Israel has been branded an “apartheid” state that “promotes and perpetuates Jewish supremacy between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.” Human rights group B’Tselem has detailed in a new position paper how the Zionist state enacts a policy of ethnic separation in all the territory under its control.
Echoing the UN’s 2017 report which concluded that Israel was practising apartheid, B’Tselem dismissed the popular misconception that it is a democracy within the Green (1949 Armistice) Line. It argued that after more than half a century of occupation, the state should be treated as a single entity guided by the core racist organising principle of “advancing and perpetuating the supremacy of one group – Jews – over another – Palestinians.”
B’Tselem said that it had reached the conclusion that the bar for defining Israel as an apartheid regime has been met and that such a determination was reached in consideration of the accumulation of policies and laws that have been devised to entrench its control over Palestinians. It cited the 2018 Jewish Nation State Law which critics insist has formalised apartheid in the country.
“The key tool Israel uses to implement the principle of Jewish supremacy is engineering space geographically, demographically and politically,” said the rights group. “Jews go about their lives in a single, contiguous space where they enjoy full rights and self-determination. In contrast, Palestinians live in a space that is fragmented into several units, each with a different set of rights – given or denied by Israel, but always inferior to the rights accorded to Jews.”
The Israeli organisation documented how the government has been pursuing its core racist organising principle in four major areas: land, citizenship, freedom of movement, and political participation.
Land as a resource is chiefly meant to benefit the Jewish population, said B’Tselem, pointing out that since 1948 the Zionist state has taken over the land and built hundreds of Jewish-only communities within the Green Line. A similar story has unfolded in the rest of historic Palestine where, since 1967, the occupation state has built more than 280 Jewish-only settlements for some 600,000 Israeli citizens.
In stark contrast, noted B’Tselem, “Israel has not built a single community for the Palestinian population in the entire area stretching from the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River (with the exception of several communities built to concentrate the Bedouin population after dispossessing them of most of their property rights).”
Moreover, Israel has granted Jews living anywhere in the world, their children and grandchildren – and their spouses – the right to Israeli citizenship upon arriving at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. Palestinians, meanwhile, are barred from returning to their homes and land and Israeli controlled territory, even if they, their parents, or their grandparents were born and lived there.
Israel’s Jewish citizens enjoy freedom of movement everywhere controlled by Israel (with the exception of the Gaza Strip) and may enter and leave the country freely. Palestinian citizens of Israel, however, require a special permit to travel between, for example, the different “fragmented units” controlled by the state (and sometimes within them). They also require Israeli approval for foreign travel.
B’Tselem observed that even though Palestinian citizens of Israel may vote and run for office, leading politicians consistently undermine the legitimacy of their political representatives. It also pointed to the five million Palestinians who live in the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem, who cannot participate in the political system that governs their lives and determines their future. They are denied other political rights as well, including freedom of speech and association, it argued.
“Israel is not a democracy that has a temporary occupation attached to it,” explained B’Tselem’s Executive Director, Hagai El-Ad. “It is one regime between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and we must look at the full picture and see it for what it is: apartheid. This sobering look at reality need not lead to despair, but quite the opposite. It is a call for change. After all, people created this regime, and people can change it.”