On November 29, 2022, the Palestinian NGO Al-Haq published yet another antisemitic screed dedicated to denying the Jewish people sovereign equality, by defining Zionism and the State of Israel as inherently illegitimate. For 200 pages, the Palestinian NGO – designated as a terrorist entity by Israel in October 2021 over its ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist organization – extorts the international community to dismantle the Jewish State. To achieve this goal, Al-Haq absurdly distorts Israeli policy and practice beyond recognition, and misrepresents international legal standards.
Central to Al-Haq’s publication is the repetition of the claim that Israel’s existence as a Jewish State represents “apartheid.” This assertion was debunked in NGO Monitor’s 2021 and 2022 analyses: “False Knowledge as Power: Deconstructing Definitions of Apartheid that Delegitimise the Jewish State” and “Neo-Orientalism: Deconstructing claims of apartheid in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”
Al-Haq’s publication is intended to influence the UN Human Rights Council’s permanent Commission of Inquiry’s (the “Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel,”) plan to formally declare Israel to be committing “apartheid”; to pressure the International Criminal Court to indict Israeli officials for crimes against humanity; and for third states to apply a wide variety of sanctions against Israel, associated institutions, companies, and individuals.
While broader in scope, this publication echoes the same ideological position expressed by Al-Haq in a formal submission to the COI in May 2022. (For more information, see “Al-Haq’s Antisemitic Submission to the UN’s Permanent COI”)
EU and member states support for Al-Haq
If not for the millions of Euros in support from the EU and its member states Al-Haq has received over several years, the Palestinian NGO would not enjoy nearly the same level of influence and access as it currently does. Despite the organization’s reported ties to the PFLP, and its campaigning to dismantle Israel, Europe has yet to denounce and reject its longtime partner.
While the EU froze financial support to Al-Haq in May 2021 as a result of its links to the PFLP, in June 2022, the organization claimed that this freeze had been lifted – and as yet uncorroborated assertion.
Notably, in May 2022, Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra, met with Al-Haq officials in the West Bank – despite the Israeli designation.
Moreover, Al-Haq is listed as an implementing partner on multi-grantee projects funded by the French (€900,000 for the entire project) and Swedish (Al-Haq receives over $2.5 million of the over $8 million project) governments.
Criminalization of Zionism
As it has done for years, Al-Haq exploits the language of human rights to deny the Jewish people the right to self-determination by stigmatizing Zionism and Israel as inherently racist endeavors. In this campaign , the Palestinian NGO provides displays clear violations of the IHRA Working Definition on Antisemitism.
In this vein, it bemoans the Balfour Declaration – what it calls the “infamous 1917 declaration supporting the ‘establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.’”
Al-Haq continues its years-long effort to equate Zionism with racism, referring to “the Zionist movement’s racialist character,” and asserting that “Israel’s institutionalised discrimination against the indigenous Palestinian people” is “ inherent in the ideology operationalised in the founding institutions of the Zionist settler colonial project in Palestine.”
Likewise, the report states that “Zionist institutions have operated for over a century to serve exclusively persons of Jewish ‘race’ or descent, in pursuit of establishing a Zionist state that embodies and promotes a corresponding ‘Jewish nationality.’ This constructed civil status forms a pillar of the Israeli state ideology of racialised Jewish supremacy over all others and the requisite for their exclusionary enjoyment of human rights in Palestine” (emphases added).
In an ironic twist, the terror-linked organization attacks Israeli NGO B’Tselem, which likewise labeled Israel an “apartheid” state in a January 2021 report, for insufficiently castigating Zionism. In Al-Haq’s words, “According to this [B’Tselem’s] approach, apartheid can be ended if the Israeli occupation comes to an end. Thus, the colonisation of Palestinian land by the Zionist movement from the late 19th century onward is legitimised, as is the dispossession of Palestinians and the denial of the right of return of Palestinian refugees since the start of the Nakba.”
After informing readers that “The roots of Israeli apartheid lie in the preceding decades of Zionist settler colonialisation,” Al-Haq offhandedly continues, “The late 19th century Zionist movement embraced the view of Jews as a distinct ‘race,’ enshrining it in the charters of Zionist institutions to create a national home for the Jews.”
In sharp contrast with this distortion, early Zionist thinkers framed their beliefs around the idea of Jewish nationhood, both in line with modern understandings of nationalism, as well as according to religious notions of the concept. It is unclear what “racial” claims Al-Haq is referencing, and the authors provide no citation in support of this claim.
Relatedly, Al-Haq buttresses its assault on Jewish self-determination by asserting that Zionism identifies Jews “with a distinct race and ‘legal’ notion of Jewish nationality, a constructed civil status ‘racially’ superior to mere ‘citizens’ in Israel.” (emphases added)
Bluntly, Al-Haq posits, “the core of Zionist ideology  claims that all Jewish persons belong to a separate ‘Jewish nation.’”
Criminalization of Israel’s founding and its policies
The logical conclusion of Al-Haq’s criminalization of Zionism is its position that Israel’s founding was fundamentally illegitimate, quoting Fayez Sayegh who “saw racism as integral to the project of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine.”
Hence, the authors’ application of “the apartheid framework [that] aims at overcoming Israel’s foundationally-racist and settler colonial regime, including the machinery perpetrating the ongoing Nakba, prolonged Israeli occupation, and the blockade of the Gaza Strip.”
Likewise, they often refer to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza as “historic Palestine,” where Palestinian rights must be actualized.
Likewise, they maintain that “Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has entrenched a system of domination over the Palestinian people with the goal of engineering a Jewish demographic majority through Zionist settlement, colonisation, and the transfer of indigenous Palestinians from their lands.”
Al-Haq’s outright rejection of Jewish presence and development in Israel is exemplified by its characterization of a 1952 law which it claims “authorises the WZO [World Zionist Organization], JA [Jewish Agency], and affiliates to function in Israel as quasi-governmental entities. The Law states for its purposes that the WZO, operating also as the JA, continues to manage Jewish colonial settlement projects in the state. It authorises it to develop and settle Jews in the country and to coordinate with Jewish institutions and organisations active in those fields’”(emphasis added).
Invented racial framing versus citizenship
As alluded to above, Al-Haq invests substantial time in inserting “racial” framing into Israeli decision making and policy.
In one of multiple examples of this contextualization, the document states, “While Palestinian and Jewish identities are not in and of themselves racial, Israeli laws as well as Zionist ideology and policy categorise Jewish Israelis and Palestinians as distinct ‘racial groups,’ according to which rights and privileges, as well as exploitation and oppression, are determined at birth. In this context, the racialisation of Jewish Israelis and Palestinians operates as a tool to entrench the domination and oppression of Palestinians under Zionist settler colonialism.”
Al-Haq distorts reality while attempting to appeal to modern rejections of racism. Its claim that “rights and privileges, as well as exploitation and oppression, are determined at birth,” disregards the organizing principle of citizenship and how differences in rights attainment vis-a-vis Israeli institutions are reflective of differences in legal status, not in national or racial distinctions.
In fact, Israel’s non-Jewish citizens enjoy equal rights, including the right to vote, run for public office, and access to all state provided services.
Contradicting its position, Al-Haq later declares that “citizenship is not and has never been a basis for equal rights in the Israeli legal system,” a patently false claim.
Moreover, Al-Haq’s racial framing suggests a permanence that contrasts with the actual reality on the ground. For instance, East Jerusalem residents – who are all defined as Israeli residents – have the opportunity to apply for full Israeli citizenship. In 2019, for instance, 1,200 such requests were approved, representing 47% of applications. In 2020, 934 approvals were granted, representing 57% of applications.
Moreover, the ability of these Jerusalem residents to acquire Israeli citizenship repudiates Al-Haq’s racial theories, and their desire to do so disproves Al-Haq’s assumption that such a legal status is meaningless and provides no benefits to non-Jews.
Attacking specific Israeli laws and practices
After disenfranchising Jews in principle, Al-Haq attacks specific laws and mechanisms that guarantee and maintain Israel’s Jewish character, saying that “Since 1948, Israel has entrenched its apartheid regime through laws, policies, practices in two main domains: land and nationality…Once domination was established through military conquest, occupation, and the extension of Zionist colonisation, the Israeli regime adopted a series of instrumental laws and related policies and practices pertaining to nationality, residency, and immigration to rationalise the displacement, dispossession, and transfer of the indigenous Palestinian people from their ancestral lands.”
Law of Return
Like all those that deny Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, Al-Haq directs its attention towards Israel’s Law of Return, proclaiming it “the cornerstone of Israel’s apartheid regime.”
As NGO Monitor has previously written, the Law of Return provides Jews dispersed around the world access to Israeli citizenship. Nothing in the law discriminates against non-Jewish Israeli citizens and is not unique – other countries, such as Ireland, Spain and Germany, have legislation to simplify emigration for diaspora populations.
The Law of Return was enacted in the shadow of the Holocaust, to provide a safe haven for Jews who for centuries suffered persecution around the world. The sharp rise in physical violence and other forms of antisemitism around the world in recent years only highlights the need for Israel as a safe refuge from persecution.
Additionally, the Law of Return is consistent with the standards of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), which mandates “special measures” for the “advancement of certain racial or ethnic groups” to protect the “fundamental freedoms.” As noted by the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), but erased in the Al-Haq report, this provision seeks to remedy “inequalities resulting from the circumstances of history” … and to “prevent further imbalances from arising.”
(For an in-depth analysis of the Law of Return’s compatibility with international law and practice, see “Neo-Orientalism: Deconstructing claims of apartheid in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict”.)
Relatedly, Al-Haq attacks Israel’s Citizenship Law for recognizing “return as one pathway to Israeli citizenship.”
Al-Haq considers as apartheid Israel’s decision to allow foreign Jews to become citizens, despite the same practice employed worldwide by many nations, all legal according to international law and never considered discrimination, let alone apartheid. The same sentence Al-Haq wrote for Israel could be applied to other nations, for example, “naturalization, applies only to those of non Danish descent.”
(For more detail on Danish and other naturalization standards, see “A Threshold Crossed: Documenting HRW’S ‘Apartheid’ Fabrications,” and “Amnesty International’s Cruel Assault on Israel: Systematic Lies, Errors, Omissions & Double Standards in Amnesty’s Apartheid Report”.)
The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law
According to Al-Haq, “In accordance with Zionist doctrine… The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law… prohibits the granting of residency or citizenship status to Palestinian spouses from the occupied Palestinian territory who are married to Palestinians with Israeli citizenship.”
The law was introduced in 2003 during the height of terror attacks against Israel in order to prevent entry into Israel by Palestinians. The specific case that resulted in passage of the law was when Hamas member Shadi Tubasi obtained an Israeli identity card through marriage and then committed a terror attack that killed 16 Israelis. The law was and remains controversial, but has been upheld by the Israeli Supreme Court. However, the law applies equally to all Israeli citizens, whether it is a Jewish or Arab citizen of Israel who marries a Palestinian.
According to the Israeli Ministry of Justice, prior to the 2003 amendments, 23 terrorist attacks were carried out by Palestinians who had abused the prior law to gain access to Israel. In a May 2017 Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee hearing, an Israeli security official revealed that, from 2001 to April 2017, 49 Palestinians who had received legal status in Israel as a result of “family unification,” engaged in terrorist activity…..In addition, most countries do not grant automatic citizenship or even residency rights to non-nationals as a result of marriage to a citizen. There is in fact, no principle in international law for married persons to be able to live in whichever country they choose.
As indicated above Denmark represents an important example for comparison. Denmark has strict rules for permanent residency, favoring certain groups over others. As their rules state, residency rules are “relaxed” for those with “strong ties to Denmark” which includes having affiliation with a Danish minority in Argentina and belonging to a Danish minority in the German region of South Schleswig. Denmark is known for particularly tough citizenship rules. Of course, these rules disadvantage certain other nationalities, ethnicities and personal situations.
The Jewish Nation-State Basic Law (2018)
According to Al-Haq, “In 2018, the Knesset adopted the Basic Law: Israel—The Nation-State of the Jewish People (hereinafter ‘Jewish Nation-State Basic Law’). The law exemplifies the apartheid nature of Israel’s legal system. It reaffirms the Zionist character of the Israeli state and further elevates the privileged status of Jewish persons therein, whether or not they hold Israeli citizenship…Thus, throughout historic Palestine and in the occupied Syrian Golan, the Jewish Nation-State Basic Law provides for the entrenchment and expansion of Jewish colonial settlement at the expense of the indigenous peoples.”
On 19 July 2018, the Knesset passed the Nation State Law in a 62-55 vote as one of Israel’s Basic Laws. It is relatively short, and enshrines Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. It proscribes Jerusalem, “complete and undivided” as Israel’s capital, Hebrew as the official state language, the Hebrew calendar as the official calendar (alongside the Gregorian calendar), and preserving Jewish immigration and the “development of Jewish settlement as a national value.” While the law emphasized the Jewish character of the State, it noted the special status of Arabic and states that “nothing in this article shall affect the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into force”. It preserves the right of “non-Jews to observe the days of rest on their days of Sabbath and holidays.” Finally, it states that “details regarding the State symbols shall be determined by law” and that it can be modified “by a Basic Law, passed by a majority of the members of the Knesset.”
In December 2020, Israel’s Supreme Court, “ruled that the Law should be interpreted consistent with the other Basic Laws and with the principles and values of the [Israeli] legal system.” The Court emphasized that the Basic Law “is a chapter of Israel’s emerging constitution designed to enshrine the state’s identity as a Jewish state, without detracting from the state’s democratic identity anchored in other Basic Laws and constitutional principles in the system.” The ruling noted that the “principle of equality is a fundamental principle” in Israeli law and “equal rights are granted to all citizens of the state, including minority groups, which form an integral part of the state’s fabric.” Although the majority considered that it would have been “better” if the principle of equality had been explicitly included in the Basic Law, the Justices clarified that the fact that the principle is not included in the law “does not detract from the principle [of equality]’s status and importance as a foundational principle in our legal system.” The summary states that “the value of Jewish settlement enshrined in Section 7 [of the Nation-State Law] can be realized alongside the value of equality” and “is not intended to legalize the discrimination and exclusion of non-Jews from state lands, as even clarified by the State respondents in their arguments.”
As referenced above, Al-Haq ignores Israel’s approval of citizenship requests by East Jerusalem residents.
Additionally, the group insists that “it [is] impossible for Palestinians [in Jerusalem] to obtain building permits and forces many to build without permits, putting their structures at risk of demolition.”
It is not “ impossible” for Arabs to obtain permits in East Jerusalem. In 2018, for example, Arabs were granted 841 permits for construction in East Jerusalem, exceeding the 740 granted to Jews – hardly evidence of apartheid. Figures published by the group Peace Now, based on data from the Jerusalem Municipality, shows that from 1991 to 2019, in East Jerusalem, Arabs received 9,536 construction permits while Jews received 21,834. These figures are similar to the demographic breakdown of Jerusalem’s population.
Al-Haq demands that governments, UN agencies, and assorted international bodies adopt far-reaching sanctions and similar measures against Israel, some of which akin to calling for the dismantling of Israel as a Jewish state.
The following represents a sampling of the over 60 demands made by Al-Haq of the international community (all direct quotes from Al-Haq):
- Demand that Israel repeal all domestic legislation and military orders enshrining racial discrimination, domination, and oppression over the Palestinian people as a whole, including the Law of Return (1950), the Absentee Property Law (1950), the Citizenship Law (1952), the Status Law (1952), the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (1952), the Legal and Administrative Recommendations Matters Law (1970), the Jewish Nation-State Basic Law (2018), the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) (2022), and all other laws and measures imposing material discrimination against the Palestinian people
- Refrain from recognising any legitimacy of the unlawful situation created by Israel’s settler colonial apartheid regime and ensure they do not contribute, directly or indirectly, toward the maintenance of Israeli apartheid.
- Pressure Israel to cease all measures and policies and practices that contribute to the fragmentation of the Palestinian people, including the denial of the rights of return and self-determination, the denial of family unification, the closure and blockade of the Gaza Strip, the construction and maintenance of the Annexation Wall and its associated regime, and other movement and access restrictions, as core elements of Israel’s apartheid regime
- Taking effective measures toward the dismantlement of Zionist parastatal institutions, including the WZO/JA, [World Zionist Organization/Jewish Agency] and JNF [Jewish National Fund], and by implementing economic sanctions nationally and multilaterally and by severing diplomatic, cultural, and trade ties with Israel as required by international law and suspend existing trade and cooperation agreements with Israel.
- Call on the Israeli regime to release all Palestinian political prisoners
- Impose travel bans and asset freezes on Israeli political, military, and government officials as well as settlers associated with Israel’s apartheid regime, its illegal settler colonial enterprise, and related international crimes.
- Implement a mandatory and comprehensive arms embargo nationally or multilaterally against Israel
- Demand that Israel ensures the immediate and full realisation of the inalienable rights of Palestinian refugees, displaced persons, and involuntary exiles, including to return to their homes, lands, and properties in their villages, towns, and cities of origin, as well as to restitution of their property and compensation for the damages inflicted upon them as a result of the ongoing Nakba, as integral to realising the Palestinian people’s right to selfdetermination.
- Warn against the direct and indirect legal risks and consequences of carrying out and maintaining business activities and relationships with Israel’s settler colonial apartheid regime, including through public advisories and notices disseminated among businesses, financial institutions, and other private actors.
- Support the Prosecutor of the ICC in conducting a prompt, thorough, and comprehensive investigation into the Situation in Palestine and urge the investigation and prosecution of perpetrators of the crimes of apartheid and population transfer.