The United States on Wednesday voiced disagreement with Human Rights Watch’s allegation that Israel is committing “apartheid” against the Palestinians but said it was committed to condemning abuses.
“It is not the view of this administration that Israel’s actions constitute apartheid,” a State Department spokesperson said.
US President Joe Biden’s State Department, however, said it would not “offer public evaluations of reports by outside groups” — a shift from Donald Trump’s administration which loudly berated advocacy groups that criticized ally Israel.
The spokesperson renewed a call on both Israel and the Palestinians to “refrain from unilateral actions that exacerbate tensions” including settlement activity and incitement to violence.
Human Rights Watch in a report Tuesday said that Israel is “committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution,” saying Israel had an “overarching” policy to “maintain the domination of Jewish Israelis over Palestinians.”
Israel, which is facing an investigation at the International Criminal Court opposed by the United States, denounced the report and accused the New York-based group of having an anti-Israel agenda.
Israel’s ambassador to the United States said the report was full of “lies and fabrication” that were “bordering on anti-Semitic.”
Human Rights Watch “is known to have a long-standing anti-Israel agenda,” the Foreign Ministry said. “The fictional claims that HRW concocted are both preposterous and false.”
Israel has long adamantly denied apartheid accusations, saying its Arab minority enjoys full civil rights, as well as the term “occupation” to describe its activities in the West Bank and Gaza. It views Gaza, from which it withdrew soldiers and settlers in 2005, as a hostile entity ruled by the Islamic terror group Hamas, and it considers the West Bank to be disputed territory subject to peace negotiations — which collapsed more than a decade ago.
In Gaza, an Israeli blockade imposed after the Hamas terror group seized power has largely confined 2 million Palestinians to the coastal strip and decimated the economy. Israel imposes heavy restrictions on the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza, as does neighboring Egypt, maintaining that a blockade is necessary to prevent the entry of weapons that could be turned upon residents of Israel’s south. Israel and Hamas, which is sworn to the destruction of the Jewish state, have fought several large-scale and many smaller battles in the past decade-plus.
Israel also points to the existence of the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the West Bank under the Oslo Accords.
The agreements reached in the 1990s were intended to be temporary, pending a historic peace accord that would establish a Palestinian state in most of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Israel captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan and the Gaza Strip from Egypt in the 1967 Six Day War — lands that are home to nearly 5 million Palestinians and which the Palestinians want for a future state. But a peace agreement appears farther out of reach than at any point in the last three decades.
AP contributed to this report.