ALTHOUGH the term “apartheid” was originally associated with the oppression of South Africa, Israel and the South Africa of that time are now officially one and the same. The inhumane acts committed by an institutionalized regime, of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over another and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime, is no longer a system privy to South Africa. Israel has joined the racist club. That’s the conclusion by the United Nations, in a new report commissioned and published by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).
ESCWA said concluding that a member state had established an apartheid regime was not easy for a UN body. But the two authors of the report said the document was prepared on the basis of scholarly inquiry and overwhelming evidence that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid. It determined that strategic fragmentation of the Palestinian people is the main way in which Israel imposes apartheid against Palestinians by oppressing them through distinct laws, policies and practices.
Israeli policy is a system of control in the Israeli-occupied West Bank that includes Israeli settlements, separate roads for Israeli and Palestinian citizens around many of these settlements, military checkpoints, marriage laws, the West Bank barrier, use of Palestinians as cheaper labor, inequities in infrastructure, legal rights, and access to land and resources between Palestinians and Israeli residents in the Israeli-occupied territories.
Most well-known is Israeli law conferring on Jews worldwide the right to enter Israel and obtain Israeli citizenship regardless of their countries of origin and whether or not they can show links to Israel-Palestine, while withholding any comparable right from Palestinians, including those with documented ancestral homes in the country.
Israeli law privileges Jewish citizens and discriminates against non-Jewish, and particularly Arab, citizens of the state, as their citizenship status is second class.
All these resemble some aspects of the South African apartheid regime, and elements of Israel’s occupation constitute forms of colonialism and of apartheid, contrary to international law.
The authors of the report stated that while they were aware of the seriousness of the allegations, they concluded that available evidence established beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of policies and practices that constitute the crime of apartheid as legally defined in instruments of international law.
One of the report’s authors, Richard Falk, is former UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories. The conclusion reached by the ESCWA is not new to Falk. Before leaving his post at the UN in 2014, he asserted that Israeli policies had unacceptable characteristics of colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing. It was Falk who condemned the 2008 Israeli strikes on Gaza, Operation Cast Lead, as a war crime of the “greatest magnitude”.
The report is supposedly the first of its kind from a UN group, and the subsequent fireworks were predictable, whether from the UN whose spokesman said does not reflect the views of the secretary-general, or the US, which demanded the report be withdrawn. Washington could now use the report as leverage and go ahead with its oft-repeated threat to consider halting participation in various UN programs due to its perceived anti-Israel stance. The report could also contribute to an already deteriorating relationship between Israel and the UN.
But apartheid fits Israel like a glove. The term “the crime of apartheid”, which includes similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination as was practiced in South Africa, applies to all 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.
Against this background, Israel is a racist state that has established an apartheid system that persecutes the Palestinian people. It is a perfect fit.