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February 2, 2022 4:16 pm
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‘Don’t Encourage Antisemitism’: German Government and Politicians Blast Amnesty International’s ‘Apartheid’ Report on Israel

avatar by Ben Cohen

Amnesty International Secretary-General Agnes Callamard meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah following the publication of her organization’s report accusing Israel of “apartheid.” Photo: Reuters/Palestinian President Office (PPO)

Germany’s government and several members of the country’s parliament have reacted angrily to a new report from the human rights organization Amnesty International that accuses the State of Israel of practicing apartheid.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Christopher Burger said that Berlin “rejects terms such as apartheid as well as a one-sided focus on Israel.”

Such calumnies were “not helpful for a solution to the Middle East conflict,” he added. He also noted that against the background of rising antisemitism 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 Palestinians,” claimed that “Israel imposes a system of oppression and domination against Palestinians across all areas under its control: in Israel and the OPT (‘Occupied Palestinian Territories’), and against Palestinian refugees, in order to benefit Jewish Israelis.” It went on to argue that “this amounts to apartheid as prohibited in international law.”

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The accusation that Israel practices an identical system of racial segregation as that which prevailed in South Africa until 1994 first emerged during the Cold War, as an integral part of Soviet propaganda efforts in the Arab and developing worlds. In Nov. 1975, the Soviet campaign resulted in a notorious UN General Assembly resolution, since rescinded, equating Zionism with racism. In the intervening period, 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 subject Israel to “boycotts, divestment and sanctions ” (BDS).

In addition to the German government’s condemnation of the Amnesty report, several members of the Bundestag — the federal parliament — offered heavy criticism, with some accusing the human rights group of fanning the flames of antisemitism.

Benjamin Strasser, a parliamentarian from the liberal FDP Party, tweeted on Wednesday that it was with “a heavy heart that I end my membership in Amnesty today after 11 years.” Amnesty had crossed a “red line with the allegation of a supposed ‘apartheid system’ in Israel,” Strasser said. “Israel-related antisemitism is a massive problem for Jews in Germany. I cannot reconcile my conscience with supporting an organization that advocates this antisemitism,” he added.

Kai Gehring, a parliamentary spokesperson on science for the left-wing Green Party, denounced the report as “actually antisemitic” in an interview with Germany’s Bild tabloid. Gehring’s Green parliamentary colleague, Marlene Schönberger, meanwhile expressed disappointment that Amnesty’s German branch had not distanced itself from the report’s assertions. “I appreciate Amnesty International for their worldwide commitment to human rights, for example in China and Iran,” she stated. “Unfortunately, however, it has also been observed for a long time that problematic attitudes towards Israel are not adequately confronted in the organization.”

Amnesty’s report on Israel is accompanied by a 90 minute online course inviting prospective participants to “deconstruct Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians.” Students who complete the course will be able to “explain how the oppression and domination of Palestinians by Israel amounts to apartheid” as well as “describe how apartheid affects Palestinians,” according to Amnesty’s website.

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