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Leading human rights group calls Israel an ‘apartheid’ regime

A leading Israeli human rights group has begun describing ‘Israel’ as an “apartheid” regime, a term long seen as taboo for ‘Israel’ and its supporters.

B’Tselem says, in a report released Tuesday, that while Palestinians live under different forms of Israeli control in the occupied West Bank, blockaded Gaza, annexed east Jerusalem and within ‘Israel’ itself, they have fewer rights than Jews in the entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

“One of the key points in our analysis is that this is a single geopolitical area ruled by one government,” said B’Tselem director Hagai El-Ad. “This is not democracy plus occupation. This is apartheid between the river and the sea.”

While ‘Israel’ claims it is a thriving democracy in which Arab citizens, who make up about 20% of its population of 9.2 million, have equal right, B’Tselem said those citizens, to whom it referred as Palestinian Israelis, still face serious discrimination.

B’Tselem argues that by dividing up the territories and using different means of control, ‘Israel’ masks the underlying reality — that roughly 7 million Jews and 7 million Palestinians live under a single system with vastly unequal rights.

“We are not saying that the degree of discrimination that a Palestinian has to endure is the same if one is a citizen of the state of ‘Israel’ or if one is besieged in Gaza,” El-Ad said. “The point is that there isn’t a single square inch between the river and the sea in which a Palestinian and a Jew are equal.”

Itay Milner, a spokesman for ‘Israel’s’ consulate general in New York, dismissed the B’Tselem report as “another tool for them to promote their political agenda,” which he said was based on a “distorted ideological view.” He pointed out that Arab citizens of Israel are represented across the government, including the diplomatic corps.

Eugene Kontorovich, director of international law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum, said the fact that the Palestinians have their own government makes any talk of apartheid “inapplicable,” calling the B’Tselem report “shockingly weak, dishonest and misleading.”

Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York, rejected the term. “Occupation, yes. Apartheid, absolutely not.”

The International Criminal Court defines apartheid as an “institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group.”

However, ‘Israel’ rejects the term, claiming the restrictions it imposes in Gaza and the West Bank are temporary measures needed for security.

B’Tselem, as it describes itself, is an “Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories strives to end Israel’s occupation, recognizing that this is the only way to achieve a future that ensures human rights, democracy, liberty and equality to all people, Palestinian and Israeli alike, living on the bit of land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.”

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