The Amnesty Report Against Israel Is the Same Old Tired Propaganda | Opinion

I grew up in South Africa and now live in Israel. So when Amnesty International published a 278-page report calling Israel an apartheid state, I decided I had a responsibility to thoroughly investigate the report.

The report, titled "Israel's Apartheid Against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime Against Humanity," starts by accusing Israel of apartheid since its founding in 1948, casting the entire existence of Israel as a tainted enterprise and the very basis of Israeli society as a putative crime. But to do so, Amnesty had to ignore the core reason behind the founding of the South African regime, strip it of historical context and drain away from the South African government's intentions.

The South African Afrikaners were Dutch colonizers who eventually took over a country to which they had no claim. They implemented a racist system to intentionally exploit black South Africans as a form of slave labor. By 1950, the government had banned marriages between whites and people of other races, and prohibited sexual relations between Black and white South Africans. The Population Registration Act of 1950 provided the basic framework for apartheid by "classifying all South Africans by race, including Bantu (Black Africans), Colored (mixed race) and whites."

There is just nothing here that remotely resembles Israel, where Jews are indigenous to the land. Moreover all peoples are protected under Israel's Declaration of Independence, which clearly states "it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex." And unlike in the case of South Africa, there is absolutely no "racial" component or "racial domination" ideology driving the establishment of Israel.

The report claims to reveal the true extent of Israel's apartheid regime, whether one lives in Gaza, East Jerusalem, the West Bank, or even in Israel. This is where the first distortions intended to blur the lines begin. The report fails to make the necessary distinction between the three groups living in these areas: "Israeli Arabs" who live within "Israel proper" and make up 20 percent of Israeli citizens; Palestinians living in the West Bank under Israeli military control and citizens of the Palestinian Authority; and Palestinians residing in Hamas-controlled Gaza, from which Israel withdrew in 2005 and over which Israel maintains a military blockade.

Applying the same criteria to these three groups is always the first sign of a misleading bias, and it is here, too.

Israel prime minister Naftali Bennett
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (C) chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on July 19, 2021, while Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (L) looks on. GIL COHEN-MAGEN/POOL/AFP/Getty Images

Ironically, much of the Amnesty report draws on the work of watchdog groups based within Israel, none of which would have even been able operate under a true apartheid regime. In apartheid South Africa, anything and everything that challenged its system was banned and deemed illegal, and tens of thousands of people were imprisoned for such acts throughout the decades. Amnesty meanwhile relied on information provided by at least four of the six NGOs designated by Israel as terror organizations for their close collaboration and ties with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

But the key distortion is Amnesty's conflation of occupation with apartheid. There is a common mistake and misperception that occupation of territory is illegal. One often hears about "the illegal Israeli occupation." But military occupation of territory acquired in war is actually legal, sanctioned by international law in both The Hague Convention of 1907 and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. Both these documents specify the responsibility of occupying powers, but the occupation itself is legal.

Israel conquered the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 war and ruled over both directly until the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994. The complicated patchwork of self-rule and shared control in the West Bank is the result of the OSLO II agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians in 1995. The only major change since then was the 2005 disengagement of Israeli soldiers and settlers from the 20 percent of the Gaza Strip that had not been handed over in 1994.

There has been no legal change since then, which means that the Amnesty report is sparked by no legal event but rather by fantasies within the human rights community. The fact that so many self-styled human rights organizations all arrived at this conclusion at the same time, despite there being no legal change and no landmark event on the ground for decades, is proof that anti-Israel activism is a social activity more than a legitimate political one based on fact.

Amnesty's report is no different from the 2021 Human Rights Watch report, in that it cites an already discredited UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia report accusing Israel of apartheid "beyond a reasonable doubt." This report was discredited by the UN itself back in 2017, which tells you a lot about the report, which is a compilation of tired propaganda, lies and distortions.

And it has one overarching message: The world's largest Jewish community has no right to protect itself.

The report makes no mention of Israel's legitimate concerns and policies regarding security, especially in the context of the ongoing conflict and terrorism. For example, no mention is made of the fact that just nine months ago Israeli citizens, cities and towns came under attack from more than 4,000 rockets fired directly from Gaza. Instead the report claims, without any basis, that Israel uses security as a justification to advance its oppression of Palestinians. And the report infantilizes Israel's citizens and decides for them what they should be called. Most Arabs in Israel self-identify as Israeli Arabs, yet Amnesty blurred the lines once again and conveniently decided to call them "Palestinians."

Indeed, what makes this report different than those published by Human Rights Watch and B'Tselem last year is that Amnesty now makes the claim that Israel is guilty of apartheid throughout the entire country, and not just in the West Bank and Gaza. The irony of this is that currently, Israel has a coalition government with wider representation than ever before, including Ra'am, an Arab Islamist Party. It is the most diverse Israeli government to date, and yet the accusations continue.

Here is the thing: There was never any need for hundreds of pages of different reports to try and make the case that South Africa was an apartheid. From the time of its implementation, apartheid was proudly acknowledged by the South African government, and it was clear to all its citizens, both black and white, those for it and those against it, what system they were living in.

Apartheid South Africa did not require a debate; it needed to be overthrown because it was evil both in principle and practice.

By drawing parallels between South Africa and Israel, Amnesty is arguing that the Jewish State's very existence is a racist undertaking established on the basis of oppressing Palestinians and that just like in the case of the South African regime, no peace can be achieved until Israel vanishes by submission or signs an unconditional surrender.

Samuel Hyde is a political writer and commentator based in Tel Aviv, Israel. As a columnist he has been published throughout Israel, the U.S and South Africa in esteemed publications, focusing on topics such as Israel's political climate, antisemitism, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the Jewish world, and Jewish Pluralism. He also works in field related organizations.

The views in this article are the writer's own.