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A ‘human rights’ group assaults both rights and hopes for peace

May 13, 2021 | Judy Maynard

Omar Shakir (screenshot)
Omar Shakir (screenshot)

The Mercury – 13 May 2021

 

THE very first line of Human Rights Watch’s recently released report, titled “A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution”, gives an inkling of the manipulation and dissembling to come.

“About 6.8 million Jewish Israelis and 6.8 million Palestinians live today between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River …”

The number of Israelis stands at 9,327,000, comprising 6,894,000 Jews, 1,966,000 Arabs, and 467,000 belonging to other ethnicities.

What difference does this make? By subsuming all Arabs, including those living in Israel, under the blanket term “Palestinian” HRW wishes to obscure the fact that nearly 2 million enjoy precisely the same rights of citizenship as their Jewish fellow-Israelis: the right to vote; the right to serve as members of the Knesset, the judiciary, the armed services, and professions; the right to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, and so on.

The Israeli election held this March even made the head of the Islamist Ra’am party, Mansour Abbas, into a political kingmaker.

This is why a survey conducted by the Jewish People Policy Institute in 2020 found that nearly three out of four non-Jews in Israel identify as “Israeli” or “Arab Israeli”, and only 7 percent of Israeli Arabs define themselves as “Palestinian”.

So there is a gaping hole in a central plank of HRW’s apartheid slander — that “Israeli authorities have deprived millions of people of their basic rights by virtue of their identity as Palestinians”.

HRW and its head Kenneth Roth have a woeful history of obsessive targeting and double standards when it comes to Israel over recent years — to the extent that HRW’s founder, Robert Bernstein, condemned them for it.

HRW’s Israel and east Jerusalem consultant Khulood Badawi was sacked from her position in a Jerusalem-based UN agency in 2013 for tweeting a 2006 picture of a Palestinian girl killed in an accident while falsely claiming she was a recent victim of an Israeli attack.

Omar Shakir, the report’s author, failed to have his Israeli work visa renewed in 2019 due to his involvement in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, a group whose leaders openly say their goal is Israel’s elimination. Days before the report’s release, during violent clashes in east Jerusalem between Israeli police and Palestinians, Shakir tweeted a photo from 2015 with a misleading caption and the inference that it was current.

In this report, Shakir and HRW have constructed a deceitful narrative designed to reach the predetermined accusation that Israel is an “apartheid state“ whose overarching objective is the racist subjugation of Palestinians.

In its 223 pages, the HRW report not only fails to provide the historical context that would provide some understanding of the complex and unsatisfactory situation pertaining today, but actively obfuscates it.

Israel’s concern with its survival as a Jewish homeland and refuge is cynically recast as a sinister plan to dominate and oppress the Palestinians. While the report tokenistically concedes that Israel faces “legitimate security challenges”, the report goes to great lengths to airbrush out of history the many wars of aggression and terror campaigns against Israel that have inevitably shaped Israel’s response and derailed prospects for peace.

Regarding Israel’s birth in 1948, the report’s sole focus is the fallout of that war for the Palestinians, ignoring the precipitating events: the attacks by Palestinian Arabs on the Jewish community immediately following the United Nations’ adoption in 1947 of a partition plan creating two states; escalation the following year into an invasion by five Arab nations to wipe out the newly independent Jewish one; with the loss of nearly 1 percent of the Jewish community.

The report repeatedly fails to acknowledge Arab aggression — painting the June 1967 Six-Day War as when Israel “seized control of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, from Jordan and the Gaza Strip from Egypt … following an armed conflict”. Similarly, Israel’s efforts to deal with the more than 15,000 missiles launched into Israel from Hamas-ruled Gaza are portrayed as Israel having “launched three large-scale military offensives in Gaza”.

In a report this long and dishonest there are far too many falsehoods to correct, whether it be the distorted and mendacious interpretations of the relevant legal principles, to insisting that Israel still occupies and controls Gaza when Israel completely left the area in 2005.

But demonisation of Israel is clearly the goal of this report which essentially implies that Israel’s existence as a Jewish homeland is “apartheid” and a “crime against humanity”.

Both peace and the quest for universal human rights will be the losers as a result.

Judy Maynard is a policy analyst at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

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