Israel has denounced the latest report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) as “fictional claims” that “are both preposterous and false.”
The strong condemnation comes after the New York-based NGO published a 213-page report yesterday alleging Israel ‘persecution’ of its own Arab minority and the Palestinians amount to ‘crimes against humanity.’
“Human Rights Watch is known to have a long-standing anti-Israeli agenda, actively seeking for years to promote boycotts against Israel,” responded Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In a statement obtained by TV7, the Foreign Ministry further asserted that, “This report is yet another part of the organization’s ongoing campaign, led by a known BDS supporter, with no connection to facts or reality on the ground,” in reference to the anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
The report was authored by HRW Israel and Palestine Director Omar Shakir, who was expelled from Israel in 2019 over accusations of BDS involvement, which he denied.
The Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry also charged that HRW’s “decision not to share this report for review or comment with any Israeli authority, is clear indication that it is a propaganda pamphlet, which lacks all credibility,” while noting that HRW founder Robert L. Bernstein “criticized his organization in 2009 for ‘issuing reports on the Israeli-Arab conflict that are helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.’”
Bernstein publicly broke with the group 12 years ago, writing in a column published in the New York Times Op-Ed section that HRW had undermined its credibility and violated its own charter – which aimed to improve human rights in regimes that restrict freedom of speech – by instead disproportionately focusing on IDF activities without proper sourcing, while blatantly ignoring Israel’s protection of free speech.
In its latest report, HRW claimed that Israeli limitation on Palestinian movement and seizure of Palestinian-owned land for Jewish settlement in territory it captured in the 1967 Six Day War were examples of policies it labeled as ‘crimes of apartheid and persecution.’
HRW said that while it did not seek to comparison with apartheid-era South Africa, that it found Israel pursued “specific acts and policies” that constituted apartheid as defined under international law.
“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,” alleged the report, adding that, “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.”
Israeli officials fiercely objected to the 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,” said Strategic Affairs Minister Michael Biton.
The HRW head told Reuters that the group will send its report to the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), “as we normally do when we reach conclusions about the commissions of crimes that fall within the Court’s jurisdiction,” so it can “investigate and prosecute individuals credibly implicated” in apartheid and persecution.
The ICC announced its intention in March to formally investigate war crimes in the Palestinian territories. The Palestinian Authority welcomed the ruling, which was condemned by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as an anti-Semitic decision by a court that lacks jurisdiction.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued a statement in support of the HRW report, saying, “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.”