“Israel, having ceased to care about the children of the Palestinians, should not be surprised when they come washed in hatred and blow themselves up in the centers of Israeli escapism,” says Avraham Burg, former speaker of the Israeli Knesset in an article in Yedioth Ahronoth. Indeed, moral considerations have never played a role in Israel’s politics or diplomacy. After all, Israel was the closest ally of the most racist regime in the post-WWII era, South Africa’s Apartheid. And Israel remains unrepentant about its cynical exploitation of the sufferings of Jews in order to stifle criticisms of its war crimes, one of which is its own alleged crime of Apartheid.
Israel’s apologists want you to believe that the sinuous separation wall Israel is building around the West Bank for security purposes is not, in fact, a “wall.” It’s a fence, they say: it’s not illegal, and in the words of Sharon’s top adviser Dov Weissglass, it causes only minor inconveniences to the Palestinians affected. In fact, the International Court of Justice has looked into the semantics and ruled that the barrier is indeed a “wall.” Furthermore, it is “contrary to international law” because it annexes about 10 per cent of Palestinian land and consolidates the settlements in the West Bank, which are themselves illegal under the Fourth Geneva conventions. Some “minor inconveniences” worth mentioning include the demolition of some 4,000 homes, the loss of prime agricultural land, and, for thousands of Palestinians, the severing of ties from their homes, schools, families, towns, farms, and water.
The final stages of the wall are planned to completely surround the Palestinians and divide them into ghettoes similar to the Bantustans of Apartheid South Africa, making residents permanent prisoners and refugees in their own land.
“The day will come when believers in [the illusion that the wall can bring about stability] will realize that ‘separation’ is a means to oppress and dominate, and then they will mobilize to dismantle the apartheid apparatus,” says deputy mayor of Jerusalem, Meron Benvinisti. It wasn’t hard to compile a list of politicians and public figures who subscribe to the notion that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians constitutes Apartheid: Nobel prize winners Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu; the unanimously elected president of the UN General Assembly Miguel d’Escoto; Navi Pillay and Richard Falk, two senior UN HRW officials; top officials in the NSA; and even Hendrik Verwoerd, the architect of South African Apartheid.
Some critics are quick to point out that the Apartheid allegations are slanderous and anti-Semitic. But where does that leave prominent Jews such as former Israeli MKs Shualmat Alloni and Uri Avery, intellectual Noam Chomsky, or Ha’aretz Arab affairs editor Danny Rubinstein, all of whom have said that Israel is an Apartheid State?
The International Criminal Court defines apartheid as “a crime 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.” With this in mind, I will examine why Israel may be an Apartheid state.
Attitude: In 1932, Ben Gurion, the founder of Israel, declared that the Israeli labourer should earn a higher salary because “[he was] more intelligent and diligent” than his Arab counterpart. In addition, the Jewish National Fund charter states that “land […] acquired as Jewish property […] shall be held as the inalienable property of the Jewish people.” To this day, Palestinians are treated as inferior citizens. Israelis continue to decry the horrors of anti-Semitism, but their attitude toward others is anything but egalitarian. A recent poll has shown that 75 per cent of Israelis do not approve of apartment buildings shared between Arabs and Jews, 60 per cent would not allow an Arab to visit their home, and about 40 per cent agree that “Arabs should have their right to vote for Knesset revoked.”
“Israeli discrimination against non-Jews is carefully codified in state of Israel’s laws,” explains Dr. Israel Shaha of Tel Aviv University. Whether it’s against blacks or Arabs, a substantial portion of Israel’s population has always treated non-Jews as inferior.
The IDF and Infrastructure: According to Israeli human rights groups BT’Selem and ICAHD, Israel has requisitioned Palestinian lands for the purpose of constructing “Jewish only” roads, reminiscent of the “whites only” utilities emblematic of the Apartheid in South Africa. These roads slice through Palestinian lands, cutting them into “ghettos,” rendering the prospect of Palestinian statehood impossible. From checkpoints to house expropriations to home demolitions, the IDF has instated a wide array of policies to humiliate the Palestinians. They routinely incinerate farmland and encage Palestinian homes near Israeli settlements. They’ve been trained to dehumanize Palestinians: that way they don’t feel as culpable when they uproot their trees, invade their homes, and kill scores of them.
Inequity: Though Arabs are represented in the Knesset, they are consistently castigated in a McCarthy-like fashion by other MKs such as Avigdor Lieberman, a prominent Israeli politician, who called for the execution of Arab legislators. Furthermore, Israel recently barred Arab parties from the parliamentary elections after they voiced discontent with the recent Gaza foray. A recent Ha’aretz editorial railed against Israel for “[callous] discrimination against its Arab citizens” as typified by the passing of the JNF bill, the goal of which, according to article 3A, is to “purchase and lease lands on which to settle Jews.” The bill includes several other clauses that restrict land usage to service Jews only, barring Arabs from buying homes in their communities. Richard Silverstein of Independent Jewish Voices describes it as “an abasement of the Zionist enterprise to lows never imagined in the Declaration of Independence.”
Such are the policies of the Middle East’s only true democracy.