EU says it’s anti-Semitic to call Israel an apartheid state

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has rejected Amnesty International’s finding that Israel perpetrates the crime of apartheid (Euc - ROPI)

Ali Abunimah

The Electronic Intifada  /  January 23, 2023

It is anti-Semitic to say Israel perpetrates the crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people, according to the European Union.

That would mean that major rights groups including Human Rights WatchAmnesty International and Israel’s B’Tselem – which is funded by the EU – are guilty of anti-Jewish bigotry, according to Brussels.

The EU’s extraordinary claim came in response to a question from several pro-Israel members of the European Parliament directed towards the EU’s executive body, the European Commission.

The lawmakers stated that Amnesty’s report last February “alleges that apartheid was inherent in the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 and has been built on and maintained by successive Israeli governments.”

The lawmakers asked if EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also views Israel as an “apartheid state.”

They also wanted to know if Borrell considers Amnesty’s report to be “anti-Semitic” under the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, “given that it claims that the existence of the State of Israel is a racist endeavor (i.e. an apartheid state).”

‘Not appropriate’

The pro-Israel lawmakers should be fully satisfied with Borrell’s written response issued on 20 January.

“The Commission considers that it is not appropriate to use the term apartheid in connection with the State of Israel,” Borrell wrote.

Borrell affirmed the EU’s reliance on the so-called IHRA definition of anti-Semitism and emphasized: “Claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor is amongst the illustrative examples included under the IHRA definition.”

The highly politicized IHRA definition, heavily promoted by Israel and its lobby, has faced broad opposition due to concerns that it will be used in precisely the manner Borrell is now deploying it: to falsely label legitimate criticism of Israel and its crimes as anti-Jewish bigotry.

Borrell provided no factual basis for dismissing the meticulous research from multiple human rights groups showing how Israel perpetrates apartheid, a serious crime against humanity covered by the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court.

But he did go on to reassert the EU’s ritualistic and empty adherence to “a negotiated two-state solution.”

Crime against humanity

Under international law, the crime of apartheid is defined as “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.”

B’Tselem – the EU-supported human rights group – stated in January 2021 that Israel operates “a regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea” – all the area that encompasses Israel, the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“This is apartheid,” B’Tselem concluded.

Israel’s new government took office openly proclaiming its commitment to Jewish supremacy and therefore the apartheid policies necessary to maintain it.

“The Jewish people have an exclusive and inalienable right to all parts of the Land of Israel,” the new coalition declared, promising to “promote and develop the settlement of all parts of the Land of Israel — in the Galilee, the Negev, the Golan and Judea and Samaria.”

The Golan Heights are occupied Syrian territory, while “Judea and Samaria” is Zionist terminology for the occupied West Bank.

Following this declaration, Borrell told Israel’s new rulers that he was “Looking forward to working with you on further improving EU-Israel relations.”

In other words, the EU’s commitment to Israel’s apartheid regime and its opposition to Palestinian rights remains rock solid.

Ali Abunimah is executive director of The Electronic Intifada