In a move that some had doubts would happen, the Biden administration this week defended Israel by rejecting a one-sided report that labeled the Middle East’s only democracy as an “apartheid state.” The report, from the anti-Israel Human Rights Watch organization, regularly accuses Israel of being an “apartheid state” over Arabs living in Palestinian Authority-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria – regions of historical Israel that Western governments and media refer to as the “West Bank.”
“It is not the view of this administration that Israel’s actions constitute apartheid,” a State Department spokesperson said.
The spokesperson instead called on both Israel and the Palestinians to “refrain from unilateral actions that exacerbate tensions.”
The New York-based group issued a 213-page report alleging that Israel systematically denies Palestinians the basic rights it affords to Jews.
Citing public statements by Israeli leaders and official policies, the report argued that Israel has “demonstrated an intent to maintain the domination of Jewish Israelis over Palestinians” in Israel, the West Bank – biblical Judea and Samaria – and Gaza, coupled with “systematic oppression” and “inhumane acts.”
“When these three elements occur together, they amount to the crime of apartheid,” it said.
HRW claims Israel is committing “grave abuses” in the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem, and Gaza, including land confiscation, the systematic denial of building permits, home demolitions, and “sweeping, decades-long restrictions on freedom of movement and basic human rights.”
Critics of the Human Rights Council, however, counter that the Oslo Peace Accords outline that Israel does not have authority over Gaza or the West Bank as they are self-governed by the Palestinian Authority. Hamas, which rules Gaza, has been labeled by the U.S. and Europe as a terrorist organization and the Palestinian Authority is regularly criticized for diverting much-needed resources away from public services to paying the families of terrorists who kill Israelis. Israel does share security responsibilities with the PA in some areas and Israel controls the border with Jordan and Syria in an effort to keep terrorists and armaments from infiltrating into the West Bank.
Israel rejects claims of apartheid, saying is Arab minority enjoys the same rights as its Jewish majority. In fact, Israel is the only nation in the Middle East that has been noted as having free and fair elections. Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, includes nine Arab members.
The BBC interviews a diverse Arab electorate in Israel:
Human Rights Watch “is known to have a long-standing anti-Israel agenda,” the Foreign Ministry said. “The fictional claims that HRW concocted are both preposterous and false.”
Israel also rejects the use of the term “occupation” to describe its activity in the West Bank and Gaza. Israeli considers the West Bank to be “disputed territory” whose final status should be determined through peace negotiations – which collapsed more than a decade ago. Israel points to the existence of the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority, which governs scattered West Bank enclaves. Israel has exclusive control over about 60% of the West Bank and its borders and imposes restrictions on movement and residency. There, nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers have full Israeli citizenship, while the territory’s 2.5 million Palestinians live under military control.
Foreign policy experts have seen a noted shift in the treatment of Israel between the Trump and Biden administration. Many have noted a more hostile attitude of the new American president towards the Jewish state, including waiting over month before Biden called the Israeli Prime Minister. The Trump administration brokered a historic four peace agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
Biden has historically been a strong supporter of Israel, including foreign aid, but that support seems to have softened say observers, because of the influence of others in the administration promoting anti-Israel policies.
–Metro Voice and wire services