Israel Weaponizes Antisemitism in Response to Amnesty International



By Dr. Osama Abuirshaid*

Israel’s response to Amnesty International’s report “Israel’s Apartheid against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime against Humanity” did not fall short of any expectations. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs immediately responded on  cue with the routine accusations of antisemitisim to absolve itself from any accountability, stating, “These [reports] are the exact components from which modern antisemitism is made.” It also claimed that the report's condemnation of Israel’s imposed apartheid regime “denies Israel’s right to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people.” 

Likewise, the United States did not disappoint Israel in colluding with it, immediately coming to its protection. The State Department’s spokesman Ned Price said, “We certainly reject the label that has been attached to this (report),” adding, “We think that it is important as the world's only Jewish state that the Jewish people must not be denied their right to self-determination and we must ensure there isn't a double standard being applied.”

The absurdity here is that this American position, which is identical to Israel’s, came during the same press conference in which Price was keen to carefully select his words and use more of a nuanced and measured tone in discussing Israel’s murder of Omar Assad, an 80 year old U.S. citizen in the West Bank last month. In a heated back and forth discussion with a journalist about the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) report that reduced the brutal murder to “a clear lapse of moral judgment,” and a failure to “protect the sanctity of any human life” by the military unit involved in the murder, Price seemed to hail the “disciplinary action” taken by the IDF. Remarkably, he did not hasten, as he did with Amnesty’s report, to pass judgment here. “We expect a thorough criminal investigation and full accountability in this case, and we welcome receiving additional information on these efforts as soon as possible. We continue to discuss this troubling incident with the Israeli Government,” he said.

If this is not complicity, then what is? As usual, the U.S., regardless of the party in power, never fails Israel in acting as its public defender and shielding it from the consequences of the atrocities and violations it commits, even against American citizens and American interests.

Israel and its apologists realize that based on the merits they are incapable of defending a country that claims to be "the only democracy in the Middle East" while being engaged in apartheid, military occupation and seige. Everything about it says otherwise. Therefore, in order to avoid the facts, which will expose Israel's ugly face, they have no choice but to wield the sword of antisemitism over the necks of those who dare to take a moral stance against its crimes. It is a sinister attempt to intimidate the collective consciousness, objectivity, and righteous indignation of freedom-loving people around the world. 

For example, in February 2021 the International Criminal Court confirmed that it has jurisdiction over territories occupied by Israel since 1967, namely Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The decision could pave the way for investigations into war crimes that may have been committed there. Rather than argue ICC jurisdiction on its legal merits, Israel resorted to the same well-known tactic in its arsenal: raising the antisemitism card in the face of its critics to stifle any legitimate attempt to criticize its criminal behavior. Former Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu exposes this strategy, stating, “When the ICC investigates Israel for fake war crimes, this is pure antisemitism.”

In order for Israel to succeed in having full "immunity" from the world – it must force the world to accept the false claim that it is the living embodiment of Judaism. Israel presents itself as the sole legitimate representative of the Jews – even if the state's structure is secular, and not all Jews consider it their representative. 

To Israel’s detriment, people around the world, including the West, are seeing right through their shallow propaganda. The sun cannot be covered with a sieve, and a veil of falsity and lies cannot disguise the facts. No one is holding Israel accountable for its alleged Jewish character, but rather for its racist enforced regime against non-Jewish citizens, and for its illegal occupation and brutal policies against the Palestinians.

Amnesty’s report, which is two hundred eighty pages of thorough and meticulous research and documentation, reached the only possible logical and objective conclusion. It is not an act of  propaganda. Rather it’s based on the legal adaptation of the crime of apartheid. It is a "crime against humanity," as the report asserts. “The crime against humanity of apartheid under the Apartheid Convention, the Rome Statute and customary international law is committed when any inhuman or inhumane act (essentially a serious human rights violation) is perpetrated in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over another, with the intention to maintain that system.”

The report reviews many examples of Israel's crimes against the Palestinians. This includes “unlawful killing and serious injury, torture, forcible transfer, persecution, and the denial of many other basic rights and freedoms,’ in addition to “racist seizures of property, and policies that make it impossible for many Palestinians to build homes.” Based on that, it concludes, “The totality of the regime of laws, policies and practices described in this report demonstrates that Israel has established and maintained an institutionalized regime of oppression and domination of the Palestinian population for the benefit of Jewish Israelis – a system of apartheid – wherever it has exercised control over Palestinians’ lives since 1948.” It also “demonstrates that Jewish Israelis and Palestinians self-identify as different groups, and crucially that the laws of Israel perceive and treat Palestinians as a separate and inferior group.”

Amnesty International is not the first to assert that Israel is an apartheid state. It was preceded in March 2017, by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA). Then in January 2021 by the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, and then followed by the Human Rights Watch in April 2021. Each time, Israel refused to discuss these well-documented and reasoned reports, and it raised the antisemitism card. However, we see more insistence on exposing the grim reality of the hegemonic system in Israel, which was  founded on a racist Zionist ideology that espouses, as B’Tselem rightfully describes it: “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.” This is exactly what is embodied in the Israeli discriminatory 2018 Jewish Nation-State law, which easily could qualify to inspire a white supremacist manifesto in America.

Despite all the glaring facts that Israel is an apartheid state, it not only seeks to discredit the cold, hard facts, but also to deter us from calling it what it is. Israel wants to force the world to accept it as above humanity, above values, above morals, above law, and not just as dominant over the Palestinians. Whoever dares to describe it as it is, a settler colonial project that aims to erase the indigenous population, will find the charge ready: anti-Semitic.

But, what is the definition of antisemitism for Israel and its apologists?

It is not limited to hate speech or violence directed against Jews for just being Jews, and holding them collectively responsible for crimes committed by Israel as a state. Rather, it has expanded to include any criticism of Israel and its policies. To achieve this, they seek to advance the controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which deliberately and maliciously confuses questioning Israel’s behavior as a state and antisemitism. The advocates of this argument seek to label all and any defense of Palestinian rights under international law as forms of antisemitism. This includes upholding the right of Palestinians to defend themselves against aggression; calling for an end to the Israeli occupation and its regime of oppression; supporting the nonviolent BDS movement; criticizing Zionism and Israel; condemning the Jewish settlements in the Palestinian occupied territories; rejecting the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population; and demanding equality for all and the abolition of racial laws.

However, smearing and intimidation campaigns no longer bear fruit. Israel knows this and is fully aware that the narrative of its incarnation of an apartheid regime is gaining more momentum. Indeed, one of the motivations to challenging attempts to impose the hegemony of the Zionist narrative is the vulgar Israeli and Zionist use of the accusation of antisemitism, which resulted in the loss of much of its moral and material balance. Last month, the famous British Hollywood actress, Emma Watson shared on her Instagram account an image of a pro-Palestinian rally in which some of the participants carried a banner that read: “Solidarity is a verb.” Immediately, accusations of antisemitism rained down on her. The former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon was one of the leading instigators. Conversely, Israel's apologists were surprised by the amount of sympathy and great support Watson received from the masses, including celebrities in the media and entertainment industries.

The world is fed up with Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians, its ludicrous claim of purity, its thuggery against anyone who dares to describe it as a settler-colonial project, and as an apartheid regime that engages in ethnic and religious cleansing. Above all, a state that adopts terrorism, crime, and fabrication as a means of establishing hegemony and subjugation over the Palestinian people. This process cannot continue unchecked and funded by our American tax dollars. Israel must be held accountable for its crimes against humanity.

In short, it is time for Israel and its apologists to depart from the square of moral bankruptcy and to take responsibility for the crimes they are committing against the Palestinian people, against our consciousness and decency. The Israeli journalist, Gideon Levy was on point when he wondered in amazement at Zionist’s anger at Amnesty’s report: “Tell Me What’s Untrue in Amnesty’s Report on Israel?” Nothing! It is all factual, and arriving at this conclusion does not make Amnesty nor those who agree with it anti-Semitic or self heating Jews. In fact, it demonstrates that we have the moral courage to call Israel for what it is: an apartheid state.



Dr. Osama Abuirshaid is the Executive Director and a board member of American Muslims for Palestine (AMP). He is a board member of the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO), an umbrella organization of eight major national American Muslim organizations. He lectures frequently on Middle East and American politics. He is a regular commentator on Palestinian and Middle Eastern affairs as well as on the American domestic and foreign policy on various Arabic satellite T.V. channels such as Aljazeera. He authored or coauthored several books in Arabic and he published dozens of studies and articles in Arabic and English, on issues relevant to the Middle East and its political climate. He is the co-author of the controversial study: "Hamas: Ideological Rigidity and Political Flexibility," which was published by the United States Institute of Peace in 2009. He is a community activist and speaker. Abuirshaid completed his PhD in Political Science at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom.

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