Radical left-wing NGO accuses Israel of apartheid

The report, extraordinary for its distortions, ignored the integration of Arab-Israelis into Israeli society.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

A radical anti-Israel NGO, B’Tselem, which has been mischaracterized as a “leading Israeli human rights group” by Associated Press, described Israel and its control of the Palestinian territories as a single “apartheid” regime.

In a report released Tuesday, B’Tselem says that while Palestinians live under different forms of Israeli control in Judea and Samaria, Gaza, eastern Jerusalem and within Israel itself, they have fewer rights than Jews in the entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

“One of the key points in our analysis is that this is a single geopolitical area ruled by one government,” said B’Tselem director Hagai El-Ad. “This is not democracy plus occupation. This is apartheid between the river and the sea.”

The report, extraordinary for its distortions, ignores facts that contradict its premise, but which are evident to anyone conducting even a cursory analysis of Arabs’ place in Israeli society, where an Arab party, the Joint List is the third-largest faction in the Knesset with 15 seats. Israeli Arabs serve on Israel’s Supreme Court and last year, Israel’s Foreign Ministry appointed its first Bedouin ambassador, who represents the country in Eritrea.

Recently, the Israel Defense Forces was surprised by the number of Israeli Arabs who responded to an online manpower initiative. “As a result, we opened a recruitment bureau in the Galilee, where volunteers can study to improve their Hebrew. This branch will be able to recruit a total of up to 2,500 people a year,” the IDF’s Manpower Directorate told Ynet.

B’Tselem also appeared to ignore the fact that the vast number of Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, some 1.5 million, are ruled by the Palestinian Authority and not Israel. The Gaza Strip with a population of some 700,000 is controlled by Hamas.

Eugene Kontorovich, director of international law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum, says the fact that the Palestinians have their own government makes any talk of apartheid “inapplicable,” calling the B’Tselem report “shockingly weak, dishonest and misleading.”

Palestinian leaders agreed to the territorial divisions in the Oslo accords. That, Kontorovich says, is a far cry from the territories designated for Black South Africans under apartheid — known as bantustans — to which many Palestinians compare the areas governed by the PA.

Kontorovich said the use of the word “apartheid” was instead aimed at demonizing Israel in a way that “resonates with racial sensitivities and debates in America and the West.”

Itay Milner, a spokesman for Israel’s consulate general in New York, dismissed the B’Tselem report as “another tool for them to promote their political agenda,” which he said was based on a “distorted ideological view.”

B’Tselem is a marginal group in Israel with little public backing and which relies on foreign funding for its support. NGO Monitor says “donations from foreign countries comprised 64.7% of total donations from 2012-2016” for B’Tselem.

In Oct. 2018, B’Tselem’s leader El-Ad spoke before the UN Security Council where he also compared Israel to Apartheid-era South Africa.

His talk was roundly condemned by both sides of Israel’s political aisle. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “disgrace.” Opposition MK Yair Lapid said El-Ad’s appearance was “the predictable mix of lies, distortions and propaganda. They represent no one but themselves.”

Then-US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley also criticized El-Ad’s talk, calling it “the sort of distorted and one-sided accounting” frequently seen at UN debates on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

AP contributed to this report.