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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Canada has rejected Amnesty International's report that Israel is an apartheid state.
photo by Rhonda Spivak

 
ISRAELI ARAB, HISTORIAN AND LEGAL ADVISOR RESPOND TO AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL'S REPORT THAT ISRAEL IS AN APARTHIED STATE AT CIJA WEBINAR -GOVT OF CANADA REJECTS APARTHEID CHARGE

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by Rhonda Spivak, Feb 11, 2022

 

The Centre for Jewish and Israel Affairs (CIJA), the advocacy agent of Jewish Federations across Canada, held a virtual panel discussion on Amnesty International's report which found that  Israel is an "apartheid" state, which ought to be dismantled. The Amnesty International one sided report in effect denies the Jewish people the right to self determination and denies the right to a Jewish state.

 

Panelist Youseph Haddad , CEO of Together – Vouch For Each Other, an organization bridging the gap between the Arab sector of Israeli society with Israeli society as a whole, said the report is wrong headed because it "identifies me as a Palestinian" despite the fact that  "I am an Israeli Arab with an Israeli passport." Haddad, who defines himself as a Arab Israeli, said that although Israel is "not  a perfect state" and there is discrimination , Israel is certainly not  an apartheid state.  “Don’t think I’m saying there aren’t problems, but we are only going to fix those problems by working together,” he added

 

 

"I as an Israeli Arab volunteered to serve in the IDF [Israel Defense Forces]", said Haddad, who added that this could not happen in an apartheid state. "The IDF protects all Israeli civilians, Jewish and Arab," Haddad stated, pointing out that when Hamas or Hezbollah send rockets into Israel , those rockets can hit Israeli Arabs as well as Israeli Jews.  Haddad himself served in the Golani Brigade and in 2006, during the  the Second Lebanon War at a battle in Bint J’bil, a Kornet missile shot by Hezbollah severely injured Haddad, severing his leg and wounding him in multiple places on his body and face. After a long rehabilitation process, his leg was reattached.

 

"I was a commander in the IDF over Jewish soldiers. If they disobeyed my order, I could send them to prison. That's not apartheid," Haddad, who is a Christian Israeli Arab, emphasized.

 

Haddad made reference to recent survey which asked Israeli Arabs how they self identify.  According to Haddad, 72% answered that they identified themselves as Arabs or Israeli Arabs, and only 7% defined themselves as Palestinians, which significantly undermines the Amnesty Report, which defines all Arabs within Israel proper and the West Bank and Gaza as Palestinians.

 

Haddad also noted that Israel has an Arab Supreme Court judge who can punish Jews, which is certainly not apartheid.

 

Regarding Gaza, Haddad indicated that  Palestinians in Gazza "have told me Hamas is terrorizing their own people...If Amnesty went to Gaza and followed where the money goes," they would see the truth, Haddad stated.

 

Regarding the West Bank, Haddad said that the majority of Palestinians are under the control of the Palestinian Authority, and there is no apartheid regime.

 

Haddad also emphasized that if the Israeli Arab conflict ceased to exist, there would be no more funding for groups like Amnesty. Without these kind of reports, which inflame the conflict, Amnesty would cease to be relevant.

 

Haddad said that it was important for supporters of Israel to emphasize that Israel is a democratic state, not just a Jewish state. "Both of those definitions can exist [together]." 

 

Haddad said that  "we must work on fixing problems" in Israel between Arabs and Jews. The majority of them "want to live side by side."

 

Haddad indicated he had been "called a traitor" by Arab extremists, but it is "important to unite against those extreme voices [on both sides]".

 

"We try to meet with Arabs and Jews in Israel and try to live together," he stressed.

 

“With the exception of the usual outliers on the fringes, the Jewish community is unanimous in its rejection of this report,” CIJA president and CEO Shimon Koffler Fogel said.

 

Izabella Tabarovsky  a historian/scholar with the Kennan Institute (Wilson Center) in Washington D.C. who focuses on the history of Soviet anti-Zionism, said that "Amnesty has reproduced tropes from Soviet anti-Zionist propaganda", indicating that Israel is an "imperialist", "colonialist" state. She emphasized that these tropes "are meant to demonize Israel," and not simply to criticize Israel.

 

According to Tabarovsky the report is "based on the presumption  that Israel is an evil state." 

 

"The report  rewrites history," she stated,  noting that there is no mention of anything about Israel being attacked by Arab armies in 1948, or about any terror attacks."

 

"The report is propaganda and a political hit job," she stressed, noting that the Soviets began saying Israel was an apartheid state before 1967 [when the Six Day War broke out]."

 

Tabarovsky stated that the report "rejects Israel as a legitimate state", and its program is "to dismantle Israel." This is the reason that Amnesty has anchored the report in 1948 and not in 1947. 

 

"It refuses to distinguish between  Palestinians and Israeli Arabs," she added.

 

On the subject of whether the report is antisemitic, Taborovsky said that any time you are "demonizing" Jews, "you are stepping into antisemitic territory." 

 

When asked by Shimon Koffler Fogel, how Israel supporters ought to deal with the report, Taborovsky answered, "I'm a historian...we have to know the history...We need to know Soviet history and leftist tropes," adding that the Jewish community needs to learn more.

 

The final panelist was Anne Herzberg, the legal advisor of NGO Monitor, who said that in the past 20 years Amnesty International as had an anti-Israel and anti-semitic problem.

 

 

She explained that the report put out by Amnesty International is essentially the same as the report put out  by Human Rights Watch (HRW) which recently published a report alleging Israel to be responsible for, and Israeli officials to be guilty of committing, the crime against humanity of apartheid. Amnesty has put out its report now "in order to "capitalize on events" at the International Criminal Court (ICC) and at the U.N.

 

NGOs have been influential in the establishment of two UN bodies where the claim of apartheid will prominently feature, and Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch  are lobbying the International Criminal Court vigorously to include  in its investigation into Israel allegations of apartheid

 

However, according to Herzberg, the definition of apartheid used by Amnesty International and other NGOs "is not legally substantiated." Instead, these groups promote artificial definitions designed to extend campaigns seeking to delegitimize Israel. Apartheid is also criminalized in some treaties as a crime against humanity and/or a war crime, establishing individual criminal responsibility. Additionally, states are prohibited from practicing apartheid in other treaties and by customary international law.

 

Herzberg explained that apartheid is a grave allegation for the individuals accused  since a conviction comes with long terms of imprisonment.  It is also a grave allegation for the country they represent since the accusation alone can result in severe penalties including sanctions and international isolation.  However, the definition of apartheid has not been tested in international law as no courts have yet examined the crime, and there is little detailed analysis available.  As a result, main actors in the delegitimization campaign against Israel, such as Amnesty International, are exploiting this gap to advance narrow, and destructive, political agendas.

 

Herzberg noted that Amnesty's report accuses Jews of "racism", rather than accusing Palestinians of "rejectionism."
 
Herzberg added that if one looks at the Middle East, there are other countries that "are more akin to apartheid" but Amnesty does not look at them.
 
In summation, Herzberg stressed that "We need to use this report as an opportunity to re-educate"  people in the Diaspora, both Jews and non-Jews, about the history of Israel and the history of the founding of Israel."
 
A day after the panel discussion, the government of Canada issued a statement rejecting Amnesty International's recent report.  
 
“We are aware of the recent Amnesty Report. Canada rejects the view that Israel’s actions constitute apartheid,” said a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada. “Canada is a steadfast ally of Israel and friend of the Palestinian people. We are firmly committed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We continue to support the goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, including the creation of a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel.”
 
 

 

 

 

 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.