Prominent Israelis: Israel’s Treatment of Palestinians Is Apartheid

“What Acts Like Apartheid, Is Run Like Apartheid and Harasses Like Apartheid, Is Not A Duck—It Is Apartheid”

One of the intellectual giants of Israel’s founding generation – Yeshayahu Leibowitz – prophesied:

A state ruling a hostile population of 1.5 million to 2 million foreigners would necessarily become a secret-police state, with all that implies for education, free speech and democratic institutions. The corruption characteristic of every colonial regime would also prevail in the State of Israel. The administration would have to suppress the Arab insurgency on the one hand and acquire Arab quislings on the other. There is also good reason to fear that the Israel Defense Force, which has been until now a people’s army, would, as a result of being transformed into an army of occupation, degenerate, and its commanders, who will have become military governors, resemble their colleagues in other nations.

In 1989, Leibowitz compared Israel to apartheid South Africa. And see this.

Wikipedia reports that many Israelis have described Israeli treatment of Palestinians as apartheid:

According to former Italian Prime Minister Massimo d’Alema, former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had described to him “at length” that he felt the “bantustan model” was the most appropriate solution to the conflict in the West Bank. The term “Bantustan” historically refers to the separate territorial areas designated as homelands under the South African apartheid State.


Shulamit Aloni, who served as Minister for Education under Yitzhak Rabin, discussed Israeli practices in the West Bank in an article published in the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth. Aloni wrote, “Jewish self-righteousness is taken for granted among ourselves to such an extent that we fail to see what’s right in front of our eyes. It’s simply inconceivable that the ultimate victims, the Jews, can carry out evil deeds. Nevertheless, the state of Israel practises its own, quite violent, form of Apartheid with the native Palestinian population. The US Jewish Establishment’s onslaught on former President Jimmy Carter is based on him daring to tell the truth which is known to all: through its army, the government of Israel practises a brutal form of Apartheid in the territory it occupies.”

Yossi Sarid, who served as environment minister under Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, writing in Haaretz stated, “the white Afrikaners, too, had reasons for their segregation policy; they, too, felt threatened — a great evil was at their door, and they were frightened, out to defend themselves. Unfortunately, however, all good reasons for apartheid are bad reasons; apartheid always has a reason, and it never has a justification. And what acts like apartheid, is run like apartheid and harasses like apartheid, is not a duck—it is apartheid.”


Azmi Bishara, a former Knesset member, argued that the Palestinian situation had been caused by “colonialist apartheid“.

Michael Ben-Yair, attorney general of Israel from 1993 to 1996 referred to Israel establishing “an apartheid regime in the occupied territories” in an essay published in Haaretz.

Some Israelis have compared the separation plan to apartheid, such as political scientist, Meron Benvenisti, and journalist, Amira Hass.  Ami Ayalon, a former admiral, claiming it “ha[d] some apartheid characteristics”.

A major 2002 study of Israeli settlement practices by the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem concluded: “Israel has created in the Occupied Territories a regime of separation based on discrimination, applying two separate systems of law in the same area and basing the rights of individuals on their nationality. This regime is the only one of its kind in the world, and is reminiscent of distasteful regimes from the past, such as the apartheid regime in South Africa.” A more recent B’Tselem publication on the road system Israel has established in the West Bank concluded that it “bears striking similarities to the racist Apartheid regime”, and even “entails a greater degree of arbitrariness than was the case with the regime that existed in South Africa”.


Retired Israeli judge and legal commentator for the daily Yedioth Ahronoth Boaz Okon wrote in June 2010 that events in Israel, when taken together, constituted apartheid and fascism. Okon used as examples segregated schools and streets, a “minute” proportion of Israeli Arabs employed in the civil service, censorship, limits on foreign workers having children in Israel and the monitoring of cell phones, email and Internet usage.


In an article in Haaretz in October 2010, Israeli journalist and academic Zvi Bar’el wrote “Israel’s apartheid movement is coming out of the woodwork and is taking on a formal, legal shape. It is moving from voluntary apartheid, which hides its ugliness through justifications of ‘cultural differences’ and ‘historic neglect’ which only requires a little funding and a couple of more sewage pipes to make everything right — to a purposeful, open, obligatory apartheid, which no longer requires any justification.”

Israeli poet, author and journalist Yitzhak Laor wrote in 2009 that Israel had a form of apartheid with a supporting system “more ruthless” than that seen in South Africa. He argued that the “lie” of the system being temporary makes it harder to oppose, and that because the existing situation has the political support of Israeli voters the US government will not oppose it with conviction.

Professor Daniel Blatman of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has said that the aim legislation passed in the Knesset around 2009–2011 was a gradual establishment of an apartheid state in Israel, and future separation of Jews and non-Jews “on a racial basis”. He drew parallels to the establishment of the apartheid regime in South Africa, and also racial separation laws passed by the Nazis. According to Blatman in all cases, individual laws were argued for using reasoned arguments but the overall effect of the legislation was racist. In 2011 Alon Liel, former director general of the ministry of foreign affairs of Israel, compared legislation under consideration in the Knesset to laws of apartheid-era South Africa. The legislation under consideration would, if passed, place limits on NGOs operating in Israel, in effect restricting funding from foreign sources to Israeli human rights groups. According to Liel, this legislation was reminiscent of the South African “Affected Organisations Act”, and was aimed at organizations “fighting to preserve what remains of Israeli democracy”. In June 2012, Liel expressed his support for a cultural boycott of Israel, as a means of pressure to bring about “Palestinian independence, not an Israeli apartheid state”.

In August 2010, Israeli-born academic Ran Greenstein, based at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, argued that Israel (referring to the single differentiated regime governing both pre-1967 and post-1967 territories) is a form of ‘apartheid of a special type’, displaying systematic exclusion of Palestinians on an ethnic—not racial—basis, and yet is different in some respects from the original South African model of apartheid. The differences have to do with the use of indigenous labor power by settlers (much more common in South Africa than in Israel), and the more rigid identity boundaries between groups in Israel. Consequently, this type of apartheid displays greater tendency towards physical exclusion of indigenous people (affecting to varying degrees Palestinian citizens, residents under occupation and refugees) than was the case for indigenous people under South African apartheid.


In 2014, Amos Schocken, publisher of Haaretz, wrote: “Israel’s citizens ostensibly live in a democratic situation, with the right to vote and to be elected – but here, regrettably, I must resort to a comparison with South Africa. The whites there also had the right to vote and to be elected, but South Africa was not a democracy. The regime there ruled millions of disenfranchised blacks. The Israeli occupation and Israel’s control of broad aspects of the life of the Palestinians – who do not have the right to influence their lives by democratic means – is an undemocratic, South Africa-type situation which conflicts with the democratic Zionist vision.” Earlier in 2011, Schocken had written: “The term ‘apartheid’ refers to the undemocratic system of discriminating between the rights of the whites and the blacks, which once existed in South Africa. Even though there is a difference between the apartheid that was practiced there and what is happening in the territories, there are also some points of resemblance. There are two population groups in one region, one of which possesses all the rights and protections, while the other is deprived of rights and is ruled by the first group. This is a flagrantly undemocratic situation.”

Many prominent South African leaders agree.


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