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Israel can no longer shake off the Apartheid label

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Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ for Israel-Palestine has laid bare, with maps and all, a self-proclaimed ‘vision’, which has been widely seen as amounting to Apartheid. The Bantustan model is visual.

A few days ago, Adalah-NY tweeted:

Yet that is precisely the comparison that is being made now, and it is an avalanche.

  • Chief Palestinian envoy to Britain Husam Zomlot (formerly head of Palestinian mission to US):

“January 28th, 2020, will mark the official legal stamp of approval from the United States for Israel to implement a fully-fledged apatheid system”

“Palestinians are “offered” a truncated and dismembered archipelago of Bantustans”

  • Israeli Human rights org B’tselem says it’s “not peace, Apartheid”, playing a pun on Jimmy Carter’s book title “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid”. B’tselem elaborates:

“Palestinians… will be relegated to small, enclosed, isolated enclaves, with no control over their lives as the plan eternalizes the fragmentation of Palestinian space into disconnected slivers of territory in a sea of Israeli control, not unlike the Bantustans of South Africa’s Apartheid regime.”

The Apartheid comparison is something that Israel has tried very hard to avoid. Yet the suggestion has been made by its own leaders. In 2017, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak warned of a “slippery slope” towards Apartheid. Yet the Israeli left did not really have a viable solution to this. If one looks at the 2016 diplomatic plan by Labor leader Isaac Herzog (now head of Jewish Agency), it was all about ‘separation’, not peace. Israeli professor Neve Gordon wrote that “Herzog’s diplomatic plan looks an awful lot like apartheid”:

Looking closely at Labor’s plan, the logic behind it becomes clear: since it is difficult to envision a Palestinian state in the foreseeable future, Israel should no longer be ashamed of putting Palestinians in Bantustans.

Really, Barak’s “slippery slope” is an attempt to deflect the fact that Israel has been enacting this Apartheid for a very long time. The main point made used to deflect the apartheid charge is that the 1967 occupation is ostensibly temporary. The challenge has been how to describe Israeli control as something other than Apartheid, and the Palestinian ‘state’ as something other than Bantustans. But this, in truth, was all that Israel ever had in store for Palestinians.

Barak’s “generous offer” at Camp David in 2000 amounted to Bantustans; Laborite Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin promised the parliament in 1995 that the Oslo Accords were about “less than a [Palestinian] state”. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the possibility a “state minus”. It’s always been about that, at best – Bantustans.

But now, the Trump map for the first time openly suggests this, and it is very visual. Mirror images of Palestinian encalves alongside South African Bantustans under Apartheid are being widely circulated, and as simplistic as these images may be, they do speak a thousand words.

Those who have made the comparison between Israeli policy and Apartheid, have sometimes regarded the Israeli case as worse:

  • South African law professor Prof. John Dugard, former special rapporteur for the United Nations on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, had written in a report to the UN General Assembly in 2004 that the Israeli Apartheid regime is “worse than the one that existed in South Africa”. Out of office over a decade later, Dugard regarded the Israeli crimes as “infinitely worse than those committed by the apartheid regime of South Africa.”
  • Baleka Mbete, chair of the African National Congress, said in 2012 that the Israeli regime is “far worse than Apartheid South Africa.”
  • Israeli writer and journalist (Haaretz contributor) Yitzhak Laor wrote in 2009 that Israel’s Apartheid is not only “worse” but also “more ruthless”.
  • Professor Noam Chomsky said in 2014 that it’s “much worse than Apartheid”.

Israelis may somehow be aware, that once you start digging into the Apartheid question, the roots of it lead to Israel’s very inception.

In March 2017, the UN agency ESCWA (Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia), released a report by professors Richard Falk and Virginia Tilley, titled “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid”. The study concluded unequivocally that Israel practices Apartheid policy, and that it has been doing so since its inception. The document only saw official daylight for two days, as Israel and the US pressed to have it shelved, and it was taken down from the UN website. Then US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who called herself the “new sheriff in town”, boasted to an adoring AIPAC audience about that:

“So then they [UN] tested us again. And a ridiculous report came out, the [Richard] Falk [and Virginia Tilley] report. I don’t know who the guy is or what he’s about, but he’s got serious problems…” [massive laughter in audience, including host]. “…goes and compares Israel to an Apartheid state. So the first thing we do is we call the Secretary General and say ‘this is absolutely ridiculous, you have to pull it’. The Secretary General immediately pulled the report and then, the director has now resigned!” [cheers from the crowd and a thumbs up from the host].

Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, has a database of over 65 Israeli laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel. The understanding that Palestinian citizens are institutionally discriminated against is central to understanding that the Apartheid question is not just a matter pertaining to the 1967 occupied territories. Nonetheless, even these second-class citizens are being used by Israel-apologists to rebuff the Apartheid claim. Thus, the ADL fact sheet mentioned at the beginning of this post starts out with them:

The treatment of Arabs by the State of Israel cannot be compared in any way to the treatment of the black majority in South Africa under apartheid. There is no Israeli ideology, policy or plan to segregate, persecute or mistreat the Arab population.

Besides the fact that it is not true, it is also a strawman. Because the Palestinian citizens of Israel are only one small part of the Palestinian people, and although they do generally suffer a less harsh fate than those Palestinians who are occupied, besieged, or expelled, they are still a part of that overall picture. Israel is not really a state of all its citizens, as some like to think. It is the Nation State of the Jewish People, and Jews are the only ones with national rights in it, even extra-territorially so.

ADL seeks to rebuff the Apartheid claim with the two-state solution idea:

Moreover, Israel’s acceptance of a two-state solution as the outcome of bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations belies accusations that Israel’s goal is the persecution of Palestinians.

That statement is gathering a lot of dust. And it is quite clear to many at this point, that the Trump alluding to a Palestinian “state” has got nothing to do with a real state. It is only about Bantustans, and it’s about cementing more Apartheid, about consolidating and advancing Israeli gains for the ultimate control of Greater Israel.

The ‘deal of the century’ is not really Trump’s. It’s Zionism’s deal, and it’s arguably been made over a century ago, with the 1917 Balfour Declaration. Trump’s “New Palestine”, while following very old Zionist settler-colonialist designs, is a gown that seeks to dress the old venture with new clothes, ostensibly bought with 50 Billion Dollars. But like in the Hans Christian Andersen tale, the gown is made of nothing, and Israel’s Apartheid comes to march naked, for all to behold.

Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

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15 Responses

  1. bcg on February 5, 2020, 12:24 pm

    You might be asking yourself how the average Israeli can justify living in an apartheid state, or, for that matter, how the average Israeli manages to not see that he or she is living in an apartheid state. Well, if you read about how people justified this sort of situation in the past, all the same mechanisms come into play. I recommend Greg Grandin’s book “The End of The Myth”, it has a lot about how Americans justified slavery, treatment of the natives, etc – it would all be comical if it weren’t tragic. It goes something like this:

    -They’re savages, they don’t understand civilization.
    -We’ll have to end slavery sooner or later but if we do it all at once the black man will destabilize society.
    -We need to protect the honor of our women (yes, that trope appears in Israel’s history)
    -Maybe we can deport them to Liberia or California (the argument circa 1840)
    -God gave the land to us.
    -It’s our destiny to rule…etc,etc.

  2. edthespark on February 5, 2020, 3:45 pm

    Apartheid is back again,brought to you by the the great satan himself.What a sin.rollout the……….RED CARPET.

    • jackal on February 9, 2020, 8:17 pm

      It may be a bit of a reach, but there are certainly a lot of similarities between the Biblical teachings in Revelations about the “second coming” preceded by the Anti-Christ, and Donald Trump.
      As an atheist, I sometimes wonder about the end of times. Perhaps Trump has visions of himself leading the world during the trials and tribulations preceding this “coming.” I know the evangelicals hope that this will be happening in their time and seem to have a hope that Trump will be leading them to it. Why else would most of them vote for such a completely narcissistic idiot. Someone should check his hide for “666.”

  3. HarryLaw on February 5, 2020, 6:46 pm

    Former South African Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils accused Israel of conducting a policy against the Palestinians that was “worse” than apartheid.
    Speaking on the sidelines of a UN meeting on the situation in the Palestinian territories, Kasrils said South Africa’s townships had never been attacked by helicopter gunships and tanks, in contrast to the military means employed by Israel.
    “The analogy between apartheid and Israel’s occupation of Palestine is often made. It is not the same thing. The occupation is absolutely worse,” Kasrils told reporters.

    Netanyahu of course wants to push annexation as soon as possible to try and help him win the election and save him from a possible long jail sentence. Netanyahu’s suggestion that the Palestinians in the ‘triangle’ should be included in the Bantustan’s will not sit well with the Palestinians in Israel who should come out and vote in huge numbers, what a blow back that could prove for the Prime Minister. Couldn’t happen to a nicer smug, grinning scumbag.
    Look at this map….

  4. Kay24 on February 5, 2020, 8:45 pm

    We all know what happened to the last one that had that ugly title…..hope it happens to Israel too, sooner the better.
    BDS is the way to do, it worked the last time. Boycott Muslim nations that are in bed with the apartheid nation too, they are traitors to their people.

  5. Elizabeth Block on February 6, 2020, 8:07 am

    “The treatment of Arabs by the State of Israel cannot be compared in any way to the treatment of the black majority in South Africa under apartheid. ”
    It’s worse. South African whites wanted to control and exploit the blacks. They didn’t want to get rid of them.

  6. Misterioso on February 6, 2020, 9:00 am

    “Israel” has been governed under an apartheid system since its inception:

    Eminent Jewish Israeli journalist Bradley Burston aptly sums up the horrors Israel inflicts on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem:
    “Occupation is Slavery”
    “In the name of occupation, generation after generation of Palestinians have been treated as property. They can be moved at will, shackled at will, tortured at will, have their families separated at will. They can be denied the right to vote, to own property, to meet or speak to family and friends. They can be hounded or even shot dead by their masters, who claim their position by biblical right, and also use them to build and work on the plantations the toilers cannot themselves ever hope to own. The masters dehumanize them, call them by the names of beasts.” (Haaretz, Feb. 26/13)

    Regarding Palestinian Arab citizens of “Israel,” i.e. west of the green line:
    Hendrik Verwoerd, then prime minister of South Africa and the architect of South Africa’s apartheid policies, 1961: “Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.” (Rand Daily Mail, November 23, 1961)

    Jacobus Johannes Fouché, South African Minister of Defence during the apartheid era, compared the two states and said that Israel also practiced apartheid. (Gideon Shimoni (1980). Jews and Zionism: The South African Experience 1910-1967. Cape Town: Oxford UP. pp. 310–336. ISBN 0195701798.

    “Former Foreign Ministry director-general invokes South Africa comparisons. ‘Joint Israel-West Bank’ reality is an apartheid state”
    EXCERPT: “Similarities between the ‘original apartheid’ as it was practiced in South Africa and the situation in ISRAEL [my emphasis] and the West Bank today ‘scream to the heavens,’ added [Alon] Liel, who was Israel’s ambassador in Pretoria from 1992 to 1994. There can be little doubt that the suffering of Palestinians is not less intense than that of blacks during apartheid-era South Africa, he asserted.” (Times of Israel, February 21, 2013)

    Video: Israeli TV Host Implores Israelis: Wake Up and Smell the Apartheid

    In its 2015 Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, issued in 2016,the U.S. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor acknowledges the “institutional and societal discrimination against Arab citizens of Israel.” (U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor)

    “Construction, Not Destruction”
    “While Israeli Arabs constitute 20 percent of the population, Arab communities’ jurisdictions occupy just 2.5 percent of the state’s land area, and the process of approving new construction in Arab towns takes decades.” (Haaretz Editorial, April 4, 2017)

    One example of apartheid within Israel:
    “Jewish town won’t let Arab build home on his own land ”
    Excerpt: “Aadel Suad first came to the planning and construction committee of the Misgav Local Council in 1997. Suad, an educator, was seeking a construction permit to build a home on a plot of land he owns in the community of Mitzpeh Kamon. The reply he got, from a senior official on the committee, was a memorable one. ‘Don’t waste your time,’ he reportedly told Suad. ‘We’ll keep you waiting for 30 years.’” (Haaretz, 14 December 2009)

    Adi Ophir, professor of philosophy, Tel Aviv University: “…the adoption of the political forms of an ethnocentric and racist nation-state in general, are turning Israel into the most dangerous place in the world for the humanity and morality of the Jewish community, for the continuity of Jewish cultures and perhaps for Jewish existence itself.” (1998 issue of “Theory and Criticism,” published in Israel)

    Ilan Pappe, then professor of political science at Haifa University: “[Israel’s] political system [is] exclusionary, a pro forma democracy – going through the motions of democratic rule but essentially being akin to apartheid or Herenvolk (‘master race’) democracy.” (“Jerusalem Report,” Feb. 14/2000)

    Ronnie Kasrils, a key player in the struggle against the former South African apartheid regime, minister for intelligence and a devout Jew: “The Palestinian minority in Israel has for decades been denied basic equality in health, education, housing and land possession, solely because it is not Jewish. The fact that this minority is allowed to vote hardly redresses the rampant injustice in all other basic human rights. They are excluded from the very definition of the ‘Jewish state’, and have virtually no influence on the laws, or political, social and economic policies. Hence, their similarity to the black South Africans [under apartheid].” (The Guardian, 25 May 2005)

    Shlomo Gazit, retired IDF Major General: “[Israel’s] legal system that enforces the law in a discriminatory way on the basis of national identity, is actually maintaining an apartheid regime.” (Haaretz, July 19, 2011)

    The effect of Israel’s blatantly racist “Citizenship Law” and more than fifty other restrictions Arab citizens have to endure is well expressed by writer and Knesset member, Ahmed Tibi, “…dutifully defining the state [of Israel] as ‘Jewish and democratic,’ ignores the fact that in practice ‘democratic’ refers to Jews, and the Arabs are nothing more than citizens without citizenship.” (Ma’ariv, 1.6.2005)

  7. James Canning on February 6, 2020, 11:07 am

    A key element of South Africa’s Bantustan program was to convey citizenship in one or other of the Bantustans, to blacks living in South Africa who had never even visited the subject Bantustan. Redressing the demographic imbalance was the essence of the scheme.

  8. Ossinev on February 6, 2020, 1:54 pm

    It is arguable that the Israeli version of Apartheid is significantly different from the South African version if only because the Africaners of the the late 20th century were descended from the Dutch Colonists who had “settled” in South Africa in the 17th and 18th centuries as opposed to the hotch potch of foreign colonists of a wide range of nationalities including overnight conversos who forcibly colonised Palestine particularly from 1947 onwards and are still doing so – some probably on a range of flights to Ben Gurion as I write this.

    Having said that the South African Apartheid model survived for so much longer because of the connivance of Western Powers inc of course the US and the UK which is still largely the case with the ZioApartheid . And dear little eternally victimised eternally threated Zioland was totally enamoured of SA and its lovely PM Botha to the extent that it even offered to supply one of its own nuclear devices which Zios are still unsure as to whether they actually have or not.

    Psst Dimona is just a “textile plant” ;

    Can`t be long before Zios are pushing for the “Israel is an Apartheid State” claim to be definitively incorporated as an example of “Anti- Semitism ” in the ever expanding IHRA list.
    They may be a bit more reluctant to attempt to get “Israel has Nuclear Weapons” on the list.
    But who knows they are so blinded by their own arrogance they may well have a go. After all for those who feel eternally victimised it must become boring having to whine about the same old things day after day – got to find something new to make life (un)bearable.

  9. Jejasalo on February 6, 2020, 4:10 pm

    I wish more people would wake up and understand that there cannot be a Jewish State without apartheid. Ergo (in my opinion) THERE SHOULD NOT BE A JEWISH STATE. Some very good people, dedicated activists, realists, etc. all have apoplexy when I say this, however. Why??? Find a way to have a Jewish State that is simultaneously democratic and shuns apartheid. Might as well have a German State or a French State or an English State only for those who can prove they have the right blood. There is only one kind of democratic state: a state of all its citizens regardless of ethnicity, religion, language, ancestry, culture, gender, race or any other category. No one has to force anyone to leave Israel. No Jew should have to leave Israel. Any non-Jew living there should be granted full citizenship and 100% equal rights, however. Then you have a state for Jews and ANYONE ELSE that is modern, enlightened, and civilized.

    • RoHa on February 6, 2020, 8:22 pm

      This is why I start my little triad with “Israel is evil in conception…”.

      Even if Israel had been established on terra nullius”, and comported itself in a saintly manner thereafter, it still would have been wrong.

  10. catalan on February 6, 2020, 5:04 pm

    “Then you have a state for Jews and ANYONE ELSE that is modern, enlightened, and civilized.”
    And how better to describe any state with a Muslim majority from Somalia to Turkey to Indonesia to Iran to Saudi Arabia? “Civilized and enlightened. “ And the state where Hamas and Islamic Jihad rule will no doubt be a new Athens and a cradle of the arts. Silly Jews for objecting to live in such a great place.

    • RoHa on February 6, 2020, 8:23 pm

      They shouldn’t have gone there in the first place.

  11. iResistDe4iAm on February 9, 2020, 8:07 am

    Israeli Apartheid in the Holy Land aka: HOLY Apartheid

    Here’s a picture of the Afrikaner imposed but failed South Africa 11-state apartheid solution:

    Here’s a picture of the Israeli imposed 6-state apartheid status quo (as at December 2011):

    Here’s a picture of the Deal of the Century Decade Year Month D…
    take 2: Here’s a picture of the STEAL of the Century (21st):

    Here’s another picture of the STEAL of the Century (20th):


    As South Africa once had an Afrikaner imposed 11-state apartheid solution (1 self-proclaimed “white” state and 10 imposed bantustans), Palestine now has an Israeli imposed 6-state apartheid status quo (1 self-proclaimed “Jewish State” and 5 imposed de facto bantustans).

    De facto Palestinian Bantustans:
    1. Area A – Palestinian Security & Civil Admin control (18% of West Bank land).
    2. Area B – Israeli Security and Palestinian Civil Admin control (21% of West Bank land).
    3. Area C – Israeli Security & Civil Admin control (61% of West Bank land).
    4. East Jerusalem – Illegally annexed by Israel.
    5. Gaza Strip – Illegally besieged by Israel (via air, land & sea) and Egypt (land).

    As the land under Palestinian habitation continues to shrink in size, the number of de facto Palestinian bantustans is actually increasing. Excluding the 43% of the West Bank that is off-limits to Palestinians (reserved for Jewish-only settlements/councils and roads, closed military bases and zones, Israeli declared nature reserves, areas cut off by separation wall, etc), leaves Palestinians with only 13% of their ancestral homeland.

    IRONY of Century
    10 bantustans imposed on indigenous South Africans = 13% of their ancestral homeland.
    5 de facto bantustans imposed on indigenous Palestinians = 13% of their ancestral homeland.

  12. just on February 9, 2020, 4:53 pm

    “The ‘deal of the century’ is not really Trump’s. It’s Zionism’s deal, and it’s arguably been made over a century ago, with the 1917 Balfour Declaration. Trump’s “New Palestine”, while following very old Zionist settler-colonialist designs, is a gown that seeks to dress the old venture with new clothes, ostensibly bought with 50 Billion Dollars. But like in the Hans Christian Andersen tale, the gown is made of nothing, and Israel’s Apartheid comes to march naked, for all to behold.”

    So true. You make your honest points on these pages every time that you put ‘pen to paper’, Jonathan.

    Speaking of robes(thobes), did you see this from Kate?

    “Go back to Ramallah’. . . Saudi journalist affiliated to regime verbally attacks Tlaib for wearing Palestinian thobe

    Riyadh (QNN) 7 Feb — A Saudi academic and columnist who is affiliated to the Saudi regime tweeted attacking Rep. Rashida Tlaib for wearing a white Palestinian thobe during Trump’s State of the Union speech two days ago. Ahmad Farraj wrote in a tweet that Tlaib decided to wear a Palestinian thobe during Trump’s speech as a form of protest, then he called her to leave the United States and go back to Ramallah. “Rashida Tlaib, congresswoman of Palestinian origin, attended the State of the Union speech wearing a Palestinian thobe to protest, as she said, against Trump. “Rashidah, why don’t you leave the US for Trump and go back to Ramallah. I’ll pay your first-class flight tickets and I’ll buy an apartment for you in Ramallah. I’m offering the same for that protester next to you, Ilhan Omar”, he tweeted.”

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