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Palestine is nearing its ‘South Africa moment,’ campaigners declare

Amnesty International becomes the latest human rights group to accuse Israel of the crime of apartheid

PALESTINE is nearing its “South Africa moment,” campaigners declared today after Amnesty International became the latest human rights group to accuse Israel of the crime of apartheid. 

In a damning 280-page report, Amnesty details how Israeli authorities enforce a system of oppression and domination against Palestinians across Israel and the occupied territories. 

The report, based on decades of research and witness testimonies, lists a range of Israeli abuses, including mass seizure of Palestinian land and property, unlawful killings, restrictions on movement and the denial of nationality and citizenship to Palestinians.

It describes these as components of a system that amounts to apartheid under international law. 

Releasing the report today, Amnesty called for Israeli politicians to be held accountable for committing the crime of apartheid and treating Palestinians as an “inferior racial group.” 

Secretary-general Agnes Callamard said: “There is no possible justification for a system built around the institutionalised and prolonged racist oppression of millions of people.

“The international community must face up to the reality of Israel’s apartheid and pursue the many avenues to justice which remain shamefully unexplored.”

The report marks a further shift among human rights organisations towards addressing the oppression of the Palestinian people, following a similar assessment by Human Rights Watch and Israeli rights group B’Tselem last year. 

It was widely welcomed by solidarity campaigners, with the Palestinian-led Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement saying that the report signals that Palestine is closer to achieving its “South Africa moment,” referring to the end of the African nation’s apartheid regime in the early 1990s following pressure from the global anti-apartheid movement. 

The Palestinian BDS National Committee said in a statement: “The report is the latest in a series of studies confirming what Palestinian and international human rights experts and advocates have been saying for decades: Israel is responsible for the crime against humanity of apartheid.

“Our South Africa moment is nearing. We shall [dismantle apartheid] so our people can live in freedom, justice and equality.”

Welcoming the report and its recommendations, Palestine Solidarity Campaign director Ben Jamal said: “Those who continue to treat Israel as a normal functioning democracy and to shield it from accountability for its crimes are complicit in the crime of apartheid and on the wrong side of history.”

The report calls for a comprehensive arms embargo to be imposed on Israel, along with sanctions targeting officials who are particularly implicated in enforcing its apartheid regime. 

Israeli politicians rejected the report as “divorced from reality” and accused Amnesty of anti-semitism.

But B’Tselem condemned that response, saying in a statement: “Levelling accusations of anti-semitism against anyone who criticises the Israeli regime, including against human rights organisations, is a manipulative assertion that undermines the crucial global struggle against anti-semitism and offends the memory of its victims throughout history.”

The report states that Israel, ever since its establishment in 1948, has pursued a policy of creating a Jewish majority by maximising control over land and resources, to the benefit of Israeli Jews. 

Successive Israeli governments have treated Palestinians as an inferior racial group who are defined by their non-Jewish, Arab status, it adds. This racial discrimination is cemented in legislation. 

Giving examples, the report notes how Palestinian citizens of Israel are denied a nationality, while those in the West Bank and Gaza have no citizenship at all, with most considered stateless. 

In Britain, Labour MP Zarah Sultana said that the report must serve as a “wake-up call” for leaders across this country, Europe and the United States. “It’s time to face up to the reality of the injustice suffered by the Palestinian people,” she said. 

Publication of the landmark report coincides with the British government seeking to crack down on free speech on Palestine.

Last week, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi suggested that protesters who chant the pro-Palestinian slogan “from the river to the sea [Palestine will be free]” should be referred to the police. 

He claimed the use of the slogan implies support for Hamas, the Islamist group which controls Gaza, a proscribed organisation in Britain.

However, campaigners insist that the phrase refers to Palestinians’ desire for a secular state covering the whole of historic Palestine. 

Universities are also under mounting pressure to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-semitism, which campaigners claim silences criticism of Israel. 

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