NYT finally acknowledges Amnesty’s apartheid report

People march and carry signs

Americans are increasingly aware of Israeli apartheid, but The New York Times took weeks to mention Amnesty International’s report on the subject and Congress dreads discussion.

Stephen Zenner ZUMA Press

Patrick Kingsley at The New York Times has finally seen fit to mention Amnesty International’s report on Israeli apartheid.

He did so in the final three paragraphs of a 23 March article about United Nations special rapporteur Michael Lynk’s report on the same subject.

Amnesty issued its groundbreaking conclusion that Israel commits the crime against humanity of apartheid – one of the most serious crimes listed in the International Criminal Court’s founding Rome Statute – on 1 February. But it took until last week for the newspaper of record to even mention it.

Kingsley writes that Lynk did not “directly compare the situation” faced by Palestinians in the occupied territories “to that of apartheid-era South Africa, where a white minority ruled over a Black majority. However, he said that it met the legal definition of apartheid set out by international law.”

The article also notes “the two-tier legal system enforced by Israel in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.” Similar language was used by Human Rights Watch in a 2010 report and again last year in the organization’s own report concluding that Israel perpetrates the crime of apartheid.

Regarding Lynk’s report, Kingsley writes: “Several Israeli and foreign groups have produced similar reports recently, including the international rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as B’Tselem, a leading Israeli human rights group.”

He adds, “Many Palestinians have welcomed the discourse and the international focus on rights in the occupied territories. Others argue that the rights watchdogs – by largely limiting their analysis to the West Bank, or by refusing to place the discussion of apartheid within a wider discourse about colonialism – do not scrutinize Israel enough.”

Kingsley claims that Amnesty is an exception to this practice of limiting discussion of apartheid to the occupied territories. “The Amnesty report in February was an outlier,” he writes, “accusing Israel of practicing apartheid within its borders.”

This suggests that Kingsley – the newspaper’s Jerusalem bureau chief – hasn’t even bothered to read landmark reports that directly concern his beat.

In fact, Israeli human rights group B’Tselem also found apartheid to be the reality from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

Human Rights Watch found that Israel perpetrates the crime of apartheid in the Palestinian territories it occupied in 1967. It concluded however that in Israel – and occupied Palestinian territory – “the Israeli government has demonstrated an intent to maintain the domination of Jewish Israelis over Palestinians.”

That’s just another way of saying apartheid.

After ignoring it for almost two months, The New York Times has done its readers a further disservice by not going into detail about Amnesty’s report on how Israel commits the crime of apartheid in the land it has seized from Palestinians during and since its founding in 1948.

From the way the newspaper has also misrepresented the position of B’Tselem and downplayed that of HRW, it would appear that the goal is doing damage control for Israel rather than accurately informing readers.

Congress unwilling

Even the congressional leaders who claim to most challenge Israel’s policies are generally unwilling to call Israeli apartheid by its name.

That was the case earlier this month when 50 members of Congress signed a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging him to “engage with the Israeli government to prevent the displacement of 38 families (approximately 300 people) and the demolition of their homes in the Palestinian village of al-Walaja in East Jerusalem.”

This would be an additional major trauma for the people of al-Walaja, following their ethnic cleansing in 1948 by Zionist militias that forced those that remained to rebuild nearby.

Stopping this demolition would obviously be a good thing – and Congressman Andy Levin tweeted Wednesday that a decision has been delayed since the letter was sent – but look closely at how the members of Congress phrase their concern.

They write: “The destruction and displacement of this community would run counter to the values shared by the US and Israel, while further undermining long-term Israeli security, Palestinian dignity, and prospects for peace.”

The reference to shared values overlooks the fact that the US, while still plagued by systemic racism, has rid itself of the legal manifestations of apartheid that existed in Jim Crow segregation.

Israel, on the other hand, perpetrates the crime of apartheid, as meticulously documented by one human rights group after another.

The opening sentence supporting two states – almost certainly little more than bantustans for Palestinians – may be why Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib’s name is not on the letter. That sentence expresses support for “a strong US-Israel relationship and a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Tlaib supports equal rights for Palestinians in one state.

Congresswomen Cori Bush and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who also did not sign, have expressed their own opposition to Israeli apartheid – as has Tlaib.

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois was at the forefront of organizing the letter. She is regarded by activists in the state as progressive except for Palestine.

With the letter, she is trying to burnish progressive credentials while attempting to protect Israel’s overall image and uphold a strong US relationship with the apartheid practitioner.

Muhammad Sankari, leader of the Chicago chapter of the US Palestinian Community Network, accused Schakowsky of “taking one-off positions instead of committing to HR 2590,” the Palestinian Children and Families Act.

This is the bill introduced by Minnesota Congresswoman Betty McCollum to bar US military aid being used by Israel to violate the rights of Palestinian children and their families.

Sankari added, “The demolition of the homes in al-Walaja is just a small example of the terror that apartheid Israel unleashes on the Palestinian people daily, and the Two-State Solution Act she [Schakowsky] supports does nothing but continues to codify Israel’s apartheid practices.”

This bill sponsored by Congressman Levin would make permanent Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and relegate Palestinians to West Bank and Gaza bantustans.

Nonetheless, Levin, who signed the letter supporting Palestinian families in al-Walaja, faces a primary challenge from his right on issues related to Israel from Congresswoman Haley Stevens, as they contest a newly formed congressional district.

To see just how hesitant Schakowsky is on the issue, watch her move away from Sankari as quickly as possible as he advocates for the McCollum bill and for recognition of Israel’s apartheid status.

Getting Schakowsky to treat the symptoms is a start, but until she’s willing to address the reality that Israel’s planned destruction of al-Walaja is one of its apartheid crimes, activists in Chicago will surely continue to insist she’s not doing nearly enough.

Few in mainstream media or the mainstream Democratic discourse are.


Michael F. Brown

Michael F. Brown is an independent journalist. His work and views have appeared in The International Herald Tribune, TheNation.com, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The News & Observer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post and elsewhere.