B’Tselem, a left-wing Israeli NGO which is widely known for opposing Israeli settlement communities in the West Bank, issued a statement this week explicitly declaring for the first time since the organization was founded three decades ago that Israel is “an apartheid state.”
“Israel is not a democracy that has a temporary occupation attached to it; it is one regime from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, and we must look at the full picture and see it for what it is: apartheid,” B’Tselem executive director Hagai El-Ad said in a clarifying follow-up statement. “The fundamental tenets of Israel’s regime, although already implemented for many years, have recently grown more explicit.”
“One organizing principle lies at the base of a wide array of Israeli policies: advancing and perpetuating the supremacy of one group – Jews – over another – Palestinians,” B’Tselem told the media in a statement on Tuesday which accompanied the release of a new report that included references to the “Nation State Law” which was passed by the Knesset in 2018.
The law “took the existing discrimination against Palestinians and turned it into an open constitutional principle,” El-Ad said.
Prof. Eugene Kontorovich, head of the Kohelet Policy Forum’s International Law Department, told The Jerusalem Post. that “apartheid is an extraordinary accusation."
“Apartheid is an extraordinary accusation because there is an international crime called the crime of apartheid and an international treaty against the crime of apartheid,” he said.
He added that no other country in the world, including authoritarian dictatorships like Iran, “has ever been credibly found to be an apartheid state.”
This means that B’Tselem is going beyond legitimate criticism of Israeli policies and is “treating Israel the way no other country would be treated,” he said, comparing it to a “blood libel” similar to the classic canard that “Jews killed Jesus.”
Kontorovich and others have pointed out that B’Tselem has harshly criticized Israeli policies in the West Bank for years, but this is the first time the organization has crossed the line to explicitly declare Israel to be an “apartheid state.”
The announcement came shortly after an announcement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that some West Bank settlements would soon be annexed.
The imminent inauguration of Joe Biden as president of the United States -and his selection of administration officials sympathetic to the Palestinians -may also have contributed to the organization making such an announcement now.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.