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Consensus builds on Israel's apartheid
But with few exceptions, you wouldn't know it from Canadian media
Amnesty International released a report that had been four years in the making on Feb. 1, which characterizes Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as apartheid in a sign of a growing international humanitarian consensus that there are two sets of laws between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea — one for Jewish Israelis and another for Palestinians.
Amnesty said Israel practices apartheid against Palestinian via “territorial fragmentation; segregation and control through the denial of equal nationality and status, restrictions on movement, discriminatory family reunification laws, the use of military rule and restrictions on the right to political participation and popular resistance; dispossession of land and property; and the suppression of Palestinians’ human development and denial of their economic and social rights.”
This comes less than a year after Human Rights Watch (HRW), as well as the Israeli human rights organizations B’tselem and Yesh Din, reached similar conclusions.
The landmark HRW report was largely ignored in the Canadian media, save for a piece in the Globe and Mail by foreign affairs reporter Mark MacKinnon and a Canadian Press piece from Christopher Reynolds — both published on April 27, 2021.
This time around with Amnesty, Canadian media outlets mostly ran wire copy from the Associated Press and Reuters, with the Toronto Star publishing a column from Shree Paradkar and the CBC dedicating a two-minute segment on The National outlining the report’s major findings.
The CBC, where employees are forbidden from using the word ‘Palestine,’ producing a segment on the Amnesty report is no small feat, but remains an exception in the broader Canadian media sphere.
As Paradkar observes in her column, this is an issue of specific relevance to a Canadian audience, with the Canadian state increasing the amount of military hardware it sends to Israel from $13.7 million in 2019 to $19 million in 2020.
Amnesty International carried out its research and analysis from July 2017 to November 2021 and found Israeli authorities treat Palestinians as an inferior racial group who are defined by their non-Jewish, Arab status. This racial discrimination is cemented in policies and laws that allowed for segregation, wholesale seizures of Palestinian land and property and denial of basic rights and freedoms with ever more stringent restrictions on Palestinian movement, unlawful killings, torture and unfair trials, Amnesty said. This institutionalized regime, together with Israel’s intent to oppress and dominate, amounts to apartheid as defined in public international law and a grave violation of internationally protected human rights, it said….
The group says it examined each of the security justifications Israel cites as the basis for its treatment of Palestinians and found that many policies have no reasonable basis in security or defence, and many limitations on human rights were not conducted in good faith. Those that are designed to fulfil legitimate security objectives are implemented in a grossly disproportionate and discriminatory way, the report said.
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East vice president Michael Bueckert, whose PhD thesis focused on comparisons between Israel and apartheid South Africa, told me the Amnesty report is much broader in scope — in terms of geography and time — than last year’s HRW report.
“It looks at Israel as a single apartheid regime, which enacts discriminatory policies that privilege Jewish Israelis at the expense of Palestinians throughout the territory that Israel controls,” he said, as opposed to focusing on the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“[The report also] looks at the creation, development and maintenance of these policies over decades starting in 1948 with the creation of the Israeli state, and it finds that the intent to dominate and the intent to privilege Jewish Israelis at the expense of Palestinians has been present since the very founding.”
Bueckert wrote a piece on what the Amnesty report means for Canada’s relations with Israel in Canadian Dimension that you can read here.
The Israeli government’s response to the report was a characteristically-histrionic talking point salad.
A spokesperson for Israel’s foreign ministry called the report “pure antisemitism” that “legitimizes attacks against Jews” and accused Amnesty International of a double standard.
“The purpose of this report is to eliminate the State of Israel as a nation-state of the Jewish people and the solution they give is for Israel to cease to exist,” said the spokesperson, Lior Haiat.
The Israeli government’s position was, as usual, uncritically repeated by Canada’s big three pro-Israel lobbying groups — the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), B’nai Brith and Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre (FSWC) — in a joint statement the day before the report was released.
Shimon Koffler Fogel of CIJA called the report “an antisemitic diatribe,” while Michael Mostyn of B’nai Brith said the report he hadn’t read contained “over-the-top and wildly inaccurate rhetoric,” and Michael Levitt of FSWC said Amnesty is “emboldening those who seek to delegitimize the Jewish state, further adding to the already alarming level of antisemitism in Canada.”
None disputed a single aspect of the report’s findings.
Former FSWC executive director Avi Benlolo, who is now a regular National Post columnist, co-wrote an op-ed with former senator Jerry Grafstein that made the demonstrably false claim that Amnesty hasn’t issued any reports on the far-deadlier conflict in Syria.
“The attacks have been predictable and notably lacking in any substance whatsoever,” Bueckert said.
Like the media, Canadian politicians have been largely silent on the report, with the exception of NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson, who called on the federal government to begin “advocating for the civil, political and human rights of Palestinians,” but did not herself use the word ‘apartheid.’
McPherson’s NDP colleague, Alexandre Boulerice, expressed support for the report in French.
Aaron Lakoff of Independent Jewish Voices, an organization of left-wing Jews who don’t see themselves represented in the mainstream Jewish establishment’s ultra-Zionist disposition, applauded Amnesty’s findings.
“Israel’s practices of apartheid are consequently becoming more and more evident to Jews around the world,” Lakoff said, citing a 2021 poll that shows a quarter of Jews in the U.S. agree that Israel is an apartheid state.
“We as Canadian Jews join Amnesty International, Palestinians, and people of conscience around the world in demanding that Canada call it what it is and place sanctions on Israel until it ceases its well-documented practices of apartheid,” said Lakoff.
You can read the full Amnesty report here.
Edited by Scott Schmidt
In others news …
The U.S. government is accusing Russia of filming a fake attack from Ukraine in order to justify an invasion, according to a “senior Biden administration official … speaking on the condition of anonymity under rules set by the administration,” the Washington Post reported.
From WaPo: “The allegations by the Biden administration were met with pushback due to the lack of specificity and evidence. At a briefing, State Department spokesman Ned Price was asked repeatedly if the United States would provide evidence supporting the alleged Russian plot. He declined to do so, citing the need to protect intelligence sources and methods”.
The government wanted WaPo to report this for a reason. Perhaps Ukrainian forces are preparing an attack on Russian separatists and the government doesn’t want you to believe your lying eyes.
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