Amnesty International accused Israel of apartheid this week, which has led to widespread critique of the organization.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid slammed the organization. Nevertheless Amnesty doubled down Tuesday, noting that "Apartheid is deprivation. Apartheid is segregation. Apartheid is fragmentation. Apartheid is dispossession. Israel's apartheid over Palestinians is a crime against humanity."
The accusation of apartheid as it is currently being used makes it impossible for Israel to ever extricate itself from the accusation because groups like Amnesty now include all of Israel within the Green Line as part of the "apartheid," meaning that only dismantling Israel as a Jewish state can end "apartheid."
Only dismantling Israel as a Jewish state can end "apartheid" as Amnesty defines it.
These groups now reject a two-state solution which was supposed to end the conflict and give each group self-determination. In short, the new report prevents peace and prevents an end to "occupation."
The accusation of "apartheid," applied to Israel is not new. In early 2021 both Human Rights Watch and B'Tselem accused Israel of "apartheid." The accusation is generally predicated on the argument that Israel controls the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jerusalem and areas within the Green Line and that all of this is now one entity.
B'Tselem wrote in January 2021 that "more than 14 million people, roughly half of them Jews and the other half Palestinians, live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea under a single rule."
It claimed that although it appears the West Bank is under one set of rules, namely Israeli military rule and another, the Palestinian Authority, "over time, the distinction between the two regimes has grown divorced from reality. This state of affairs has existed for more than 50 years – twice as long as the State of Israel existed without it."
Human Rights Watch made similar claims in April, 2021. "About 6.8 million Jewish Israelis and 6.8 million Palestinians live today between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River, an area encompassing Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), the latter made up of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip."
HRW claims "Israeli authorities methodically privilege Jewish Israelis and discriminate against Palestinians." B'Tselem claims "the entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River is organized under a single principle: advancing and cementing the supremacy of one group – Jews – over another – Palestinians." Amnesty claims "this system plays out in different ways across the different areas where Israel exercises control over Palestinians' rights, but the intent is always the same: to privilege Jewish Israelis at the expense of Palestinians."
Amnesty claims that "successive governments have designed laws and policies to ensure the continued fragmentation of the Palestinian population. Palestinians are confined to enclaves in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and the refugee communities, where they are subject to different legal and administrative regimes."
All these reports share a similar logic. They are not about how Israel treats Palestinians in the West Bank. They are not about how Israel deprives Palestinians in Jerusalem of equality under the law. They are actually about the Gaza Strip and Israel within the Green Line.
This means that they are taking aim at reincorporating Gaza under Israeli control and accusing Israel of being "apartheid" even in Tel Aviv or areas that the international community has always agreed were part of democratic Israel.
The argument is clear because it defines the whole area as one entity and asserts that Israel is giving preferential treatment to Jews in the whole area.
Amnesty, HRW and other groups that push this argument, defining apartheid as basically the essence of the Jewish nation state do not make similar claims about other countries that treat groups differently.
For instance they do not define Turkey as an apartheid state, despite its discrimination against minority Kurds. They don't define Malaysia as an apartheid state, even though it supports Malays over other minorities. They don't define Pakistan as an apartheid state even though it discriminates against non-Muslims.
Only dismantling Israel as a Jewish state can end "apartheid" as Amnesty defines it.
In essence then the "apartheid" notion has been reinvented solely to apply to Israel. This means that the new accusation is not about getting Israel to withdraw from the West Bank, it's solely about dismantling Israel as a Jewish state.
What they define as apartheid are basic elements of Israel that privilege Jewish Israelis, such as the Star of David on the flag, the Hebrew anthem, and other basic aspects of the state.
The decision by these groups to define Gaza as part of Israel, in order to make the numbers work, and to accuse Israel of apartheid, illustrates that even if Israel were to leave the West Bank and a Palestinian state were to arise, Israel would still be defined as "apartheid."
For instance, Amnesty focuses on "fragmentation" of the Palestinian areas as evidence of "apartheid." Yet this fragmentation was created by the United Nations in the partition plan of 1947.
These reports are accusing the United Nations of creating apartheid, by dividing what was British Mandate Palestine, into a Jewish and Arab state as envisioned during Israel's independence war. Fragmentation is now "apartheid." That means that Israel withdrew from Gaza but the report defines Gaza as still part of Israel and that even the Palestinian Authority is part of Israel. Israel can never leave.
The goal here is to make peace impossible by cementing an accusation and creating terms and definitions that mean even if Israel leaves the West Bank it still "controls" it and that by leaving it, it then "fragments" it.
In essence Amnesty has now joined Israel's Right and far-right by understanding that the whole land, whatever the arrangements, is under Israel's control forever.
This departs from the two-state vision, a vision shared by the UN and most in the international community. It also prevents Palestinians from wanting their own state. This is because it defines a Palestinian state as "fragmentation."
The clear goal here appears to be to overturn the 1947 partition plan, the 1948 war and not just the 1967 conflict, but also UN resolutions, by forcing Palestinians to be ruled by Israel in a binational state.
This may be due to Israel's new peace agreements and a sense that peace might be on the way for Israel and the Palestinians.
As Israel got a new government last year, after a decade of rule by prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the "apartheid" claim was put into high gear.
This was designed to prevent the new government from solving the conflict or to find a peaceful two-state solution. The concept here is to hand the new government, which wants peace and has an Arab party in the coalition, a definition of "apartheid" that means Israel will never be permitted to leave the West Bank and that a Palestinian state cannot come into being.
This re-writing of history likely is being done because of a sense that now is the time to push for one state and to prevent peace and a two-state solution.
The more peace is on the horizon, the more the Palestinians are being told that they shouldn't accept any agreement because human rights groups will define it as apartheid unless Palestinians all demand citizenship in a new Israel-Palestinian one state. So, despite leaving Gaza, the idea is to represent Gaza as under Israeli control to fulfill the "apartheid" definition.
It used to be that human rights groups focused on particular discriminatory policies in the West Bank or Jerusalem. Now all these policies are treated as the same thing.
One eviction in Jerusalem is "apartheid." Amnesty calls the Negev, the "Naqab" and refers to "expropriation" of 1948, indicating that the concept is to turn the clock back to 1947. This is an extraordinary attempt to re-write history.
It is tantamount to claiming that Pakistan and India are "apartheid" states unless they agree to be one state again, along with Bangladesh. It is tantamount to claiming that all the former states of Yugoslavia, from Macedonia to Kosovo, Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia must now reunify or they will all be defined as "apartheid" because they are "fragmented" and because each discriminates in favor of its own national group.
Apartheid's new definition is basically meant to define as commission of "a crime" any state that has a national religion or ethnic group that receives some unique rights.
It is also now aimed at preventing the concept whereby peoples may prefer to be independent than live under binational state creations.
The Palestinian right to a state of their own, an Arab state as envisioned at the UN in 1947, is now stripped from Palestinians.
The existence of a Palestinian state alongside a Jewish state is now considered "apartheid." This means that even if Israel wanted to improve any discriminatory situations, there's no route out of the apartheid definition.
This gives no incentive to peacemakers or peace voices in Israel or among Palestinians. Shoe-horning the Gaza Strip back under Israeli rule and forcing annexation of the West Bank and dismantling of Israel as a Jewish state is the only way to exit the new "apartheid" definition.
Since Israel won't do that and the international community doesn't want the conflict that would come along with such a disaster, the "apartheid" claim has essentially shackled Israel and the Palestinians together in order to destroy both Israel and any Palestinian autonomy that now exists.
Seth Frantzman is a Ginsburg-Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and senior Middle East correspondent at The Jerusalem Post.