Israeli diplomats in London have reacted with anger and disdain after an Israeli human rights group said Benjamin Netanyahu ran a “non-democratic apartheid regime”.
Embassy spokesman Ohad Zemet rejected the “false claims” in a new B’Tselem report after the NGO said Israeli policies “advanced and perpetuated Jewish supremacy over Palestinians”.
Calling it “a propaganda tool”, he said: “Israel rejects the false claims in the so-called report as it is not based on reality but on a distorted ideological view.”
B’Tselem is not the only Israeli human rights group to say the government’s policies amount to a system of discrimination against Palestinians – last year Yesh Din published a legal opinion to that effect.
However, B’Tselem has now said that Jewish supremacy is “an organising principle at the base of a wide array of Israeli policies”, suggesting that discrimination is systematised.
“Israel is not a democracy that has a temporary occupation attached to it [but] one regime between the Jordan River to the Mediterranean,” said B’Tselem director Hagai El-Ad. “We must look at the full picture and see it for what it is: apartheid.”
B’Tselem said Palestinian rights were kept below those of Jews, evidencing discrimination in land and property, immigration, and politics. Zemet said all Israelis had full rights, with Arabs “represented in all branches of government – parliament, the courts, public service, even the diplomatic corps”.
In response to the report, Zionist Federation chair Paul Charney called B’Tselem “anti-Israel” and labelled its claims “malicious… they are nothing more than an attempt to grab the headlines and mislead, but with very little to no substance at all”.
Charney said Israeli Arabs “have the same rights and freedoms as their Jewish counterparts,” adding that the Palestinian Authority and Hamas shared responsibility for the governance of Palestinians.
He said that while the conflict had created “societal issues in Israel that need to be changed”, calling it ‘apartheid’ was “slander… it is dishonest and grossly diminishes the suffering of millions of Black South Africans under the real former apartheid regime”.
BICOM senior research fellow Alan Johnson said the description of Israeli policies as amounting to apartheid was “a smear” that polarised both the debate outside Israel and the peace process within it.
“Successive offers to share the land… have been rejected without a single Palestinian counter-offer being tabled,” said Johnson. “Israel refuses to commit national suicide. That is why the occupation of the West Bank continues, not because Israel is running an apartheid regime there.”
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