up about 20% of Israel’s population, are subject to what Amnesty thinks is “apartheid.”
“To equate the liberal democratic State of Israel with the system of apartheid in South Africa is nothing short of a canard, a libel,” said AJC CEO David Harris in a video message released this week.
The Amnesty report comes less than a year after the release of a similarly defamatory document by Human Rights Watch, authored by Omar Shakir, HRW’s notoriously anti-Israel regional director who in 2015 endorsed the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement, founded by a Palestinian whose stated goal is the elimination of the state of Israel.
Amnesty has declined to say who authored its report. But many of the omissions, misleading claims, and lies are the same when compared to the HRW report. Here are five things to know about Amnesty’s report.
1. Amnesty International is trying to change and appropriate the definition of apartheid so it can delegitimize the world’s only Jewish state and the Middle East’s only democracy.
When Amnesty calls Israel an apartheid regime, it’s not accusing Israel of creating unfair laws based on race, like South Africa’s white supremacist regime. Rather, it seeks to broaden the definition of the term.
International conventions such as the Rome Statute have defined apartheid as “an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group.” Expanding that definition gives Amnesty cover to claim that Israel has committed this crime against Israeli Arabs and the Palestinians living in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.
But it ignores the reality that separate roads and checkpoints in the West Bank, frequently labeled as evidence of “apartheid,” are security measures that have saved lives. The security barrier erected after the Second Intifada has curbed the steep uptick of Palestinian terrorist attacks that killed hundreds of Israeli citizens in the early 2000s.
Those who work night and day to erase Israel from the map relish opportunities to demonize and delegitimize the world’s only Jewish state and the Middle East’s only democracy. Apartheid is a term adopted by international bodies to call out the sin of racism. Manipulating and converting it into an inflammatory term to demonize Israel is repugnant.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a political conflict between two peoples with competing national goals – and should be addressed as such.
2. Amnesty’s report does not condemn the indiscriminate rockets fired at Israeli civilians by terrorists in Hamas-controlled Gaza. Yet it accuses Israel of ethnic cleansing.
In 211 pages, the Amnesty author(s) only uses the word “terrorist” when citing Israel’s use of the term. References to the May 2021 conflict with terrorists in Gaza flip the narrative to imply the Palestinians fired rockets in retaliation.
Just like the HRW report, the Amnesty document fails to note Hamas’s stated intention to wipe Israel off the map or Israel’s need to defend itself against a constant barrage of terrorist attacks from next door – the very definition of ethnic cleansing.
Instead, Amnesty says the apartheid regime originated with the creation of the Jewish state in 1948 and accuses Israel of purging the Palestinians from their lands.
In reality, many Palestinian Arabs fled their homes because their leaders called on them to do so, promising that they would return when Arab armies took control of the country.
Within hours of the report’s release, Amnesty had walked back that claim. Yes, some were expelled after the bloody war that ensued moments after Israel became a nation. But none of that would have happened if Arab leadership had accepted the November 1947 UN resolution partitioning Palestine instead of immediately declaring a war that some insist on continuing to fight.
3. Amnesty report leaves out the sad truth that Palestinian leadership has failed the Palestinian people.
Amnesty doesn’t mention the real reasons that Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza haven’t been able, so far, to fulfill their national aspirations.
From the start, Arab states refused to recognize the Jewish people’s right to live in their biblical homeland. Since then, Palestinian leaders have rejected multiple efforts to divide the land currently shared by the two peoples.
Furthermore, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has not permitted legislative elections since 2006 and Hamas now controls the Gaza Strip, having ousted the Palestinian Authority in a violent coup in 2006.
This report does nothing to support a negotiated settlement between the parties themselves.
4. This is not the first time a once reputable organization or entity has engaged in lies about Israel.
Last April, Human Rights Watch released a similar ream of lies authored by a longtime anti-Israel activist. That report pointed to Israel’s Law of Return—the assurance offered to Jews around the world that they will always find a haven and a home in Israel—as an example of Israel’s discrimination. The assertion is ludicrous given that plenty of democracies offer immigration privileges to individuals with ethnic ties to that country and Israel offers comparable residency and citizenship opportunities for non-Jews.
Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, the Labour Party in the United Kingdom deteriorated and fell apart after so-called concerns about Israel devolved into full-blown attacks on Jewish lawmakers. The antisemitic scandal alienated lawmakers and voters and cost the Labour Party its credibility.
When the UN Commission on Human Rights was replaced by the UN Human Rights Council in 2006, that body also succumbed to the trend of bashing Israel. The Council has singled out and censured the Jewish State more than any other country, including the most serious offenders of human rights.
After the May 2021 conflict, the U.N. Human Rights Council set up a permanent commission of inquiry to investigate abuses in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, including “systematic discrimination and repression based on national, ethnic, racial or religious identity,” which sounds awfully similar to Amnesty’s new definition for apartheid and the 1975 resolution declaring Zionism is racism.
Richard Goldstone, the judge who chaired a similar UN inquiry into the conflict between Israel and Gaza in 2008, has since repudiated the process and expressed regret that his report inaccurately faulted Israel for targeting civilians.
5. Amnesty doesn’t consider antisemitism a human rights priority.
In the mid-2010s, anti-Jewish hatred raged across Europe as Jews were hunted down in a series of traumatic antisemitic attacks. In 2016, Amnesty’s main UK branch took a vote and chose not to push the British government to combat antisemitism.
Amnesty explained that it did not want to single out any form of religious discrimination, yet just several years earlier, it authored a report examining anti-Muslim discrimination.
Even though Amnesty has removed its original claim that “the system of apartheid originated with the creation of Israel in May 1948,” the report still shows just how much of a problem Amnesty has when it comes to antisemitism – and Israel.
"Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has pursued an explicit policy of establishing and maintaining a Jewish demographic hegemony and maximizing its control over land to benefit Jewish Israelis," the Amnesty report states.
According to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism, denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination or claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor, constitutes antisemitism.
And therein lies what Amnesty believes to be Israel’s gravest sin – being Jewish.