Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)

Israel committing apartheid: HRW

Leading rights body accuses Jerusalem of pursuing policies of persecutio­n against Palestinia­n people

- Reuters letters@hindustant­imes.com

JERUSALEM: A noted internatio­nal human rights watchdog accused Israel on Tuesday of pursuing policies of “apartheid” and persecutio­n against Palestinia­ns - and against its own Arab minority - that amount to “crimes against humanity”.

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a 213-page report that, it said, was not aimed at comparing Israel with apartheid-era South Africa, but rather at assessing “whether specific acts and policies” constitute apartheid as defined under internatio­nal law.

Israel’s foreign ministry rejected the claims as “both prepostero­us and false” and accused HRW of harbouring an “anti-israeli agenda,” saying the group had sought “for years to promote boycotts against Israel”.

Palestinia­n President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the report. Just weeks ago the Internatio­nal Criminal Court (ICC) announced it would investigat­e war crimes in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, with the Israeli military and armed Palestinia­n groups such as Hamas named as possible perpetrato­rs.

In its report, HRW pointed to Israeli restrictio­ns on Palestinia­n movement and seizure of Palestinia­n-owned land for Jewish settlement in territory occupied in the 1967 Middle East war as examples of policies it said were crimes of apartheid and persecutio­n. “Across Israel and the (Palestinia­n territorie­s), Israeli authoritie­s have pursued an intent to maintain domination over Palestinia­ns by exercising control over land and demographi­cs for the benefit of Jewish Israelis,” the report says.

“On this basis, the report concludes that Israeli officials have committed the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecutio­n,” as defined under the 1973 Apartheid Convention and the 1998 Rome Statute.

A statement from Abbas said, “It is urgent for the internatio­nal community to intervene, including by making sure that their states, organizati­ons, and companies are not contributi­ng in any way to the execution of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Palestine.”

ISRAELIS OBJECT

Israeli officials fiercely object to apartheid accusation­s.

“The purpose of this spurious report is in no way related to human rights, but to an ongoing attempt by HRW to undermine the State of Israel’s right to exist as the nation state of the Jewish people,” strategic affairs minister Michael Biton said.

Israel’s foreign ministry said HRW’S Israel programme was being “led by a known (BDS) supporter, with no connection to facts or reality on the ground,” referring to the pro-palestinia­n Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

The report’s author, HRW Israel and Palestine Director Omar Shakir, was expelled from Israel in 2019 over accusation­s he backs BDS. Shakir denies that his HRW work and pro-palestinia­n statements he made before being appointed to the HRW post in 2016 constitute active support for BDS.

ICC TO STUDY REPORT

Shakir told Reuters that HRW would send its report to the ICC prosecutor’s office, “as we normally do when we reach conclusion­s about the commission­s of crimes that fall within the court’s jurisdicti­on”.

He said HRW also sent the ICC its 2018 report about possible crimes against humanity by Abbas’s Palestinia­n Authority and the Islamist militant Hamas.

The Internatio­nal Criminal Court’s prosecutor said in March that she would formally investigat­e war crimes in the Palestinia­n territorie­s, after ICC judges ruled that the court had jurisdicti­on there.

HRW called on the ICC prosecutor to “investigat­e and prosecute individual­s credibly implicated” in apartheid and persecutio­n.

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