Saturday, 16 April 2011

Israeli Apartheid.

The use of Apartheid to describe Israel is seen as very controversial but it really shouldn’t be. Two peoples live under Israeli sovereignty, Palestinians and Jews. The Palestinians are the majority but have no real self determination over any significant part of their lives. Depending on whether they live in Israel, East Jerusalem, the West Bank or Gaza they are subjected to differing levels of discrimination and oppression that denies their basic human rights and keeps them as second class subjects.

This fits exactly the both the ICSPCA (International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid) and the ICC (International Criminal Court) definitions of Apartheid. The ICSPA definition states that the crime of Apartheid shall apply to the following inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.” The inhuman acts undeniably committed by Israel include (among others): murder, torture, arbitrary arrest and illegal imprisonment, denial to freedom of movement and residence, expropriation of landed property and Persecution of organizations and persons-by depriving them of fundamental rights and freedoms-because they oppose apartheid.[1]

Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the ICC states "The crime of apartheid" means inhumane acts of a character similar to those referred to in paragraph 1, committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime. The acts referred to in paragraph 1, committed by Israel, include (among others): murder, deportation or forcible transfer of population, imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law and torture[2].

The apartheid analogy is so accepted and applicable it is regularly used by figures within Israel, experts on international law and human rights, and figures on both sides of the fight to end South African Apartheid.

Israeli Society

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert writes: "If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories) the state of Israel is finished".

Another former Prime Minister Ehud Barack writes: "As long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic. If this bloc of millions of ­Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state."

Another former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has been quoted as calling 'the Bantustan solution' as the most appropriate for dealing with the Palestinians.

David Ben-Gurion reportedly said on Israeli radio after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War that Israel would become an apartheid state if it did not "rid itself of the territories and their Arab population as soon as possible[3]"

Israel's former Attorney General Michael Ben Yair has written that "Passionately desiring to keep the occupied territories, we developed two judicial systems: one - progressive, liberal - in Israel; and the other - cruel, injurious - in the occupied territories. In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture."

Yossi Paritsky, former infrastructure minister wrote an article called “our Apartheid state"

Israel's former education minister Shulamit Aloni has saidthe state of Israel practises its own, quite violent, form of Apartheid with the native Palestinian population”.

Israeli newspapers like Haaretz constantly discuss and refer to the 'apartheid regime' in the occupied territories sometimes without even qualification[4].

Human rights and International Law

B’tselem (Israeli Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories) "Israel has established in the Occupied Territories a separation cum discrimination regime, in which it maintains two systems of laws, and a person’s rights are based on his or her national origin. This regime is the only of its kind in the world, and brings to mind dark regimes of the past, such as the Apartheid regime in South Africa."

The Association of Civil Rights in Israel has described the situation in the occupied West Bank as being "reminiscent, in many and increasing ways, of the apartheid regime in South Africa."

Richard A. Falk reported to the General Assembly Third Committee "It is the opinion of the current Special Rapporteur that the nature of the occupation as of 2010 substantiates earlier allegations of colonialism and apartheid in evidence and law to a greater extent than was the case even three years ago. The entrenching of colonialist and apartheid features of the Israeli occupation has been a cumulative process. The longer it continues, the more difficult it is to overcome and the more serious is the abridgement of fundamental Palestinian rights."

United Nations General Assembly President Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann has said Israel's actions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were like "the apartheid of an earlier era," and that "We must not be afraid to call something what it is."

Jimmy Carter Has said on numerous occasions that “Israel’s apartheid policies are worse than South Africa’s”

Figures in the Apartheid Regime

Hendrik Verwoerd, former Prime Minister of Apartheid South Africa, said in 1961 that "The Jews took Israel from the Arabs after the Arabs had lived there for a thousand years. Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.[5]"

Former deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Meron Benvenisti recounts a meeting with an Apartheid official who compared Israeli-Palestinian relations to South African policy for the Transkei. When the Israelis expressed their shock he said "I understand your reaction. But aren't we actually doing the same thing? We are faced with the same existential problem; therefore we arrive at the same solution. The only difference is that yours is pragmatic and ours is ideological."[6]

F.W de Klerk former and last Prime Minister of Apartheid South Africa wrote “what apartheid originally wanted to achieve is what everybody now says is the solution for Israel and Palestine”

Anti-Apartheid Activists

Desmond Tutu condemns “Apartheid in the Holy Land” along with prominent activists Ronnie Kasrils, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Dennis Goldberg and Arun Ghandhi Arun Ghandi (Mahatma’s grandson) said “When I come here and see the situation [in the Palestinian territories], I find that what is happening here is ten times worse than what I had experienced in South Africa. This is Apartheid"

Kgalema Motlanthe, the Deputy President of South Africa says that conditions for the Palestinians are "worse than conditions were for Blacks under the Apartheid regime." The South African Government has on two separate occasions condemned Israeli Apartheid.

The Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) released a 300 page report indicating that Israel is “practicing both colonialism and apartheid in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” Its executive summary states that “Israeli practices in the OPT exhibit the same three 'pillars' of apartheid.”

· The first pillar "derives from Israeli laws and policies that establish Jewish identity for purposes of law and afford a preferential legal status and material benefits to Jews over non-Jews".

· The second pillar is reflected in "Israel's 'grand' policy to fragment the OPT [and] ensure that Palestinians remain confined to the reserves designated for them while Israeli Jews are prohibited from entering those reserves but enjoy freedom of movement throughout the rest of the Palestinian territory. This policy is evidenced by Israel's extensive appropriation of Palestinian land, which continues to shrink the territorial space available to Palestinians; the hermetic closure and isolation of the Gaza Strip from the rest of the OPT; the deliberate severing of East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank; and the appropriation and construction policies serving to carve up the West Bank into an intricate and well-serviced network of connected settlements for Jewish-Israelis and an archipelago of besieged and non-contiguous enclaves for Palestinians".

· The third pillar is "Israel's invocation of 'security' to validate sweeping restrictions on Palestinian freedom of opinion, expression, assembly, association and movement [to] mask a true underlying intent to suppress dissent to its system of domination and thereby maintain control over Palestinians as a group."

John Dugard (regarded as the father of human rights in South Africa) wrote an extensive report to the UN on human rights in the OPT, concluding that there is "an apartheid regime in the territories worse than the one that existed in South Africa.". After establishing multitudinous human rights abuses by the Israeli authorities he writes: “Can it seriously be denied that the purpose of such action is to establish and maintain domination by one racial group (Jews) over another racial group (Palestinians) and systematically oppressing them? Israel denies that this is its intention or purpose. But such an intention or purpose may be inferred from the actions described in this report.”

Criticisms of the Apartheid analogy usually take one of two forms. Either they just focus on the undeniable differences[7] between Israel and Apartheid South Africa without acknowledging the similarities or the legal definition of Apartheid. Or they try to remove the occupied territories from the equation and just talk about Palestinians within Israel. The problem with this is that Israel doesn’t (and has never) had any plans to give real self determination to the Palestinians. The policies pursued by Israel since 1967 establish and maintain domination by one racial group of persons over another racial group of persons and systematically oppress them. The failure of the international community to punish Israel for its repeated violations of international law, including the crime of apartheid, necessitates us to take action.

[2] See above.

[5] The linked articles are reports about the collusion between Apartheid South Africa and Israel. That are well worth reading for themselves.

[6] Benvenisti, Meron, Conflicts and Contradictions, New York: Villard Books, 1986. p. 112

[7] It is true that there are significant differences between Israel and South Africa, but apartheid regimes need not be exactly the same for them to be categorised as such, only that there exists a systematic regime of one racial group dominating another. There is a key difference between Israeli apartheid and South African apartheid, the motive behind them. In South Africa the whites were dependent on the black population for their labour but did not want to give equal rights. However Israel does not want to exploit the Palestinians as such; it wants them out so as to maintain the "Jewishness" of the state, the same reason why it expelled the majority of the non-Jewish population of Palestine in 1948. As the editor-in-chief of the South African Sunday Times Mondli Makhanya wrote in July 2008 "It seems to me that the Israelis would like the Palestinians to disappear. There was never anything like that in our case. The whites did not want the blacks to disappear." But placing people under harsh military rule with no civil or social rights because they're Arabs whilst another people living on the same land live under Israeli civil law and receive generous state subsidies because they're Jews is still apartheid regardless of the reasons.

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