The German government and several members of the country’s parliament have reacted angrily to a new report by human rights organization Amnesty International which accuses the State of Israel of practicing apartheid.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Foreign Office spokesman Christopher Burger said Berlin “rejects terms such as apartheid as well as a one-sided focus on Israel.”
Such slanders were “not helpful for a solution to the Middle East conflict”, he added. He also noted that against the backdrop of rising anti-Semitism in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, “anyone campaigning for human rights has a responsibility not to encourage it.”
Amnesty’s report, titled “Israel’s Apartheid Against the Palestinians”, states that “Israel imposes a system of oppression and domination against the Palestinians in all areas under its control: in Israel and in the OPT (“Occupied Palestinian Territories”), and against Palestinian refugees, in order to benefit Jewish Israelis. He went on to say that “this amounts to apartheid prohibited by international law.”
The accusation that Israel practices a system of racial segregation identical to that which prevailed in South Africa until 1994 first emerged during the Cold War, as part of Soviet propaganda efforts in the Arab worlds. and in development. In November 1975, the Soviet campaign culminated in a notorious UN General Assembly resolution, since rescinded, equating Zionism with racism. In the meantime, a number of progressive and human rights organizations in democratic countries have endorsed the analogy between Israel and apartheid, which is the ideological basis for the campaign to subjugate Israel to “boycotts, divestments and sanctions” (BDS).
In addition to the German government’s condemnation of the Amnesty report, several members of the Bundestag – the federal parliament – have issued strong criticism, with some accusing the human rights group of fanning the flames of anti-Semitism.
Benjamin Strasser, a parliamentarian from the liberal FDP party, tweeted on Wednesday that it was “with a heavy heart that I am ending my Amnesty membership today after 11 years”. Amnesty had crossed a “red line with the allegation of an alleged ‘apartheid system’ in Israel”, Strasser said. “Israel-related anti-Semitism is a huge problem for Jews in Germany. I cannot reconcile my conscience with the support of an organization that advocates this anti-Semitism,” he added.
Kai Gehring, parliamentary science spokesperson for the left-leaning Green Party, denounced the report as “actually anti-Semitic” in an interview with the German newspaper Picture tabloid. Gehring’s Green parliamentary colleague, Marlene Schönberger, meanwhile expressed disappointment that the German branch of Amnesty did not distance itself from the report’s claims. “I appreciate Amnesty International for its global commitment to human rights, for example in China and Iran,” she said. “Unfortunately, however, it has also long been observed that problematic attitudes towards Israel are not sufficiently confronted within the organization.”
Amnesty’s report on Israel is accompanied by a 90-minute online course inviting potential participants to “deconstruct Israel’s apartheid against the Palestinians”. Students who complete the course will be able to “explain how Israel’s oppression and domination of Palestinians amounts to apartheid” as well as “describe how apartheid affects Palestinians”, according to Amnesty’s website.