Early last week, in a short, incisive report, Israel’s largest and most respected human rights group, B’Tselem, declared the situation in Israel/Palestine as apartheid.
The landmark report entitled “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid” lays bares the reality of life across the entire area of historic Palestine – all of which is occupied and/or controlled by Israel.
It’s the first time B’Tselem has used the “A” word saying..
“the terms we have used in recent years to describe the situation – such as “prolonged occupation” or a “one-state reality” – are no longeradequate…
In eight pages B’Tselem details the “four major methods the Israeli regime uses to advance Jewish supremacy” as: “Immigration – for Jews only”; “Taking over land for Jews while crowding Palestinians in enclaves”; “Restriction of Palestinians’ freedom of movement” and “Denial of Palestinians’ right to political representation” and concludes:
“These accumulated measures, their pervasiveness in legislation and political practice, and the public and judicial support they receive – all form the basis for our conclusion that the bar for labelling the Israeli regime as apartheid has been met”
“A regime that uses laws, practices and organized violence to cement the supremacy of one group over another is an apartheid regime…”
Apartheid didn’t happen overnight. The report explains…
“Israeli apartheid, which promotes the supremacy of Jews over Palestinians, was not born in one day or of a single speech. It is a process that has gradually grown more institutionalized and explicit, with mechanisms introduced over time in law and practice to promote Jewish supremacy”
Israel denies it is running an apartheid regime. It claims to be a democracy and the occupation of all historic Palestine is a temporary and necessary security measure, pending negotiations. However, the 50-year Israeli occupation, the on-going theft of Palestinian land (what a UN report refers to as “occu-annexation”), the sheer brutality of the Israel military against unarmed Palestinian protestors, the siege of Gaza and the abuse directed at United Nations and international law by Israeli leaders tells another story.
The report identifies two recent developments leading to the B’Tselem reassessment. Firstly, Israel’s Nation State basic law, enacted in 2018, which enshrines the Jewish people’s right to self-determination but specifically excludes the same rights for Palestinians. In other words, the 17% of Israeli citizens who are Palestinian Israelis are automatically second-class citizens in the land of their birth. As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, in a self-declaration of an apartheid state, “Israel is not a state for all its citizens”.
Secondly last year’s Israeli proposals, endorsed by US President Donald Trump, to formerly annex vast areas of Palestinian land on which Israel has built some 280 settlements – illegal under international law – for more than 600,000 Jewish settlers.
In releasing the report Executive Director of B’Tselem, Hagai El-Ad, points out differences from South African apartheid:
“Unlike South African apartheid, the application of our version of it – apartheid 2.0, if you will – avoids certain kinds of ugliness. You won’t find “whites only” signs on benches. Here, “protecting the Jewish character” of a community – or of the state itself – is one of the thinly veiled euphemisms deployed to try to obscure the truth. Yet the essence is the same”
Labelling Israeli policies as apartheid is not new but coming from such a principled and high-profile organisation within Israel, it marks a significant change in the way New Zealand and the world should relate to the Middle East. There will be some who will automatically and predictably attempt to smear the report as anti-semitic but there is plenty here for New Zealanders and our government to reflect on.
Most importantly the report is positive and forward-looking:
“Calling things by their proper name – apartheid – is not a moment of despair: rather, it is a moment of moral clarity, a step on a long walk inspired by hope. See the reality for what it is, name it without flinching – and help bring about the realisation of a just future”.