October 2012

Introduction  |  Part 1 |  Part 2 |  Part 3

As discussed previously, apartheid refers to a system of discriminatory polices which divide a population along racial lines and give superior treatment to one race over another. The objective of these inhumane laws is to maintain the domination of one race. The system of apartheid implemented by Israel in the Palestinian territories is designed to oppress Palestinian Arabs and give preferential treatment to Israeli Jews. We will now explore the different apartheid policies enforced by Israel (Note: Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) refers to East Jerusalem, West Bank and the Gaza Strip which have been under Israeli occupation since 1967)

Citizenship and Immigration

Israel’s institutionalized system of discrimination is rooted on being able to classify population along racial lines. It first legally defines who is Jewish and then extends special privileges to Jews over non-Jews. Israel views itself as the state of the ‘Jewish nation’, not an ‘Israeli nation’. It thus distinguishes between citizenship and nationality [1].

Citizenship is granted to those qualifying its requirements; about 1.3 million Palestinians living in Israel proper have citizenship. Jewish nationals (i.e. anyone falling under the legal definition of a Jew) enjoy special privileges which aren’t accessible to ordinary Israeli citizens [2]. These special privileges will be discussed in this article. Israeli Jews are a group unified by law while Palestinian Arabs are sub-divided into citizens, occupied residents and refugees based on their territory[3].

The 1950 Law of Return extends to Jews all over the world an absolute ‘right of return’. Jews from anywhere with no prior ties to Israel can immigrate to it and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT)  [4]. This law is rooted in the idea that Jews were expelled from this land 2000 years ago and should now be able to return home – the cornerstone of the Zionist movement.

On the other hand, the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees who were either expelled or fled during the 1948 and 1967 wars are not allowed to return to their homes. They are granted entry in neither Israel nor the OPT simply because they aren’t Jews [5,a] . This restriction has created the one of the largest refugee crises in the history; today these refugees and their descendants number around 5 million. It is also in clear violation of UN resolutions, international law and the Geneva Conventions which state that everyone has the right to leave and return to one’s country [6].

While Jews are automatically granted Israeli citizenship, Palestinians are not afforded the same privilege and face insurmountable obstacles [7]. Palestinians within Israel proper have to prove they resided in Israel between 1948 to 1952 (i.e. during the worst of fighting) to be eligible [8]. Palestinians in East Jerusalem have to prove their ‘center of life’ is Jerusalem in order to simply retain their so-called permanent residency status [9]. Palestinian refugees living in the OPT have no rights to citizenship while Jewish settlers in the same area do [10].

In addition, in an attempt to close doors to the ‘creeping right of return’, Palestinians in OPT are restricted from reuniting with their spouses and families in Israel; Jewish settlers face no such restrictions [11][12].

Palestinian Enclaves, Jewish Colonies and Land Confiscation 

As discussed in the previous post, land distribution based on race is one of the defining features of apartheid. This is most evident in the West Bank which has been fragmented into numerous ethnic cantons or Bantustans. The Palestinian enclaves (Areas A and B) are currently split up into some 131 disconnected Bantustans; these are surrounded by a contiguous region (Area C) under complete Israeli control [13a]. Jewish colonies are currently made up of over 220 settlements; 121 official ones and the remainder being unofficial ‘outposts’ which are built without Israeli approval. Residence and entry in each ethnic enclave is determined by one’s racial identity; Jewish colonists in one area and Palestinians in the other[13]. Settlers have access to all the amenities of a developed nation while most Palestinians live under substandard conditions.

Though they are illegal by international consensus, these colonies have been constantly expanding on land confiscated from Palestinians for four decades now. At present, 43% of the West Bank is taken up by these settlement blocks which are for exclusive Jewish use [14]. Housing, schools, hospitals and recreational facilities in the settlements are inaccessible to non-Jews.  While a Jewish person from any part of the world can move to and lease land in these cantons, Palestinians are barred from the use of their very own land. Continued expansion of the colonist enterprise means little is left of ‘Palestine’; effectively rendering the two-state solution meaningless. In fact, the official map of Israel doesn’t even demarcate the Palestinian territories from its own boundaries; clearly indicating its de facto annexation of the territory.

Creation of the monstrous Separation Wall has further annexed 10% of the West Bank into Israel [15]. The Wall is justified as a ‘security fence’; however, Israel has conveniently planted it on the neighbour’s territory – 85%  of it runs through the West Bank.  As a result, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) deemed the barrier illegal. Although it hasn’t segregated the population entirely, the Wall has further divided it – 85% of the the Jewish settlers live on the western side of this Wall [15a]. In addition to all this, Israel also restricts land usage within its own territory. 13% of the land within Israel’s borders is reserved for Jewish use and is thus even off-limits to Palestinians with Israeli citizenship* [15b].

Given Israel’s constant claim to democracy, some might falsely argue that the settlements are not Jewish-only; rather they are Israeli-only.  One of Israel’s traditional methods to direct national resources exclusively to the state’s Jewish population, without being accused of discrimination, is delegating responsibilities to the non-governmental organizations such as the Jewish Agency (JA), World Zionist Organization (WZO) and the Jewish National Fund (JNF) [16]. The JA, WZO and other parastatal institutions are currently responsible for the planning and establishment of the settlement enterprise [17]. These institutions act as ‘authorized agents’ of the state and solely work to serve interests of the world Jewry; effectively barring even non-Jewish Israeli citizens from their services.

Dual Legal Systems

Israel has implemented two systems of law in the Palestinian territories. It applies Israeli civilian law to Jews while indigenous Palestinians are subject to military law. It treats the settlements as de facto extensions of Israel and grants settlers the rights of citizens with democratic protections, despite them living outside Israel on occupied Palestinian land [18] [19].

Being subject to the Israeli judicial system, Jewish settlers enjoy liberties and legal guarantees that are denied to Palestinian defendants in the Occupied Territories charged with the same offense. The authority to arrest an individual, detention period before hearing, the right to an attorney, the protection for defendants, the maximum punishment period, and the release of prisoners before completion of their sentence – all of these differ greatly in the two systems of law, with the Israeli civilian system providing the suspect and defendant with many more protections [20].

Thus, different legal systems are applied to two populations residing in the same area, and the nationality of the individual determines the system and court in which he or she is tried. This situation violates the principle of equality before the law, especially given the disparity between the two systems. It also violates the principle of territoriality, conventional in modern legal approaches, according to which a single system of law must apply to all persons living in the same territory [21].

Next Post: More Apartheid Policies 

The more commonly quoted figure is that 93% of Israeli land is inaccessible to Palestinian citizens. 13% of this is owned by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) which leases to Jews-only. However, the remaining 80% is under the Israeli Lands Authority (ILA). I haven’t been able to find credible documentation to indicate that ILA only services Jews; I have thus only quoted 13%. If you have access to it, please refer me to legal documentation which could clarify this . 


 [1] Occupation, Colonialism and Apartheid? Human Sciences Research Council,South Africa, 2009 – pg 161

[2] Ibid, pg 216

 [3]  Russell Tribunals on Palestine – Capetown Session, 2009 . pg 14

 [4]  Acquisition of Israeli Nationality – Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs

 [5]  United Nations Human Rights, Report of the Special Rapporteur,  Richard Falk.  ID A/65/331, August 2010 – pg 6

[5a]  Occupation, Colonialism and Apartheid? Human Sciences Research Council,South Africa, 2009 – pg 213

 [6]  Palestinian Right of Return – Wikipedia

 [7] Occupation, Colonialism and Apartheid? Human Sciences Research Council,South Africa, 2009 – pg 21

 [8]   Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Israel: Citizenship Law, 6 March 2008, ISR102749.E

 [9] Occupation, Colonialism and Apartheid? Human Sciences Research Council,South Africa, 2009 – pg 206

 [10] Ibid, pg 217

 [11]  Forbidden Families: Family Unification and Child Registration inEast Jerusalem. January 2004. B’Tsaleem, Jerusalem.

 [12]  Occupation, Colonialism and Apartheid? Human Sciences Research Council,South Africa, 2009 – pg 211

 [13]  Ibid. – pg 19

[13a]  Forbidden Roads: Israel’s Discriminatory Road Regime in the West Bank, B’Tselem. August 2004- pg 4

 [14]   Separate and Unequal: Israel’s Discriminatory Treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Human Rights Watch, New York 2010 – pg 9

[15] The Humanitarian Impact on Palestinians of Israeli Settlements and other infrastructure in the West Bank.  UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 2007

[15b]  Israel and the Occupied Territories – International Religious Freedom Report 2005  U.S Department of Sate

[15a] Arrested Development: Long Term Impact of the Barrier, B’Tselem. -pg 13. October 2012

 [16]  Land Grab: Israel’s Settlment Policy in the West Bank, B’Tselem, Jerusalem 2002 – pg 21

 [17]  Ibid.

 [18]  United Nations Human Rights, Report of the Special Rapporteur,  Richard Falk.  ID A/67/379 , September 2012 – pg 5

 [20]  Ibid 

 [21]  Ibid

Pamella Geller and her fellow Islamophobes made headlines a few weeks ago with their vitriolic anti-Muslim advertisements in NYC subway stations and else where. Their message equated  Muslims to “savages” and “jihad” to terrorism. To respond to this bigotry , a remarkable group of Christians and Jews have started a counter campaign which encourages tolerance and love for Muslims.

Exemplifying the motto of ‘Love Thy Neighbor’, campaign organizers have leased out advertising space in subway stations to put up posters which counter the message of the anti-Muslim ads. One of them reads: “In the choice between love and hate, CHOOSE LOVE. Help stop bigotry against our Muslim neighbors.”  Another one says: “Hate Speech is not civilized. Support peace in word and deed”. The last one states quite simply,  “Love your Muslim neighbors”.

This outstanding initiative was headed by Rabbi’s For Human RightsSojourners – a Christian social justice group and United Methodist Women. Each of the three groups ran separate advertisements urging tolerance and denouncing the bigoted message of Gellar’s ads. The groups said their campaigns were coincidental. At some locations, their ads were placed immediately adjacent to the anti-Muslim posters. This juxtaposition is reflective the unique experiment that is America; the very good of its people and the very ugly, existing side by side.

Rabbi Jill Jacobs explained the purpose of his campaign, “I want to spread the message that 1800 rabbis– along with the majority of the American Jewish community–believes in partnership with our Muslim neighbors. We, of course, oppose all acts of terrorism. We will not, however, allow the actions of a small minority to be an excuse for dehumanizing an entire people.” Following the spirit of the of the Golden Rule, he further explained, “We know what it’s like to be a minority and we know what it’s like to be the target of discrimination, and that’s why, as Jews, because of that history, we have more of a responsibility to speak out when anyone is being discriminated against.”

The past several weeks have been challenging for American Muslims. The anti-American riots across the Muslim world and the killing of the American Ambassador to Libya  has lead to a great degree of apprehension in the community. From suspicious glances to clandestine conversations; Muslims were the talk of the town. Being inundated with stories like that of the Joplin Mosque which was burned down, one naturally begins to feel alienated and questions their standing in the public’s eye.

This campaign is enough reason to throw away those apprehensive feelings. Its a testament to the good of the American people, the vast majority of whom stand by their Muslim neighbors and will speak up to defend them. Stories like these need to be broadcast across to the Muslim world; this is what America is made of- not the pervert who produced the shameful movie debasing the Prophet.

Lastly, this campaign demonstrates the importance of exercising the power that rests in the moderate silent majority. These people could have very well decided to shrug their shoulders apathetically or perhaps just nod with disappointment like most of us. Why bother explaining that extremists like Geller don’t represent Jews? They could have complained about finances associated with leasing ad space and a million other things.

But No! They decided to speak up, to make their voices heard. They realized that the cost of remaining silent was not worth it. For them, making fellow citizens feel welcome in their own land was something important enough to invest time and money in  – and it should be for the remainder of us. This campaign is an important lesson for the Muslim community on the impact raising our voices can have. Faced too frequently with the negative externalities of religion, this episode reaffirms the generosity, goodness and goodwill that rests at the root of religious teaching and is urgently in need of revival.

 Actions Items: Call/Write to the campaign organizers thanking them for their efforts 

Rabbis for Human Rights-North America
Email: office@rhr-na.org

United Methodist Women
Harriett Jane Olson – Deputy General Secretary
Email” HOlson@unitedmethodistwomen.org

Phone: 202-328-8842 or 1-800-714-7474
E-mail: sojourners@sojo.net