Posts Tagged ‘Apartheid’

Israel is an apartheid state (no poll required)

October 31, 2012

A new Ha’aretz poll indicates a majority of Jewish Israelis favour apartheid – but that’s nothing new.

Israel arpatheid state

Israel arpatheid state

A poll of Jewish Israelis published last week in Ha’aretz newspaper created headlines round the world with its findings of support among the public for discriminatory policies. Some greeted the survey’s results as vindication of claims made by critics of the Jewish state; others pointed to what they said were flaws in the methodology and how the statistics were being presented.

There is, however, no need for such a poll in order to reach the conclusion that Israel is guilty of apartheid: The facts speak for themselves.

Firstly, a clarification about terminology. To talk about Israeli apartheid is not to suggest a precise equivalence with the policies of the historic regime in South Africa. Rather, apartheid is a crime under international law independent of any comparison (see here, here, here, and here). As former UN Special Rapporteur John Dugard put it in the foreword to my first book: “It is Israel’s own version of a system that has been universally condemned.”

It is impossible to understand this “system” without remembering that its foundations were laid by the ethnic cleansing that took place in the Nakba. With the establishment of Israel in 1948, up to 90 per cent of the Palestinians who would have been inside the new state were expelled, their properties confiscated, and their return prevented. As these refugees were denied citizenship and their right to return ignored, Israel passed legislation to open up the new borders to Jews everywhere.

Thus the only reason why Israel, a so-called “liberal democracy”, has a Jewish majority at all is because of the forced – and ongoing – physical exclusion of Palestinians from their homes. From 1948 to 1953, 95 per cent of new Jewish communities were established on expelled Palestinians’ property. The amount of land belonging to Palestinian refugees expropriated by Israel’s “Absentee Property Law” amounts to around 20 per cent of the country’s total pre-1967 territory.

Rearranging demographics

Today, around one in four Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are “present absentees”, their homes and land confiscated. By the mid-1970s, the average Arab community inside Israel had lost around 65 to 75 per cent of its land. Since 1948, over 700 Jewish communities have been established inside Israel’s pre-67 borders – but only seven for Palestinian citizens (and those in order to concentrate the Bedouin population in the Negev).

Over the decades, the Israeli state has sought to “Judaise” areas of the country deemed to have “too high” a number of Palestinian citizens compared to Jews, particularly the Negev and Galilee regions. One strategy in the Galilee was to establish mitzpim (Hebrew: “look out”) communities whose goal, according to a Jewish Agency planner, was to “keep Arab villages from attaining territorial continuity and attract a ‘strong’ population to the Galilee’.”

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Bedouin citizens live in dozens of “unrecognised villages”, mainly in the Negev (though “non recognition” is not restricted to the south). They suffer from home demolitions and a lack of basic infrastructure. A serious new threat is the Prawer Plan, with planned mass evictions threatening up to 70,000 with forced relocation and the destruction of their villages.

This planned ethnic cleansing is driven by the sort of anxiety Shimon Peres expressed to US officials in 2005, when he worried that Israel had “lost” land in the Negev “to the Bedouin” and would need to take steps to “relieve” the “demographic threat”. A senior official in the Jewish Agency in 2003 explained a new Judaisation initiative on the grounds that “the birthrate of the Bedouins and Arabs in the Galilee is much faster than the Jewish” and thus “we are quickly losing our majority there”.

Another element in this regime of ethnic privilege is admissions committees, which operate in around 70 per cent of Israeli towns and permit (or deny) residency on the basis of social “suitability”. By “rejecting applications” from Palestinian citizens, the committees “have notoriously been used to exclude Arabs from living in rural Jewish communities” (Human Rights Watch).

Their role is now legislated for in around 42 per cent of communities, and those supporting the law were not shy to express their motivations. MK Israel Hasson (from the “centrist” Kadima party) said the law’s purpose is to “preserve the ability to realise the Zionist dream in practice”, while MK David Rotem (from FM Lieberman’s party Yisrael Beiteinu), said Jews and Palestinians should be “separate but equal”, affirming that “Israel is a Jewish and democratic state, not a state of all its citizens”.

Separate but separate

Israel’s institutionalised racism has serious consequences even for Palestinians’ choices about who to marry. In January, the High Court – a forum praised by “liberal” defenders of Israeli apartheid – upheld a law severely restricting Israeli citizens’ ability to live with spouses from the West Bank and Gaza. In the majority opinion, Justice Asher Grunis wrote that “human rights are not a prescription for national suicide” – referring to the “demographic” spectre that haunts apartheid regimes.

Kadima MK Otniel Schneller praised the decision for “articulat[ing] the rationale of separation between the peoples and the need to maintain a Jewish majority and the [Jewish] character of the state”, linking this to the formulation “two states for two peoples”. Ironically, this slogan of Zionist “moderates” (yes, it’s all relative) echoes the rhetoric of Apartheid South Africa’s politicians, who warned that “either we must follow the course of equality, which must eventually mean national suicide for the white race, or we must take the course of separation”.

The room for dissent is limited. In 2007, Israel’s internal security agency the Shin Bet stated it would “thwart the activity of any group or individual seeking to harm the Jewish and democratic character of the state of Israel, even if such activity is sanctioned by the law”. In 2008, the agency’s then-chief told US officials that many of the “Arab-Israeli population” are taking their rights “too far”. Israeli law provides for the banning of electoral candidates who deny “the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people”, and proposed bills can be rejected on the grounds that they undermine “Israel’s existence as the state of the Jewish people”.

While the Ha’aretz survey shocked some, it should not come as a surprise: Such views often emerge in similar polls. Examples in recent years include over half of Jewish Israelis saying marriage to an Arab is “equal to national treason”, 78 per cent of Jewish Israelis opposing Arabs joining the government, 62 per cent of Jewish Israelis encouraging the emigration of Palestinian citizens, and 36 per cent of Jewish Israelis being in favour of revoking the voting rights of non-Jews.

Such results are entirely expected when you look at the discourse propagated by Israel’s leaders. PM Netanyahu, as finance minister in 2003, described Palestinian citizens as a “demographic problem”, while in 2009, the current Housing Minister declared it a “national duty” to “prevent the spread” of Palestinian citizens. In 2010, the chair of the Knesset’s “Lobby for Housing Solutions for Young Couples” stated that “it is a national interest to encourage Jews to move to” places where “the Arab population is on the rise”. When Ehud Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem, he considered it “a matter of concern when the non-Jewish population rises a lot faster than the Jewish population”.

The same racist logic is behind the kinds of warnings issued by PM Netanyahu that “illegal infiltrators” – non-Jewish African refugees and migrants – could threaten the country’s existence “as a Jewish and democratic state”. In other countries, this is the language of the fringe far-Right; In Israel, to discuss the “threat” posted by Palestinian citizens and other non-Jews is routine.

Race-based policies

And what of Israeli policies in the Occupied Territories, under military rule for 45 years? In Jerusalem, constantly touted by Israel’s leaders as the country’s “eternal” capital, Palestinian residents in the illegally annexed East face planning restrictions, home demolitions, discrimination in municipal services, and the community-shattering Apartheid Wall. Speaking to BBC’s Hardtalk in July 2011, Mayor Barkat openly confirmed that he seeks to maintain a Jewish majority in the city – imagine if the mayors of London, New York or Paris stated that Jewish residents must not rise above a certain proportion.

There are over 300,000 Israeli citizens living in West Bank settlements (plus 200,000 in East Jerusalem), a network of colonies among a Palestinian population without citizenship. Palestinians’ freedom of movement is controlled by a bureaucratic “permit” system, enforced by some 500 checkpoints and obstacles. The vast majority of the Apartheid Wall, 700km in length and 70 per cent completed or under construction, lies inside the occupied West Bank. The illegality of this de facto annexation was confirmed by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in their 2004 advisory opinion.

In 60 per cent of the West Bank (“Area C”), Palestinians must apply for building permits from Israeli occupation forces; yet according to a 2008 UN report, 94 per cent of applications are denied. Building illegally means demolition. In 2011, Israel demolished 620 Palestinian-owned structures in the West Bank, part of what the EU has called a “forced transfer of the native population”. Meanwhile, cranes and diggers are put to work in thriving, illegal, Israeli settlements.

Israel also exploits the West Bank’s natural resources, such as its “discriminatory” control of water access and usage: Palestinians, over 80 per cent of the population in the West Bank, are restricted to 20 per cent of the water from the main underground aquifer. Human Rights Watch have called Israel’s regime in the West Bank a “two-tier system” where Palestinians face “systematic discrimination” (the same terminology they have used to describe policies inside the pre-67 borders as well).

The Gaza Strip, home to some 1.7 million Palestinians a majority of whom are refugees, is blockaded by the Israeli military behind perimeter fences and “buffer zones” (including at sea). Restrictions on movement began in the early 1990s, with an intensified siege being implemented in 2006-’07. Until today, Israel blocks almost all exports from the territory, and pursues what it calls a “separation” policy for the purpose of cutting off Gaza from the West Bank.

In March, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) described Israel’s violations of the right to equality in unprecedented terms. Noting “segregation between Jewish and non-Jewish communities” and a lack of “equal access to land and property” inside Israel’s pre-67 borders, CERD found a regime of “de facto segregation” in the West Bank severe enough to prompt a reminder of the “prohibition” of “apartheid”.

Across the whole of historic Palestine – Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip – the State of Israel rules over around 12 million people whose rights and privileges are determined on a discriminatory basis. Millions more are excluded from the country all together (because they are Palestinian). It is a regime intended to maintain the domination of one group at the expense of another. It is apartheid.

— Ben White

Originally published by Al-Jazeera and republished by Stop the War Coalition.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Palestine

June 25, 2011

Archbishop Desmond Tutu knows apartheid when he sees it.

I have visited the occupied Palestinian territories and have witnessed the humiliation of Palestinians at Israeli military checkpoints: the inhumanity that won’t let ambulances reach the injured, farmers tend their land or children attend school.

This treatment is familiar to me and the many black South Africans who were corralled and harassed by the security forces of the apartheid government.

In South Africa, we could not have achieved our freedom without the help of people around the world, and musicians were central to our struggle. Through music and art we speak to a common humanity, one which transcends political and economic interests.

For this I am proud to support Freedom for Palestine by OneWorld. I urge everyone to buy the single and spread its message.

Archbishop Tutu endorses ‘Freedom for Palestine’ single by OneWorld! Have you got your copy yet?

Please support occupied Palestine by buying Zaytoun fairtrade fairtrade olive oil.

Jesus did not actively try to remove the Roman occupiers from Palestine, but neither did he aid and abet them.

If your local church hosts Card Aid, allows the sale of Israeli so-called Peace Oil, please seek removal. [also see Peace Oil or taking the piss?]

Synchronicity: I took refuge in St Mark’s Church a couple of days ago. They were preparing for their Flower Festival which takes place this weekend, including a choral perfomance on Sunday afternoon. Talking to a lady I mentioned a sermon I had received from Desmond Tutu a few years ago. The following day he sent me an e-mail on Palestine!

Israeli Apartheid – A talk by Ben White

Israeli Apartheid – A talk by Ben White

November 19, 2010
Ben White signing Israeli Apartheid

Ben White signing Israeli Apartheid

Supporters of Israel present Zionism as an ideology of liberation of the Jewish people, but for Palestinians, Zionism, as it has been practised and as they have experienced it, has been precisely apartheid. – Mona Younis

We must expel Arabs and take their places. – Ben-Gurion

Ben-Gurion was right … Without the uprooting of the Palestinians, a Jewish state would not have arisen here. – Benny Morris

There is a fundamental difference in quality between a Jew and a native. – Chaim Weizman

‘Disappearing’ the Arabs lay at the heart of the Zionist dream, and was also a necessary condition of its realisation. – Tom Sagev

Ben White, author of Israeli Apartheid and campaign coordinator of A Just Peace for Palestine, was invited by West Surrey Palestine Solidarity Campaign to give a talk on Israeli Apartheid at St Nicolas Church in Guildford. On sale half a dozen bottles of Zaytoun fair trade Palestinian olive oil, a few bags of nuts and a few bars of soap from Sindyanna of Galilee, an Israeli fair trade producer in northern Israel. Also various quite informative leaflets. Also copies of his book Israeli Apartheid.

Ben White has lived in and is a frequent visitor. His excellent book Israeli Apartheid has a human touch with the personal stories of the many people he has met.

Israel is a pariah state. A client state of the US and to a lesser extent of the West. It behaves like a colonial power, seized land that was not its to seize, subjugates the people to whom the land belongs

The Zionist Sate of Israel is unique amongst states. It is the State of the Jewish People no matter where they live, but it is not the state of all its citizens.

From its inception, the Israeli state carried out a policy of ethnic cleansing to clean the land of the people to whom it was not promised. Where that has not been successful of cleansing the Promised Land then a policy of apartheid has been implemented.

Apartheid is where a dominant racial group uses systemic, institutionalised human rights abuses against what they see as an inferior racial group. We saw this in South Africa and we are seeing it today in Israel and Occupied Palestine.

Around half of all Palestinians live outside of Palestine as displaced people or refugees.

It is convenient for the purpose of discussion to split the Palestinians into three groups as how they are treated differs: those living in Israel, those living in East Jerusalem and those in the Occupied Territories.

The Jews or maybe it would be more accurate to say Zionists, used terror to drive the Palestinians from their land to establish the Jewish State of Israel. The Arabs who remained are citizens of Israel, but second class citizens. From 1948 until 1966, they were subject to Martial Law.

Many of their houses, many of their settlements, are ‘illegal’ under Jewish zoning laws. These houses and settlement can be demolished at any time. We are used to seeing demolition of Palestinian homes in the Occupied Territories. This also happens within Israel.

Somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 of land has been seized from Palestinian settlements. Land can be seized from absentee owners. Absent because they have been driven out Israel and have no right of return. Often these absentee owners are internally displaced within Israel and unable to return to their land.

In parts of Israel there are policies to increase the Jewish population because there are too few Jews, too many Palestinians, the demographic problem

East Jerusalem has had its boundaries expanded into the West Bank, almost cutting the West Bank in half. Within this new boundary were and are still many Palestinians. They have residency status which can and often is revoked.

Palestinians in the Occupied Territories are often forced out of their homes or forced to relinquish their land. The pretext will often be it is required for military purposes, but that is simply in order that the land may be occupied by illegal settlements, illegal under International Law.

The West Bank is highly fragmented due to the number of illegal settlements and the roads that connect them.

Palestinian self-rule is that of Bantustans with leaders approved by the Israeli state.

The Peace Process is little more than a public relations exercise by the Israelis. Whilst the talks take place, Zionist expansion continues.

This season Palestinians have had a tough time bringing in the olive harvest with settlers from the illegal settlements destroying their crops. One way to support Palestinians is to buy fairtrade Palestinian olive oil such as Zaytoun.

How to resist Zionist expansion and colonisation? One way is to boycott Israeli goods.

Promoted by hard-line Zionists, across the river from St Nicolas, can be found Israeli so-called Peace Oil on sale in St Mary’s Church. This was not even raised let alone discussed! I argued that it should be raised at the beginning of the meeting, let us hear what Ben White has to say, then discuss at the end. I was overruled and told I was trying to hijack the meeting! The meeting broke up without agreement on any action to effect the removal of Peace Oil from St Mary’s. It was not even discussed. With friends like this who needs enemies? [see Peace Oil or taking the piss?]

Zaytoun Palestinian oil was on sale, but only around half a dozen bottles. I was told beforehand I could buy a bottle, but never got a look in. One greedy woman bought five bottles, all that was left. Something you never do at a solidarity meeting. If limited, you buy one, and only buy more if any left. You let everyone get a look in.

Unusual for an event like this, the speaker was charging full price for his book. Usually they are at discount cf all the books at the Guildford Book Festival last month, including the Amnesty International event

Also see

Failed States

The Fateful Triangle

Freedom Next Time

Apartheid in the Holy Land

Israel boots activists out over standing up for Palestinians

Norman Finkelstein vs Wolf Blitzer – Israel/Palestine Double Standards

Bethlehem Hidden from View

street theatre Israeli Apartheid Wall

“Put the Palestinians on a diet” – media bury documents revealing Israel’s deliberate policy of near-starvation for Gaza

Nablus: The Business of Occupation

Picking olives under occupation

Olive tree damage worries Palestinian Farmers

The agricultural impact of conflict

Palestinians concerned about olive groves in the West Bank

Israel orders demolition of 88 homes in E. Jerusalem

A privatized Nakba

Palestinians Fear Two-Tier Road System

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