Is It Fair to Use the Term "Apartheid" to Characterize Israel's Occupation?

By Brownfeld, Allan C. | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, January 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

Is It Fair to Use the Term "Apartheid" to Characterize Israel's Occupation?


Brownfeld, Allan C., Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


MANY CRITICS of Israel's occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem have used the term "apartheid" to characterize this policy. In 2006, former President Jimmy Carter published a book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (available from AET's Middle East Books and More), to help stimulate a debate on the Palestinian issue. For this, he was bitterly attacked, even called "anti-Semitic" by some.

According to Alon Liel, a former Israeli ambassador to South Africa, and a former director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry: "Many of us tend to believe that the conflict can be managed forever and Israel no longer has a 'Palestinian problem.' However, this is pure deception. The continuing settlement expansion threatens to make a two-state solution to the conflict impossible. Israel is sliding into a situation where, short of apartheid, or expulsion of the Palestinians, a one-state solution with equal rights for all would become the only possible way out of the conflict. This is the South African model."

Another Israeli ambassador to South Africa, Ilan Baruch, resigned in 2011 "because he had a hard time defending the policies of Israel's current government."

In an essay titled "Israel and Apartheid," in the book Apartheid in Palestine, edited by Prof. Ghada Ageel, Canadian attorney Edward C. Corrigan writes: "The Netanyahu government's 'Jewish nationstate' bill is moving Israel even closer to being an apartheid state that discriminates on the basis of race and religion...Israel's mistreatment and violations of Palestinians and Palestinian rights are best described in the words of Moshe Gorali, the legal analyst for Haaretz: 'Chief Supreme Court Justice Aharon Barak used the phrase "long term occupation" to justify the Israeli government's permanent, massive investments in the territories. To describe a situation where two populations, in this case one Jewish and the other Arab, share the same territory but are governed by two separate legal systems, the international community customarily uses the term apartheid.'"

In the Sept. 2 issue of The Forward, columnist Jay Michaelson asks, "If Israel's occupation is permanent, why isn't it the same as apartheid?" Citing a poll in August that showed that only 58 percent of Jewish Israelis still support a two-state solution-and, Michaelson notes, "that's counting those who support it in principle but not in practice"-he declares, "I'm not clear how a onestate, Jewish-controlled solution isn't apartheid...For two-state Zionists, the status quo in the West Bank is temporary, and thus cannot be truly analogized to apartheid, which was intended to be permanent. (Of course, the occupation has now lasted 49 years, more than the 46 years of apartheid.) The occupation is unjust, but it is meant to end once both sides' concerns about security, borders, autonomy, water, justice and so on are addressed... But for the 43 percent of Israelis who no longer believe in two states, the status quo must be regarded as the permanent status...Thus, we must ask anew what, if anything, differentiates the occupation from apartheid."

In Michaelson's view, "Israel's occupation, like South African apartheid, restricts movement, land ownership and other rights. Palestinians in the West Bank cannot enter Israel freely, and can travel through the West Bank itself only by negotiating a maze of checkpoints and inspections. Towns cannot expand, and indeed, land that had for decades been part of Palestinian Arab villages is regularly expropriated for Jewish settlement."

According to Michaelson, the most important difference between the occupation and apartheid is one which will soon be coming to an end: "From its inception, apartheid was minority rule. Whereas, by the time Israel acquired (or conquered) the West Bank in 1967, there were more Jews than Arabs between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, thanks to decades of immigration...Within a few decades, however, that will no longer be the case. …

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