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‘Absurd’: US rejects Amnesty accusation of Israeli apartheid against Palestinians

American ambassador says ‘That is not language that we have used and will not use,’ after rights group charges Israel with systematic racial oppression

Copies of Amnesty International's report 'Israel's Apartheid Against Palestinians,' at a press conference in Jerusalem, Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022. (AP/Maya Alleruzzo)
Copies of Amnesty International's report 'Israel's Apartheid Against Palestinians,' at a press conference in Jerusalem, Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022. (AP/Maya Alleruzzo)

The US ambassador to Israel on Tuesday rejected a new Amnesty International report that charged Israel with apartheid, calling its central accusation “absurd.”

The rights group said in a major report released on Tuesday that Israel has maintained “a system of oppression and domination” over the Palestinians going all the way back to its establishment in 1948, one that meets the international definition of apartheid.

“Come on, this is absurd,” US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides tweeted in response to the report.

“That is not language that we have used and will not use,” he said.

Though the administration of US President Joe Biden has consistently spoken out against Israeli settlement activities and on other issues, it has also defended Jerusalem in international fora against what it sees as anti-Israel bias.

Speaking at a conference at the Institute for National Security Studies think tank in Tel Aviv hours earlier, Nides said that a two-state solution remains the administration’s priority and that Palestinians should have the same fundamental rights as Israelis.

“We believe that they deserve the dignity and security as Israelis do, that is our fundamental belief that they deserve that,” he said. “It’s in the long-term interest of Israel to treat the Palestinian people with that respect and dignity in hopes that we can create the momentum for a two-state solution.”

State Department spokesman Ned Price said the US does not generally comment on reports by outside groups, but it rejects the view that Israel’s actions constitute apartheid.

US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Richard Nides speaks during his swearing-in ceremony as new ambassador to Israel, at the President’s residence in Jerusalem, on December 5, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

“I think that it is important, as the world’s only Jewish state, that the Jewish people must not be denied their right to self-determination, and we must ensure there isn’t a double standard being applied,” he told reporters.

Amnesty’s accusation was leveled against Israel both within its borders and in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In a report unveiled in Jerusalem, the group did not directly compare Israel to apartheid South Africa, but said it was evaluating Israel’s policies based on international conventions.

“The USA, the European Union and its member states and the UK, but also those states that are in the process of strengthening their ties — such as some Arab and African states… must recognize that Israel is committing the crime of apartheid and other international crimes,” read the report.

Amnesty called on those actors to “use all political and diplomatic tools to ensure Israeli authorities implement the recommendations outlined in this report and review any cooperation and activities with Israel to ensure that these do not contribute to maintaining the system of apartheid.”

Ahead of the report’s release, Israel called it “false, biased, and antisemitic” and accused the organization of endangering the safety of Jews around the world. The rights group released the document despite calls from Israel to not do so.

US Jewish political and religious groups also condemned the report.

The Jewish Democratic Council of America said, “Clear message from the Biden Administration — Amnesty’s report is ‘absurd’. We agree.”

Democratic Majority for Israel said on Tuesday, “We don’t know who needs to hear this, but Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Jews and Arabs govern together.”

AIPAC said, “Amnesty’s true view is clear: Israel’s original sin is that it exists at all. This libelous report weaves a malicious web of lies and distortions with the contemptible objective to delegitimize Israel as a Jewish state.”

The Union for Reform Judaism “strongly condemned” Amnesty’s charges.

Agnes Callamard, the Secretary General of Amnesty International (L) speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem, on February 1, 2022. (RONALDO SCHEMIDT / AFP)

“The report is replete with discredited and inaccurate allegations, including a deeply wrong accusation of apartheid,” it said. “This report reflects Amnesty’s inability to comprehend the history, context, and nuance of the situation in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, or the very real threats to Israel’s survival and security that it has faced from its very founding.”

The Anti-Defamation League said before the report’s release that it “demonizes Israel & seeks to undermine its existence as a Jewish state. In a time with rising anti-Jewish hate, the extreme language used in the report is irresponsible & likely will spark antisemitism.”

The left-wing J Street organization rejected the accusation of apartheid, but said the report “shines another bright spotlight on the injustice of Israel’s occupation.”

“J Street does not endorse the findings or the recommendations of the report, nor do we use the word ‘apartheid’ to describe the situation on the ground,” the group said.

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