Is Israel an Apartheid State?
- The United Nations International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (1973) defines apartheid as “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.”
- The 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines apartheid as “an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime;”
- Over the entirety of its 65-year existence, there has been a period of only about one year (1966-67) that Israel has not ruled over large numbers of Palestinians to whom it granted no political rights simply because they are not Jewish. Prior to 1967 and the start of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, Palestinians who remained inside what became Israel in 1948 were ruled by martial law for all but one year, not unlike Palestinians in the occupied territories have been for the past 46 years.
- According to a 2010 Human Rights Watch report entitled “Separate and Unequal: Israel’s Discriminatory Treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories”:
“Palestinians face systematic discrimination merely because of their race, ethnicity, and national origin, depriving them of electricity, water, schools, and access to roads, while nearby Jewish settlers enjoy all of these state-provided benefits… While Israeli settlements flourish, Palestinians under Israeli control live in a time warp – not just separate, not just unequal, but sometimes even pushed off their lands and out of their homes.”
- One of the first people to use the word “apartheid” in relation to Israel was Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, who warned following the 1967 War of Israel becoming an “apartheid state” if it retained control of the occupied territories.
- In 1999, then-Israeli prime minister and current defense minister Ehud Barak stated: “Every attempt to keep hold of [Israel and the occupied territories] as one political entity leads, necessarily, to either a nondemocratic or a non-Jewish state. Because if the Palestinians vote, then it is a binational state, and if they don’t vote it is an apartheid state.”
- In 2010, Barak repeated the apartheid comparison, stating: “As long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic… If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.”
- In 2007, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned that Israel would face a civil rights struggle similar to the one mounted against apartheid in South Africa if it did not relinquish the occupied territories.
- In 2006, former US President Jimmy Carter published a book entitled, “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid” comparing Israel’s regime in the occupied territories to South African apartheid.
- Many veterans of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa also consider Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to be a form of apartheid. One of the most outspoken voices has been that of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, one of the heroes of the struggle against South African apartheid, who has repeatedly made the comparison. In 2012, Archbishop Tutu wrote that Israel’s version of apartheid is actually worse than South Africa’s, stating: “Not only is this group of people [Palestinians] being oppressed more than the apartheid ideologues could ever dream about in South Africa, their very identity and history are being denied and obfuscated.”
- In June 2013, the recently retired South African ambassador to Israel, Ismail Coovadia, wrote that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is a “replication of apartheid.”
- In July 2013, the recently retired head of the US military’s central command (CENTCOM), Marine Corps General James Mattis, warned that Israel’s construction of Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land were turning Israel into an apartheid state, telling a conference:
“If I’m Jerusalem and I put 500 Jewish settlers out here to the [occupied] east and there’s 10,000 Arab settlers in here, if we draw the border to include them, either it ceases to be a Jewish state or you say the Arabs don’t get to vote – apartheid. That didn’t work too well the last time I saw that practiced in a country.”
- Some critics assert that Israel’s occupation regime cannot be compared to apartheid because it was not meant to be permanent. Proponents of the apartheid analogy counter that whatever Israel’s intentions, the occupation has been in place for nearly half a century and the Bantustan-like arrangement is so entrenched due to the construction of settlements and the wall, and other unilateral Israeli actions, as to make it irreversible and therefore, de facto, permanent.