Israel’s government has accused Amnesty International of anti-Semitism over a forthcoming report which will claim that Palestinians live under apartheid.
Lior Haiat, a spokesman for Israel’s foreign ministry, branded the report a “collection of lies” which sought to “deny the right of existence of the state of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.”
“This is a double standard, demonising Israel in order to delegitimise the existence of the state of Israel. Those are the components of modern anti-semitism,” he said. “We have no other choice but to say that this whole report is anti-Semitic.”
The Amnesty report is due to be published this week, but extracts have already been published online by the Israeli pressure group NGO Monitor, which says it obtained a leaked copy.
The report will accuse Israel of “enforcing a system of apartheid against the Palestinian people” and of treating Palestinians as “an inferior racial group”.
In a statement to the Telegraph, Amnesty stood by its report and said it was a critique of “the Israeli government, not the Israeli or Jewish people.”
Reports by human rights groups on Israel frequently scrutinise its settlements, the demolition of Palestinians’ homes, restrictions on Palestinians’ movement and the killing of Palestinians by armed forces. But the charge of apartheid is particularly controversial as it draws a direct link with 20th century racial segreation in South Africa.
“We reject all the false accusations that are made by Amnesty International UK. This report [is] a collection of lies, is biassed and it copies from other reports from anti-Israel organisations,” said Mr Haiat.
“What we want to say here is that even if you repeat a lie once, and again, it doesn’t make this lie the reality or the truth. But it does make Amnesty International UK an illegitimate anti-Israeli organisation,” he added.
The phrase “apartheid” refers to the policy of racial segreation and discrimination used by white South Africans from 1948 to 1991. It derives from the Afrikaans word for “separateness.”
It would not be the first time that Israel has faced accusations of the crime of apartheid. A similar report by Human Rights Watch, which was published in April 2021, made the same allegation.
In that report, Human Rights Watch claimed that Israel was responsible for “the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians” including those with Israeli citizenship. Israel’s government strongly rejected those allegations at the time.
The Israeli government has also faced criticism from Israeli human rights groups, including the organisation B’Tselem, which labelled the state an “aparheid regime” in a January 2021 report.
Mr Haiat said that Israel was an inclusive democracy, pointing to the ethnic diversity of Israel’s current coalition, which includes the leader of the Arab party Ra’am, Mansour Abbas.
“We can say that one photo is worth more than 200 pages of false reports, the one photo is the photo of the Israeli government that is now sitting: in that photo you have people of colour, you have Arabs and Jews, you have immigrants and people that were born in Israel,” he said.
An Amnesty International UK spokesman said: “Amnesty’s report is part of our commitment to exposing and ending human rights violations wherever they occur. No government is above criticism, and that includes the Israeli government.
“Our research shows that Israeli authorities are enforcing a system of apartheid against the Palestinian people in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Palestinian refugees. The report documents how Israel treats Palestinians as an inferior racial group, segregating and oppressing them wherever it has control over their rights.”