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 . 

References 


 [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


Introduction | Part 1  | Part 2 | Part 3

“ If I were to change the names, a description of what is happening in Gaza and the West Bank could describe events in South Africa.” — Nobel Laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu 1989 

What is Apartheid?

Apartheid is the Afrikaans word for ‘separateness’ or ‘separate development’. Historically, it was used to refer to the set of discriminatory policies implemented in South Africa from 1948 to 1994. The South African regime had instituted a legal and social system which was designed to maintain domination of whites over people of colour. This racist system was eventually abolished after an anti-apartheid struggle which finally led to the election of Nelson Mandela as South Africa’s first black president in 1994.

Since South Africa, apartheid has come to be defined as a crime against humanity under international law. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines apartheid as inhumane acts which are committed by an institutionalized regime to systematically oppress and maintain domination of one racial group over another[1]. The Apartheid Convention (UN Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, 1973 ) defines it similarly and included in its definition ‘similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination as practiced in southern Africa’[2].

In addition, Article II of the Apartheid Convention has a list of features which further illustrate what a system of apartheid looks like. Some of these include subjecting a collective group of people to the following: murder, arbitrary arrest, bodily or mental harm, restriction of movement, restriction of peaceful assembly and division along lines of race. Both pieces of legislation focus on the systematic, institutionalized, and oppressive character of the discrimination and the purpose of domination it entails.[3]

It is thus important to recognize that apartheid is not a mere analogy. Rather, it is crime against humanity under international law and has severe penal repercussions. Its applicability is independent of a regime’s resemblance to South African practices and policies. South African apartheid had its unique features and Israeli apartheid has its own, though both regimes share some of the same core features.

Central to the discussion apartheid is the question of race. Unlike South Africa, traditional conceptions of race don’t apply in this case. United Nation’s committee on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination understands racial groups as socially constructed ones which can be distinguished by shared ancestry, colour, ethnicity, nationality and religion.[4] In addition, the jurisprudence of the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanada and the former Yugoslavia also understood race in this manner. [5]

Palestinians identify themselves as a group of people who share a common origin, history and culture that has ensured a continuing bond despite forced displacement and fragmentation[6]. The entire Palestinian people are considered a uniform group; much like Bosniaks or the Tutsis. Thus, Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs are the two distinct racial groups concerned in this case of apartheid and for the purposes of international law. [7] [8].

The Bantustans of South Africa

It is important to discuss ‘Bantustanization’ as it is one of the defining features of apartheid. During the apartheid era, the South African government had concentrated the black population into ‘Homelands’ or ‘Bantustans’. These fragmented enclaves served as pseudo-national homelands for the country’s black African population. The Bantustans were a major administrative device for the exclusion of blacks from the South African political system and prevented any sort of social or economic development in these areas.[9] These homelands were presented as a promise of complete independence to black South Africans, thus satisfying their right to self-determination. Neither the African National Congress nor the international community accepted this deceitful explanation. [10]

Looking at a map of the West Bank, the Bantustan model is easily recognizable. Bantustanization is a control strategy in its essence. The Zionist movement was faced with a dilemma in Palestine: How to create a Jewish state in an area which was largely Arab? Israeli historian Benny Morris observes that Zionists could choose from only two options: “the way of South Africa” — i.e., “the establishment of an apartheid state, with a settler minority lording it over a large, exploited native majority” — or “the way of transfer” — i.e., “you could create a homogeneous Jewish state or at least a state with an overwhelming Jewish majority by moving or transferring all or most of the Arabs out.” [11]

During Israel’s independence in 1948, this dilemma was solved through ethnic cleansing by driving the Arabs out in what is today called the Nakba or Great Catastrophe. Israel faced the same dilemma in 1967 when the Palestinian territories came under Israeli occupation. This time, foundations for an apartheid system were laid out in the Palestinian territories and they have been developed over the past four decades. Former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, Meron Benvenisti, observed that, “It goes without saying that ‘cooperation’ based on the current power relationship is no more than permanent Israeli domination in disguise, and that Palestinian self-rule is merely a euphemism for Bantustanization.” [12]

After analyzing legal definitions and the practices in South Africa, apartheid can be defined to be resting on three important pillars. The first pillar is demarking the population along lines of race. The second pillar involves segregating the population based on their racial identity and geographically separating them. Lastly, a matrix of draconian laws are enacted to ensure the domination of one race over another and to suppress any dissent. [13]

 Next Post: How Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories amount to Apartheid  

References 


[1] Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Article 7, paragraph 2( h)

[2] International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid – General Assembly resolution 3068 (XXVIII) of 30 November 1973

 [3] Occupation, Colonialism and Apartheid? Human Science Research Council, South Africa 2009 pg 17

 [4] UN International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, General Assembly resolution 2106 (XX),  21 December 1965

 [5] Occupation, Colonialism and Apartheid? Human Sciences Research Council,South Africa, 2009, pg 17

 [6] Russell Tribunals on Palestine – Capetown Session, 2009 . pg 15

 [7] Occupation, Colonialism and Apartheid? Human Sciences Research Council,South Africa, 2009, pg 17

 [8] Russell Tribunals on Palestine – Capetown Session, 2009 . pg 15

 [9]  Encylopedia Britannica. Bantustans

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

 [11] Norman Finkelstein, Apartheid Analogy.

 [12] Norman Finkelstein, Apartheid Analogy.

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


The Israeli propaganda machine is in full swing this time of the year. Israel’s image as the ‘only liberal democracy in the Middle East’ continues to be tarnished as Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) and BDS (Boycotts, Divestments, Sanctions) grow as a grass roots movements on campuses across the globe. Israel’s positive image in the North American psyche is the one thing which has allowed it to continue its brutality against the Palestinians without any backlash from the general public. The fact that its image is slowly undergoing a seismic shift shakes Israel to the core.

Israel’s nervousness and isolation is best indicated by the attempts to counter this movement. It has organized massive public relation campaigns, initiated events such as Israel Peace Week and has sent out delegations on speaking tours all over the world. Condemnation of IAW pour in from right-wing politicians and media outlets continue to brand the event as a hate fest which is rooted in misinformation and anti-Semitism.

All this comes at a time when informed commentators agree that Israel implements a system of apartheid. A recent report by the United Nations concluded that Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories ‘exhibit features of colonialism and apartheid’. B’Tasleem, Israel’s leading human rights organization, published in its report Land Grab that Israel ‘has created a system of legally sanctioned separation based on discrimination that has, perhaps, no parallel any where in the world since the apartheid regime of South Africa’. The Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa also concluded in its legal study that Israel is guilty of apartheid crimes.

Why use ‘apartheid’ ?

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a multi-faceted one. At the core of it lies an illegal occupation coupled with innumerable human rights violations, war crimes, terrorism, ethnic cleansing, colonialism and apartheid. Solidarity activists of the past largely focused their struggle around ending the occupation, human rights violations and state-sponsored terrorism.

Focusing on the apartheid nature of the occupation represents a newer strategy in the movement, and perhaps the most effective one to date. This is a dimension of the conflict which was ignored largely in the past; partially because it is something which has developed overtime. It is the aspect of the conflict which affects Palestinians everyday.  Apartheid is a term which stirs strong emotions in the Western psyche; by exposing Israel as a perpetrator of this crime one has a much higher chance of changing public opinion towards the Zionist state. This has also allowed activists to structure their strategies in a similar fashion to the anti-apartheid movement of the 1980’s. The apartheid policies of South Africa ended shortly after US withdrew its support for the regime. By forcing our governments to change their unequivocal support of Israel, we have the greatest chance of aiding an end to the conflict.

Israeli Apartheid Week is a unique (and proud!) Canadian contribution to the Palestinian solidarity movement. It started off in 2005 at the University of Toronto by a group of dedicated student activists. It was shortly followed by the BDS Call (Boycotts, Divestments, Sanctions) made by 170 Palestinian civil societies. Through lectures, protests, concerts and film screenings, this week is dedicated to raising awareness about the atrocities being committed against the Palestinian people. It also focuses on measures that can be employed by average citizens to help end Israeli apartheid. The event is now organized on university campuses in over a 100 cities across the globe.

Success of the anti-apartheid movement for South Africa was rooted in educating the public about this inhumane system. Given the lack of knowledge about this issue amongst the masses and to emulate former movement, this series will seek to inform people about what apartheid is, why it applies to Israel and how we can help fight it.

Next Post: What is Apartheid?

First published on March 30th, 2012 


Updated version of this post on MuslimMatters

As the Middle East continues to be enveloped in political turmoil and media outlets bombard us constantly with new information, I for one had started to become desensitized to the gravity of the situation there. As sad as it sounds, after a while the stories about dreadful combat and war just become headlines you skim over. However, I was reminded of the harsh reality of the human struggle in Bahrain when I heard the heart breaking story of Zainab al-Khawaja.

Zainab al Khawaja is the daughter of a prominent Bahraini human rights activist, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja. Her father has been instrumental in reporting human right abuses in Bahrain and has been in an outspoken advocate of civil rights and democracy. He recently also spoke about putting the Bahraini king on trial for perpetrating widespread corruption and crime.

About two weeks ago, security forces stormed Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja’s house and arrested him after savagely brutalizing him in front of his family. He was repeatedly beaten and was pounded to the point of unconsciousness; all this despite him offering to surrender voluntarily. When Zainab and her family tried to interfere, the women were thrust aside and her husband and brother-in-law were beaten up and arrested as well. This incident happened only after three weeks of Zainab’s uncle being arrested in a similar fashion.

Having not heard a word about her family’s whereabouts for three days, Zainab’s desperation led her to take extreme measures. In order to protest this injustice and to bring the world’s attention to her cause she decided to go on a hunger strike. She marked the beginning of her hunger strike with an open letter to the President of the United States posted on her blog, AngryArabiya.

Western powers have been opportunistic as usual when it comes to opposing regimes on humanitarian grounds. Zainab in her letter addresses President Obama and pleads to withdraw his support of the monarchy in Bahrain. If he is vocal in speaking out and helping the humanitarian cause in Libya, then at the very least he should quit supporting the Bahraini dictator she argued. Intervention from the West is based on interest, not principle it appears.

Zainab’s cause did gain reasonable attention, perhaps not as much as it deserved though. The story was blogged around and reported on websites of many major news outlets including The NewYork Times, The Guardian and BBC; I myself heard her narrative on CBC Radio. Her determination inspired hundreds of people in Bahrain, USA and Saudi Arabia who went on hunger strike to protest as well.

Suffering from extreme weakness, Zainab ended her hunger strike on its 10th day after persuasion from human right groups who wanted her to continue speaking and fighting. She also heard from her father for the first time; almost two weeks since the arrest. He called her and requested clothes for his trial; when asked about his situation he responded simply, ‘the oppression is great’. When lawyers, human rights groups and Zainab’s family went for her father’s trial they were turned away and were told they had no such person in custody. Zainab is still waiting to meet her father.

Zainab’s struggle, or her jihad, serves as a role model for those wanting to fight injustice and protest Western foreign policy. Her non-violent methodology has proved to be far more successful and demonstrates that civil disobedience, though not as dramatic, can still be quite effective and inspirational.