The head of Amnesty International told AFP on Monday the rights group will publish a report labeling Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians as “apartheid” despite Israeli calls to withdraw it.
In a report due to be launched on Tuesday, Amnesty is set join the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch in charging that Israel is committing the crime of apartheid in the Palestinian territories and against its Arab citizens.
Preempting the launch, the Foreign Ministry on Monday dismissed the report and said it “effectively denies (Israel’s) right to exist at all.”
“Amnesty was once an esteemed organization that we all respected,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement. “Today, it is the exact opposite.”
Lapid’s ministry urged Amnesty to “withdraw” the document.
“Instead of seeking facts, Amnesty quotes lies spread by terrorist organizations,” he said. “Israel is not perfect, but it is a democracy committed to international law and open to scrutiny.”
Amnesty’s Secretary General Agnes Callamard, in an interview with AFP ahead of the report’s launch, said: “We are publishing the report tomorrow.”
“We would have welcomed a conversation with the minister of foreign affairs when we first approached him and offered to talk to him about the report, that was back in October,” Callamard said.
“He did not respond to our offer then. It is far too late for him now to just call on us not to publish the report.”
Lapid also accused Amnesty of having an antisemitic agenda.
“I hate to use the argument that if Israel were not a Jewish state, nobody in Amnesty would dare argue against it, but in this case, there is no other possibility,” he said.
Callamard countered that “a critique of the practice of the State of Israel is absolutely not a form of antisemitism.”
“Amnesty International stands very strongly against antisemitism, against any form of racism, we have repeatedly denounced antisemitic acts and antisemitism by various leaders around the world.”
The Foreign Ministry said Israel “absolutely rejects all the false allegations that appear in the report that Amnesty is expected to publish tomorrow.”
“The report consolidates and recycles lies, inconsistencies, and unfounded assertions that originate from well-known anti-Israeli hate organizations, all with the aim of reselling damaged goods in new packaging,” it said. “Repeating the same lies of hate organizations over and over does not make the lies reality, but rather makes Amnesty illegitimate.”
Other Jewish and Israeli organizations also blasted the coming report.
World Jewish Congress president Ronald S. Lauder called it a “one-sided and blatantly politicized report which totally ignores both Palestinian acts of terrorism and Israel’s obligation to defend its citizens against such terrorism.”
The International Legal Forum, a pro-Israel group, said the report is “tantamount to a ‘blood libel’ against the Jewish state and deserves to be placed in the dustbin of antisemitic history.”
“A lie told a thousand times is still a lie,” the ILF statement continued. “Perhaps Amnesty International, which has been beleaguered by charges of institutionalized racism, would be better served getting its own house in order first, before lecturing Israel.”