When former US president Jimmy Carter published “Peace not Apartheid” in 2006, he was ONLY talking about the discriminatory regime that Israel had imposed on Palestinians IN THE WEST BANK. He did not challenge Israel’s claim to be a democracy. Now a respected (and courageous) Jewish Israeli human rights organization has taken a step further. In an important policy document, B’tselem argues that “apartheid” is an appropriate label to describe Israel’s regime for all of the land it controls “from the river to the sea”. Read more..
The pro-Israel lobby organization B’nai Brith Canada launched a fierce attack on NDP MP Charlie Angus last week for daring to use the hashtag #apartheidstate in a tweet in reference to Israel. Angus had weighed in on the “vaccination apartheid” debate, pointing out, as had others, that Israel was providing vaccine to only half the people under its control – Israeli citizens, including Jewish settlers – but not to the Palestinians under occupation living beside them. “This is appalling,” Angus wrote, capping off the tweet with the words, “#apartheidstate.”
Bnai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn went apoplectic. “Mr. Angus should do the right thing and admit that the story he disseminated is insidiously misleading and that describing Israel as an ‘apartheid state’ is morally, and factually, objectionable,” wrote B’nai Brith in a tweet urging NDP leader Jagmeet Singh to censure Mr. Angus.
Shortly afterwards, however, Bnai Brith found itself contradicted by Amnesty International, which, while not using the “A” word, substantially supported the allegation that Israel was distributing COVID vaccine to its Jewish citizens while not supplying it to the Palestinians under its control.
Now B’nai Brith has a new problem and a new organization to be furious with. B’tselem, a respected Jewish Israeli human rights organization, has published a new report in which it argues that Israel has imposed an “apartheid” regime, not only in the West Bank, but over all the land “from the river to the sea”.
“We are Israel’s largest human rights group – and we are calling this apartheid”, wrote Hagai El-Ad, Executive Director of B’tsalem in a scathing article in the Guardian newspaper.
El-Ad is careful to acknowledge that Israeli apartheid is quite different from the South African version: “Unlike South African apartheid, (the Israeli version) 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. (…)”
He then goes on to describe the various ways that Israel separates Palestinians from Israelis – in the West Bank, in Jerusalem, and inside Israel itself and how it uses that separation (or apartheid) to treat them differentially, including different citizenship status, allocation of land, restricting movement, and limiting political participation.
“Israel is not a democracy that has a temporary occupation attached to it. It is one regime between the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, and we must look at the full picture and see it for what it is: Apartheid.” Hagai El-Ad, Executive Director, B’tselem
Apartheid “with Israeli characteristics?”
Many Canadians hesitate to use the “apartheid” label when talking about Israel because they know that the Israeli state is very different from Apartheid South Africa. Palestinian citizens of Israel DO have the right to vote, for example, and are represented in the Knesset, neither of which was true for Apartheid South Africa. They have the right to drive anywhere they want, and can even attend university.
But the essence of “apartheid” as described by the United Nations is “an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups.”
The regime Israel imposes on Palestinians everywhere in the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River appears to meet this description. In practice, Israel actually implements four quite different forms of “apartheid” on Palestinians depending on where they live.
The 3 million Palestinians living in the West Bank (the ones President Carter talked about in his book) face a physical apartheid – in which Palestinians are not recognized as citizens of Israel, cannot vote in the elections that determine their future, live in separate communities, drive on separate roads, and carry a different ID which is continually checked by Israeli soldiers at Israeli checkpoints.
The 350,000 Palestinians living in Jerusalem face a different kind of apartheid. There they have only partial rights to live in Jerusalem, but not permanent Israeli citizenship. They face the Israeli state’s program of “Judaisation” (i.e. ethnic cleansing) aimed at increasing the number of Jews in Jerusalem, and driving out the Palestinians by demolishing their houses one by one, revoking their residency status, while building new housing for Jews and undermining Palestinian cultural institutions.
The 1.8 Palestinian citizens of Israel despite being citizens face an apartheid that is both legal and socially accepted by Jewish Israeli society. Palestinians living in Israel are limited in where they are allowed to live, where they can own property, the schools they can attend – all of which is supported by legislation. This kind of “discriminatory apartheid’ in many ways resembles the “Jim Crow” laws of the US deep south prior to the Civil Rights movement. It has been practiced inside Israel for many years, but this discriminatory practice has now been adopted in the “Jewish Nation State” law considered to be part of the Israeli “constitution”.
The 2 million Palestinians who live in Gaza face a violent apartheid – kept separate from the rest of Israel (or historic Palestine) by military might. Numerous UN resolutions affirm their right to return to live in peace in Israel. But when Palestinians in Gaza started the “Great March of Return” in 2018, they were met by snipers, artillery fire, tear gas and even bombs from the air. Over 200 were killed and tens of thousands injured.
What about Charlie Angus?
A number of organizations have written to NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, urging him to reject the Bnai Brith accusations and defend Mr. Angus for stating what is obvious to careful observers of Israel and its actions. Angus should also be defended by all other MP’s (and all Canadians).
No doubt Bnai Brith will object. But the voices calling out Israel’s actions are becoming too numerous to silence.
Anyone who cares to send a note to Jagmeet Singh supporting Mr. Angus can do so by using email email@example.com. Copy your friends if you think they might be interested in better understanding apartheid “with Israeli characteristics”.
Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about Canada’s response to the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.
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