In an article titled “Israel is committing the crime of apartheid, rights watchdog says”, April 27, the Guardian does what it always does: uncritically amplify an NGO report demonising Israel, whilst failing to scrutinise the logic or methodology employed in their report.
The piece about Human Rights Watch – a wealthy and powerful non-state actor with a well-documented record of demonising Israel with false accusations and gross distortions of international law – by their Jerusalem correspondent Oliver Holmes, begins:
Human Rights Watch has accused Israeli officials of committing the crimes of apartheid and persecution, claiming the government enforces an overarching policy to “maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians”.
In a report released on Tuesday, the New York-based advocacy group became the first major international rights body to level such allegations. It said that after decades of warnings that an entrenched hold over Palestinian life could lead to apartheid, it had found that the “threshold” had been crossed.
Human Rights Watch compared policies and practices towards nearly 7 million Palestinians in the occupied territories and within Israel with those concerning roughly the same number of Jewish Israelis living in the same areas.
It concluded there was a “present-day reality of a single authority, the Israeli government … methodologically privileging Jewish Israelis while repressing Palestinians, most severely in the occupied territory.”
Both HRW and B’Tselem’s reports are based on the same absurd premise: that all Palestinians, including those living under Hamas rule, and those in Area A and B of the West Bank controlled by the Palestinian Authority, are “ruled” by Israel. Two million Palestinians in the terrorist controlled Gaza Strip, the tortured logic would suggest, should be entitled to the same political rights as Israeli citizens.
Further, both HRW and B’Tselem come to the same insidious – and antisemitic – conclusion: that Israel is, by virtue of its Law of Return, and other practices designed to ensure that the state, born three years after the Nazis genocide, will serve as a safe-haven for the world’s Jews, is intrinsically racist.
However, as CAMERA’s rebuttal to the HRW report, published yesterday, demonstrates, “preferential immigration policies” to diaspora communities “are actually not uncommon” among European democracies. HRW, as blogger Elder of Ziyon wrote in his response, clearly “has a problem with the entire concept of a Jewish state, and by extension with the idea of a Jewish people”.
Though the Guardian’s Holmes frames the HRW report as drawing “on years of human rights documentation, analysis of Israeli laws, a review of government planning documents, and statements by officials”, NGO Monitor’s detailed review described it as a “mix of shrill propaganda, false allegations, and legal distortions”.
Human Rights Watch said that inside Israel – where about a fifth of the 9 million citizens are Palestinians – and in the occupied territories, authorities had sought to maximise the land available for Jewish communities and concentrate most Palestinian [citizens of Israel] in dense population centres.
HRW’s claim that Arab citizens of Israel are forcibly concentrated into “dense population centres” is not supported by the evidence. HRW’s accusation mirrors that of the B’Tselem report, which was refuted by CAMERA’s Gilead Ini at the time, who wrote the following:
In Israel, the towns and cities with the highest population density are Jewish. Seven Israeli cities, for example, have a population density of over 10,000/km2. Not one is Arab.
On the other side of the spectrum, there are 16 towns with over 5000 residents that have a population density of less than 1000/km2. Five of them are Arab. Even more striking is the distribution of the next group of low-density communities – those with a population density above 1000/km2 but below 2000/km2. Of these 41 locales, a vast majority, 29, are Arab. Overall, according to a recent study, the average population density of Jewish towns and cities in Israel is double that of Arab communities.
Later in the article, Holmes, in an effort to support HRW’s claim that Israeli authorities “systematically discriminate against Palestinians”, writes, in his own voice, “several hundred thousand Israeli settlers now live there as citizens while about 2.7 million Palestinians are not and live under military rule.”
However, it is simply a lie to claim that 2.7 million Palestinians live under Israeli military rule, as the overwhelming majority of that population – those in Area A of the West Bank – live, per the Oslo Accords, under the civilian and military rule of the Palestinian Authority.
Holmes’s distortions continues. Again, in his own voice, he writes:
Meanwhile, about 2 million Palestinians live under a strict blockade in Gaza. Israeli forces pulled out of Gaza in 2005 but still maintain control of its borders, sea and airspace.
First, Israel does not control all of Gaza’s borders as Holmes suggests. The territory’s southern border is of course controlled by Egypt. And, in fact, the Israeli blockade is actually less strict than Egypt’s own blockade of Gaza, and only prevents or restricts Gaza’s importation of military items and so-called ‘dual-use items’ – items which have both civilian and military uses.
Towards the end of the piece, Holmes writes the following:
A shift in perception towards apartheid is part of a movement led by activists that gained momentum following Israeli annexation threats they claim prove the occupation is permanent, as well as laws that enshrine extra political rights for Jews over Arabs, two developments that Human Rights Watch cited in its report.
His claim regarding Israeli laws that “enshrine extra political rights for Jews over Arabs” links to an article about the Nation State Law, passed by the Knesset in 2018.
As we argued at the time, the Jewish Nation-State Law merely codifies, within the country’s Basic Law (a de facto constitution), Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people – a principle which is the core of Zionism. The Guardian couldn’t cite one political right enjoyed by non-Jewish citizens before the law that they no longer enjoyed after the law was passed.
As even the head of the left-wing Israeli Democracy Institute conceded, the impact of the law is “largely symbolic”.
Finally, in contextualising the underlying HRW accusation that Israel is a racist state – one, they argue, that should be subjected to “targeted sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, against officials and entities…” – the question needs to be asked: compared to which countries?
If you look at illiberal, racist and discriminatory laws and practices throughout the Mid-East, it would be impossible not to conclude, as Freedom House demonstrates year after year, that Israel is, by far, the state in the region that grants more political rights and civil liberties to its citizens – far more, per Freedom House, than are granted to Palestinians by governments in Ramallah and Gaza City. Their rhetorical trickery in re-imagining Israel as one regime ‘between the river and the sea’ doesn’t change this fact.
But, as we’ve demonsrated repeatedly, Guardian Jerusalem correspondents believe that, when being sent NGO reports vilifying Israel, their role is to uncritically quote from the report and amplify the most inflammatory accusations, rather than providing news consumers with a sense of the ideology and biases of the NGO, a careful examination of their arguments or some basic fact-checking.