Thursday, February 14, 2013

Israel's Apartheid

Dear friends,
please find below my lastest article published in Socialist Alternative magazine on why Israel is an apartheid state.

In solidarity,

Israel's Apartheid
by Kim Bullimore
Socialist Alternative magazine: 7 February 2013

Since its founding in 1948, Israel has been an openly racist and apartheid state, using both legally sanctioned discrimination and military force to ethnically cleanse and oppress the indigenous Palestinian people. It has imposed an apartheid system both inside the Zionist state and in the Palestinian territories that it seized in 1967.

What is apartheid?

The United Nations definition of apartheid was enshrined in the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. Article Two of the 1973 Convention identifies apartheid as not only being the denial of members of a racial group the right to life, the inflicting of arbitrary arrest, illegal imprisonment, serious bodily and/or mental harm (such as torture or degrading punishment). It is also identified with the exploitation of racial groups by forced labour and the imposition of living conditions aimed at destruction – in part or whole – of the group.

Article Two also identifies apartheid as the implementation of “any legislative measures and other measures calculated to prevent a racial group or groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country”. It also notes that apartheid is constituted by “denying to members of a racial group or groups basic human rights and freedoms”, with this including the right to nationality, education, employment, freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association, freedom of residence and movement, including the right to leave and return to their country.

The Convention also recognises apartheid as “any measure including legislative measures, designed to divide the population along racial lines by the creation of separate reserves and ghettos for the members of racial group or groups, the prohibition of mixed marriages among members of various racial groups, the expropriation of landed property belonging to a racial group or groups”.

Israel’s apartheid

Zionists (those who argue for a Jewish state in Palestine) and apologists for Israel have attempted to deny Israel’s apartheid nature. However, while Israel hasn't sought to impose exactly the same apartheid regime as existed in South Africa, it does bestow a system of rights and privileges according to ethnic and religious identity, which fits with the UN definition.

According to Israeli human rights organisation, Adalah – the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel – there are more than 30 laws within Israel which legalise discrimination against Israel's non-Jewish citizens. The laws cover areas such as marriage and family matters, employment, education, land, property and political activity.

In 2012, Adalah noted that there has been a sharp increase in these laws since 2011, with an additional 23 discriminatory laws and bills either being passed or tabled in the Israeli Knesset (parliament). Once such law which was passed in June 2011 legalised “admission committees” in approximately 700 Israeli towns built on “state land” in the Negev and Galilee. These committees, which include quasi-government organisations such as the Jewish Agency, have the full discretion to reject individuals if they are deemed “unsuitable to the social life of the community…or social and cultural fabric of the town”. As Adalah notes this is used to filter out Palestinians and other Arabs, as well as other marginalised groups, thus legally legitimising the exclusion of entire ethnic groups from Israeli townships.

Another such apartheid law is the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Provision) which was first enacted in 2003. This law prohibits the granting of citizenship and residency status to Palestinians from the Occupied Territories, as well as Arabs from Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, who are married to Israeli citizens. According to Adalah, the law specifically affects Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up approximately 20 percent of the state’s population, preventing thousands of families being able to live together.

In March 2012, the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UN CERD) called on Israel to end its systemic and legalised discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel. The Committee called on Israel to rescind all discriminatory laws and bills “to ensure non-Jewish communities' equal access to work and social benefits as well as political participation” and to “eradicate all forms of segregation between Jewish and non-Jewish communities”. In particular, the UN committee criticised Israel's enactment of the Admissions Committee Law and called for the revoking of the Citizenship and Entry law.

Israel refused.

Israel's apartheid regime is not a recent invention but has been in place since 1948. One of the first laws passed by the newly-established Israeli state was the “Absentees” property law. This allowed for the confiscation of land and property which had belonging to more 1 million Palestinians who had been forced to flee their homes by Zionist militias in 1948.

Of these refugees 750,000 became externally displaced in neighbouring Arab countries, while150,000 became internally displaced inside the newly formed Israeli state. The law prevents Palestinians from reclaiming their homes, property and land. This is true not just for those externally displaced, but also those internally displaced Palestinian refugees who subsequently became Israeli citizens. The Palestinian homes, property and land confiscated by Israel was immediately handed over to Jewish immigrants and ex-soldiers, with more than 170,000 resettled by the end of July 1948 in Palestinian homes.

In 1949, Israel introduced martial law and other “security” laws that only applied to the Palestinian citizens of Israel. Unlike Jewish citizens, Palestinians were subject to regular curfew and couldn't leave or enter their own towns without permits. In addition, restrictions were placed on their education and employment; political activity and organisations were banned. While Martial Law formally ended in 1966, Israel has continued its apartheid practices.

The brutality of occupation

Since 1967, Palestinians living the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem have been forced to live under military occupation. Since that time, Israel issued more than 3000 military regulations to “govern” Palestinians in these territories. These military orders, which can be issued at the whim of a military commander, don't need to be publicised. They affect every aspect of Palestinian daily life, including legal identity, education, employment, health care, housing, freedom of movement and political activity.

Palestinians don't have any recourse to challenge these laws. One military law enacted in 1970 (Military Order 378) authorised the use of “Administrative Detention”, allows for the detention and arrest large numbers of Palestinian civilians without charge or trail. In 1988, the military order was amended, allowing for Palestinians to now be detained under Administrative Detention without designating a maximum period of time for incarceration without charge or trail. Under this regime, detained Palestinians, along with the lawyers, have no right to know what they are accused of and no right to access the military 'evidence' being used against them.

According to Addameer, the Palestinian Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, more than 40 percent of the male Palestinian population, including minors, of the Occupied Territories has been detained since 1967. According to both Israeli and Palestinian human rights organisations, nearly all Palestinian political prisoners – both male and female, including minors – have suffered torture while imprisoned by Israel. Addameer notes that “Physical and psychological torture against Palestinian and Arab prisoners has been a distinguishing factor of Israeli occupation since 1967”. The Association estimates that since beginning of the first Palestinian intifada in 1987, at least 30,000 Palestinians have been tortured by Israel.

Palestinians are also subject to other forms of punitive punishment and restrictions under Israel's military apartheid regime in the Occupied Territories, including the regular destruction of Palestinian homes, land and agricultural crops, as well as the restriction of freedom of movement and the prevention of using roads or entering areas reserved only for Jewish colonial-settlers. In addition, under this apartheid regime Palestinians’ water resources and land are regularly confiscated and redirected for Jewish only use in illegal Israeli colonies.


Palestinians, however, have continued to struggle against Israel apartheid and racist regime both inside Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, as well as internationally. In 2005, Palestinian civil society issued a called for an international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. The campaign, inspired by the struggle of South Africans against apartheid, calls for international solidarity and resistance to Israel's oppression of the Palestinians by enacting non-violent punitive measures against Israel until it complies with international law and recognises the Palestinian people's right to self-determination.

In the last eight years, the campaign has grown in leaps in bound and has been supported by people of conscience all over the world. In particular, it has gained widespread support in South Africa, with many former activists and opponents of South Africa's apartheid regime calling for an end to Israel's apartheid system.

All anti-racists should support the struggle of the Palestinians against apartheid. As the US civil rights leader Martin Luther King famously said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

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