Amnesty International stated Tuesday that Israel had maintained “a system oppression, domination” over Palestinians since 1948 when the nation was established. This system is consistent with the international definitions of apartheid.

The London-based rights group joined Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem , releasing a 278-page report that was compiled over four years. It accuses Israel of apartheid both within its borders as well as in the occupied Palestinian territory.

These findings are part a growing international movement to recast the Israeli-Palestinian dispute as a struggle for equal rights, rather than a territorial conflict. These efforts have grown in strength over the past decade, when the peace process came to an abrupt halt. Israel has consolidated its hold on the occupied territories and abandoned the idea of a Palestinian State.

Israel denies any claim of apartheid and says its Arab citizens have equal rights. At the height of peace negotiations in the 1990s, Israel granted the Palestinian Authority limited autonomy and pulled its soldiers and settlers out of Gaza in 2005.

Amnesty International, along with other groups, assert that the mere fragmentation of Palestinian territories is part of an overall control system designed to preserve Jewish hegemony in the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River.

These include discriminatory policies in Israel and annexed East Jerusalem, Israel’s blockade on Gaza Strip, which is ruled by Hamas since 2007, and Israel’s de facto annexation West Bank, where it exercises total control and is actively expanding and building Jewish settlements, which most of the international community considers illegal.

For decades, Palestinians have been accusing Israel of apartheid. The report was welcomed by the Palestinian Authority, which manages a portion of the occupied West Bank, and works with Israel to ensure security.


Amnesty International tracks such policies back to 1948, when Israel was established. 700,000 Palestinians fled to safety or were expelled in the Arab-Israeli War that followed Israel’s founding. They made up around 80% of the Palestinian population that is now Israel. To preserve its Jewish population, Israel prohibited refugees from returning.

The Palestinians who remained inside Israel lived under military control until 1967, when Israel seized East Jerusalem, West Bank, and Gaza. This was the territory the Palestinians wanted for their future state.

Today, Palestinians in Israel are citizens. Some have even reached the top of law, medicine, and business. However, they are subject to widespread discrimination when it comes to housing and jobs. The West Bank is governed by Israel, while Gazans under Hamas rule are subject to a crippling Israeli or Egyptian blockade.

About 20% of Israel’s 9.4million population is Palestinian. However, the Jewish and Arab population is roughly equal when you include Gaza and the West Bank.

Amnesty International stated that Israel’s policy since 1948 has been to establish and maintain a Jewish demographic hegemony, maximize its land control to the benefit of Jewish Israelis and restrict the rights of Palestinians to return to their homes. This policy was extended to the West Bank, Gaza Strip and other territories that Israel has occupied since 1948.

Israel dismissed the earlier reports as biased but took a much more hostile stance towards Amnesty International accusing them of antisemitism, and delegitimizing Israel’s existence before the report was published.

Monday’s Foreign Ministry statement stated that “its extremist language, distortion of historical context were intended to demonize Israel et fuel the fire of antisemitism.”

Agnes Callamard is Amnesty International’s secretary general. She denies the accusations and says they are “baseless attacks” or “bare-faced lies”.

None of the reports made comparisons between Israel and apartheid South Africa. This country had a system that was based on white supremacy, racial segregation, and was in existence from 1948 to 1994. They instead compared Israel’s policies to international conventions, such as the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Apartheid is defined as an institutionalized system of systematic oppression or domination by one race over another.

The ICC is currently investigating possible war crimes by Israel and Palestinian militants over the past few years. The United Nations Human Rights Council established a permanent commission to investigate abuses committed against Palestinians in Israel, Gaza and West Bank.

This commission is the most intrusive type that the council can create. It was first given an “ongoing” mandate.

Israel accused the ICC as well as the U.N. rights agency of biasing against it, and of pointing it out when other countries are committing far worse violations.

Yuval Shany is a senior fellow at Israel Democracy Institute and a member of Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty of Law. He said that it was “highly unlikely” that the ICC would pursue apartheid claims due to the complexity involved.

He stated that apartheid claims are “extremely and quite unfounded” in Israel, despite discrimination. The situation in the territories is “much more complicated.”

He said that elements could be considered discriminatory, segregatory, or oppressive, depending on the duration of the occupation. It is not easy to tell the difference between questions that are related to security policy and those with competing national claims or what constitutes a racist agenda.

He said that using the language of apartheid was “a bridge too far”.

Last month, the Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lepid stated to reporters that he expected increased efforts to label Israel this year as an apartheid country. This could result in it being banned from cultural and sporting events. He stated that the best way to counter these efforts is to revive a political dialogue with the Palestinians.

More than a decade ago, the peace process came to an abrupt halt. Naftali Bennett is currently Israel’s prime minister and is against Palestinian statehood. He leads a large coalition, which includes more moderate members such as and , as well as a small Arab party .

Because of its internal divisions the government has blocked any major efforts to end the conflict. Lapid and Benny Gantz, the Defense Minister, met with top Palestinian officials to discuss the possibility of helping the Palestinian economy grow and setting the stage for future negotiations.