Guest Post: Amnesty’s essay: “Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians”: 287 wasted pages

This is another guest post by frequent contributor Brian Goldfarb. I admit  I was feeling overwhelmed by the virulent screed and the amount of lies and slander within the Amnesty report. I am therefore very thankful to Brian who has saved me the huge effort of wading through the massive anti-Israel smear produced by Amnesty, and has taken apart the report item by item.

[Intro: This article tears apart the infamous Amnesty report on “Israeli apartheid” which decided before it even began that Israel is apartheid from beginning to end, from the day it was founded and forever more. All references below relate to the report linked above.]


You know Amnesty has got it wrong when even the head of the one Arab party in the current Israeli government coalition is cited here as follows:

“Ra’am party head Mansour Abbas said Thursday he would not use the word “apartheid” to describe relations between Jews and Arabs within the country.”

I have had my reservations about Amnesty for decades, ever since they targeted the Israeli judicial system as imprisoning dissenters just for dissenting. Any country that can jail a former President and start investigating a Prime Minister, while he is still in office and continue after he leaves it, is hardly punishing the dissenters and, by definition, defending the powerful. The Israeli judicial system carries out the dictum (first expressed in the UK in these very words) that “no-one, be he ever so high, is above the law”. Indeed, anyone who wanders the streets and cafes of Tel Aviv, especially as a Hebrew speaker or in the company of someone who is, will find dissent on every corner and in every cafe!

The very first error in this document comes (if we pass over the 4 pages of the alphabet soup of claimed human rights organisations), comes on page 10. Here we find a map of occupied Palestine. Actually, what we find is a map of the West Bank (my preferred usage), which is fair enough, as far as it goes. However, it also includes Gaza. In case Amnesty hadn’t noticed (or perhaps prefer, to make their case, to pretend they hadn’t noticed), Israel left Gaza in 2005. It is now controlled by that eminently democratic organisation Hamas (irony intended), which insists on sending rockets into Israel every so often and then complains when the IDF responds. Which it is entirely entitled under international law regarding sovereign nations rights to defend themselves. These laws say that a “proportional response” is one sufficient to stop the perpetrator in their tracks.

Thus, Amnesty have hardly got off to a sparkling start.

And why, on the map of Green Line Israel, is Beersheba marked? Is it (or was it) traditionally an Arab town? Now occupied by Israeli Jews? Or is it, like so many towns and cities in Israel, of mixed residence? Alternatively, it may just be that whoever wrote this document just likes writing the name down? Who knows?

Then, just a few pages in, we find the following passage, immediately after a hardly cool assessment of the Sheikh Jarrah situation (p. 11 of the “Executive Summary”):

“Meanwhile, armed hostilities broke out on 10 May as Palestinian armed groups fired indiscriminate rockets into Israel from Gaza. Israel responded with a ruthless 11-day military offensive against the territory, targeting residential homes without effective advance warning, damaging essential infrastructure, displacing tens of thousands of people and killing and injuring hundreds of others. It thereby exacerbated the chronic humanitarian crisis caused primarily by Israel’s long-standing unlawful blockade.” (p. 11 of the “Executive Summary”)

Okay, the sentence does say “indiscriminate”, re the Hamas rocket attack, in fairness, but then goes on to completely ignore international law when describing the IDF’s response and also fails to note that those “armed groups” are internationally recognised as terrorist organisations. Nor does it care to take note that the long-standing blockade by Israel is not recognised by non-partisan pbservers as illegal. Further, Amnesty prefers to ignore the “knock on the roof” that the IAF delivers to warn occupants to evacuate, as well as, as far as possible, attempting to reduce civilian casualties by avoiding areas where no rockets have been launched. In other words, Amnesty cares less for the reality, unless this accords with their pre-determined ideological approach. And we’re only on p. 11 of a 287 page long document.

One more matter to clear up before we get to the heart of my argument. Some years ago, when I was actively commenting on the Engage Online website (founded by academics to fight the academic boycott of Israel), it was established that the rules and international law relating to occupied territories are different to those operating within sovereign states. Thus, Israeli actions in the occupied West Bank are covered by different rules and regulations than apply elsewhere. This doesn’t excuse Israeli (especially official Israeli) actions from breaches of human rights (and, indeed, Israeli citizens, including the police and armed forces are held accountable for what they do there), but it does mean that the use of the term “apartheid” has to be used with greater care than to this point and has, anyway, been held to not apply on the West Bank. At least in part, this is  because although responsible for law and order in a general way, they are not responsible for, e.g., education and social welfare: the Palestinian Authority (under the control of Fatah and Mahmoud Abbas) is.

This means that we can ignore the use of the term “apartheid” when applied to the West Bank, even though Amnesty would want to insist otherwise: they can insist all they want, but they are wrong in international law. This also means that the term can only make sense, if at all, in the context of pre-1967 Green Line Israel.

In turn, we must understand the origin and meaning of the word itself. It comes from the Afrikaans language, which in turn developed out of the Dutch brought to South Africa by the early white settlers there. At its simplest, the word means something like “apartness”, which sound innocent enough. However, it meant and means much more. To make a minor digression, we know that distinctions and discrimination against people on the grounds of skin colour, ethnicity, religion, nationality, gender and much else has been around for centuries. This often led to the physical separation of members of such groups into different education systems, separate housing, separate access to parts of a society’s facilities such as public transport, recreational facilities and much else besides.

One version of this “apartness” (never labelled “apartheid”) could be found in the United States, dating from when it was a British colony: what became the southern states were dependent in large part on slave labour (as were the British possessions in the Caribbean) for the effective running of their economies. After the US Civil War, slavery was abolished but equality between former slaves and their former “masters” didn’t materialise, as is well known from the struggles of the civil rights movement of the 1950s onwards. Indeed, there are many who would argue that, despite formal, legal equality, significant differences still exist between African-Americans and First Nation peoples (those arrived on the continent first) and those of broadly European origin still exist. Importantly, however, these differences have never risen to the levels that characterised apartheid South Africa.

It needs to be understood that “separate but equal” (which is what many segregationists argued for after the Civil War) may be separate but is never equal. However, while the situation in the US was bad, it was never as bad as in South Africa. This situation there was “legalised” by the Afrikaner-dominated government of 1948 and lasted until 1994 in an effort to create a truly “apartheid” state. They introduced legislation mandating separate facilities for white South African and black South Africans. They truly believed in the notion of “separate development”, including separate education, housing, medical and transport facilities and even making sexual relations between the “races” illegal. The Afrikaners even went as far, towards the end of the system, of trying to create a system of “Blacks only statelets”, to be known as Bantustans (Bantu was the Afrikaans word for the Black inhabitants of South Africa). This was a final effort to separate out the politically dominant white minority from the majority of the population. The effort never got off the ground, as the apartheid state collapsed under a nearly world-wide economic boycott.

The purpose of the Amnesty document is to try and convince the world that this is what Israel is like, whatever anyone else says. Sadly for them, neither logic, ideology nor reality is on their side, especially when the West Bank is taken out of the equation, as it must be. Let us start with what David Ben-Gurion didn’t say: he didn’t say that Palestine was “a land without a people for a people without a land.” He said something along the lines that people were already living there and the Jews must learn to live with them. However, the nay-sayers will never let the truth get in the way of a convenient falsehood.

Finally, to turn to the truth of the situation in Israel. From the beginning, Israel was never seen by both the pre- and post-war of independence leaders of the Jews as only a Jewish State. It was seen from the beginning as a land for all who lived there. Thus, from the start, non-Jews living in what became (Green Line) Israel and their descendants were recognised as citizens, with equal legal rights, such as access to education, housing, recreational facilities, and so forth. No city, town, village or settlement within this area is, by law, restricted to only Jews or only Moslems or only any other group (leaving aside purely religious training institutions, such as yeshivahs, monasteries or any other such institutions).

To take another example, Professor Alan Johnson (of Edge Hill University in the UK & founding editor of Fathom – available on-line) has noted that 20% of the citizens of Israel are Moslem by religious affiliation and that the student body of The Technion, Israel’s equivalent of MIT is 20% Moslem. If that is apartheid, it’s an astoundingly inefficient method of imposing it. Again, all non-Jewish citizens have equal voting rights: thus Moslem voters can (and do) vote for Moslem parties, Jewish parties and even secular, non-religious parties. Such MKs (Members of the Knesset) can even serve in government: see the opening sentence of this article.

Again, while non-Jewish citizens are exempt from compulsory national service (whether in the armed forces or in some non-military substitute), there is no bar on them volunteering to so serve. Indeed, a large number of Druze citizens (who have, generally, identified with Israel from the beginning) do so. Yet another example of the failure of the dominant group in Israel to practise apartheid is that the Bahai, an offshoot of the Moslem faith often persecuted in Moslem-majority countries, have chosen to establish their world headquarters in Haifa (their gardens, open to the public, are a delightful haven of peace and tranquility).

I decided to take a look at Amnesty’s “recommendations” for their idea of the  “solution” to the problem they see in the region. One of them is the following:

  • “Grant equal and full human rights to all Palestinians in Israel” (p. 272):

This is a clear case of WILFUL blindness by Amnesty: non-Jewish citizens of Isreal have this already. Those living on the West Bank are not living in Israel. Or are Amnesty granting Netanyahu his wish for annexation? Either way, Amnesty is both stupid and wrong. Either that, or they are recognising Israel’s full and legal rights over the West Bank. I’d like to see them argue that one!

Let me leave (almost) the last word with the online Jerusalem Post – How Amnesty’s anti-Israel apartheid report backfired:

“Though Amnesty claims its apartheid report “took four years” to complete, its timing is awfully suspect. The report emerged just a year after the latest peace deal under the Abraham Accords, and it begins with a discussion about events from 2021. Amnesty does not support the accords and the peace and cooperation they have forged between Israel and its new Arab partners. While Amnesty has yet to applaud the accords’ achievements, one Amnesty publication has asserted that the “so-called normalization” efforts “cannot be understood as peace deals in the context of Israel and Palestine.””

Of course they can’t, because what the Abraham Accords can be understood as are a massive signal to the Palestinian leadership that Accord partnership nations are finally tired of supporting a leadership that says a resounding “no” to any and every possibility of a genuine and lasting peace deal between the Palestinians and Israel; they’d rather share Israel’s Hi Tech future and face down their and Israel’s mutual enemy to the north: Iran.

It is because Amnesty have steeped themselves in a collective mood which would rather condemn Israel and Jews than acknowledge the reality of the modern Middle East that this nonsensical document has condemned far too many otherwise innocent trees to death.

Anne adds:

Brian, to repeat what I said in my introduction, thank you for this excellent essay debunking the apartheid slander by Amnesty against Israel. You have clearly demonstrated how utterly false is the apartheid descriptor when it comes to Israel. In fact, as we all know, anyone who steps foot in Israel can see with their own eyes how the situation is the polar opposite of apartheid.

I would like to bring to the attention of our readers several more excellent articles giving detailed debunking of the Amnesty slander:

First of all there is the brilliant and astonishing interview by Lazar Berman of The Times of Israel of Amnesty officials. He tried to pin them down as to why do they and the UN single out Israel of all the countries in the world, decide in advance what the verdict is (always guilty) and then create the report to fit their made-up facts. Their double standards are glaring at us in the face. Read the entire interview, it is quite mind-boggling.

Following that, read the Fathom Journal view on the “car crash interview” of Amnesty by Berman.

David Collier had an advance view of the report earlier this month and produced a scathing rebuttal – several rebuttals in fact. Here is the first one: “Amnesty – Apartheid? What a pile of …”

Within his article David refers to the NGO Monitor takedown of Amnesty’s apartheid smear which is a must read.

David Collier also lets us in to Amnesty’s dirty little secret – its crooked officials.

Elder of Ziyon has produced a series of articles in which he chooses a page of the Amnesty report at random and proceeds to rip it apart, almost line by line. See the articles at his Amnesty 2022 link.

And Israellycool adds to the takedown of Amnesty: Amnesty’s “Apartheid Israel” report was a complete bust.

I am sure I have omitted dozens more analyses and rip-aparts, but these should be enough to explain the outrageousness of the smear against Israel, and the double standards employed throughout.

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3 Responses to Guest Post: Amnesty’s essay: “Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians”: 287 wasted pages

  1. Brian Goldfarb says:

    Just to show that Amnesty is in good company, John McDonnell is reported as saying this:
    “John McDonnell, the former Labour shadow chancellor, labelled Israel an “apartheid state” in the House of Commons as he outlined his opposition to moves to ban BDS in public pension funds.” to be found here:

    Now, just remind me, who was the Party leader when McDonnell was Shadow Chancellor? Surname begins with C…? Oh, of course, the antisemite who claimed that antisemitism in the Labour Party when he was leader was “exaggerated”…and got suspended for it. Where he still remains.

    amazing the company some people keep.

  2. Brian Goldfarb says:

    I should add that there is a public petition in the UK to persuade theCharity Commissioners (an official but non-governmental body which oversees that charities keep within their remits) to investigate whether amnesty has overstepped the limits and exceeded the charitable boundaries. It is also suggested that the Commission has already started to examine this possibility, even before the petition got underway.

    We can but hope: charitable status has all sorts of advantages re taxation.

  3. Reality says:

    What a brilliant post.!Thank you

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