Let us recall that Israel was the only country to maintain its unconditional support, economic and military among other aspects, for the South African apartheid regime for more than 30 years, including when the UN took the decision to impose sanctions on this regime in 1984. Is it any wonder that Israel today practices similar policies towards the Palestinian population?
1. Different rights for different populations
In South Africa, there were different rights for whites and for blacks. In the case of Israel, there are different or variable rights for Jews and for non-Jews. For example :
- The 1950 Law of Return allows any Jewish person to immigrate to Israel without hindrance and be granted citizenship immediately. Palestinians are not entitled to it even if they, their parents or their grandparents lived on this same land;
- The Family Unification Law adopted on July 31, 2003, prohibits Palestinians from the occupied territories from obtaining, by marriage with an Israeli citizen, citizenship or even a right of temporary residence which, among other things, forces a number of Palestinian-Israeli citizens either to leave Israel or to separate from their spouses and children living in the West Bank or Gaza. This legislation was condemned by the UN Human Rights Committee (August 6, 2003) and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (August 14, 2003 and June 14, 2007);
- Palestinian citizens of Israel must carry an identity card designating them as “non-Jews” by means of a number and the way the date of birth is written on it.
2. Discriminatory access to land and separation in different geographical areas.
In South Africa, 87% of the land was reserved for whites and the rest for blacks. Blacks lived in bantustans, sort of reservations where they were deprived of rights and became strangers in their own country. Blacks had to have government-issued rights of way to travel but could use the same roads as whites.
Within the borders of Israel:
- 93% of the land is reserved for the exclusive use of Jews. Non-Jews do not have access; they cannot buy or rent land;
- the Israeli Supreme Court has issued rulings that Palestinians cannot live on “Jewish land”;
- there are inequities in services and developmental aid, non-recognition or systematic destruction of Palestinian villages, in particular Bedouin Arab villages, to deal with the “housing crisis” of Jewish Israeli men and women.
In the occupied territories:
Systematic confiscation of Palestinian land for the exclusive use of Jewish citizens, by force through a combination of administrative and legislative devices (including the Absentee Property Law of 1950) and through a policy of “fait accomplis” on the ground : construction of Jewish settlements, encroachment by the Separation Wall; control of groundwater (water);
construction of a system of roads that connects the Jewish settlements with each other and with Israel but is strictly prohibited for Palestinians. Palestinians must take separate roads or pass under Israeli roads so that Palestinians and Israelis never meet;
Prohibition for Palestinians to build a house or repair their own in annexed East Jerusalem; confiscation of Palestinian homes for Jewish settlers;
relentless blockade imposed on the inhabitants of Gaza who live separated not only from other members of their people but from the whole world; they are forbidden to leave it and it is forbidden to enter it (except recently and by Egypt, but in a trickle);
“Bantustanization” of the West Bank: Palestinian men and women live in bantustans which no longer have any territorial contiguity between them; their movements are limited by the Wall; they are subject to obtaining permits issued arbitrarily by the military authorities and strictly controlled by a very elaborate system of checkpoints. The UN listed 634 checkpoints as of May, 2009.
3. Total control of the Palestinian population and military repression.
In South Africa, the black population was subjected to significant repression in the ghettos: prohibition and violent repression of any demonstration, even peaceful, against apartheid, fines, arbitrary imprisonment, torture. In the occupied territories, Israeli military violence against Palestinians is comparable if not worse, according to several experts: submission to Israeli martial law; violent repression of peaceful demonstrations (eg. the village of Bill’In); targeted assassinations and extra-judicial executions of activists; house demolition, destruction of olive groves, confiscation of property, arbitrary incursions of soldiers at night into Palestinian homes; administrative and preventive detentions (more than 12,000 prisoners including 500 children), ill-treatment and torture; regular imposition of curfews; frequent university closures; attacks on the life and health of women (e.g. between 2000 and 2006, 68 Palestinian women gave birth at check-points resulting in the death of 33 babies and 4 women.
In Israel, citizens of Palestinian origin are treated as second-class citizens: systemic inequalities and discrimination, among other things, in access to services (health, education), programs, subsidies, jobs, unionization . Former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: “I have been to the Occupied Palestinian Territories and witnessed racial segregation in the road network and housing that reminded me so much of what we experienced in South Africa when we lived under a racist apartheid regime” (The Guardian, 2002). Israel thus violates the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (1973) (…) defined as….“a system of segregation and discrimination with the intention of establishing and maintaining the domination of one racial group of people over another racial group of people and to systematically oppress the latter.”
Have doubts? The documentation showing that Israel practices apartheid is abundant. Consult the opinions of jurists and the deliberations of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, which has examined the situation for the past four years and concludes its work by requesting, among other things (…) the convening of a special session of the United Nations General Assembly on Israeli apartheid (Communiqué of March 19, 2013). Consult the analyses of two authors, one American and the other Israeli: Jimmy Carter, ex-president of the United States, Peace not Apartheid, (2006) Simon & Schuster Paperbacks and David A. Kirshbaum of the Israel Law Resource Center, Israeli Apartheid. A Legal Perspective (2007). See B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories (www.btselem.org), in particular their report on East Jerusalem: Policy of Discrimination in Planning, Building and Expropriation.