A Human Rights Watch report that characterises Israeli policies towards Palestinians as “apartheid” has drawn sharp criticism from Israel and some British Jewish groups.
The 213-page document — entitled “A Threshold Crossed” — accuses Israel of committing persecution against both Palestinian Arabs and its own Arab citizens.
Both apartheid and persecution are considered international crimes.
But Israel’s foreign ministry said Human Rights Watch was “known to have a long-standing anti-Israel agenda”, adding: “The fictional claims that HRW concocted are both preposterous and false.”
The report says actions within Israel, as well as the West Bank and Gaza, had “demonstrated an intent to maintain the domination of Jewish Israelis over Palestinians” as well as “systematic oppression” and “inhumane acts”.
“When these three elements occur together, they amount to the crime of apartheid,” it said.
By contrast the Zionist Federation of UK and Ireland said the report was the NGO’s “latest in a long history of attacks on Jews, Jewish self-determination and Israel, regardless of policies or borders”.
The campaign group We Believe in Israel said: “the ‘apartheid’ allegation is a lie”, while Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl said it was “a sham which puts rhetoric above fact”.
Van der Zyl added: “Israel’s Arab citizens have been appointed as ambassadors, professors, Supreme Court judges, hospital directors, and other key roles throughout Israel’s socio-economic landscape.
“Civil society organisations should be directing their efforts towards reinvigorating the peace process, not trading in false hyperbole that extends the cycle of conflict.”
Other groups adopted a more cautious tone.
A spokesperson for Yachad, the pro-peace campaign group, said: “Everyone is well within their rights to engage with the findings and to criticise the report and if they want to, vehemently reject them.
“But to try and shut down the debate by suggesting the report is full of lies and smears, without even reading the content, or indeed to paint HRW as anti-Israel or racist, does a disservice to the cause of peace and justice.”
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