A leading Israeli human rights group has begun to describe Israel and its control over the Palestinian territories as a single “apartheid” government, using an explosive term that the country’s leaders and their supporters vehemently reject .
In one report released on Tuesday, B’Tselem said Israel created a system in which Jewish citizens enjoy all of their rights, but Palestinians living in Israel’s four zones of control have different levels of rights – according to where they live – are still inferior to the Jewish people.
“One of the key points of our analysis is that this is a unique geopolitical area ruled by one government,” said B’Tselem director Hagai El-Ad. “It’s not democracy plus occupation. It is apartheid between the river and the sea. “
The report says Israel is seeking to advance and consolidate Jewish supremacy throughout the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
“To this end, he divided the area into several units, each with a different set of rights for Palestinians – always inferior to the rights of Jews,” the report said.
As part of this policy, Palestinians are denied many rights, including the right to self-determination, the report added.
The four areas under Israeli control are the occupied West Bank where Palestinians live in dozens of disconnected enclaves under rigid military rule; Occupied East Jerusalem where Palestinians are permanent residents but not citizens; the blocked Gaza Strip which Israel continues to control externally; and Israel itself.
Israel has long presented itself as a thriving democracy and claims that its Palestinian citizens, who make up about 20% of its population of 9.2 million, have equal rights.
However, these Palestinians suffer from being treated as second or third class citizens at the institutional level, with some 60 laws that actively discriminate against them in areas such as housing, education and health.
The report went on to describe four methods used by Israel to advance Jewish supremacy: freedom of movement, political participation, exclusive immigration, and the expropriation of land for its Jewish citizens while cramming Palestinians into enclaves.
The harshest critics of Israel have used the term “apartheid” for decades, referring to the system of white domination and racial segregation in South Africa that ended in 1994. The International Criminal Court defines apartheid as ” institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by a racial group ”.
“There is no country in the world clearer in its apartheid policy than Israel,” said Nabil Shaath, senior adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. “It is a state based on racist decisions to confiscate land, evict indigenous peoples, demolish homes and establish settlements.”
Itay Milner, a spokesman for the Israeli Consulate General in New York, dismissed the B’Tselem report as “another tool for them to promote their political agenda,” which he said was based on an “ideological vision. deformed ”. He stressed that Arab citizens of Israel are represented throughout the government, including the diplomatic corps.
Nation-state law and annexation
El-Ad points to two recent developments that have changed B’Tselem’s thinking.
The first was a contentious law passed in 2018 that defines the right to exercise national self-determination in Israel as “unique to the Jewish people.” Palestinian citizens said the law was the culmination of years of institutional discrimination.
The second was Israel’s announcement in 2019 of its intention to annex up to a third of the occupied West Bank, including all of its Jewish settlements, which are home to nearly 500,000 Israelis. Those plans were put on hold as part of a normalization deal reached with the United Arab Emirates last year, but Israel said the hiatus was only temporary.
B’Tselem and other rights groups say the borders between Israel and the occupied West Bank are long gone – at least for Israeli settlers, who can freely travel both ways, while their Palestinian neighbors need permit to enter Israel.
Traveling outside the country also depends on the approval of Israel, which prohibits Palestinians from using its Ben-Gurion airport, allowing them to cross the land border into Jordan only.
There have been no substantive peace talks for over 10 years. The occupation of the Palestinian territories, which critics have long warned to be untenable, has lasted 53 years.
“Fifty years and more, is that not enough to understand the permanent Israeli control over the occupied territories?” Said El-Ad. “We believe that people need to wake up to reality and stop talking in the future about something that has already happened.”