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Edition 8 Volume 10 - February 23, 2012

Israel and the apartheid comparison

Similarities, but no similar response  - an interview with John Dugard
Virtually every South African that goes to the West Bank and Gaza is struck by the similarities.

Many instances of discrimination  - Shlomo Gazit
The most severe denial of rights is the policy whereby all state lands are reserved exclusively for Israeli settlements.

Apartheid has a face  - Samah Jabr
There are regulations for every type of discrimination and a law for every crime.

Exploiting apartheid for political warfare  - Gerald M. Steinberg
As Goldstone wrote, "The charge that Israel is an apartheid state is false and malicious".


Similarities, but no similar response
an interview with  John Dugard

BI: You wrote recently that, while there are differences in Israel's practices and those of apartheid South Africa (namely that black South Africans were citizens), there are similarities in the areas of discrimination, repression and territorial fragmentation. Can you touch briefly on those areas?

Dugard: I think that when we compare the situation in South Africa and the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, you have to look at it from two perspectives. First of all, there is the similarity between the two systems or regimes and secondly, there is the question of whether the system in the occupied Palestinian territory falls within the scope of the [United Nations] convention on apartheid. These are two related issues, but I think it is helpful to treat them separately.

If I can start from the first, I think it is very clear that there are similar features in the sense that there is discrimination, repression and territorial fragmentation in the occupied Palestinian territory. There is of course the dispute about "race", but the general view seems to be that one can regard the Palestinians and the Jews as separate races. Once one does that, it is clear that there is discrimination against Palestinians in favor of settlers. Settlers fall roughly in the category of white South Africans in the sense that they are the dominant group.

As far as repression is concerned, there are security laws that are similar. In South Africa, there were laws that allowed torture and there are also serious allegations of torture in the occupied Palestinian territory.

On the subject of territorial fragmentation, in South Africa we had the Bantustan policy which sought to separate the country territorially. In the occupied Palestinian territory, the wall, the settlements, the military zones [constitute] territorial fragmentation and you see Palestinian territory being carved up.

Virtually every South African that goes to the West Bank and Gaza is struck by the similarities. We all have a sense of deja vu. I am talking principally here about black South Africans like Archbishop [Desmond] Tutu and others who have repeatedly stated that, in their opinion, the situation in the Palestinian territory is in many respects worse than it was under apartheid.

BI: How do you respond to critics--such as judge Richard Goldstone--who say that this is absurd?

Dugard: I am not so worried by the comment by Richard Goldstone in the New York Times where he said that the [comparison] between apartheid and what happens in the occupied Palestinian territory is slanderous and false. What I find very interesting is that when one examines the so-called Goldstone report and the chapter on the West Bank in particular, it does not use the term "apartheid", but the criticism of the system in the West Bank really identifies it as a form of apartheid. I find it a bit strange that he should say that it is "slanderous" when his own report does to a large extent confirm the fact that the system in the occupied Palestinian territory is a form of apartheid.

BI: Does the system in place in the occupied territories fit the UN definition of "apartheid"?

Dugard: The apartheid convention does list a number of "inhuman acts" and quite a number of those inhuman acts are committed by the [Israel Defense Forces] in the Palestinian territory. There are unlawful killings--here one speaks of "targeted assassinations". There is detention without trial and inhuman acts of the kind that are listed in the apartheid convention. And then the act must be committed with the intentional purpose of domination of one racial group over another. Here, too, I think that one can correctly say that the purpose of these inhuman acts is to maintain the domination of settlers in the Palestinian territory.

BI: Why do you think this kind of academic comparison is considered so "beyond the pale" in mainstream discussion about the situation in the occupied territories?

Dugard: I don't think that it is very academic. I think that the two systems are so similar that it's important to emphasize the similarities, particularly because apartheid was clearly condemned by the international community and action was taken against the apartheid regime. I think that the reason that the comparison is so resisted in Israel is precisely because of the fear that the sort of action that was taken against the apartheid regime would be taken against Israel in respect to the occupied territory.

I think, ultimately, my criticism relates largely to the position of settlers. I know that there are some that argue that Israel's practices in Israel itself constitute a form of apartheid. I have very serious misgivings about that.

The other important factor is that settlement can be capitalized as a form of colonialism. Colonialism is totally unacceptable to the international community. And so we have two regimes that have been condemned by the international community--apartheid and colonialism--and the international community does not respond in the same way that it did to South Africa.

BI: What do you see as the next step for those pursuing legal and advocacy strategies against these practices?

Dugard: I think that it is important to try to educate public opinion, particularly in the United States and Europe, to persuade people to see the similarities. And I think it is particularly important that Israelis themselves should become more aware of the similarities. I know that prominent Israelis have drawn the comparison, but it doesn't seem to have affected public opinion in Israel. I think that it is a process of education that is important. I don't want to get into the whole [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] action program. I can see the merits of it, but I have misgivings about it in other respects.-Published 23/2/2012 © bitterlemons-international.org


John Dugard is a professor of international law, authored a comprehensive study of the law of apartheid and was for seven years the special rapporteur to the UN Human Rights Council on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory.


Many instances of discrimination
 Shlomo Gazit

Apartheid policy was a set of principles of racial separation between whites, blacks, Indians and coloreds in pre-1994 South Africa and the attributing of privileges there to the white minority. Its principal characteristic in South Africa does not apply to Israel, which does not discriminate between black and white citizens and, indeed, has even adopted policies of encouraging immigration and reverse discrimination regarding black Jews from Cochin and Ethiopia.

If the pre-1994 regime in South Africa is the "ideal" model of apartheid, then Israel does not implement such policies of discrimination based on race and color. This is undoubtedly true within Israel's sovereign, pre-1967 borders, and is evidently true as well in the territories occupied in 1967 that are still under the rule and administration of Israeli military government.

There is no Israeli parallel to the South African apartheid laws: no law forbidding inter-racial marriage or sexual relations between whites and other races, no law delineating separate residence areas and none designating separate public facilities for different races. One cannot, on the other hand, ignore the discriminatory nature of Israel's "Law of Return" that permits free immigration to any Jew from anywhere but not to Arabs or any other nationalities. Then too, we must note the discrimination practiced in Israel on the basis of religion: all provisions for personal status in Israel continue to be based on outmoded Ottoman-era legislation that prevents marriage to anyone of a different religion.

This is ostensibly the legal situation in Israeli sovereign territory. But even here, matters are not so simple when it comes to East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, which were annexed by Israel after the 1967 war. Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem and Druze who live on the Golan Heights do not enjoy rights equal to those of Jews who have settled in these territories over the years. The most prominent illustration of this discrimination is the prevention of return to Jerusalem by Palestinians born there who have spent an extended period of time abroad.

Most recently, the current Knesset that was elected in 2009 has adopted a dangerous pattern of legislation that is motivated by clear Jewish nationalist considerations. Its purpose is to maintain a large Jewish majority in Israel and prevent Arab citizens of Israel from expressing their Palestinian nationalist sentiments. Prominent examples are the "Nekba law" that withdraws government funding from Israeli Arab institutions that commemorate the events of 1948 from a Palestinian standpoint, the "admissions committee" law that enables small communities to refuse admission to Arab and other non-Jewish families, a law requiring a loyalty oath to Israel as a Jewish and Zionist state, and a citizenship law that prevents an Israeli Arab from living in Israel with an Arab spouse whose origins are in "enemy territory".

Another recently-proposed law that is pending in the Knesset seeks to cancel the status of Arabic as an official Israeli language.

Israel justifiably argues the need to distinguish between the situation prevailing on its sovereign territory, where all citizens are legally equal, and the law pertaining to the territories occupied in June 1967. The latter are subject to a military commander who has assumed the sovereign status of the pre-war ruler: the governments of Jordan in the West Bank and Syria on the Golan. In these territories, a flexible security policy legally prevails, one that changes from time to time in accordance with security requirements.

Yet the reality is different: it is the government of Israel and the Knesset that determine, de facto and even de jure, the status of the territories. Massive Israeli settlement in these lands is disputed by the international community, while the Israel High Court of Justice has confirmed its legality. There is discrimination between Israeli settlers and Arab residents of the territories, which Israel rationalizes on the basis of security needs. It is hard to justify bias regarding transportation, electricity, water and other infrastructures in favor of Israeli settlers. The most severe denial of rights is the Israeli policy whereby all state and public lands are reserved exclusively for the needs of Israeli settlements.

To sum up: there is no Israeli apartheid, certainly not within the sovereign confines of the state of Israel. Sadly, there are many instances of discrimination.-Published 23/2/2012 © bitterlemons-international.org


Major General (Ret.) Shlomo Gazit was head of Israel Defense Forces Intelligence. He was also the first IDF coordinator for the occupied territories.


Apartheid has a face
 Samah Jabr

Last month, in the early evening, as I drove on Jerusalem's Route 1 in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, I was attacked by several Israeli boys. They were about 12 or 13 years old, in religious orthodox dress. They threw a ball of burning gas into my car while I was stopped at a traffic light on my way to attend class at the Israeli Institute of Psychoanalysis.

The Israeli police came to the scene to see what the disturbance was and the kids were still there. Rather than punishing the children and despite my distress, however, the police told me it was "only" a Purim toy. They then asked me to move my car or else they would issue me a ticket. Passing Arab drivers told me that these boys often harass drivers, spitting at Arab women and throwing stones at Arab drivers in that area. The police have done nothing about it.

I arrived at my psychoanalytic psychotherapy class thinking of all the Palestinian kids who have been shot in the eyes or in the back of their knees or hit by settler's cars because they had been accused of throwing stones at Israeli cars. Apartheid was a system of discrimination--a system similar to the system that controls every aspect of Palestinian lives here on our land. Every day that it goes unaddressed, my people are forced to take a step backward into unfairness and loss.

Last Thursday, a truck lost control in rainy weather and collided into a Palestinian bus carrying students. The vehicle overturned and caught fire, a blaze that devoured six small children and their teacher and critically injured several others.

Traffic accidents take place everywhere. Kids everywhere also die in unfortunate accidents. What was unusual about this tragedy is that it took place in what is called (according to the local apartheid system), "Area C", near what Palestinians call Jaba' checkpoint and what Israelis call Adam square after the nearby settlement. Israeli emergency medical crews and a fire station are stationed less than three minutes away from the accident scene. In Area C, the Palestinian Authority has no power, and Palestinian construction is mostly prohibited by Israel. While Israeli settlements expand on Palestinian land, their residents travelling on well-constructed safe roads, Palestinians in these areas cope with run-down infrastructure and the absence of basic services.

A video taken in the first minutes of the accident shows that untrained Palestinian men and women rushed to the scene and used their bare hands, simple fire extinguishers from their cars and buckets of water to extinguish the large blaze in the bus. Others went into the burning bus and came out carrying burnt children, some of them transported to the hospital in private cars. By the time ambulances arrived, the fire in the bus had been extinguished and the children were evacuated. Eyewitnesses say ambulances arrived 45 to 50 minutes after the accident. The nearest Palestinian hospital, the Palestinian Red Crescent, would be 20 minutes away if it were not for the daily tangle of traffic created by Qalandia checkpoint at Ramallah's southern entrance.

Benzion Oring, head of the Jerusalem office of Israel's emergency service ZAKA, told Ynet that his disaster teams had trouble finding the scene at first because the area is near Palestinian villages. "We arrived at the scene after we made sure to get the necessary permits," he said. Well, why don't Israelis need all this preparation when entering the area to arrest a Palestinian? The soldiers manning the checkpoint only 100 meters from the scene would certainly not have waited around had the burning bus carried Israeli children.

And of course, Israeli media focused on the Israeli medical teams that did eventually come to the scene and help rescue the children and take a few kids to "good" Israeli hospitals, without mentioning that Israeli checkpoints and the wall delayed the rescuers. Nor was this the first accident in which Palestinian lives were lost because firefighters and medical teams were not allowed into Area C, or were delayed by Israeli checkpoints, curfews and walls, or the siege on Gaza.

Under the "enlightened" Israeli occupation, there are regulations for every type of discrimination and a law for every crime. People's rights and chance of survival depends on where they live. Identity cards, identifying license plates, the ability to access to roads, hospitals and all manner of services are bestowed based on national identity. People are classified as superior and given full human rights, or inferior and left to survive on the leftovers of their occupiers. This diminution of the value of human life, combined with the expansion of social repression and denial, is eroding Israeli society as well as that of their occupied.-Published 23/2/2012 © bitterlemons-international.org


Samah Jabr is a freelance writer and a psychiatrist.


Exploiting apartheid for political warfare
 Gerald M. Steinberg

In September 2001, the participants in the Non-Government Organization Forum of the United Nations Conference on Racism and Discrimination in Durban, South Africa, welcomed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, distributed anti-Semitic literature, and adopted a declaration branding Israel as "a racist, apartheid state" practicing "a crime against humanity". This form of political warfare was led by the Palestinian leadership and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the text was written at a Tehran preparatory conference from which Israelis and Jews were excluded. The Durban NGO Forum marked the launch of another major round of political warfare against Israel, seeking to delegitimize Jewish national self-determination.

The use of the "apartheid" libel as the primary vehicle for de-legitimization is not directed against specific Israeli policies. The rhetoric and the campaigns on university campuses and in events such as "Israel apartheid week" explicitly target the existence of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. The political warfare accompanied by BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaigns is a direct continuation of the Arab rejection of the November 1947 United Nations Partition plan (General Assembly Resolution 181). This strategy was also embodied in the infamous 1975 UN "Zionism is racism" resolution (General Assembly Resolution 3379, repealed in 1991). In the words of Irwin Cotler, former Canadian attorney general, "Let there be no mistake about it: to indict Israel as an Apartheid State is prologue and justification for the dismantling of the Jewish State, for the criminalization of its supporters, and for the consequential silencing of their speech."

This campaign immorally exploits the suffering of the real victims of apartheid and racism, and transforms a political dispute into a racial conflict. The comparison was categorically rejected and denounced by Judge Richard Goldstone in The New York Times. Goldstone, who is a former justice of the South African Constitutional Court, wrote that, "In Israel, there is no apartheid. Nothing there comes close to the definition of apartheid under the 1998 Rome Statute . . . ." Goldstone added that "while 'apartheid' can have broader meaning, its use is meant to evoke the situation in pre-1994 South Africa. It is an unfair and inaccurate slander against Israel, calculated to retard rather than advance peace negotiations."

Many others who had experienced the real apartheid expressed similar views. Benjamin Pogrund, who was a journalist in South Africa, wrote, "Use of the apartheid label is at best ignorant and naive and at worst cynical and manipulative."

This cynicism is illustrated by the immunity given to the highly discriminatory regimes that ruled many of the Arab and self-defined Islamic states for decades, but were not subject to serious investigation or criticism in the United Nations or by groups claiming a human rights agenda. In countries where women and religious, ethnic and other minorities are systematically denied equal rights, terms such as "apartheid" are never used. This language is also not applied to Egypt, despite often violent friction involving the Coptic minority, or to Turkey, which deprives its Kurdish citizens of equal rights.

The reality is that Israel's Arab citizens (Muslim, Druze and Christian, of different denominations) own property, have full voting rights, are proportionately represented in the Knesset, and are appointed to the High Court of Justice. Arab and Jewish patients receive identical treatment and are entitled to the same welfare and pension benefits and other state-provided services. While there is room for improvement in the distribution of income and other areas, as is true everywhere, the differences in Israel are not simply due to ethno-religious distinctions.

In the face of these blatant double standards, the power of the "apartheid" campaign is derived from resources that are available in both political and financial forms. Politically, as noted, this divisive agenda is supported by the Arab and Islamic blocs in the United Nations and associated institutions, providing numerous platforms as well as access to media.

Financially, the availability of significant European government funding for ostensible human rights organizations that actively promote the "apartheid" libel, including Adalah, Badil, al-Haq, and al-Mezan, is a major factor. Electronic Intifada, which is indirectly funded through Dutch government humanitarian aid, plays a central role in this political warfare, as do various Palestinian solidarity committees whose funding sources are entirely hidden.

Finally, the crude exploitation of the "apartheid" libel and the accompanying BDS campaigns are the antithesis of the mutual acceptance required for peace. Many Israelis see this form of demonization as the polar opposite of acceptance of a two-state solution that would acknowledge the legitimacy of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish nation. As Judge Goldstone wrote, "The mutual recognition and protection of the human dignity of all people is indispensable to bringing an end to hatred and anger. The charge that Israel is an apartheid state is a false and malicious one that precludes, rather than promotes, peace and harmony."-Published 23/2/2012 bitterlemons.org


Gerald M. Steinberg is the founder and president of NGO Monitor and professor of political science at Bar Ilan University.




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