Released on Tuesday, the 25-page report by the leading rights group details how Israeli authorities enforce a system of oppression and domination against the Palestinians.
Its damning investigation lists a range of Israeli abuses, including extensive seizures of Palestinian land and property, unlawful killings, forcible transfer, drastic movement restrictions, administrative detention and the denial of nationality and citizenship to Palestinians.
It describes these as components of a system that amounts to apartheid under international law.
“This system is maintained by violations which Amnesty International found to constitute apartheid as a crime against humanity,” the group said in a statement.
Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has pursued a policy of establishing and maintaining a “Jewish demographic majority”, the report added. Israel also exercises full control over land and resources to benefit Jewish Israelis, including those in illegal settlements.
After the 1967 war, during which Israeli forces occupied all of historical Palestine, Israel “extended this policy” to the occupied West Bank as well as the Gaza Strip, which has been under a crippling siege since 2007.
Today, all territories controlled by Israel continue to be administered with the “purpose of benefiting Jewish Israelis to the detriment of Palestinians, while Palestinian refugees continue to be excluded”, the London-based group said.
“Our report reveals the true extent of Israel’s apartheid regime. Whether they live in Gaza, East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, or Israel itself, Palestinians are treated as an inferior racial group and systematically deprived of their rights,” stated Agnes Callamard, Amnesty’s secretary-general.
“We found that Israel’s cruel policies of segregation, dispossession and exclusion across all territories under its control clearly amount to apartheid. The international community has an obligation to act,” Callamard added.
Amnesty called on the UN Security Council to impose a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel, as well as “targeted sanctions, such as asset freezes, against Israeli officials most implicated in the crime of apartheid”.
Israel has vigorously rejected the “apartheid” label in the past.
But Amnesty’s report follows a similar conclusion reached by US-based Human Rights Watch, which published a report (PDF) in April last year that found Israel is committing the “crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution” against Palestinians.
Likewise, Israeli rights group B’Tselem published a study in January 2021 that found that Palestinians – divided into four tiers of inferior treatment – are denied the right to self-determination.
Amnesty announced the unlawful killing of Palestinian protesters in Gaza is perhaps the “clearest illustration of how Israeli authorities use proscribed acts to maintain the status quo”.
It was referring to a period over 2018 and 2019 where Palestinians in Gaza held weekly demonstrations along the Israeli separation fence, calling for the right of return for refugees and an end to the blockade.
The Great March of Return protests were met with violence by Israeli forces, who fired tear gas canisters, rubber bullets and live ammunition, mostly by snipers. By the time the demonstrations were suspended at the end of 2019, Israeli forces had killed at least 214 Palestinians, including 46 children, according to the UN.
“The international response to apartheid must no longer be limited to bland condemnations and equivocating,” Callamard said, adding, “Israel must dismantle the apartheid system and start treating Palestinians as human beings with equal rights and dignity.”