JERUSALEM -- Israel on Monday called on Amnesty International not to publish an upcoming report accusing it of apartheid, saying the conclusions of the London-based international human rights group are “false, biased and antisemitic.”
Amnesty is expected to join the New York-based Human Rights Watch and the Israeli rights group B'Tselem in accusing Israel of the international crime of apartheid based on its nearly 55-year military occupation of lands the Palestinians want for a future state and because of its treatment of its own Arab minority.
Israel dismissed the other reports as biased, but is adopting a much more adversarial stance this time around. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has said Israel expects intensified efforts this year to brand it as an apartheid state in international bodies and hopes to head them off.
In a statement issued Monday, he said Amnesty “is just another radical organization which echoes propaganda, without seriously checking the facts," and that it “echoes the same lies shared by terrorist organizations.”
“Israel isn’t perfect, but we are a democracy committed to international law, open to criticism, with a free press and a strong and independent judicial system," Lapid said.
Amnesty did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Amnesty's report “denies the state of Israel’s right to exist as the nation state of the Jewish people.”
“Its extremist language and distortion of historical context were designed to demonize Israel and pour fuel onto the fire of antisemitism,” it added.
Neither Human Rights Watch nor B’Tselem compared Israel to South Africa, where an apartheid system based on white supremacy and racial segregation was in place from 1948 until the early 1990s. Instead, they evaluate Israel’s policies based on international conventions like the Rome Statute, which defines apartheid as “an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group.”
They argue that Israel’s various policies in the territories under its control are aimed at preserving a Jewish majority in as much of the land as possible by systematically denying basic rights to Palestinians. Israel says its policies are aimed at ensuring the survival and security of the world’s only Jewish state.
The International Criminal Court is already investigating potential war crimes committed by Israel and Palestinian militants in the occupied territories. After last year’s Gaza war, the U.N. Human Rights Council set up a permanent commission of inquiry to investigate abuses in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, including “systematic discrimination and repression based on national, ethnic, racial or religious identity.”
Israel has accused both the ICC and the U.N. rights body of being biased against it.