This past week, Amnesty International released a report – four years in the making – determining Israel to be an apartheid state. The report describes what it calls Israel’s “system of domination and oppression of Palestinians” in great detail, before ending with these powerful words:
There is no place for apartheid in our world. It is a crime against humanity, and it has to end.
Israeli authorities have enjoyed impunity for too long. The international failure to hold Israel to account means Palestinians are still suffering every single day. It’s time to speak up, to stand with Palestinians and tell Israel that we will not tolerate apartheid.
For decades, Palestinians have been calling for an end to the oppression they live under. All too often, they pay a terrible price for standing up for their rights, and they have long been calling for others around the world to help them.
Let this be the beginning of an end to Israel’s system of apartheid against Palestinians.
Join us in the fight for justice, freedom, and equality for all.
Not suprisingly, the Israeli government and Jewish establishment institutions fiercely attacked the report even before it was released, accusing Amnesty International of antisemitism and calling for the world to condemn and reject it. (While these responses were to be expected, of course, I was particularly saddened to read a statement released by the Union for Reform Judaism that termed the report a “moral travesty.”)
I would submit that the real moral travesty here is the repeated unwillingness of mainstream Jewish institutions to openly condemn Israel’s “system of domination and oppression” in the face of overwhelming evidence. Amnesty has now joined two other reputable human rights organizations – Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem – in naming Israeli apartheid – and it is becoming difficult not to note the increasing desperation in the responses of Israel’s defenders. It is difficult to deny the plain truth of this oppression – even as Palestinians have been voicing these very truths for decades.
I encourage our members to read the full report and share it as widely as possible – particularly with those you know who have been equivocating on this issue. The one thing that the criticism of these reports have in common is that they express well known canards – and do not actually respond to their actual findings they contain. If you do engage others on these reports, I strongly recommend addressing their specific findings – and not the tired claims that are only designed to deflect attention away from actual facts on the ground.
At the same time, we must forget that while this report may have widened the space on what is considered legitimate discourse on Israel/Palestine, human rights reports themselves will not dismantle Israel’s system of domination and oppression. In the end, I believe, they ultimately present a challenge to us all: are we willing to name this oppression out loud – and if so, what are we ready to do about it?
Rabbi Brant Rosen