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Op-Ed | The Case for Israeli Apartheid

Published: Monday, March 4, 2013

Updated: Monday, March 4, 2013 02:03


Three years ago, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) was formed on this campus and since that time great strides have been made in terms of raising campus consciousness about the Palestinian narrative. We would not have achieved such success, however, if it were not for the support from allied groups on campus who recognize that the struggle for human rights and dignity in Palestine is inextricably bound to the plight of all oppressed peoples. In that vein, it is with solemn pride that we announce that we will be hosting our second annual Israeli Apartheid Week starting on March 4th.  We have chosen the theme of “cross-movement solidarity” to highlight the shared values we hold with several other groups on this campus of equality, anti-racism, and anti-oppression.

The word “apartheid” is bound to elicit a strong reaction in any community with a clear memory of recent history.  Nonetheless, we, along with many respected activists and scholars, believe it is the right word to describe the state of Israel.  Because Israel differentiates between “citizenship” and “nationality”, the 20 percent of Israel’s citizens who are of Palestinian descent are not considered Israeli nationals and are therefore subjected to about 30 laws that discriminate against them. Some of these laws actively deny rights to Palestinian citizens of Israel. For instance, a Palestinian Israeli cannot transfer citizenship to his or her spouse. However, many of these laws indirectly discriminate, such as those that reserve apartments, housing complexes, and job opportunities for “veterans only.” Every Jewish Israeli is obligated to serve in the Israeli military; Palestinians residing in Israel almost always prefer not to cooperate in bolstering the occupation through Israel Defense Forces (IDF) service. Therefore, what initially may seem like a benign law that gives benefits to veterans effectively becomes a law that codifies segregated housing.

The worst aspects of the Israeli Apartheid regime, however, lie outside Israel proper in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, where 350,000 settlers in the Occupied West Bank and 300,000 more in East Jerusalem use a system of segregated roads to navigate stolen land governed by military checkpoints. Israelis on the right; Palestinians on the left.  Separate.  Unequal.  Between the checkpoints, segregated roads, and settlements that stretch in every direction one thing is clear: the Israeli matrix of domination has left Palestinians with isolated and heavily patrolled Bantustans scattered across the land that is often portrayed as theirs.  Gaza is one of the most densely populated pieces of land on earth, and is a veritable open-air prison.

Unfortunately, this system of institutionalized oppression is not limited to Palestinians bodies and lives. Rather, Israel has a long history of discriminating against people of color, including decades of discrimination and cultural genocide against Jews from the Arab world.  Recently, it was discovered and reported by the Guardian, Ha’aretz, and the Huffington Post that Black Ethiopian refugee women are unwillingly given injections of the long-acting contraceptive Depo-Provera, explaining the decrease by 50 percent of the birth rates in the Black Ethiopian community over the past ten years.  Israel describes itself as a “Jewish state” and a democracy, but strives to maintain a strict Jewish demographic majority at the expense of another population.  Israel is not exceptional for sustaining de jure inequality among its citizens; its uniqueness lies in the fact that it is the only state that persists in defining itself formally according to ethno-religious criteria, thereby legally privileging a specific ethno-religious group and ascribing it ownership of the state.  For a point of reference, imagine that the United States defined itself as a White Anglo-Saxon Christian nation, and affixed a red crucifix on its flag.

But let’s start at the beginning, because the ties between Israel and the Apartheid Afrikaner regime stretch way back into the annals of history. Israel, in the 70s, was one of the biggest arms suppliers of the racist Apartheid State, vital to the regime’s survival. In what has been called by Israeli Historian Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi “one of the most underreported news stories of the past four decades” Israel, time and time again, was South Africa’s only supporter in the UN General Assembly.  According to the Guardian, Prime Minister Shimon Peres even offered the brutal Afrikaner regime nuclear weapons on several occasions. 

Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, two of the leading figures in the South African anti-Apartheid movement, both voiced their strong condemnation of Israel’s blatant disregard for human life and international law and in several cases called Israeli policies Apartheid or worse. It is no surprise, then, that this summer the African National Council (ANC), the reigning government of South Africa, voted to make Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions their official policy towards the state of Israel; the first country to do so. This is a resounding vote of confidence in the non-violent Palestinian struggle that we strive to emulate on this campus. 

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5 comments Log in to Comment

Mon Mar 11 2013 11:29
Sort of funny to read defenses of Israeli apartheid which pretty much sum up a case for returning Israel to its 1967 borders. Israeli apartheid is racism, pure and simple, as the overheated letters here demonstrate. The argument of zionists is that stealing land is OK. Israel has become just another in a long line of Crusader states. Returning hate with hate produces hate. You satisfied with that? Probably if you are satisfied with comments that are rife with misspellings, logical gaffes and even the hysterically funny misnomer Holly of Hollies .... empathy? in short supply. the moral case for Israel as a refuge for Europeans fleeing Europe is no better than the moral case for the US as a refuge for Europeans fleeing Europe. Sure, Africans sold Africans into slavery and sure, Native Americans at times behaved badly. An excuse to enslave, murder and steal land and labor? and you are getting an education at Tufts??
Sat Mar 9 2013 12:57
So Israel is guilty of Apartheid in the West Bank and Gaza, areas the withdrew from to appease the Palestinians and are now under complete control of the Palestinian Authority and hs been since 2006. If this is your "case for Israeli Apartheid" then you fail miserably. Of course they have separate laws they are governed by different authorities. Any oppression currently inthose places are by Palestinians for Palestinians. And no mention about how Jews or Chritians are treated in hose areas. On the flip side, Arabs living in Israel have freedoms that are the envy of the rest of the Middle East. Some even serve in Knesset. If there were an Apartheid, how would that be possible?

Your argument breaks down further when you ignorantly claim Israel discriminates based on color. Currently Israel's largest and most funded Aliya program is to bring African Jews back home. African immigration is high in Israel.

The most important reason this article is nothing more than a long winded lie is that there are no established laws of discrimination on the books in Israel. Google it youself. But in comparison all the Islami countries do in fact have actual discriminatory laws that are simple common knowledge. Name one Muslim country that allows non Muslims to even run for office, let alone serve in government.

And lastly to claim that apeople whose existance predates your people by overa thousand years and has a presence in that land for over 3000 years is some how the occupier is just silly. Israel today is 10 percent its former self. Why does no one ever call for Jordan to give back land to the Palestinians? And if Israel is so evil, why is there a Mosque on the site of our most holt Temple. A place called in the Torah "the Holly of Hollies"?????

Thu Mar 7 2013 13:31
Apartheid? Try this on for size:

"To clarify: Wahhabism is the only officially recognized and allowed religion in Saudi Arabia. Other forms of Islam and other religions are banned and persecuted by the state. Saudi Arabia is the only Islamic state in which there is no church, no synagogue and no other place of worship of any other religion. Shiite Muslims have been systematically discriminated against for decades. Jews are even forbidden to enter the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia practices a form of Sharia law that is one of the most brutal systems in the world. Saudi Arabia has at all times rejected the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. Women may not drive a car and can be punished by flogging. Corporal punishment, including amputations and executions, are part of everyday life in the country. Just two weeks ago a Sudanese immigrant in Saudi Arabia was publicly beheaded for 'sorcery.' Saudi Arabia is one of the few countries in the world in which the death penalty is enforced even on teenagers," the paper said.

Thu Mar 7 2013 13:28
Given that SJP supports the Palestinians who openly advocate Jewish genocide (see their duly elected leaders clear-cut party covenants), you correspondingly do as well. It's hard to believe in this day and age that anyone would openly advocate the liquidation of Jews, but you clearly do and it doesn't seem to bother you a whit.

Moreover, it would be hard to believe that anyone would support second class status for women, the honor murder of teenage girls, the brutalization of gays and the suppression of dissenters. But you, as supporters of the Palestinians who regularly practice all of the above, are therefore complicit in these sexist, racist and fascist beliefs as well.

Why are you so bigoted, misogynist, anti-gay and such hater of Jews? Please tell us pray tell.
And if to be opposed to such garbage practiced by so many Muslims world-wide makes one an Islamophobe, count me and all who believe in freedom and hate sexism and bigotry vs Jews as a proud Islamophobe.

Wed Mar 6 2013 12:00
This piece may have some facts in it, but it seems like the agenda is more about smearing and de-legitimizing Israel that presenting an even and balanced picture of the situation.
Many of the points are taken out of context and with little insight as to actual Israeli society.
Israel is a a functioning democracy, There are Israeli-Arab students and professors in Israeli Universities, hardly comparable to South African Apartheid. There are Israeli-Arab judges in the judicial system including a Supreme Court Justice. Over 10% of the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) are representatives of Arab parties.
Treatment in Israel of jews from non-european countries has less than proud moments. But, in a vibrant, dynamic and open culture, issues are raised and addressed. Many top Israeli government officials are these Jews born in Arab/Islamic countries. There was an Israeli Defense minister born in Iran (Shaul Mofaz) . An Israeli President was also born in Iran (Moshe Katsav). Jews from non-european countries have reached positions of power and importance in Israel. Yes there have been bumps in the road, but to equate this to Apartheid is a bit wishful thinking on the part of the anti-Israel people.
There is a big concern over the Israel occupation of the West Bank and settlement activities there. It's not a good situation for either Israel or the Palestinians and needs to be resolved, very good offers (generally accepted by world powers as reasonable) were made to the Palestinians in 2000 during the Clinton Administration. These were rejected by Yasir Arafat. It's not that attempts to equitably resolve the issues have not occurred.
Let's also remember that Israel lives in a tough neighborhood. When Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, Hamas turned Gaza into a missile base for attacking southern and central Israel. To call Gaza an open air prison is a bit of an exaggeration. Hamas has no problem smuggling in very large missiles from Iran thru dozens of tunnels on the Egyptian border. The stated desire of Hamas is to destroy Israel. The fact that Israel is not perfect, but has a decent place in civil society for members of a minority whose people state they want to destroy the country is a testament to Israel's tolerance and democratic ideals.
Israel exists in a state of conflict with a number of its regional neighbors. To bash Israel without equally looking at the region is the height of hypocracy. Before you have "Israel Apartheid Week" maybe you should consider "Syrian Massacre Week", "Pakistani Nuclear Proliferation Week", "Shia/Sunni Internecine Slaughter Week", "Saudi Women Drivers Support Week", "Egyptian Coptic Christian Support Week". I could go on and on. It is sad, how much brutal killing and injustice takes place next door to Israel, but the focus is always on Israel's peccadilloes. Palestinians almost singlehandedly defined modern terrorism against civilians. This largely started in 1964 with the founding of the PLO (before the west back was occupied), you can go further back to massacres of the historic jewish community in Hebron in 1929, or further. There's a lot of blame to go around. Until both sides take responsibility for their contributions to the conflict, there is little chance for a good settlement. Equating Israel with Apartheid is just a feel-good exercise by pro-palestinians that is not based in fact or scale.

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