[News] Top Israeli rights group breaks "apartheid" taboo

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jan 13 12:00:58 EST 2021

Israeli rights group breaks "apartheid" taboo

Maureen Clare Murphy
<https://electronicintifada.net/people/maureen-clare-murphy> - 13 January

Palestinians have long described Israeli rule as a system of apartheid.

Israel imposes a single system of apartheid
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/apartheid> rule from the Jordan River
to the Mediterranean Sea, the prominent human rights group B’Tselem
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/btselem> stated on Tuesday.

“There is one regime governing the entire area and the people living in it,
based on a single organizing principle,” the Israeli group said, echoing
what their Palestinian counterparts have stated for decades.

“The Israeli regime implements laws, practices and state violence designed
to cement the supremacy of one group — Jews — over another — Palestinians,”
B’Tselem states in its position paper

B’Tselem’s position echoes that of the UN’s Economic and Social Commission
for Western Asia (ESCWA), which concluded
in 2017 that “Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the
Palestinian people as a whole.”

ESCWA’s report was suppressed by the UN secretary-general and Rima Khalaf,
the official who oversaw the report, was forced to resign

In 2009, South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council similarly
determined that Israel practices apartheid in the occupied West Bank and
Gaza Strip.

Even a US lawmaker has called Israel an apartheid state
as the reality of the situation becomes impossible to ignore.

Despite the growing consensus that the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza
Strip is part of a regime of apartheid, the UN “has failed for decades” to
investigate Israel for perpetrating this crime, the Palestinian Boycott,
Divestment and Sanctions National Committee recently stated
in a position paper.

And Israel’s apartheid regime will not likely be examined
in any investigation by the International Criminal Court, though the
document on which it was founded – the Rome Statute – recognizes
<https://www.icc-cpi.int/resource-library/documents/rs-eng.pdf> apartheid
as a crime against humanity.
“Fragmented mosaic”

In its new position paper, B’Tselem explains that Israel engineers space
differently for each group living under its unequal rule.

“Jewish citizens live as though the entire area were a single space
(excluding the Gaza Strip),” B’Tselem states.

Meanwhile, Palestinians live in a “fragmented mosaic” of several units that
Israel “defines and governs differently” with varying degrees of
limitations on their rights — “all of which are inferior compared to the
rights afforded to Jewish citizens” living in the same area.

B’Tselem identifies four key ways Israel advances what the group calls
“Jewish supremacy.”

These include “restricting migration by non-Jews and taking over
Palestinian land to build Jewish-only communities while relegating
Palestinians to small enclaves” — a practice implemented throughout Israel
and the territories it occupies.

In the occupied West Bank, that can look like the forcible transfer
of Palestinian herding communities in the Jordan Valley.

For Palestinian citizens of Israel, it means discriminatory land policies
that prevent building to accommodate population growth.

In both cases, Palestinians face severe constraints on where they can live
while Jewish communities face no such restrictions.

Additionally, Israel imposes “draconian restrictions” on the freedom of
movement of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and denies their
political rights.

A report
published by Human Rights Watch in 2019 stated that Israel has denied
Palestinians living under military occupation their fundamental civil
rights for more than five decades, creating a highly oppressive environment.

Moreover, as B’Tselem states in its position paper, “Israel has sole power
over the population registry, land allocation, voter rolls and the right
(or denial thereof) to travel within, enter or exit any part of the area.”
“Demographic engineering”

One key aspect of Israel’s apartheid rule overlooked in B’Tselem’s position
paper is the denial of Palestinian refugees’ right to return
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/right-return> – a form of “demographic
engineering” recognized in the ESCWA report suppressed by the UN.

“Israel defends its rejection of the Palestinians’ return in frankly racist
language,” the ESCWA report states. “It is alleged that Palestinians
constitute a ‘demographic threat’ and that their return would alter the
demographic character of Israel to the point of eliminating it as a Jewish

The UN body described Israel’s denial of the right of return as “integral
to the system of oppression and domination of the Palestinian people as a

The right of return is enshrined in international law and is at the heart
of the Palestinian liberation cause.

There is little debate that Israel exercises profound control over the
lives of Palestinians living under its rule.

Al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights group, has stated
that Israel’s fragmentation of Palestinian society has forced people to
make life choices as personal as who they marry and where they live “based
on the constraints of Israeli policies.”
“Shattered facade”

B’Tselem concludes that “a regime that uses laws, practices and organized
violence to cement the supremacy of one group over another is an apartheid

Apartheid, a term coined during white rule in South Africa, is defined
by the International Criminal Court as an “institutionalized regime of
systematic oppression and domination by one racial group.”

While a regime of apartheid has “gradually grown more institutionalized and
explicit” in the territories under Israeli rule, B’Tselem says, the state
has “shattered the facade” of democracy with a temporary military
occupation in recent years.

The rights group points to the recently passed so-called nation-state law
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/nation-state-law>, which stipulates
that “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of
Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”

The rights group also says that Israel’s plans to formally annex large
swathes of the West Bank demonstrate that the state’s “intention to achieve
permanent control over the entire area has already been openly declared by
the state’s highest officials.”

An apartheid framework complicates “the common perception in public,
political, legal and media discourse” that there are two separate regimes
in Israel and the Palestinian territories it occupies, B’Tselem notes.

(Israel has also occupied the Syrian Golan Heights since 1967, though its
treatment of that territory is not discussed in B’Tselem’s paper.)

An apartheid analysis challenges the assumptions underpinning the two-state
solution seeking a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza alongside
Israel, as pushed by the UN and the EU

The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee has
stated that acknowledging and investigating Israeli apartheid is necessary
“for achieving freedom, justice and equality for the Palestinian people.”

The committee added that the myth of negotiations with Israel has only
enabled the apartheid state to “continue its longstanding practice” of
annexation of Palestinian territory and its concomitant violence against

While not putting forth any political position – or explicitly supporting
the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement in support of Palestinian
rights, as ESCWA did in its report – B’Tselem states that “all of us must
first choose to say no to apartheid.”
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