Amnesty criticises 'dubious framing' as Keir Starmer asked if Israel 'apartheid state'
Amnesty International criticised what it called "very dubious framing" on Thursday after The Jewish Chronicle newspaper said the NGO had described Israel as an "apartheid state".
Starmer, 59, was asked whether he "agrees" with those in his party who back this view. He responded in the negative, adding that this "is not the Labour Party position".
The JC journalist said that Amnesty had called Israel an apartheid state in a damning report on Israel's treatment of Palestinians that it published in February.
He added that it was "particularly on the left" of Labour where Amnesty's alleged view had been "embraced".
However, Amnesty International UK campaign manager Kristyan Benedict took issue with the Jewish Chronicle saying that his organisation had "branded the country an 'apartheid state'".
"Sir Keir Starmer is responding to very dubious framing by the Jewish Chronicle," Benedict told The New Arab.
"At no point in our report do we say, 'Israel is an apartheid state,'" he said.
Amnesty's report does not contain the phrase "apartheid state" but refers to a "system of apartheid" that Israel maintains against Palestinians.
"Our research and legal analysis sets out in detail how Israel's horrendous treatment of Palestinians meets the definition of apartheid," Benedict said.
He said there was a meaningful difference between this finding and the claim that Israel is an apartheid state.
"It's an issue of us rooting our research and analysis in international law and others using slogans not rooted in international law," he said.
"Apartheid is a crime against humanity, but 'apartheid state' is a slogan and not something we have used, despite what the Jewish Chronicle says.
"It is important to emphasise this distinction to ensure we are challenging the Israeli authorities' many crimes within the broader campaign for justice and accountability."
Asked why Amnesty and other rights groups have been repeatedly accused of calling Israel an apartheid state, Benedict said supporters of Israel's system of discrimination have spread disinformation.
He added that this often pulls the discussion off track.
"It is clear that the Israeli authorities and supporters of their racist system of apartheid are far from comfortable when the debate is centred around international law, justice, and accountability," the Amnesty official said.
The New Arab has contacted the Labour Party and the JC for comment.
Amnesty's apartheid report is considered historic for concluding that Palestinians are faced with apartheid not only in the West Bank and Gaza, but also within Israel's 1948 borders and as refugees outside the country.
The organisation's findings, which were similar to those of Human Rights Watch and Israeli group B'Tselem, are in keeping with Palestinian rights defenders' longstanding position.