J Street Dismayed by Vitriolic Attacks on New Human Rights Watch Report

April 28, 2021

We are deeply dismayed by the vitriolic response of some Jewish communal and pro-Israel organizations to the new report by Human Rights Watch titled “A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution.” While J Street does not use the term “apartheid” to describe the current situation in the occupied territories, we believe this new report raises critical concerns that should deeply trouble both supporters of Israel and those who care about Palestinian rights.

The fact that the occupation inherently threatens Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people and involves the systematic deprivation of Palestinian rights simply cannot be ignored. Under international law, a military occupation confers definitive rights and protections to the occupied people, and those rights are clearly not being respected under this decades-long occupation. Many Israeli human rights experts use the term to describe the current reality, and Israel’s most decorated soldier, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, himself said in 2017 that as long as the occupation continues and no two-state solution is reached, Israel is ‘on the slippery slope toward apartheid.”

Rather than debate the report’s facts and their implications, however, some American Jewish groups have instead responded solely by attempting to defame and delegitimize Human Rights Watch — an esteemed organization that defends the fundamental rights of all people regardless of background. Attacking the character of scholars, activists and political leaders who are sounding the alarm about the many violations of international law and human rights inherent to the occupation and de facto annexation of the Palestinian territories is more than just inappropriate — it is profoundly harmful to Israel’s survival as the democratic homeland of the Jewish people. There’s nothing “pro-Israel” about aiding and abetting deepening occupation by denying and distracting from its realities — realities that threaten Israel’s future.

We call on these organizations to cease attacking Human Rights Watch in our community’s name and to meaningfully engage with the facts presented in this report. We also, once again, extend our hand in an offer to work together with them in advocating for steps that the US government and others can take to help bring a peaceful end to the occupation.