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Human Rights Watch Responds: Reflections on Apartheid and Persecution in International Law

We appreciate the rich discussion triggered by this week’s EJIL Talk! symposium, which has addressed a number of legal issues arising from our report “A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution.” The report has received significant media attention and sparked many useful conversations since its release in late April. But this forum offers the first opportunity for us to contribute to a substantive discussion focusing primarily on the implications of our report for the broader international legal discourse. The contributions over the past week drew attention to several key themes, which we address here.  We look forward to a robust exchange on these and other issues in the days and months to come, including: (1) the conventional and customary definitions of the crime against humanity of apartheid, including the definition of ‘racial group’; and the influence of international human rights law, especially the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), on such definitions; (2) the distinction between…

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The Apartheid Accusation Against Israel is Baseless – and Agenda-Driven

Human Rights Watch’s new report accusing Israel of the crime of apartheid is, despite its length, a propaganda document: full of falsehoods and distortions. The world it describes is an alternate reality. Addressing a document so agenda-driven and skewed presents the challenge of dealing with Big Lies: merely engaging with them gives at least some credibility to its…

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Uncomfortable truths: how HRW errs in its definition of “Israeli apartheid”, what is missing, and what are the implications?

The discourse on apartheid in the Israeli-Palestinian context has evolved. Coinciding with the formal opening of an investigation by the ICC (as well as the admissibility decision in the inter-State proceedings initiated by Palestine before the CERD – see here), between January and June 2021 several organisations and authors – most notably Human Rights Watch (in A…

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Apartheid, the Green Line, and the Need to Overcome Palestinian Fragmentation

Human Rights Watch’s recent report, A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution, adds to a growing body of literature that considers the relevance of apartheid to the plight of the Palestinian people. Building on early, foundational work by Palestinian and Jewish anti-Zionist scholars, the apartheid analysis allows for consideration…

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Jewish Israeli and Palestinians as distinct ‘racial groups’ within the meaning of the crime of apartheid?

  The Human Rights Watch (HRW) report ‘A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution’ is the newest addition to research reports (here, here and here) that conclude that the Israeli authorities have committed the crime against humanity of apartheid. The report has been termed a “wake-up…

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