New British/Israeli agreement opposes use of the word ‘Apartheid’ to describe Israeli actions against the Palestinians
On Tuesday, the UK government signed an agreement with the Israeli government part of which agreed to oppose the use of the word ‘Apartheid’ to describe Israeli’s actions in the occupied areas. Three substantial reports have been published describing the system in operation: one by Human Rights Watch, one by Amnesty and one by B’Tselem in Israel itself. We provided links to each in a previous post. Each is a closely argued and evidenced document and to our knowledge, has not received a detailed rebuttal from the Israeli government. Haaretz and other news organisations described Israel’s reaction to the Amnesty report as ‘hysterical’. The Israeli government described Amnesty as ‘anti-Semitic’.
The agreement says that it will also seek to confront anti-Israel bias in international relations including in the UN. The Palestinian Ambassador said it represented ‘an abdication of the UK’s responsibilities under international law and the UK’s unique responsibility to the Palestinian issue’.
President Netanyahu is on a visit to the UK this week and was met by a demonstration of Jewish people when he visited 10, Downing Street for a meeting with the prime minister. Banners and cries of ‘Dictator on the run’ greeted his arrival. There have been months of demonstrations in Israel itself over proposals to prevent Netanyahu being deprived of office if he is found guilty of corruption and other crimes (which he denies). The agreement’s description as a ‘freedom loving and thriving democracy’ seems extraordinary in view of these events.
The evidence of Israel’s mistreatment of its Arab population has been well documented. Many Israel politicians and writers have warned of the steady slide towards apartheid as has the Israeli group Yesh Din who gave a legal opinion that ‘the crime against humanity of apartheid is being committed on the West Bank’.
Israeli politicians have become increasingly worried that the unquestioning support the country received from the US is beginning to waver. More and more Americans are beginning to doubt Israeli actions and protestations of a desire for peace. The unquestioning and uncritical support by the UK government by contrast will be very welcome therefore. In addition to the Conservatives, Sir Keir Starmer is quoted as saying that ‘Israel is not an apartheid state’. Labour has experienced severe problems concerning alleged anti-Semitism and the party is keen to ‘root out’ the problem to use Starmer’s words. Neither party seems able to look at the evidence and they deny the facts, if for different reasons.
This is yet one more action by the UK government which seems to demonstrate an almost wilful neglect of human rights norms both within the UK and overseas. Its desire to get rid of the Human Rights Act as well as other legislation limiting the ability to protest or seek judicial review represent an increasingly authoritarian view. An official was quoted as saying that moral considerations now come a poor second to business and diplomacy.
Sources: International Centre for Justice for Palestine; Haaretz (English); Human Rights Watch; Amnesty International; Middle East Eye; Daily Mail; Guardian; Jewish Chronical.