Apartheid is a human rights crime defined by the International Criminal Court as the “institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group.”
A recent report from B’Tselem, Israel’s most important human rights group, labels Israel as an apartheid state.
‘There is one regime governing the entire area and the people living in it, based on a single organizing principle,’ said B’Tselem.
The accusation is new for B’Tselem but not for Palestine activists who have argued the case for years.
A UN report endorsed this view a year ago, and researchers from South Africa have rigorously established the facts.
As respected Jewish scholar Tony Klug wrote in a Guardian letter:
‘Israel’s only defence against the accusation of apartheid is that its hold over the West Bank is a temporary occupation. If this is not its case, it doesn’t have a case. Even if it were its case, after some 53 years it would be running perilously thin’
The bones of the accusation are:
1) Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank live under military occupation. There is no freedom of movement for them, and they live under military law. The limited powers of the Palestine Authority, which is an ‘interim government’ are wholly constrained by Israel. Any Israeli soldier can stop and search even the highest-ranking officials. Human rights abuses, including the arrest and killing of unarmed civilians, including children are daily occurrences. Israelis in the West Bank (settlers living on stolen land), on the other hand, have full Israeli citizenship rights.
2) Palestinians in Gaza are under siege. The strip is overcrowded and surrounded by Israel and hostile Egypt. The area of the Mediterranean in which Gazans can fish unmolested by the Israeli navy is tiny. Gaza is an open-air prison.
3) Palestinians in East Jerusalem (captured by Israel in 1967) are stateless and at constant risk of losing their residency in the city. 35% of land in East Jerusalem has been confiscated for settler use, and Israel is open in its desire to remove as many Palestinians as possible. Forced displacement, house demolitions and settler violence are daily occurrences.
4) Palestinian citizens of Israel face massive economic discrimination and restrictions on where they can live. Although they can vote, the Israeli state, with the recent Nation State law, has codified apartheid: “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”
5) Nearly six million Palestinians are registered as refugees by the UN. They live in dire conditions in camps across the Middle East. A million more are unregistered. They are all seeking the Right of Return to the lands stolen from them by Israel in 1948 and 1967. Every Jew in the world has the right to ‘return’, to go and live in Israel.
So, why does B’tselem’s intervention matter? The group does not support the Palestinian Right of Return nor does it acknowledge that the state of Israel was founded on separatism in 1948.
But they are listened to because they are Israeli, and very clearly support a Human Rights. Their report gained some publicity in the mainstream media, and led to a positive Guardian editorial.
Even former US President Jimmy Carter calls Israel an apartheid state in his book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.
But it is important for another reason. The TUC acknowledged Israeli apartheid in September, extending the possibilities for union-based campaigning for Palestine through the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
Source: Sybil Cock, Counterfire
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