Sunday, March 7

Is Israel an Apartheid State?

Israel is not an apartheid state. I say this as an ex-South African who had lived in South Africa during the height of the apartheid years when a person's skin colour determined a person's future. A black person was considered inferior and was denied equal opportunities.
There was also "petty apartheid" - racial segregation enforced primarily in public transportation, hotels, restaurants and other public places. There was never a phenomenon of "petty apartheid". Whatever is humiliating racially cannot be considered “petty”.

Blacks were viewed as inferior to the whites and heinous legislation was introduced to ensure that remained so until eternity. Racism and prejudice are evil no matter under whatever guise.

Although Israel is not an apartheid state there are certain acts of legislation that do have some similarity especially attitudes and laws enacted towards the Palestinian population in the occupied territories. It is enough to see that roads are being built in the occupied territories for the use of Jewish settlers only. Palestinians are forbidden to use these roads. The excuse is always the all embracing one word definition - SECURITY! This is not always relevant.
This is the conclusion of a B’tzelem Report from which I quote:

Israel has created in the Occupied Territories a regime of separation based on discrimination, applying two separate systems of law in the same area and basing the rights of individuals on their nationality. This regime is the only one of its kind in the world, and is reminiscent of distasteful regimes from the past, such as the Apartheid regime in South Africa.

Under this regime, Israel has stolen hundreds of thousands of dunam of land from the Palestinians. Israel has used this land to establish dozens of settlements in the West Bank and to populate them with hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens. Israel prohibits the Palestinians as a group from entering and using these lands, and uses the settlements to justify numerous violations of the Palestinians' human rights, such as the right to housing, to earn a livelihood, and the right to freedom of movement. The drastic change that Israel has made in the map of the West Bank prevents any real possibility for the establishment of an independent, viable Palestinian state as part of the Palestinians' right to self-determination.

The settlers, on the contrary, benefit from all the rights available to Israeli citizens living within the Green Line, and in some cases are even granted additional rights. The great effort that Israel has invested in the settlement enterprise - in financial, legal and bureaucratic terms – has turned the settlements into civilian enclaves in an area under military rule, with the settlers being given priority status. To perpetuate this situation, which is a priori illegal, Israel has continuously breached the rights of the Palestinians.

Particularly evident is Israel's manipulative use of legal tools in order to give the settlement enterprise an impression of legality. When Jordanian legislation served Israel's goals, Israel adhered to this legislation, arguing that international law obliges it to respect the legislation in effect prior to the occupation; in practice, this legislation was used in a cynical and biased manner. On the other hand, when this legislation interfered with Israel's plans, it was changed in a cavalier manner through military legislation and Israel established new rules to serve its interests. In so doing, Israel trampled on numerous restrictions and prohibitions established in the international conventions to which it is party, and which were intended to limit infringement of human rights and to protect populations under occupation.

The settlements are unlawful, and their presence leads to the violation of human rights. Accordingly, B'Tselem demands that the Israeli government act to vacate all the settlements. This process must take place while respecting the human rights of the settlers, including payment of compensation.
Today Israel is ruled by a right wing coalition composed of parties not devoid of racism. Eli Yishai, the Interior Minister and leader of Shas, has been instrumental in introducing bills that are bordering on racism with bigoted religious overtones. The Yisrael Beiteinu Party of Avigdor Lieberman, the Foreign Minister, is another party that is doing much to bring Israel closer to a quasi-apartheid society

This party is not different from the defunct Moledet Party of the late Rehavim Ze'evi, which believed in transfer of Israel's Arab population.

It is unfortunate that while Israel is not an apartheid society and nothing in Israel's laws that even hints at racial discrimination, there are incidents in Israel that may have some resemblance to apartheid that are causes for concern.

Avigdor Lieberman is under suspicion of money laundering, bribery, corruption and defeating the ends of justice. A police enquiry into his affairs is still going on and a final decision to lay charges has not been made by the state attorney. Lieberman has uttered words bordering on racism against Palestinians and Arab people in general. He would like to transfer Israel's Arab population to so-called Palestine which is occupied by Israel. If his will were carried out, we would have a close resemblance to apartheid South Africa's Bantustan policies. Blacks in South Africa were forcibly transferred to Bantustans so that white areas would remain free of blacks.

Lieberman is no credit to Israel as Foreign Minister nor is his side kick, Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, any better. Both these people are racists judging the statements they have made in the past. The latter created an unnecessary fiasco in his humiliating treatment of the Turkish Ambassador in Israel a few months ago. The right wing government is bringing Israel closer to an apartheid-like society even though at this stage, Israel is still far from that.

The behaviour of Israeli settlers in the occupied territories is also shocking. Religious zealots have done much damage to Palestinian property and none of them has been charged in a court of law. This is similar to the way the white farmers in apartheid South Africa treated their black servants. Beatings, verbal abuse and displacement from their homes to relocation in the Bantustans were common. There is an uncanny resemblance to the treatment meted out to Palestinians under occupation. If the Israeli authorities ignore these abuses as they have been doing surely one cannot deny the similarities in the treatment of blacks in apartheid South Africa.

It is unfortunate that Israeli Arabs do not have a sense of belonging or patriotism towards Israel. Nothing has been done to create a common Israeli patriotism that allows Israel’s non-Jewish minorities to feel an integral part of Israel’s society. The reason is the emphasis on Israel’s Jewishness which does not allow the Arab community in being part of a common loyalty. Israeli Arabs cannot buy homes in Jewish settlements. Here there is a similarity to the infamous Group Areas Act of 1950 in apartheid South Africa. Blacks were never allowed to buy homes in white areas.

When Independence Day is celebrated, the Israeli Arab does not celebrate. If Israel is a true democracy then all its citizens should share a common patriotism towards it. The Israeli National Anthem, Hatikvah, does not reflect the aspirations of all its citizens.

It is true that there are no discriminatory laws against Israel’s non-Jewish minorities, in practice this is not always the case. Evictions of Arabs from their homes in East Jerusalem do occur to allow Jewish Israelis to take over and build their homes in their place. This does result in many Arab homes in East Jerusalem being demolished. Arab Palestinians, citizens of East Jerusalem need permits to live there. This is similar to the infamous pass system in apartheid South Africa. Blacks without a pass (or permit) were also evicted and even arrested for illegally living in an area reserved for whites. Here we cannot deny the similarity to apartheid South Africa. The Israeli Authorities unfortunately lack the sensitivity to treat these cases of eviction with sensitivity.

While PM Netanyahu pays lip service (under world pressure of course) to a “two state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, we are all aware that his utterances are meaningless and hypocritical. While evictions of Palestinians from their homes are taking place and encroachment of Israeli illegal settlements in the occupied territories by enlargement of existing settlements and the building of new settlements, the two-state solution will never come to fruition. Mr. Saeb Erakat, the veteran Palestinian negotiator, is well aware of this. He has stated that Israel’s right wing government’s policies are destroying the two-state solution. What is the alternative? A one-state solution could result in a total apartheid-like society. A settler oriented right wing government dominating the Palestinian People who will always remain inferior to Israel’s Jewish citizens. This would destroy Palestinian aspirations towards independence resulting in the establishment of an apartheid-like society.


Anonymous said...

If all comments must be approved by the blog author, there is an implication of muzzling freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of opinion! However I will add one comment only... if Israel is an apartheid state, what would you call Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia where Palestinians are never granted nationality and especially Jordan where their passports/nationality are being withdrawn?!

Anonymous said...

I do not understand! Your first line establishes a premise? a fact? an observation! Then, the remainder of the article goes on to destroy, piecemeal that assertion?!

zac said...

I never said that Israel is an apartheid state. I said that there are some aspects in Israel that resemble an apartheid state. I had made these comparisons as clear as I could.

Jordan, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia are no great stalwarts for human rights either. There is discrimination there as well.I am concerned about Israel's human rights record as an Israeli citizen and what happens in the neighboring Arab countries although it leaves cause for concern, it does not mean that two wrongs make a right.It is discrimination but it is the same old story. It seems to be permissible to discriminate against one's own people but not against another people.

Anonymous said...

You start by stating that"Israel is not an apartheid state". Then, the remainder of your post contradicts, with many examples, how Israel, Israelis and the system are apartheid in nature and practice. Make up your mind... is it or is it not?! I understand that Israeli Arab are members of your Knesset and are even traveling and speaking worldwide in connection with the International Israel Apartheid Week. If it is apartheid, it has to be the most benevolent kind that has ever been perpetrated in any state!

Anonymous said...

A German Shepherd is not a wolf. The Shepherd does look like a wolf however in that it has a tail, walks on all fours, can attack humans. It is also a carnivore that can be out of control especially with one who is not its master. If allowed to roam with other Shepherds, it can acquire a wolf pack mentality and destructive behavior. The Shepherd may look like a wolf in every aspect but it is not a wolf. How would this knowledge soothe and calm fears in a blind man who has never seen either?

Anonymous said...

The politics of a state are never black or white. If it is in-between as it must be, how do you describe it because if you cannot measure it, it becomes unimportant an observation? In your case and in your description "Israel is not an apartheid state", it is 99% one! Your implication is that Israel will never be a democracy until it grants Arabs the ability to exterminate the Jews and Christians as it has always done historically! If democracy is the rule of the majority, we have already witnessed that nefarious process in Muslim countries. The time always comes when decency and the respect of any member of the human race must take precedence over a political stance. Especially when the determination of that political faction is the avowed extermination of the Jewish people or any people.

Anonymous said...

If you are a Jew living in Israel, I would consider your statements seditious. If you are a Muslim or an Arab seeking freedom, independence, the rest of the world, if not the Muslim world, is open to you. Many other people have seen forced migrations... the Armenians, South Americans in fascist states, Muslims in India, Tutsis, Sudanese, Sudeten Germans, Hungarians, Czechs etc.

zac said...

There is no law in Israel's statute books that gives any hint of discrimination on racial or religious grounds, nor is it mentioned in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. In South Africa under white domination, there were laws enacted to prevent blacks and whites from mixing.

In Israel this is not the case. There is nothing in Israel's legislation that legalizes racial discrimination in any form whatsoever. However, there are incidents of discrimination that does occur in Israel that is not given legal support but the establishment turns a blind eye. I gave examples in my article. Discrimination is in practice in Israel but this DOES NOT turn Israel into an apartheid state compared to white apartheid South Africa. The Israeli Courts have even ruled in favor of those who have reason to feel discriminated.

There are no facilities for mixed marriages and intermarriage between Jew and non-Jew is discouraged and even frowned upon. There are other countries in the world, including Arab states where social discrimination does occur. This occurs in Israel no less. Grievances because of discrimination can be taken to court and contested - very often with success. This was never the case in apartheid South Africa.

The newspaper Haaretz editorial of 9th March discussed the statement of Scandar Copti, co director of the film "Ajami" that was nominated for an Oscar. He declared he does not represent Israel. "I cannot represent a country that does not represent me." This statement perhaps illustrates how many Israeli Arabs feel. They are the best judges of whether they are discriminated against or not. I quote the editorial in Haaretz.

“The director's words deserve a more serious response: They ought to prompt deep soul-searching among all Israelis who care about the future of the state. Copti is not a devotee of the Islamic Movement, raised in some isolated village on the country's periphery, or an elderly Palestinian refugee for whom the "Nakba" is still a searing memory. He is 35 years old, born in Jaffa - not far from downtown Tel Aviv - and educated in Israel, where he has received opportunities that brought him to that red carpet in Los Angeles.

It would seem that no one is better suited to represent the state's declared desire to integrate its Arab citizens. If even he feels that Israel does not represent him, then the country has utterly failed to fulfill the promise of equality inscribed in its Declaration of Independence.

Integrating Israel's Arab citizens, who make up a fifth of its population, is not merely a moral imperative necessitated by the country's democratic values; it is also a social and economic necessity. The special reports being published by The Marker this week and last expose the discrimination, barriers and closed-mindedness that Arabs encounter when they seek to benefit from the plethora of opportunities that Israel offers. High-tech industries are closed to them, as are most other top-quality jobs. There is no greater stupidity. Because of its prejudices, Israel is forfeiting the economic boost that its Arabs citizens could give it and is instead reaping poverty, crime and feelings of alienation.

Despite some worthy initiatives by Jewish and Arab entrepreneurs aimed at changing the situation, it is hard to imagine a turnabout in Jewish-Arab relations in this country while a right-wing government, with the racist Avigdor Lieberman at its heart, is in power. This is utterly unacceptable. Instead of dismissing Copti's warning in a rage, his words should cause every Jew in Israel to ask himself, "What can I do to draw my Arab neighbor closer?"

zac said...

I publish all the comments I have received because I wish to encourage healthy debate. I would appreciate it if the writers of these comments would reveal themselves rather than remain anonymous. There are many injustices and discrimination acts in Arab countries as well as many other African countries. This does not justify Israel turning a blind eye to discrimination. We have to arise above that and be a light unto the nations as we claim to do.

In my article, I asked a question as to whether Israel can be compared to apartheid South Africa. I left it for others to decide after I had written what I have.

Anonymous said...

The United States has had apartheid too, for the longest of time. In actual fact it is illegal but in practice, and still today, it is widely prevalent. Did the Nazis not have an extreme form of apartheid? Didn't all the Arab countries have a form of it which forced all Jews to flee? The error of Israel is to have joined the society of nations! And to have become like them. It cannot afford to be generous and to serve as a beacon of selflessness. The Muslim world would shortly make short shrift of that and the world would start again with a new round of a modern Shoah! I for one am not willing to turn the other cheek. The Arab lands have the wealth and the space to be far more generous than the Israeli state. Let them be a beacon!

PaxTheRobot said...

Zac, thank you for an open, healthy debate. The road to peace is paved with respectful behaviour, good listening skills and group work. You and your readers can check out more about waging peace in the middle East and discover a cardboard robot's mission for peace when you find Pax101 on FB or @Pax_101 at Twitter.

PaxTheRobot said...
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