Germany rejects Amnesty’s description of Israel as an apartheid state

Berlin dismisses ‘one-sided focusing of criticism on Israel,’ says it is ‘not helpful’ in solving the conflict in the Middle East

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)

Germany said on Wednesday it rejects the use of the term “apartheid” to describe Israel, a day after Amnesty International report accused the Jewish state of discriminatory practices amounting to apartheid both within its internationally recognized borders and in the Palestinian territories.

“We reject expressions like apartheid or a one-sided focusing of criticism on Israel. That is not helpful to solving the conflict in the Middle East,” Reuters quoted Foreign Ministry spokesperson Christopher Burger as saying in a news conference.

His comments followed similar criticism by US officials.

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides rejected the report, calling its central accusation “absurd.”

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.

Amnesty 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 the establishment of the state in 1948, a system that meets the international definition of apartheid.

Notably, 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.

Agnes Callamard, the Secretary General of Amnesty International (C) holds a press conference together with Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director Philip Luther (L) and activist Orly Noy (R) in Jerusalem, on February 1, 2022. Amnesty International labelled Israel an “apartheid” state that treats Palestinians as “an inferior racial group.” (RONALDO SCHEMIDT / AFP)

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.

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