Israel’s Apartheid Policy Towards Palestinians

Human Rights Watch concludes from its research that the Israeli government has demonstrated an intention to maintain the domination of Jewish Israelis over Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). In OPTs, including East Jerusalem, this intention has been combined with systematic oppression of Palestinians and acts of violence committed against them. When these three elements occur together, they make up the crime of apartheid. According to the report, Israeli officials also committed the crime of persecution against humanity.

International NGOs are watching Israeli policy towards the Palestinians very closely. There is no shortage of accusations of actions that are discriminatory and that go beyond the framework of existing law. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in 2020, the Israeli authorities demolished 568 Palestinian houses and other structures in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. 759 people were forcibly displaced. Most of the structures were demolished due to the lack of Israeli building permits, which are virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain.

As the Covid-19 pandemic spread between March and August, Israel averaged its highest home demolition rate in four years, OCHA found. On November 3, Israeli authorities razed the homes of most residents of the Palestinian community of Khirbet Humsah in the Jordan Valley for being in an area it designated as a “firing zone”, displacing 73 people, 41 of them children[1].

The latest flare-up of violence in the Gaza Strip has been accompanied by a “catalogue of violations” committed by Israeli police against Palestinians in Israel and occupied East Jerusalem, according to research from Amnesty International. Arab citizens of Israel have been subjected to unlawful force from officers during peaceful demonstrations, sweeping mass arrests, torture and other ill-treatment in detention, and police have failed to protect Palestinians from premeditated attacks by rightwing Jewish extremists[2].

“Palestinians face a culture of increasing repression and violence from the Israeli authorities and the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank” – said Saleh Hijazi, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for the Middle East and north Africa. At the same time, Hijazi said that a complete disregard for civilian life has been observed for a long time[3].

Amnesty International researchers have documented more than 20 cases of Israeli police violence since early May last year, when protests against the eviction of Palestinians from East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood began. The unrest became one of the reasons for confrontations between Israel and Hamas militant group in the Gaza Strip. Hundreds of Palestinians were injured as a result of police repression[4].

At least 2,150 people – of which 90% were Palestinians – were arrested for allegedly insulting or assaulting a police officer, as well as participating in an illegal assembly, rather than for violent crimes, while right-wing Jewish extremists mostly continue to organize freely into anti-Palestinian militias[5].

Amnesty International reported that in Haifa and Nazareth, police attacked groups of unarmed demonstrators without any reason. These incidents were verified and confirmed by witness accounts and video footage. One video also captures an incident in which an Israeli police officer shot a 15-year-old girl outside Sheikh Jarrah’s house. Another video shows a situation in which, a protester in Jaffa was shot in the face when he used his mobile phone to film police from a balcony. Amnesty International has also documented the torture of detainees who were tied up, beaten and deprived of sleep at Nazareth police station and Kishon detention center.

Although fighting between Israel and the Palestinians has decreased compared to previous years, the Israeli authorities have maintained the closure of Gaza, along with the restrictions Egypt maintains on its border. Palestinian armed groups have fired 187 unguided rockets or mortar shells at Israeli population centers since 21 October 2020. According to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre, shelling of civilians constitutes war crimes[6].

Incendiary balloons launched by Palestinians from the Gaza Strip prompted Israeli authorities to restrict entry into Gaza of goods including food and medicine, block access to territorial waters for Palestinian fishermen and restrict fuel imports for power plants. The restrictions on electricity supply lasted for almost three weeks. These measures, which target the general civilian population of Gaza, amount to unlawful collective punishment[7].

Israel has restricted travel for most Gaza residents through the Erez crossing, the only passenger crossing from Gaza into Israel through which Palestinians travel to the West Bank and abroad. The general travel ban applies to all Palestinians with the exception of those whom the Israeli authorities consider to present “exceptional humanitarian circumstances”, mainly those in need of essential medical care and their companions, as well as prominent business people[8].

In describing Israel’s policies as apartheid, Human Rights Watch relies on the discriminatory intent of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and the grave abuses committed in OPTs. There is widespread confiscation of private land, prohibition of Palestinians from building or living in many areas, massive denial of residency rights, and extensive, decades-long restrictions on freedom of movement. Israel deliberately and severely deprives millions of Palestinians of key citizenship rights based on their national identity[9].

[1] https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2021/country-chapters/israel/palestine [Retrieved on February 28, 2022].

[2] https://www.hrw.org/report/2021/04/27/threshold-crossed/israeli-authorities-and-crimes-apartheid-and-persecution [Retrieved on February 28, 2022].

[3] Ibidem

[4] https://www.amnesty.org/en/location/middle-east-and-north-africa/israel-and-occupied-palestinian-territories/report-israel-and-occupied-palestinian-territories/ [Retrieved on February 28, 2022].

[5] https://www.hrw.org/report/2021/04/27/threshold-crossed/israeli-authorities-and-crimes-apartheid-and-persecution [Retrieved on February 28, 2022].

[6] https://waronwant.org/news-analysis/israeli-apartheid-factsheet [Retrieved on February 28, 2022].

[7] https://www.amnesty.org/en/location/middle-east-and-north-africa/israel-and-occupied-palestinian-territories/report-israel-and-occupied-palestinian-territories/ [Retrieved on February 28, 2022].

[8] Ibidem

[9] https://www.hrw.org/report/2021/04/27/threshold-crossed/israeli-authorities-and-crimes-apartheid-and-persecution [Retrieved on February 28, 2022].

The Warsaw Institute

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