Breaking Down Apartheid
Written by Amnesty UK's Racial Justice Lead, Ilyas Nagdee.
Staying neutral is not an option
The late Bishop Desmond Tutu is quoted as saying, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” The 90-year-old anti-apartheid activist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient who passed at the end of last year was one of the most prolific faces in the global human rights movement. Two decades ago, addressing a conference in Boston after a visit to Palestine/Israel, he said, “I’ve been very deeply distressed by my visit to the Holy Land. It reminded me so much of what happened to us Black People in South Africa.”
Israel's apartheid system over Palestinians
Last week, Amnesty International released its latest report in which we found that Israel is committing the grave crime of apartheid in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in Israel. The research highlights how Israel is enforcing a racial order that ensures Jewish Israelis maintain control over Palestinians. After years of research, we concluded that in the many ways the Israeli state controls the rights of Palestinians, the institutional system in which it oppresses them meets the definition of apartheid under international law.
This report comes after many other human rights organisations have come to the same conclusion. Through their own research, Human Rights Watch (HRW), B’Tselem, Yesh Din and many others have found that the system of oppression and domination perpetrated by Israel amounts to the crime of apartheid. Many Palestinians have been using the term apartheid for decades to describe the racial order enforced by Israel. As an international human rights organisation, we must join the ranks of those who stand with the oppressed.
Amnesty’s report comprehensively details how this racial order is managed today, including but not limited to: forcible transfers, administrative detention and torture, unlawful killings and the denial of basic rights and freedoms. For more than seven decades, the international community and its bodies have allowed this system to be created and maintained – this must not go on.
The shrinking space for discussion
Apartheid is a crime against humanity; that is why we have bold calls such as for the UN Security Council to impose a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel. Further to this, we remain incredibly concerned about the shrinking space for human rights groups in the region and worldwide. In the region, six human rights organisations were proscribed as ‘terrorist organisations’ late last year. In a joint statement between Amnesty International and HRW last year, we criticised this appalling and unjust decision which follows in a pattern of the repression faced by Palestinian human rights defenders.
We also remain incredibly concerned with the direction of travel of many governments including in the UK where upcoming legislation may further squeeze the shrinking space for discussion on Palestinian human rights. As an organisation committed to putting racial justice at the heart of its work, this report details why we must not stay silent in the face of the crime of apartheid being committed. As Desmond Tutu, through his life and work, reminds us – staying silent or neutral is not an option.
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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.