The Amnesty Report
On 1st February this year, Amnesty International issued a report. Entitled “Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians”, one of its major conclusions was that “almost all of Israel’s civilian administration and military authorities, as well as governmental and quasi-governmental institutions, are involved in the enforcement of the system of apartheid against Palestinians and against Palestinian refugees and their descendants outside the territory.”
In declaring Israel to be an Apartheid state, Amnesty was following leading human rights organisations like Human Rights Watch, B’Tselem, Al-Haq and even the British Labour Party, all of whom have issued statements accusing Israel of practising apartheid (though it may be worth noting that the last of these organisation is now declaring itself to be very much “under new management”).
The Middle East Monitor notes that “In its designation of Israel as an apartheid state, Amnesty went further than previous reports, which concluded that occupation state is practising a system of racial segregation but limited the practice as a feature of areas under its control. Amnesty is more expansive in its designation and applies Israel’s practice of apartheid to the state’s international operations.“
As Nasim Ahmed concluded in the Middle East Monitor: “the historical project of creating a “homeland” for European Jews in Palestine was always going to lead to the displacement of the indigenous people who, at the turn of the 20th century, comprised some 95 per cent of the population. Such a venture could not have been possible, nor would it have been sustained without a system of oppression and racism. ”
Although there were some criticisms of the Amnesty report for not going far enough, this was a historic statement. Activists and academics have been calling Israel an Apartheid State for decades, but it has been, until recently, a highly contested position. Despite Books like Uri Davis’s Apartheid Israel (2003), and Ilan Pappé’s anthology: Israel and South Africa: The many faces of Apartheid (2015), even some in the Palestine solidarity movement have been wary of calling Israel an Apartheid state.
Amnesty Germany Responds
Amnesty Germany was less enthusiastic about the international report, issuing a statement saying saying: “to counteract the danger of instrumentalisation on misinterpretation of the report, the German section of Amnesty will not plan or carry our any activities around this report”. As Israeli-German activist Michael Sappir noted in +972 magazine: “Identifying the need for substantial debate and worrying that the report might be misinterpreted in Germany, the local section resolved to simply stand back and do nothing.”
In their defence, Amnesty Germany say that they have documented the report. Well, yes. Sort of. Michael Sappir noted in his article that: “just one day later, the announcement regarding the report had been deleted from its website, meaning all that remains in German is a separate overview on the Austrian section’s website.”
Eleven days after the report was released, I went to Amnesty’s German Website and searched for Israel. And yes, I did find something. But the first article that I found about the Apartheid report was the 44th article on the search list, well below many articles which are over ten years old.
At the bottom of this article is a link saying “Following the publishing of this report, there was a multitude of reactions, demands and criticism. Here is the reaction of the German section of Amnesty. Click on the link and you find a page headed: “Defend human rights, strengthen antisemistism sensibility”.
Open letter from German Palestinians
Once more German exceptionalism is trying to discuss the oppression of Palestinians without giving Palestinian people a voice. This is why we are pleased to have translated an open letter to Amnesty Germany initiated by Palästina Spricht (Palestine Speaks). You can find the original German text here. Please send the text as an e-mail to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org with email@example.com on BCC.
The translated text of the Open Letter follows:
Dear Amnesty International Germany Team
We are writing to you while we are still fighting with the daily bad news from Palestine. The daily expulsion of people, the daily destruction of houses, the daily shooting of civilians on the street and the faces of their grieving families.
We are the parents, the sisters, the brothers, the relatives and the friends of people in Palestine. We are German citizens who are publicly abandoned every day by the German State, and whose basic rights are denied in the media time and again.
While Israeli bombs fell on the heads of our loved ones in Gaza in May 2021, ALL German parties in the Bundestag, from die LINKE to the AfD, held a solidarity rally with Israel, an Apartheid State, at the Brandenburger Tor, and authorized the delivery of weapons to Israel. We were witnesses when an MP in the German parliament wished the Israeli air force “rich spoils”.
In this country, in which over 95% of antisemitic incidents are perpetrated by far-right, white Germans, this attitude is not just fundamentally wrong, it also is a trivialisation of antisemitism…
We are slandered in the German press every day, insulted and pilloried. We are made into a projection screen of German racism and have had to pay for German history with our blood.
We live in a world in which the makers of shoes and ice cream have more political backbone and consciousness, and demonstrate proof more than most German politicians and press platforms.
This conscious silence is not new to all voices who are fighting for the civil rights of Palestinians, and show the extent of the double standards which are applied to Palestinians and their just fight for freedom. But that human rights organisations in Germany have taken this cowardly, passive approach to the overwhelming evidence is a new low point in this country, and a slap in the face.
Amnesty International published a report about the situation and confirmed what Palestinians have known for 73 years. Israel is an Apartheid State. This conclusion which Amnesty drew from their report has already been drawn and clearly labelled by other organisations such as the US-American human rights organisation Human Rights Watch and the largest Israeli human rights organisation, B’tselem.
It is deeply disappointing that Amnesty International Germany has announced that it will not comment on this report, nor will it carry out a campaign, as this would apparently strengthen antisemitism in Germany. In this country, in which over 95% of antisemitic incidents are perpetrated by far-right, white Germans, this attitude is not just fundamentally wrong, it also is a trivialisation of antisemitism and a barrier to the fight against all forms of racism.
Also for us, the Palestinians whose human rights are abused every day, this attitude is not just extremely unjust, but also hypocritical and consciously cowardly. We, the parents, sisters, brothers, relatives and friends of the people in Palestine appeal to your conscience and your obligation as a human rights organisation. End this passive approach to the extreme injustice to which our loved ones are systematically and daily exposed.
We appeal to your humanity – the humanity that unites us all, the most important motif for action and engagement – to actively confront this systematic oppression of our families and loved ones.
Every day that passes is one more day when this injustice continues. We know all to well that you cannot end this injustice on your own, but with active commitment, you would be contributing towards a reduction of the misery and systematic oppression.
Please be on the right side of history.
Families and friends of the people in Palestine.
Translation: Phil Butland. Reproduced with permission