Amnesty International to release 'apartheid' report despite Israeli protest

AFP , Tuesday 1 Feb 2022

The head of Amnesty International told AFP on Monday the rights group will publish a report labelling Israel's treatment of the Palestinians as "apartheid" despite Israeli calls to withdraw it.

File Photo: Palestinian women wait to cross the Qalandia checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem during Ramadan, taken on April 16, 2021. AP

In a report due to be launched on Tuesday, Amnesty is set join the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem and Human Rights Watch in charging that Israel is committing the crime of apartheid in the Palestinian territories and against its Arab citizens.

Preempting the launch, Israel's foreign ministry on Monday dismissed the report and said it "effectively denies (Israel's) right to exist at all."

"Amnesty was once an esteemed organisation that we all respected," Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement. "Today, it is the exact opposite."

Lapid's ministry urged Amnesty to "withdraw" the document.

"Instead of seeking facts, Amnesty quotes lies spread by terrorist organisations," Lapid said.

"Israel is not perfect, but it is a democracy committed to international law and open to scrutiny," he added.

Amnesty's Secretary General Agnes Callamard, in an interview with AFP ahead of the report's launch, said: "We are publishing the report tomorrow."

"We would have welcomed a conversation with the minister of foreign affairs when we first approached him and offered to talk to him about the report, that was back in October," Callamard said.

"He did not respond to our offer then. It is far too late for him now to just call on us not to publish the report."

Lapid also accused Amnesty of having an anti-Semitic agenda.

"I hate to use the argument that if Israel were not a Jewish state, nobody in Amnesty would dare argue against it, but in this case, there is no other possibility," he said.

Callamard countered that "a critic of the practice of the State of Israel is absolutely not a form of anti-Semitism.

"Amnesty International stands very strongly against anti-Semitism, against any form of racism, we have repeatedly denounced anti-Semitic acts and anti-Semitism by various leaders around the world."

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