‘Israeli apartheid’ top human rights issue of 2021 - HRW

The NGO's report on Israel’s conduct ranked higher than those on topics including sexual violence in India, extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, digital sex crimes in South Korea and more

Pro-Palestine protesters hold a banner, as they demonstrate outside Downing Street in London, Britain, June 12, 2021. (photo credit: REUTERS/HENRY NICHOLLS)
Pro-Palestine protesters hold a banner, as they demonstrate outside Downing Street in London, Britain, June 12, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/HENRY NICHOLLS)

A story about “Israel’s apartheid and persecution against millions of Palestinians," topped the list of Human Rights Watch's (HRW) most-read reports of 2021, the NGO has reported.

The report outlined what was described as Israel’s persecution and discrimination against Palestinian nationals in the West Bank and Gaza, which HRW says are "illegally occupied" by the State of Israel. Unlike the other reports listed in the article, the Israeli one was not a current event – written rather as an overview on the greater Israel-Palestine conflict.

HRW’s report on Israel’s conduct ranked higher than reports on topics including sexual violence against women in India, extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, restrictions on women’s rights in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, digital sex crimes in South Korea and others.

“Laws, policies, and statements by leading Israeli officials make plain that the objective of maintaining Jewish Israeli control over demographics, political power, and land has long guided government policy,” the report reads. “In pursuit of this goal, authorities have dispossessed, confined, forcibly separated, and subjugated Palestinians by virtue of their identity to varying degrees of intensity. These deprivations are so severe that they amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.”

Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth speaks during a interview with Reuters in Geneva, Switzerland, April 9, 2018 (credit: REUTERS/PIERRE ALBOUY)Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth speaks during a interview with Reuters in Geneva, Switzerland, April 9, 2018 (credit: REUTERS/PIERRE ALBOUY)

The report further describes instances of alleged “inhumane acts” by the Israeli side, such as the construction of barriers between Israeli and Palestinian lands, restrictions on travel, excessive force used in policing and a “suspension of civil rights,” ending with a series of recommendations for relevant United States government bodies, the International Criminal Court (ICC), UN member and non-member states, businesses active in Israel, the State of Israel itself, and even the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).

Israel had a 15-point list of recommendations, whereas the PA was merely asked to “cease all security coordination with the Israeli army” and “incorporate crimes against humanity, including the crimes of persecution and apartheid, into national criminal law.” HRW had just one recommendation for the PLO – to “adopt an advocacy strategy centered on the immediate attainment of the full human rights of Palestinians.” The PLO was recognized as a terrorist organization until 1993 and has written that ″Palestine... is an indivisible territorial unit″ in its charter.

Human Rights Watch has previously been accused of bias, lax fact-checking, collusion with the US government and accepting donations from foreign governments. In 2020, The Intercept discovered that HRW accepted a $470,000 donation from a Saudi real estate magnate they "had previously identified as complicit in labor rights abuse" – under the condition that the donation not be used to support LGBT advocacy in the Middle East and North Africa.

According to DemocracyNow, HRW has a very close relationship with US government officials – a criticism also levied by the Chinese government, who sanctioned executive director Kenneth Roth in response to the NGO’s support of the 2019 Hong Kong protests.

NGOs like Human Rights Watch, while heavily involved in policy-making, are interestingly designated “Non-Governmental Organizations,” though that would seemingly constitute most organizations around the world. NGOs have recently reappeared in news cycles, as Israel designated six Palestinian NGOs as terror organizations last October, which was followed by an outcry in Western diplomatic circles.

Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg, president and founder of NGO Monitor, said: “There’s no justification for not considering or ignoring or overlooking the terrorist connections. These are not trivial. People – Israelis – have been killed.”

Michael Starr contributed to this report.