Thank you for contacting me about Israel.
I am aware of the report that you mention. Following this article, I have posted below rebuttals of a number of the specific smears in the Amnesty report. Also included are statements from South Africans who witnessed or suffered under actual apartheid.
Amnesty’s central accusation that Israel maintains a “system of apartheid” is a distortion that deliberately misrepresents the security situation on the ground and fails to meaningfully acknowledge that Israel is a multi-racial, multi-ethnic democracy, where Arab, Druze and other minorities are guaranteed equal rights under law.
By downplaying the existential threats and terrorism that Israel faces, Amnesty guides its readers to believe that Israel’s defensive actions are motiveless. Concerning tropes are utilised throughout the report including accusations of “Jewish domination”, yet there is no mention of Israel’s efforts to achieve peace by negotiations, or the rejection of all peace proposals by the Palestinian leadership.
Tellingly, Esawi Frej, one of two Arab ministers in Israel's coalition government, responded to the report stating that “Israel has many problems that must be solved, both within the Green Line and especially in the Occupied Territories, but Israel is not an apartheid state”.
Israel’s 1.9 million Arab citizens (many of whom self-define as Palestinian) are equal under law, participate fully in the Israeli political system, and fare far better than minorities in other countries in the Middle East. Israel’s coalition government includes an Arab political party, the Islamist Ra’am party led by Mansour Abbas. Polling has found that Arab citizens of Israel would prefer to live under Israeli rule rather than Palestinian, and a poll of Arab residents of Jerusalem in 2021 found that 93% of them prefer to remain under Israeli rule.
The Israeli occupation of the West Bank has continued for over 50 years not because Israel wants to rule over the territory but because peace talks – in which Israel seeks recognition and security guarantees in return for the creation of Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and West Bank with agreed land swaps – have failed thus far. The apartheid smear damages the chance of compromise, mutual recognition and reconciliation.
Israel is a long-term friend and ally of the UK and shares many mutual interests, including close intelligence-sharing and military cooperation. An arms embargo on Israel and the wider boycott campaign stands to be harmful for our armed forces, damaging for UK-Israel bilateral relations, and counterproductive to the peace process.
For these reasons, I do not support the recommendations made by Amnesty International.
Ultimately, the only way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to secure a peace deal between both parties. The Abraham Accords signed between Israel and her Gulf partners present an important opportunity to reinvigorate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and I will continue to urge the UK Government to support efforts to restart direct negotiations to achieve a lasting peace.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP
Amnesty International UK report – Accusations and Rebuttals
• Amnesty International UK has published a 280-page report entitled “Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians: Cruel system of domination and crime against humanity”. The term “apartheid” features 411 times in the report.
• The report accuses Israel of maintaining “a system of apartheid against Palestinians” and of treating Palestinians as “an inferior non-Jewish racial group”.
o The report claims that since Israel’s establishment in 1948, it “has pursued a policy of establishing and maintaining a Jewish demographic hegemony and maximizing its control over land to benefit Jewish Israelis while restricting the rights of Palestinians”.
o The report calls on the international community to impose an arms embargo on Israel and ban trade with Israeli settlements, as well as supporting the right to return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
o The report is premised on the notion that Israel’s existence is inherently racist. The original leaked version of the report stated that the “system of apartheid originated with the creation of Israel in May 1948”. Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour, is provided as a contemporary example of antisemitism under the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism.
o The report repeatedly states that Israel maintains “Jewish domination” over Palestinians, a term evoking the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion forgery which purports to describe a Jewish plan for global domination.
o The report downplays the history of terrorism and extreme violence that Israel has faced and continues to face, failing to contextualise in order to demonise Israel and making Israeli defensive actions appear motiveless.
▪ While condemning Israel’s restrictions, Amnesty fails to note that the Hamas terror group in Gaza has a long history of abusing genuine humanitarian aid for terror purposes, exploiting medical permits and misusing dual-purpose materials to produce weapons.
• The report does not mention that despite the security risks posed, Israel actively supports reconstruction efforts in Gaza and facilitates the passage of humanitarian aid and recently increased the number of work permits it gives to Gazans to 10,000. • In September 2021, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced a multi-stage plan for developing Gaza’s economy in return for security.
▪ The security barrier is presented as an example of apartheid, yet it was a response to waves of suicide bombings of the Second Intifada and saved many lives. • In 2002, the year before construction started, 457 Israelis were murdered.
▪ The report criticises Israel for revoking the residency status of four Jerusalem residents in 2006, yet the four men in question are Hamas members with a history of perpetrating violent attacks against civilians.
o The report fails to acknowledge Israel’s efforts to achieve peace by negotiations, and the rejection of all peace proposals by the Palestinian leadership.
o In a joint statement, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council condemned the report, describing it as a “bad faith report hostile to the very concept of Israel”. They “reject its very premise”.
o A statement from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs described the report as “a shameful misrepresentation of Israel’s diverse and dynamic society”. The State of Israel “absolutely rejects all the false allegations that appear in the report”.
▪ Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid added: “Israel is not perfect, but it is a democracy committed to international law and open to scrutiny, with a free press and strong Supreme Court”.
o Esawi Frej, one of two Arab ministers in Israel's coalition government, responded to the report stating that “Israel has many problems that must be solved, both within the Green Line and especially in the Occupied Territories, but Israel is not an apartheid state”.
o Amnesty International has been accused of having a “long record of double standards” on Israel and has faced claims of racial discrimination in its UK office in recent years.
▪ Eight current and former employees claimed that the leadership “knowingly upheld racism and actively harmed staff from ethnic minority backgrounds”. They described feeling “dehumanised” over their race and ethnicity over a number of years, with some reporting official grievances.
Accusations and Rebuttals
Accusation: Israeli law privileges Jewish Israelis
• Israel defining itself a ‘Jewish state’ does not mean that Israel is a theocracy or a state exclusively for Jews.
o ‘Jewish state’ means that Israel is the national homeland for the Jewish people with citizenship, civic equality and minority rights for its non-Jews.
• Israel’s Declaration of Independence (1948) explicitly provides for the protection of minorities.
o “Israel will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture”.
• Israel’s Arab citizens (many of whom self-define as Palestinian) are equal under law, participate fully in the Israeli political system, and fare far better than minorities in other countries in the Middle East. Israel’s coalition government includes an Arab political party, the Islamist Ra’am party led by Mansour Abbas.
o Israel’s Arab citizens constitute 21% of the Israeli population and number 1.9 million. Arabic is Israel’s second official language; road signs are in Hebrew and Arabic.
o Israeli Arabs serve as the heads of hospital departments, university professors, senior police and army officers. An Arab judge currently sits on the country’s Supreme Court. There are 14 Arab members of Israel’s Knesset (parliament) from six different parties.
o While there are inequalities in Israeli society and a number of disadvantages faced by Israel’s Arab population, it is wrong to describe these socio-economic gaps as ‘apartheid’.
o In October 2021, the Israeli government approved $10 billion in funding over the next five years to develop the Arab sector in Israel, supporting sectors including housing, education and employment and tackling high crime rates.
o In January 2022, the Israeli Judicial Selection Committee appointed six Arab judges and jurists (out of 19) to prominent positions, half of them women.
o In 2021, 58,000 students – 17 per cent of all students entering higher education in Israel – were Arab, double the figure from a decade ago.
• In 2014, 77% of the Arab citizens of Israel said that they would prefer to live under Israeli rule rather than Palestinian.1 A poll of Arab residents of Jerusalem in 2021 found that 93% of them prefer to remain under Israeli rule.
Accusation: Israel has perpetrated the international wrong of apartheid
• This smear is factually incorrect, malicious, and deliberately overlooks the fact that Israel is a multiracial, multi-ethnic democracy, where Arab, Druze and other minorities in Israel are guaranteed equal rights. It damages the chance of compromise, mutual recognition and reconciliation.
• The Israeli occupation of the West Bank has continued for over 50 years not because Israel wants to rule over the territory but because peace talks – in which Israel seeks recognition and security guarantees in return for the creation of Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and West Bank with agreed land swaps – have failed thus far. https://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/68-percent-of-Israeli-Arabs… 2 https://www.shfanews.net/post/102082
• Evoking South Africa’s enforced racial segregation, which was intended to permanently benefit the white minority to the detriment of other races, deliberately distorts the security situation in the West Bank. Restrictions are intended to mitigate the security risks to both sides.
• Despite Israel controlling the West Bank for more than 50 years, nearly 80% of settlers live in 4% of the territory, mostly adjacent to the Green Line (the 1949-1967 Armistice Line) and major Israeli urban areas west of the security barrier, thereby maintaining the viability of the two-state solution.
o It was expressly agreed by all parties in 1949 (Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria) that the Green Line was not to be treated as a border.
• The long-agreed framework for a two-state solution will see Israel retain settlement blocs as part of a negotiated land swap deal, with the Palestinians receiving equivalent land in return.
• Judge Richard Goldstone, a former Justice of the South African Constitutional Court, who led the United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict of 2008-9, has objected strongly to accusations of Israeli apartheid: “There is no intent to maintain ‘an institutionalised regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group’ [the definition of apartheid under the 1998 Rome Statute]. South Africa’s enforced racial separation was intended to permanently benefit the white minority, to the detriment of other races. By contrast, Israel has agreed to the existence of a Palestinian state in Gaza and almost all of the West Bank, and is calling for the Palestinians to negotiate the parameters”.
• Benjamin Pogrund, former antiapartheid activist, deputy editor of the Rand Daily Mail, and a friend of Nelson Mandela said that “applying the word ‘apartheid’ to Israelis is both factually wrong and politically naïve”.
• Kenneth Meshoe, a member of the South African parliament, has underlined: “Because [the accusation of Israeli apartheid] is so inaccurate it betrays the memory of those who suffered through a real apartheid… As a black South African who was born under Apartheid, I know what apartheid is”.