Who is talking about Israeli Apartheid?

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Many Palestinians, solidarity activists, and academics have recognized the "apartheid" character of Israel for many years. Recently, however, there has been a notable shift in mainstream organizations and figures willing to use this language. Below is an updated (but not exhaustive) list of notable organizations and figures who have recently adopted, or expressed openness towards, the terminology of Israeli apartheid.

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United Nations

  • UN Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk (2022) - In March 2022, the UN Human Rights Council received a report from Michael Lynk, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, which conducted a legal analysis of Israel’s rule over the occupied territory, and definitively concluded that it “satisfies the prevailing evidentiary standard for the existence of apartheid”: "With the eyes of the international community wide open, Israel has imposed upon Palestine an apartheid reality in a post-apartheid world."
        
  • Five UN Special Rapporteurs (2022) - In April 2022, five UN Special Rapporteurs issued a statement describing Israel's housing policies in East Jerusalem as amounting to  “racial segregation and discrimination against the Palestinian people,” and “echoed the findings” of a recent report by UN Special Rapporteur Michael Link which concluded that “Israel’s 55-year occupation of the Palestinian territory constitutes apartheid” (see above). 
     
  • UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) - In 2017, a UN report was published with the title "Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid." It was authored by Virginia Tilley and Richard Falk, and commissioned and published by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA). The report concluded that "Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole," and that its practices constitute the crime of apartheid under international law (p. 1). It was subsequently withdrawn after political pressure, compelling the resignation of ESCWA's Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary.

  • UN Special Rapporteur John Dugard (2007) - In 2007, the UN Human Rights Council received a report from John Dugard, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, which concluded that "Israel’s laws and practices in the OPT certainly resemble aspects of apartheid ... and probably fall within the scope of the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid." 

International Human Rights Groups

  • Amnesty International – On February 1, 2022, Amnesty published a 280-page report titled Israel’s Apartheid against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime against Humanity. The report found that “Israel has established and maintained an institutionalized regime of oppression and domination of the Palestinian population for the benefit of Jewish Israelis – a system of apartheid – wherever it has exercised control over Palestinians’ lives since 1948.” This extends to Israel’s rule over Palestinians in Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories, and those who are refugees. Israel’s policies constitute apartheid as a crime against humanity, as defined in the Rome Statue and the Apartheid Convention. Amnesty’s recommendations include a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel, a ban on settlement goods, and targeted sanctions against Israeli officials.

  • Human Rights Watch (HRW) - In April 2021, HRW published a 200-plus page report concluding that Israeli officials are committing the crimes against humanity of “apartheid” and “persecution” against the Palestinian people. HRW explains that "the Israeli government has demonstrated an intent to maintain the domination of Jewish Israelis over Palestinians across Israel and the OPT. In the OPT, including East Jerusalem, that intent has been coupled with systematic oppression of Palestinians and inhumane acts committed against them. When these three elements occur together, they amount to the crime of apartheid." HRW provided governments with a series of recommendations, including the need to condition trade and military agreements on efforts to eliminate apartheid, and imposing sanctions (including asset freezes and travel bans) against Israeli officials.

Palestinian Civil Society

  • Al-Haq and seven Palestinian, international and regional human rights organizations - In November 2019, a group of Palestinian and related organizations submitted at Joint Parallel Report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which substantiates that "Israel has created and maintained an apartheid regime over the Palestinian people as a whole, in violation of its obligations under international law." Signatories include Al-Haq, BADIL, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, Addameer, the Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (CCPRJ), the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), and Habitat International Coalition – Housing and Land Rights Network (HIC-HLRN). The CERD is expected to respond to the report in 2022.
     
  • Palestinian and global civil society (Almost 200 Palestinian organizations, 450+ total) - In September 2020, a wide coalition of more than 450 Palestinian and global civil society organizations, including almost 200 Palestinian organizations, urged Member States of the UN General Assembly to launch international investigations into Israel’s apartheid regime over the Palestinian people as a whole. Palestinian signatories included Al-Haq, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Addameer, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP), Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC), and about 170 additional civil society and Palestinian trade union groups.

  • Over 100 Palestinian organizations - In January 2021, a joint statement by the Palestinian NGOs Network (PNGO), the Palestinian Human Rights Organisations Council (PHROC) and the Palestinian National Institute for NGOs (PNIN), representing more than 100 Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations, said that Israel's discriminatory COVID-19 vaccine rollout "exposes Israel’s inhumane acts of apartheid": "In its on-going roll-out of COVID-19 vaccinations, Israel is directly violating its humanitarian and human rights law obligations by denying lifesaving vaccines to Palestinians as part of its policy of maintaining its apartheid regime of institutionalised domination. This policy has revealed in a direct and clear manner how the system of apartheid operates." 
     
  • Al Mezan Center for Human Rights - In November 2021, the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, a Palestinian NGO, published a major report exploring Israel’s crimes of apartheid as perpetuated against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. As the report notes, "As a sealed-off enclave, fragmented from the rest of the OPT and controlled by Israel within its apartheid system, Gaza is a strip of land that can be likened to a South African bantustan."
     
  • Al-Haq and six other Palestinian organizations - In January 2022, seven Palestinian organizations submitted a joint parallel report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, urging the committee to acknowledge that "Israel has imposed an institutionalized regime of racial domination and oppression amounting to a regime of apartheid targeting the Palestinian people as a whole in violation of the [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights]."
     
  • Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association and the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School - In February 2022, Palestinian NGO Addameer and the IHRC at Harvard issued a joint report to the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry. Looking specifically at the West Bank, their submission finds that "Israel’s actions in the occupied West Bank are in breach of the prohibition of apartheid and amount to the crime of apartheid under international law."

Israeli Human Rights Groups

  • 13 Israeli human rights groups - In February 2022, 13 Israeli human rights groups issued a joint statement defending Amnesty International against "vicious attacks" due to its report on apartheid, saying: "Many of us have used the term and/or have made the legal designation of 'apartheid' in relation to various aspects of Israel's treatment of Palestinians. The debate around the crime of apartheid of which Israel is accused, and its geographic scope, is not only legitimate, but absolutely necessary." Signatories include Adalah, Breaking the Silence, B'Tselem, Combatants for Peace, Gisha, HaMoKed, Haqel, Human Rights Defenders Fund, Ofek, Parents Against Child Detention, Physicians for Human Rights Israel, The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, and Yesh Din.
     
  • B’Tselem - In January 2021, Israel's largest human rights organization B'Tselem published a position paper concluding that Israel is an "apartheid" regime, or “a regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.” (January 2021)

  • Yesh Din - In June 2020, Israeli rights group Yesh Din published a legal opinion concluding that "the crime against humanity of apartheid is being committed in the West Bank. The perpetrators are Israelis, and the victims are Palestinians." (June 2020)

  • Gisha Access - Following the B'Tselem report, Israeli rights group Gisha Access wrote: "B’Tselem’s new report 'This is Apartheid,' asks Israelis to confront a painful reality that Palestinians have lived and described for decades. Those who think it’s easier to look away or blame the messenger are mistaken. The faster that Israelis face up to what they are doing and what is being done in their names, the faster the injustice can be brought to an end. The word apartheid evokes revulsion, as it should. There are undoubtedly differences between the apartheid regime in South Africa and Israel, but the thread that connects them is undeniable." Gisha also gave a presentation to a June 2021 conference at the Knesset entitled “After 54 Years: Between Occupation and Apartheid.” In 2022, Gisha welcomed Amnesty's report, noting the "relevance of the term apartheid as a description of the reality Palestinians are forced to live."

  • Physicians for Human Rights Israel - Israeli group PHRI's August 2021 report on COVID-19 in the West Bank argues: "This state of affairs demonstrates a reality of apartheid, whereby while two populations live under a single sovereignty, one will receive a high-quality vaccine early on, whereas the other will receive fewer vaccines, of another type and at a later time. The very fact that two populations living under the same regime are treated in such disparate ways is unparalleled confirmation of the existence of a reality of apartheid in the West Bank" (pp. 48-49). 

  • Breaking the Silence - Israeli rights group Breaking the Silence participated in a June 2021 conference at the Knesset entitled “After 54 Years: Between Occupation and Apartheid,” where they made a direct comparison between Israel's policy of 'separation' and South African apartheid: “Does anyone not think that there is a separation-based regime in the territories? [...] Separation in Afrikaans is apartheid. It is time to face the reality we have created and bring an end to the occupation as soon as possible.” In November 2021, BtS participated in a protest against the Israeli President's visit to Hebron, tweeting: "If there were ever a place where the word apartheid is relevant to the Israeli case, Hebron would be it." In February 2022, BtS welcomed the Amnesty report, tweeting that it "strengthens a growing consensus among the international human rights community that Israel is committing the crime of apartheid. The question under discussion is no longer if, but where and to what extent."

  • Peace Now Israel - Israeli rights group Peace Now Israel participated in a June 2021 conference at the Knesset entitled “After 54 Years: Between Occupation and Apartheid,” and spoke about how "Israel’s occupation and settlement construction in the West Bank have created an apartheid-like reality." In November 2021, Peace Now participated in a protest against the Israeli President's visit to Hebron, tweeting: "We came to say no to apartheid, no to fascism, no to violating Palestinian human rights in our name." In 2022, Peace Now Israel did not endorse Amnesty's conclusion that apartheid existed within the Green Line, but warned: "It is crystal clear that allowing the status quo of creeping annexation to continue will lead to an apartheid state from the river to the sea." On June 8, 2022, they tweeted of the separate legal systems in the OPT: "This is Apartheid."

  • Adalah - The Legal Centre for Minority Rights in Israel - Israeli rights group Adalah described Israel's "Nation-State Law," passed in 2018, in terms of apartheid: "This law – which has distinct apartheid characteristics – guarantees the ethnic-religious character of Israel as exclusively Jewish and entrenches the privileges enjoyed by Jewish citizens, while simultaneously anchoring discrimination against Palestinian citizens and legitimizing exclusion, racism, and systemic inequality

  • HaMoked - Center for the Defence of the Individual - Israeli human rights group HaMoked has been saying since at least 2009 that Israel is practicing the crime of apartheid. As HaMoked's executive director tweeted in November 2021, "The reality in Hebron is a blatant manifestation of apartheid.
     
  • Combatants for Peace - Israeli human rights group Combatants for Peace welcomed Amnesty's report on Apartheid in February 2022, stating that "this report provides an important opportunity for Israelis to learn that the term ‘Apartheid’ is not a historic comparison, but is a war crime, defined as such in several international treaties. Apartheid means that there are separate and discriminatory legal frameworks for different ethnic groups, just as there are in Israel towards its Palestinian citizens and vastly within the occupied territories towards the Palestinian population therein ..."

Public Opinion

  • Israelis and Palestinians - An April 2021 survey of all Israelis and Palestinians living between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean sea (analyzed together as a single population unit), found that about 25 per cent of Jewish Israelis believe the term “apartheid” is a fitting or very fitting description of the Israeli regime, as did a strong majority (75 per cent) of Palestinians.
  • Middle East Scholars - An August-September 2021 survey of Middle East scholars found that 65% would describe the current reality in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, as “a one-state reality akin to Apartheid.”  

  • American Jews - In a June-July 2021 national survey of Jewish voters in the United States, one quarter (25%) of Jewish voters, and 38% of Jewish voters under the age of 40, agreed that “Israel is an apartheid state." 

Post-Apartheid South Africa and Namibia

  • South Africans - Support for Palestinians and the "apartheid" comparison has been broadly popular in post-apartheid South Africa for many years, but it has increasingly been used by government leaders.
    • Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa's President, told France 24 in May 2021 that Israel’s actions brought back “very terrible memories of our own history and apartheid,” and said that Israel could “quite easily” be characterized as an “apartheid type of state.” 
    • In August 2021, the ruling African National Congress (and major liberation movement during the struggle against apartheid) sponsored a massive billboard in Soweto that read: “End Israeli Apartheid Now!" 
    • On February 14, 2022, South Africa's foreign affairs minister Naledi Pandor told Parliament: “We all know that our history of struggle, and the values derived from it, against racism and colonialism, make us duty-bound to be a voice for the oppressed and marginalized everywhere. […] We are considering further measures to indicate our significant dismay at the continued apartheid practices of Israel against the long-suffering people of Palestine. [...] We are studying the recent human rights report on Israel, and hope to approach cabinet with a further proposed direct action against well-documented apartheid practices of Israel.”
  • Namibians - Namibia’s ambassador to the United Nations told the UN Human Rights Council in March 2021 that Israel was practicing apartheid against the Palestinian people, and called for the restoration of the UN Special Committee on Apartheid to investigate Israel's practices. Namibia also called out Israel's "apartheid system" at the UN Security Council in July 2021. This is significant because Namibia was illegally occupied by South Africa for decades (at the time it known then as South West Africa), where South Africa imposed its apartheid policies on the population. 

Other Notable Figures and Organizations

  • Ban Ki-moon, former secretary-general of the United Nations - wrote in June 2021 that Israel’s “structural domination and oppression” of the Palestinian people “arguably constitutes apartheid.”

  • Juan Manuel Santos, former President of Colombia - wrote in May 2022: "The fact that patriotic Israelis and respected international figures are using the term 'apartheid' reinforces the need for an objective debate about the evidence, grounded in the international legal framework that defines this crime."
     
  • Yuval Noah Harari, Israeli author of the bestselling book Sapiens - while not using the "apartheid" word itself, very explicitly described the political reality in Israel a way identical to that of apartheid: "In short, the ruling powers in Israel moved from a two-state solution to a three-class solution. They foresee one country between the sea and the Jordan, where three types of people will live: Jews, who will enjoy all the rights; Type A Arabs, who will have some of the rights. And Type B Arabs, who will have almost no rights. This is the reality today, and judging by the votes at the ballot box, it seems that most Jews in Israel prefer that this is how it will remain." 

  • Two former Israeli ambassadors to South Africa - wrote in June that Israel’s activities in the occupied Palestinian territories amount to a “reality” of apartheid, adding: “It is time for the world to recognize that what we saw in South Africa decades ago is happening in the occupied Palestinian territories too.

  • United Church of Christ (UCC) - The UCC, a mainline church in the United States, voted 83% in July 2021 for a policy to "reject Israel’s apartheid system of laws and legal procedures."  

  • Church of Sweden - In November 2021, the Church of Sweden's main decision-making body passed a resolution instructing the church's central board to “raise the issue of scrutinizing the implementation of international law in Israel and Palestine [for example, by bringing this issue up with ecumenical organizations like the World Council of Churches], also from the perspective of the United Nations convention on apartheid and the definitions of apartheid in the Rome Statute.”
     
  • UK Labour Party conference - In September 2021, the UK Labour Party conference overwhelmingly adopted a motion referring to the HRW and B'Tselem reports concluding that Israel practicing the crime of apartheid.

  • Yehudit Karp, former Israeli deputy attorney general - wrote in October 2021: "the time has come to call a spade a spade: An apartheid regime is the name given in international law by the international community to a regime of the type that Israel is maintaining in the occupied territories."
     
  • Michael Benyair, former Israeli attorney general - wrote in December 2021 that Israel's regime extends beyond the West Bank: "The apartheid regime is in all areas controlled by Israel, between the sea & the Jordan River. The distinction… between democratic Israel & the West Bank that it controls is wrong.” (Translated by Lara Friedman). In February 2022, he wrote an op-ed saying: "It is with great sadness that I must also conclude that my country has sunk to such political and moral depths that it is now an apartheid regime. It is time for the international community to recognise this reality as well."
     
  • David Grossman, prominent Israeli author - said in December 2021 of the West Bank: “Maybe it should no longer be called an ‘occupation,’ but there are much harsher names, like ‘apartheid,’ for example."

  • Amos Schocken, publisher of the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz - wrote in December 2021: "The product of Zionism, the State of Israel, is not a Jewish and democratic state but instead has become an apartheid state, plain and simple."

Background - Notable Analyses

  • Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa - In 2009, the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa commissioned a report with the title: "Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid? A re-assessment of Israel's practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law." The report concludes that the "State of Israel exercises control in the OPT with the purpose of maintaining a system of domination by Jews over Palestinians and that this system constitutes a breach of the prohibition of apartheid" (p. 22).