Critique as movement building: The apartheid reports on Palestine
One must begin with what most Palestinians consider to be incontrovertible truths. Zionism is a settler-colonial movement intent on, at best, our erasure, and at worst, elimination. It is a racist ideology rooted in the belief of Jewish supremacy in Palestine. All of Palestine is Palestinian; it is a single, indivisible territorial unit, despite the Israeli settler-colony that has been normalized on the land. The Global North, led by the United States and European member states, is biased toward Israel and quick to demonize Palestinians reiterating these facts. It follows that Western media has for the most part ridiculed, underrepresented, and/or ignored Palestinian voices in favor of Israeli or Western analysts who are given greater credence than the Palestinian lived experience to shape narratives and describe realities on the ground. And, lastly, international law, and the international legal system, is shaped by the powerful, applied hypocritically, and has largely failed us. Yet, for the most part, Palestinians continue to hold on to it as a tool for our future liberation.
These are givens. It is within this context that, in 2021, Israeli and international organizations began to publish reports charging Israel with the crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people. After decades of tireless work by Palestinians to put forward the charge that Israel is practicing apartheid, the mainstream is finally catching up. In January 2021, B’Tselem, Israel’s leading human rights organization, released a report unambiguously titled A Regime of Jewish Supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This Is Apartheid. Three months later, Human Rights Watch, the world’s leading international human rights organization, echoed this finding when it issued an exhaustive report, including extensive legal analysis, which concluded damningly that Israeli authorities are committing crimes against humanity, in the form of apartheid and persecution of the Palestinian people. A year later, in January 2022, Amnesty International, an organization with more than ten million members worldwide, issued a report titled Israel’s Apartheid against Palestinians: A Cruel System of Domination and a Crime against Humanity.
Given the latent racism shaping our world order — currently on full display with the reporting on the Russian invasion of Ukraine compared to the coverage of past and ongoing Western military interventions in the Global South— these reports received more attention than two decades of Palestinian advocacy around this issue. This is, rightly, a disappointment and a painful reminder of the hierarchy of narratives globally — which narratives are deemed worthy of attention and which are dismissed — and it is a hypocrisy that many Palestinians latched onto. Yet it is not a surprise; if Palestinians were not dehumanized on the world stage, we would not still be fighting for survival. This erasure is, after all, precisely the reality we are working to change.