Israeli Treatment of Palestinians Worse than South African Apartheid
Wikipedia notes that South Africans have called Israel an apartheid state (footnotes omitted):
Former deputy mayor of Jerusalem Meron Benvenisti relates in his 1986 book Conflicts and Contradictions that during the 1970s, an official of the South African apartheid government compared Israeli–Palestinian relations to South African policy for the Transkei in a meeting. The Israeli officials present expressed shock at the comparison, and the South African official said “I understand your reaction. But aren’t we actually doing the same thing? We are faced with the same existential problem, therefore we arrive at the same solution. The only difference is that yours is pragmatic and ours is ideological.”
On 24 November 2009, the South African government responded to Israeli plans to expand the settlement of Gilo in East Jerusalem by condemning it harshly, stating, “We condemn the fact that Israeli settlement expansion in East Jerusalem is coupled with Israel’s campaign to evict and displace the original Palestinian residents from the City.” The South African government drew a parallel between Israel’s actions in Jerusalem and forced removals of persons effected as part of the South African apartheid regime.
On 21 April 2010, the South African government expressed “the greatest concern” over Israeli Infiltration Order 1650, saying that the order has a broad definition of “infiltrator” and unclear terms as to which permits would allow a person to reside in the West Bank, as well as how valid residency might be proven. The South African government said the terms of the order are “reminiscent of pass laws under apartheid South Africa”.
In 2002 Anglican Archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu wrote a series of articles in major newspapers, comparing the Israeli occupation of the West Bank to apartheid South Africa, and calling for the international community to divest support from Israel until the territories were no longer occupied. In an April 2010 open letter to the University of Berkeley, Tutu wrote “I have been to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of Apartheid. I have witnessed the humiliation of Palestinian men, women, and children made to wait hours at Israeli military checkpoints routinely when trying to make the most basic of trips to visit relatives or attend school or college, and this humiliation is familiar to me and the many black South Africans who were corralled and regularly insulted by the security forces of the Apartheid government.” In 2011, Tutu wrote an article for the Tampa Bay Times, arguing that Israeli apartheid is now so bad that only an international boycott can force Israel to change its policies. [Earlier this month, Tutu said, : “It is not a Muslim or Jewish crisis. It is a human rights crisis with roots to what amounts to an apartheid system of land ownership and control. It is a crisis that fuels other crises…” At the same World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, former South African president – FW de Klerk – said: “I think for the Israelis and Palestinians, the lesson to be learnt from South Africa is that there is no dispute which cannot be resolved by meaningful negotiation if there is the will on both sides to negotiate bona fide.”]
Other prominent South African anti-apartheid activists have used apartheid comparisons to criticize the occupation of the West Bank, and particularly the construction of the separation barrier. These include Farid Esack, a writer who is currently William Henry Bloomberg Visiting Professor at Harvard Divinity School, Ronnie Kasrils, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Dennis Goldberg, and Arun Ghandhi,
On 15 May 2008, 34 leading South African activists published an open letter in The Citizen, under the heading “We fought apartheid; we see no reason to celebrate it in Israel now!”. The signatories, who included Kasrils and several other government ministers, COSATU General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, Ahmed Kathrada, Sam Ramsamy and Blade Nzimande, wrote “Apartheid is a crime against humanity. It was when it was done against South Africans; it is so when it is done against Palestinians!”
On 6 June 2008, Mr. Kgalema Motlanthe, the Deputy President of South Africa and of the African National Congress, who had recently visited the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, told a delegation of Arab Knesset members visiting South Africa to study its democratic constitution that conditions for Palestinians under occupation were “worse than conditions were for Blacks under the Apartheid regime”.
In 2008 a delegation of ANC veterans visited Israel and the Occupied Territories, and said that in some respects it was worse than apartheid. One member said “The daily indignity to which the Palestinian population is subjected far outstrips the apartheid regime.”
One of the Jewish members of the delegation said that the comparison with apartheid is very relevant and that the Israelis are even more efficient in implementing the separation-of-races regime than the South Africans were, and that if he were to say this publicly, he would be attacked by the members of the Jewish community.
In May 2009, The Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa released a legal study, subsequently published in 2012 as Beyond Occupation: Apartheid, Colonialism and International Law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, finding that Israel is practicing both colonialism and apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territories, according to the definition of apartheid provided by the International Convention for the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. Further, Israel’s practices could be grouped into three “pillars” of apartheid comparable to practices in South Africa:
The first pillar “derives from Israeli laws and policies that establish Jewish identity for purposes of law and afford a preferential legal status and material benefits to Jews over non-Jews”.
The second pillar is reflected in “Israel’s ‘grand’ policy to fragment the OPT [and] ensure that Palestinians remain confined to the reserves designated for them while Israeli Jews are prohibited from entering those reserves but enjoy freedom of movement throughout the rest of the Palestinian territory. This policy is evidenced by Israel’s extensive appropriation of Palestinian land, which continues to shrink the territorial space available to Palestinians; the hermetic closure and isolation of the Gaza Strip from the rest of the OPT; the deliberate severing of East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank; and the appropriation and construction policies serving to carve up the West Bank into an intricate and well-serviced network of connected settlements for Jewish-Israelis and an archipelago of besieged and non-contiguous enclaves for Palestinians”.
The third pillar is “Israel’s invocation of ‘security’ to validate sweeping restrictions on Palestinian freedom of opinion, expression, assembly, association and movement [to] mask a true underlying intent to suppress dissent to its system of domination and thereby maintain control over Palestinians as a group.”
In a November 2011 interview Reverend Allan Boesak called Israeli apartheid “more terrifying” than South Africa ever was. Boesak commented on many pernicious aspects of Israeli apartheid and said that two separate justice systems exist, one for Palestinians [who are tried in Israeli military courts] and Israelis [who are tried in civil, not military courts]. Boesak stated: “So in many ways the Israeli system is worse.”
In October 2012, Baleka Mbete, chairman of the ANC, described the situation as “far worse than apartheid South Africa”.
And Nelson Mandela said:
Our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians ….
Wikipedia points out that several UN officials agree:
Former Special Rapporteur John Dugard described the situation in the West Bank as “an apartheid regime … worse than the one that existed in South Africa.” In 2007, in advance of a report from the United Nations Human Rights Council, Dugard wrote, “Israel’s laws and practices in the OPT [occupied Palestinian territories] certainly resemble aspects of apartheid.” Referring to Israel’s actions in the occupied West Bank, he wrote, “Can it seriously be denied that the purpose […] is to establish and maintain domination by one racial group (Jews) over another racial group (Palestinians) and systematically oppressing them? Israel denies that this is its intention or purpose. But such an intention or purpose may be inferred from the actions described in this report.”
In October 2010 Richard A. Falk reported to the General Assembly Third Committee “It is the opinion of the current Special Rapporteur that the nature of the occupation as of 2010 substantiates earlier allegations of colonialism and apartheid in evidence and law to a greater extent than was the case even three years ago. The entrenching of colonialist and apartheid features of the Israeli occupation has been a cumulative process. The longer it continues, the more difficult it is to overcome and the more serious is the abridgement of fundamental Palestinian rights.”
According to a 2008 report in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, then-President of the United Nations General Assembly Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann “likened Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians to South Africa’s treatment of blacks under apartheid…. Brockmann stressed that it was important for the United Nations to use the heavily-charged term since it was the institution itself that had passed the International Convention against the crime of apartheid.”
- Amnesty International: Israel Remains the Occupying Power in Gaza and is Thus Bound By the Law Of Occupation