CurrentMiddle East

Israel Accused of ‘Crimes Against Humanity’ by Leading Human Rights Group

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In response to the report, Israel’s foreign ministry has accused Human Rights Watch of an “anti-Israeli agenda” that has “no connection to facts or reality on the ground”.

Becoming the first major human rights organization to do so, Human Rights Watch has accused Israeli officials of committing crimes of apartheid and persecution, which amount to crimes against humanity, in a new report released on Tuesday.

The report claimed that after decades of warnings over the treatment of Palestinians by Israeli officials, Israel has now crossed the “threshold” and is actively committing crimes of apartheid. The report also claimed that the Israeli government is implementing a systematic policy to “maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians”.

Apartheid, which is the Afrikaans word for “apartness”, was first used in relation to the policy of racial segregation in South Africa; and is now a crime against humanity under international law.

In the report by Human Rights Watch, Israel is accused of apartheid and therefore of a crime against humanity – citing the government’s treatment of Palestinians as second class citizens in relation to the Jewish population, the report stated:

These policies and practices severely deprive Palestinians of fundamental human rights … When committed with discriminatory intent, on the basis of the victims’ identity as part of a group or collectivity, they amount to the crime against humanity of persecution under the Rome Statute and customary international law.”

The report, which drew on years of human rights documentation, analysis of Israeli laws, and statements by Israeli officials, is one of the first in terms of a major human rights organization documenting and reporting on Israel’s continued apartheid regime.

Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch’s executive director, stated:

These policies, which grant Jewish Israelis the same rights and privileges wherever they live and discriminate against Palestinians to varying degrees wherever they live, reflect a policy to privilege one people at the expense of another.”

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The report also concluded with a list of recommendations to the international community, which included a statement to the International Criminal Court, calling on them to “investigate and prosecute individuals credibly implicated in the crimes against humanity of apartheid or persecution”.

There was also a call to nation-states to implement sanctions, including travel bans, and to freeze assets on Israeli officials responsible for these continued crimes.

In response to the report, Israel’s foreign ministry has accused Human Rights Watch of an “anti-Israeli agenda” that has “no connection to facts or reality on the ground”.

Following this, Palestinian officials – including the foreign ministry – have welcomed this new report, stating that Human Rights Watch has helped expose “Israel’s colonial occupation and its discriminatory and racist policies against the Palestinian people”.

Currently, more than 2 million Palestinians still live under a strict blockade in Gaza, implemented by Israel, controlling Gaza’s borders, sea, and airspace in what is being called the world’s largest open-air prison.

While the report by Human Rights Watch is groundbreaking and a positive step towards bringing Israel to account for its crimes against humanity, it remains to be seen what the wider international community will do in the aftermath of the report.

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