Palestinian human rights groups release new report ‘Israeli Apartheid: Tool of Zionist Settler Colonialism’

Cover Al-Haq report (MW)


Yumna Patel

Mondoweiss  /  December 6, 2022

The new report explores apartheid as a “structural element of furthering Zionist settler colonialism” – a framework overlooked by previous human rights reports on Israeli apartheid.

Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq, along with a coalition of other leading Palestinian civil society organizations, have released a new landmark report on Israeli apartheid, titled ‘Israeli Apartheid: Tool of Zionist Settler Colonialism’.

The new report, published November 29, explores apartheid as a “a structural element of furthering Zionist settler colonialism” – a framework previously overlooked by international and Israeli human rights organizations in their own reports on Israeli apartheid. 

“Palestinian civil society demand de-colonization and dismantling of Israel’s settler colonialism and apartheid regime, the fulfilment of the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, systematically denied since the British mandate, and the right of refugees and exiles in the diaspora to return,” Al-Haq said in a statement on the day of the report’s release. 

Al-Haq went on to say: “We stress that there can be no solution to the situation as long as the international community continues to ignore Israel’s systematic human rights abuses and settler colonial apartheid regime and through it, sustain the illegal Zionist colonial settler project at the cost of Palestinian liberation.”

Since 2021, a number of Israeli and international human rights organizations, including B’Tselem, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International have all released their own reports on Israeli apartheid. 

While each of the reports were significant in either bringing awareness to or furthering the existing conversations on Israeli apartheid, there were criticisms that the reports fell short on a number of issues, particularly the role of Zionist ideology in driving Israel’s settler colonial project. 

“Apartheid is a form of settler colonialism, or colonialism more generally. It is not isolated from that context.”

Rania Muhareb

What the Al-Haq report aims to do, its authors say, is reframe the conversation surrounding Israeli apartheid to center Palestinian narratives on their own dispossession and displacement, recognize the Palestinian people’s collective right to self-determination, and prioritize decolonization over “liberal equality” approaches to ending apartheid.

“Apartheid is a form of settler colonialism, or colonialism more generally. It is not isolated from that context,” Rania Muhareb, one of the authors of the report, told Mondoweiss. 

“Through settler colonialism we understand why apartheid is there to begin with, why these laws, policies and practices are put in place that discriminate against and fragment the Palestinian people,” she continued. 

“By understanding the role of Zionist ideology, institutions and policy, we start to see the broader context of the apartheid system,” Muhareb said. 

Zionist settler colonialism & apartheid

For decades, Palestinians have been using the term apartheid as a means to describe the reality of discrimination and oppression that they live under — both in and outside of the Green Line. 

While apartheid has become synonymous with the South African context, under international law the crime of apartheid is a framework that can be applied to any situation of institutionalized racial segregation. 

Rights groups, like Al-Haq, argue that Israel meets the criteria set out by international law that constitute apartheid: a series of inhuman acts committed with the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group over another. 

These inhuman acts span across a series of categories of violations committed by the Israeli regime against Palestinians, including but not limited to: the denial of land and property rights, collective punishment policies (i.e. punitive home demolitions), arbitrary imprisonment and arrest, extrajudicial killings, etc. 

What Al-Haq and the coalition of human rights groups argue in the new report, however, is that the apartheid framework does not go far enough to accurately understand the situation of Palestinians inside the occupied territory, across the Green Line, and in the diaspora. 

“Understanding Israel’s apartheid regime necessitates a recognition of its Zionist settler colonial foundations,” Al-Haq says. 

In the report Al-Haq explores the roots of Zionism and the Zionist movement in the late 19th century, as one of the precursors to Israeli apartheid, arguing that the creation of para-statal Zionist organizations like the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and World Zionist Organization (WZO), allowed for the “Zionist settler colonial domination of the Palestinian people,” and the creation of the foundations of Israeli apartheid. 

Organizations like the JNF, WZO, and Jewish Agency, which predate the creation of the state of Israel,  were established with the purpose of offering rights and privileges to Jewish immigrants at the expense of the indigenous Arab population. To this day these organizations are still conferred with public functions of the state — for example, the JNF’s control over the distribution and administration of public land in Israel.

“Zionist institutions, laws, policies, and practices were operationalized to displace and fragment the Palestinian people, deny Palestinian refugees their right to return to their lands, and discriminate against Palestinians in nearly [every] aspect of life,” Al-Haq says. 

Rania Muhareb explains that the understanding of apartheid within the Zionist settler colonial context is essential to dismantling Israeli apartheid, because without the colonial framework, the focus remains on discriminatory laws and practices, while ignoring the larger oppressive system at work.  

“For us, repealing Israeli laws that are discriminatory and target Palestinians is insufficient,” Muhareb said. 

“Because it is not just the laws that’s the issue – it’s the role of Zionist ideology and institutions, such as the JNF, JA, and WZO, which have been charged with privileging persons of Jewish race or descent, and have continued to do so through the colonization of Palestine, the establishment of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and also within the Green Line,” she continued. 

“Repealing laws isn’t sufficient. There needs to be a repeal of the ideology and role of such organizations. That’s why it’s essential to link these frameworks and understand them together. Ultimately that is what will help with efforts in mobilizing against Israeli apartheid.” 

Recommendations & Demands

The conclusion of the 220-page report lays out a list of recommendations to the international community, including third party states, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the International Criminal Court (ICC), and UN bodies, on what steps can be taken towards dismantling Israeli settler colonialism and apartheid, and “completely decolonizing Palestine.”

“This must involve the dismantlement of all structures of domination, exploitation, and oppression and the realization of the Palestinian people’s inalienable rights, including to self-determination and to return to their homes, lands, and properties,” Al-Haq says. 

Among the list of recommendations are:

  • The recognition and condemnation of Israel’s discriminatory laws policies and practices that contribute to maintaining a system of apartheid over Palestinians
  • Imposing economic sanctions on Israel
  • The severing of all cultural, economic, trade, and cooperation ties and agreements with Israel
  • Adopting a resolution to reconstitute the UN Special Committee against Apartheid and the UN Centre against Apartheid to address Israeli authorities’ commission of the crime against humanity of apartheid against the Palestinian people as a whole,
  • The expedition of the current ICC prosecutor investigation into potential war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the occupied Palestinian territory. 

“We stress that there can be no solution to the situation as long as the international community continues to ignore Israel’s systematic human rights abuses and settler colonial apartheid regime and through it, sustain the illegal Zionist colonial settler project at the cost of Palestinian liberation,” Al-Haq said. 

Yumna Patel is the Palestine News Director for Mondoweiss