Politicians will eventually 'get the message' on Israeli apartheid: Amnesty chief

Politicians will eventually 'get the message' on Israeli apartheid: Amnesty chief
Amnesty International secretary general Agnès Callamard said there 'comes a point when apartheid is no longer sufficient or working', asking 'what's next?'
3 min read
15 June, 2022
Amnesty International concluded that Israel is committing apartheid in February [ABBAS MOMANI/AFP via Getty Images-file photo]

Politicians are realising that Israel's apartheid against Palestinians risks leading to even worse crimes unless a solution is found now, Amnesty International secretary general Agnès Callamard said on Tuesday.

Callamard spoke with The New Arab in London after appearing alongside Palestinian and Israeli human rights leaders on a panel about ending Israel's system of oppression.

The Amnesty chief said people in many countries increasingly accept that Israel is practising apartheid and politicians will eventually "get the message" or pay the political price, though some may also become convinced for themselves.

"So, I do see an increasing also political realisation that this must be solved, because right now countries are complicit in one of the worst crimes – it's apartheid," Callamard said.

"They could be made complicit in even worse crimes if we do not find a solution now, if we cannot create a space where politics take over and run the show."

Callamard added: "I think governments realise that there cannot be normalisation of trade relationships – there is a range of effects of this deterioration."

Asked what could happen that would be worse than apartheid, she said: "There comes a point when apartheid is no longer sufficient or working – and what's next?"

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Callamard's remarks come at a time when many Palestinians feel conditions have already hit critical lows.

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights director Raji Sourani, another of Tuesday's panellists, said in a speech that the current situation in the occupied territories is worse than ever.

"If you asked me 30 years ago, [in] the old nice days of the occupation, [if] ever you dreamed you would come to this, in a nightmare, I [would've] thought, 'no,'" he told the audience.

Sourani criticised the Oslo Accords, two separate deals reached in the 1990s in an apparent step towards establishing an independent Palestinian state.

He said there was nothing in the agreements about issues like ending the occupation, international law or self-determination.

A panel featuring Palestinian Centre for Human rights chief Raji Sourani (left), Amnesty International Secretary General Agnès Callamard (left centre) and head of B'Tselem Hagai El-Ad (right centre).
Raji Sourani (left), Agnès Callamard (left centre) and B'Tselem director Hagai El-Ad (right centre) appeared on a panel discussing Israeli apartheid on Tuesday [Nick McAlpin]

"That's why we knew where it's going to lead. It led de facto and de jure to this new brand of apartheid we are having right now," he added.

Despite the challenges Palestinians face, Sourani, whose organisation is based in besieged Gaza, was defiant.

"No power on earth will take the hope from our hearts or our minds," he said. "We know we are defending [a] just, fair, right cause. We do know we are on the right side of history."

But most Israeli Jews appear not to accept this, with a recent survey finding that 60 percent support segregation from Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Tuesday's final panellist, Hagai El-Ad, director of premier Israeli rights group B'Tselem, called for there to be real consequences for Israel.

"The Jewish public in Israel will change its positions if there's an end of impunity and if there's a price for Israeli policies," he told The New Arab after the event.

"Not lip service, not expressions of concern, and not asking Israel politely to refrain from this or that – but if there are consequences, accountability, a price."

Amnesty concluded that Israel practises apartheid against Palestinians in a historic report released in February which aligns with the longstanding position of Palestinian rights defenders.

B'Tselem made a similar finding of apartheid in January 2021.