ECLJ's Submission to the UN Human Rights Council, on the Question: Does Israel Practise Apartheid?

January 5, 2021

Israel’s enemies just can’t leave Israel alone. This time the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk is looking into whether Israel is practicing apartheid in its dealings with the Palestinians.

We just took action, submitting a legal letter to the HRC challenging this absurd and, quite frankly, antisemitic assertion. Such an allegation being raised at the HRC is absolute nonsense, though not surprising given the human rights records of some of the States elected to serve on the Council.

For example, the well-known human rights exemplar China, which is currently persecuting and imprisoning the Uyghurs, stifling freedom and cracking down on regime opponents in Hong Kong, and threatening to invade Taiwan, serves on the Council alongside another exemplar of human rights, Cuba, which continues to imprison dissidents and political opponents of the regime.

Why are so many States making such a charge against Israel? They are pursuing—many by design and some by default—a strategy aimed at delegitimizing Israel at every turn and making the world’s only Jewish State into a pariah on the world stage. Israel’s opponents are seeking every venue possible to attack the only liberal democratic State in the Middle East. Their approach embraces both actual warfare (like rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza) as well as lawfare (attacking Israel in courts and before global political bodies). Israel’s opponents have a long, sordid history of making outrageous claims about Israel in the U.N. Security Council, the U.N. General Assembly, the U.N. Human Rights Council, the International Court of Justice, and the International Criminal Court, to name just a few.
Much of this strategy was adopted at the 2001 Durban Conference. The 2001 conference was replete with “[i]nflammatory speeches, discriminatory texts and a pro-Hitler march that took place outside the halls,” all aimed at Israel. Because of the unapologetic, open, and pervasive anti-Israel antisemitism associated with Durban-related conference schedules and meetings, 34 States boycotted the conference this past September celebrating the twentieth anniversary of Durban.

In my view, it is difficult to conceive of more openly prejudiced and prejudicial gatherings than the Durban Conference and its prodigy. Even as Israel’s critics clothe themselves in the language of human rights, they single out Israel—the only State in the Middle East that values and protects human rights—as the biggest violator of human rights instead. I feel constrained to remind those who rage against Israel and pervert the law of what God has warned in Isaiah 5: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil”—especially in light of God’s love for His people Israel expressed in Genesis 12: “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.” Those who attack Israel falsely will one day have much to answer for.

When democracies like Israel are under attack by nondemocratic, tyrannical regimes who repeatedly allege false charges of wrongdoing (like practicing apartheid), we who support the rule of law and value justice cannot remain silent, but must stand up and be counted. It is in that light that we have responded to the Special Rapporteur’s invitation to comment on the charge that Israel is practicing apartheid.
Israel is being charged with committing apartheid against the Palestinians. The Palestinians are defined as the Arabs of Palestine living in Israel, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and outside those two geographic locations (like in neighboring countries or elsewhere around the globe—the so-called Palestinian “diaspora”).

The apartheid charge is wrong for a number of reasons. First, apartheid is segregation and discrimination based on race. It is an attempt by one race of people to dominate and control another race of people. It was born in South Africa as an attempt for minority white South Africans to dominate the majority blacks and other non-whites. Since Jews and Arabs are both Semitic peoples, race is not implicated. I would also point out the simple fact that although each of us may have our own opinions, we may not have our own facts. Facts are stubborn things when one seeks to discern the truth, and those stubborn facts absolutely refute any legitimate charge of apartheid on Israel’s part.

Second, assuming for the sake of argument that Jews and Arabs are of different races and that Israel is acting on the basis of race (which is patently false), then one would expect Israel to discriminate against all Arabs living in the former territory for the Mandate for Palestine, i.e., against Arabs living in Israel as well as Arabs living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Yet, that isn’t what’s happening. Arabs living in Israel are Israeli citizens who enjoy all the rights of Jewish Israelis. Israeli Arabs are able to stand for office, to freely vote in national and local elections for the candidates of their choice, have served as Supreme Court Justices, and an Arab party even forms part of the current ruling government coalition. Such opportunities run totally counter to the claim of apartheid.

Third, although it is true that Israel treats Arabs living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip differently from Israeli Arabs, such disparate treatment is based on two key factors. The first is that Arabs living outside of the State of Israel are not Israeli citizens, and every country in the world may treat foreigners differently from how it treats its own citizens. The second reason is that the relationship between Israelis and Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is an uneasy peace frequently broken by Palestinian terrorist groups who engage in indiscriminate rocket and other attacks on Israeli territory and against Israeli civilians.

Accordingly, principles of the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) underlie the relationship. Moreover, Palestinians continuously condemn Israel for its “occupation of Palestinian territory.” If true, then the actions taken by Israel in such territory (which are repeatedly cited by opponents of Israel as acts of apartheid) are not based on race, but on grounds of national security against a hostile foe which periodically attacks Israel. Such actions are permissible under the LOAC and hence do not constitute actions based on apartheid.

Fourth, even if Israel were somehow practicing apartheid (which is a delusional belief in light of the foregoing facts), it would have no way of affecting Palestinians living in neighboring States or elsewhere in the world. Such Palestinians would simply be treated like the foreigners they are.

Finally, Israel has also tried on numerous occasions to make peace with the Palestinians, only to be rebuffed at every turn. Hence, even the issue of racial domination found in apartheid does not apply. Israeli diplomat Abba Eban was sadly correct when he observed that the Palestinians “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” They have yet to learn that half a loaf is better than no loaf at all. Yet, until they learn that lesson, we can expect more and more attempts to attack Israel indirectly through the raising of specious charges like saying that Israel is an apartheid State.

Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels has been quoted as saying: “A lie told once remains a lie, but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth." That certainly appears to reflect the Palestinians’ approach to their dealings with Israel. The Palestinian mantra includes – in addition to its claims of statehood; its ownership of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip; and the illegality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank – its more recent claim that Israel practices apartheid. All are lies, but the more they have been repeated, the more States have believed them, to Israel’s detriment.

As ACLJ Senior Counsel for Global Affairs – and former Secretary of State – Mike Pompeo has stated, U.S. support for Israel is the key to peace in the Middle East. To that end, we just submitted a critical letter at the U.N. Human Rights Council through our European affiliate, the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ), arguing against the incorrect assertion that Israel is guilty of apartheid. This is nothing more than yet another antisemitic attack from within the United Nations.

The ACLJ is committed to protecting the State of Israel, our loyal ally and the only genuine democratic State in the Middle East which actually values and upholds human rights. Please join us in standing up to the anti-Israel bullies who seek to delegitimize the world’s only Jewish State.