Israeli Apartheid Week is often accused of been divisive, creating tensions and alienating people. These accusations are completely correct, in that it divides those who defend apartheid from those who do not. The International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid state that the crime of apartheid is ‘similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination as practised in southern Africa, shall apply to the following 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.’
It is immediately evident that the Israeli state systematically discriminates against Palestinians; whether they live in Gaza, the West Bank, are refugees or Palestinian citizens of Israel through laws and policies which systematically serve to oppress the Palestinian people. In Gaza the evidence is incontrovertible; the blockade which prevents vital medicines from entering Gaza and the massacre that was Operation ‘Cast Lead’, demonstrate the brutal treatment exacted on the Palestinians. In the West Bank the apartheid system is easily recognisable through the existence of Israeli settlements, Israeli ‘settler only’ roads and the West Bank Wall which cuts Palestinians off from their land.
The appalling situation Palestinian refugees find themselves in shows Israel’s apartheid policies. The fact that the only reason they are not able to return to their homes and land, is that they are not Jewish. Israel’s laws stipulate that any Jewish person from around the world can become a citizen of Israel, yet Palestinians who were made refugees during the creation of the Israeli state cannot return to their homes.
Within the official borders of Israel, roughly 20 percent of the population is Palestinian, yet, even in what supporters of Israel like to claim to be ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’, Palestinian citizens of Israel also face systematic discrimination through land confiscation and home ownership restrictions, marital laws, unrecognised villages, land ownership restrictions and the fact that Israeli politicians such as Netanyahu have referred to them as a ‘demographic threat’. A current example of the discriminatory policies Israel have is the proposed Prawer Plan, which if passed will forcibly remove tens of thousands of Palestinians from their land and homes in the Negev.
Individuals or groups such as Rethink2014 who try and rubbish the claim that Israel is an apartheid state often suggest that it is disrespectful to the suffering experience by black South Africans under the South African apartheid regime. This argument conveniently glosses over the fact that South Africans themselves have stood in solidarity with the Palestinian people such as when Nelson Mandela stated “we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians” or when the Archbishop Desmond Tutu talked about “the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about” after a visit to the region.
The Palestinian people are clearly discriminated and oppressed by the apartheid policies of Israel, which is why the international community should stand in solidarity with them and respect their call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, until there is full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel, an end to the occupation, dismantling the Wall and the protection of Palestinian refugees’ right to return as stipulated in U.N. resolution 194.