Steeped in discrimination

2014-04-15 00:00

THIS is my response to the article titled “Israel not an apartheid state” by Edward West (The Witness, April 11).

“Apartheid” is a term with a precise content. It applies to a precise regime or government. Equating another regime to it may be accurate, partly correct or just wrong, as will be the conclusions drawn from the comparison.

Is Israel an apartheid state? Well, first one must settle the question: which Israel? Israel proper, within the Green Line, or the Israeli occupation regime in the occupied Palestinian territories, or both together?

The SA version was based, as with its Nazi mentors, on the theory of racial superiority. Racism was its official creed. The Zionist ideology of Israel is based on a mixture of nationalism and religion, although the early Zionists were mostly atheists.

Then there is the question of numbers. Whites made up only five percent of the population. The Zionist regime, as an integrated whole, rules both Israel proper and the occupied territories. It includes or excludes and allocates or denies rights to different groups in the population in a differentiated manner, based on ethno-religious affiliation. In the total territory under Israeli rule between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, the numbers of Jews and Arabs are roughly equal. The Arabs may by now constitute a small majority.

Israeli Jews are unified by their legal status as full citizens. Palestinian Arabs are divided by their legal status into citizens in “Israel proper”, resident non-citizens in greater Israel, and non-resident non-citizens in the Palestinian diaspora. The two groups are distinct by virtue of their language, political identity, religion and ethnic origins. Very confusing.

In January 2012, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled to uphold the Citizenship and Entry in Israel Law (temporary order). The Citizenship and Entry in Israel Law affects the lives of thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel who marry residents from the occupied Palestinian territories and other Arab countries. The law leads to an effective separation of families by refusing to grant these spouses citizenship rights or permanent residency.

Palestinian Arab political leaders in Israel have been a target group of various bodies acting to limit their scope of influence as elected representatives of their communities. Repeated investigations, indictments, prohibitions, death threats and restrictions on their legitimate political activities in the Knesset are among the discriminatory actions facing Palestinian Arab leaders. Although these actions have decreased slightly in the past year, most recorded cases targeted Member of Knesset (MK) Hanin Zoabi, and were committed by ministers and members of Knesset.

In June 2011, right-wing MKs refused to let MK Zoabi speak during a heated discussion in the Knesset. MKs attacked her with racist statements — MK Eli Aflalo named her a “traitor and killer”; MK Julia Shimlov-Berkovitch called her a “terrorist”; and MK Yoel Hasson called her the same, adding that she [Zoabi] has to be searched for weapons. MK Miri Regev called her “Troy horse” and shouted at her in Arabic to “go to Gaza”. MK Zoabi was asked to leave the floor.

Any suggestion that the Zionist state is a democracy is an insult to the English language and an affront to the intelligence of sane human beings.

The historic and overwhelming compromise of the Palestinians has met all reasonable demands with regard to recognising the “Jewish state”. The Palestinian people have endured an occupation that displays a disregard for human life by killing thousands of Palestinian civilians, including children, in Gaza and the occupied West Bank, with near impunity.

No amount of rationalisation of the discrimination practised in Israel can deny the fact that institutional apartheid exists in the Zionist state. Legalised discrimination is practised against both Christian and Muslim Palestinians. Scores of checkpoints, segregated roads, arbitrary arrests, house demolitions, land confiscations, collective punishment and forced deportation ensure that one group is privileged over the others.

The occupiers continue to build settlements on stolen Palestinian land. These settlements house foreign Jews who are automatic citizens of the Zionist state although they had not lived in the state before. These settlements accentuate the marginalisation of the Palestinians.

At a recent American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, the Zionist prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu demanded that the Palestinians recognise the Zionist entity, Israel, as a “Jewish State”. What is meant by a “Jewish State”? One thing is certain, in this “Jewish State”, the 1,7 million Muslims, Christians and Druze will be treated as subordinates and second-class citizens.

It is disingenuous to divide historic Palestine into Israel, West Bank and Gaza. For all intents and purposes, it is already one state. The Zionist occupiers of historic Palestine control every inch of the territory. The Jews are governed by civilian rule, while the Palestinians are subjected to military decree.

The world has no hatred for Israel or the Jewish people. The problem is Zionism and occupation. It is an ideology steeped in racism, discrimination, imperialism and neocolonialism.

Finally, Palestine was “mandated” to Britain at the end of World War 1. “Mandate” is a Western, colonialist, imperialist concept. The Namibians of South West Africa were not asked if they wanted to be “mandated” to apartheid SA. Similarly with the Palestinians, they were not consulted as to the future of their country.

• Ibrahim Vawda is a senior researcher: Media Review Network

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