Why it is crucial to keep a spotlight on Israel’s apartheid

Unlike his predecessors, Israel’s new prime minister, Naftali Bennett, is embracing apartheid.

In April this year, Human Rights Watch released a report titled “A Threshold Crossed”, which denounced Israel for “committing crimes against humanity of apartheid and oppression against Palestinians”.

“Israeli authorities duly privilege Jewish Israelis and discriminate against Palestinians. Laws, policies and statements by prominent Israeli officials make clear that the purpose of maintaining Jewish Israeli control over demographics, political power and land has long guided the government’s policy,” the leading international NGO said flatly. “In pursuit of this goal, authorities have evicted, confined, forcibly isolated and subjected Palestinians based on their identity to varying degrees of intensity. In some areas, as described in this report, these deficits are so severe that they constitute crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.”

The bluntness of the claims in the 213-page report shocked some, but debate over whether Israel imposed an apartheid regime on Palestinians has a long history.

The apartheid convention of 1973 defined apartheid as “inhuman acts committed by one racial group for the purposes of establishing and maintaining dominance over another racial group of persons and for the purposes of systematic oppression”. Since then, dozens of political and religious leaders, rights groups, legal scholars and international institutions have used the term “apartheid” to describe Israel’s actions against Palestinians. In 2017, for example, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (UNESCWA) conducted an investigation into “Israeli’s attitudes towards the Palestinian people and the question of apartheid” and concluded that “Israel established an apartheid regime”. which dominates the Palestinian people as a whole”.

In the face of these allegations, Israel has always maintained its innocence, claiming that it is treating Palestinians living under its rule – both in Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories – fairly.

It denounced efforts to label it as an “apartheid state” by pointing to its declarations about the commitment of its institutions to equality. And, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Israel’s powerful allies and the wider international community refrained from officially labeling Israel as an apartheid state and condemning it for its racist and discriminatory policies. For example, after the publication of the damaging HRW report, a spokesperson for the US State Department simply said: “This approach is not [the Biden] The administration’s actions of Israel constitute apartheid. “

While countless articles, scholarly papers and reports have been written demonstrating the ways in which Israel has imposed an apartheid regime on Palestinians for decades, today there is an urgent need to renew the matter.

Naftali Bennett, a staunch supporter of settlements and annexation of much of the West Bank, was sworn in as Israel’s new prime minister on June 13. Throughout his election campaign, Bennett has been open about Israel’s intention to hasten the brutal destruction of Palestinian life. and the illegal appropriation of Palestinian lands as the prime minister. And now that he is in power, he is using long-existing laws, structures, tactics and strategies to rapidly and expand what can only be defined as a genocidal campaign against Palestinians. Thus, it is now more urgent than ever to expose Israel’s apartheid policies and ensure that it faces fair condemnation from the international community for openly violating international law.

It is difficult to make the case for Israel being an apartheid country.

Israel’s claims to treat Palestinians living under its rule fairly, which has long been used to defend it against apartheid charges, are mooted by a nation-state bill passed in July 2018.

The law states that:

  • The State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, in which it fulfills its natural, cultural, religious and historical right of self-determination.
  • The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.
  • The state views the development of the ghetto as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.

These statements make it clear that Israel believes that only the Jewish people have any claim to the land it currently rules. This ideology both demands and legitimizes a system that, in a 2017 UNESCWA document, maintains “continued domination of Gentiles, especially in all lands under Israeli control”.

Another obvious component of Israel’s apartheid regime is the continuing, illegal and relentless demolition of Palestinian homes.

The demolition of the house has been a fundamental part of the Israeli settler-colonial project since its inception. Today, Israel routinely denies housing permits to Palestinians, making it illegal for them to build any shelter for themselves in their homeland. Israeli authorities also regularly bulldoze Palestinian structures, rendering families homeless, regardless of their legal status under Israeli law.

In November 2020, the United Nations rebuked Israel for carrying out what it called “the largest demolition of Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank for a decade”. The demolition left 73 people homeless, including 41 children. More recently, in June 2021, the Jerusalem municipality began destroying 100 Palestinian buildings in the al-Bastan neighborhood, which is home to more than 1,500 Palestinians, most of whom are children. The municipality is reportedly planning to build a biblical theme park in place of these buildings. Meanwhile, in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, more than 150 residents have recently received eviction notices. Some people have been living in these homes since the 1950s. Once they leave, their homes will be given to the Jewish settlers.

As Mike Merriman-Lotz, the Palestine-Israel Program Director of the American Friends Service Committee, noted in a June 30 blog post, “These demolition and displacement are part of an apartheid system that discriminates against Palestinians living under Israeli control. For decades, Jerusalem municipal and Israeli authorities in the West Bank have refused to approve zoning plans for the Palestinian territories of Jerusalem and communities in Area C of the West Bank. This refusal for Palestinian residents to obtain building permits makes impossible, they have no choice but to build without permission.”

Indeed, the rapid expansion of Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise is another undeniable testament to its apartheid practices. The expansion of settlements affected Israel’s colonial project on Palestinian lands and prevented the possibility of a viable Palestinian state.

Earlier this month, Michael Link, the UN special envoy on human rights in the occupied Palestinian Territory, called the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank a “war crime” during a session of the UN Human Rights Council. He stated that the settlements violated an outright ban on power transferring part of their civilian population to an occupied territory, thereby meeting the definition of a war crime under the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court (ICC). does. Link also called on the international community to impose “costs” on Israel for its illegal occupation, after calling Israel’s settlements a war crime.

In the eyes of many, the 2018 nation-state laws, house demolition, evictions, relentless settlement expansion and many other discriminatory, racist and violent practices and policies of the Israeli authorities clearly prove that Israel is an apartheid state, And always has been. .

Despite all this, successive Israeli governments have enthusiastically denied that Israel is an apartheid state, and even accused anyone of attempting to draw parallels between apartheid South Africa and Israel. But with Bennett in power, Israel will not do much to fight these allegations or hide its apartheid practices from the international community.

In fact, Bennett has always been open about his desire to officially occupy the Occupied Palestinian Territories and rid the Palestinians of any rights they may have in Israel. And unlike his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu, who believed in “two states for two people” while following apartheid policies, he never took an interest in supporting a two-state solution. As Yousef Munayer, a non-resident senior fellow at the Arab Center, argued in a recent op-ed for the Washington Post, “Bennett brazenly embraced apartheid, while Netanyahu at least in front of the international community otherwise understood the value of pretending.”

So what must be done to combat the violent practices of a state now led by a prime minister who is embracing apartheid? The UN Special Rapporteur Link suggested that the international community should impose “a price” on Israel for its illegal actions. But what could or should that cost?

Earlier this month, more than 900 international academics and scholars, including myself, signed an open letter urging “their governments to immediately cease their involvement with Israel’s apartheid regime.” Join the effort to dismantle and replace apartheid structures. An egalitarian democratic regime that treats everyone according to their rights and with full respect for their humanity, and has made this transition a historic To make sensitively to the right of self-determination enjoyed by both the peoples living in Palestine”.

Although this letter and many others like it are entirely laudable as they stop demanding Israel’s boycott, they do not make it clear that Israel is going to pay the “cost” for its apartheid practices.

Countries can expressly deny Israel’s involvement in the crime of apartheid only through boycotts. Condemnation and warnings are rare when the relationship continues as normal.

The Palestinian Boycott, Disinvestment, Sanctions Movement (BDS), which drew inspiration from South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement, may thus guide the international community in its efforts to hold Israel accountable. The boycott helped South Africans win their fight against racism, inequality and apartheid, and they can do the same for Palestinians.

Israel is troubled, and has so far actively fought against accusations of being an apartheid state – and for good reason. The apartheid label, when it sticks to it, can rapidly reduce a country to a pariah on the international stage, leaving it with no choice but to change its ways. It took some time for the apartheid label to stick to Israel, but the recent global protests against Israel’s actions in the occupied Palestinian Territories show that the world is finally coming to understand the expansion and brutality of Israel’s apartheid regime.

Thus it is time to once again draw the world’s attention to Israel’s crimes, especially against the Palestinians against the apartheid regime. Once the international community, though of late, accepts that Israel is indeed an apartheid state, it may eventually grant it the same status it once accorded to apartheid South Africa – that of a pariah state.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Al Jazeera.


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