Israel – will it ever change its apartheid character?
By Dr. Habib Siddiqui
Seven years ago, Tuesday (16 March), Rachel Corrie, an American peace activist, was killed by an Israeli Army bulldozer while trying to stop the demolition of a Palestinian building in the Rafah refugee camp. A court case brought by her family has begun in Israel. The civil action against the Israeli defence ministry will decide whether damages should be paid for her death in Gaza at the age of 23. Her family has maintained that a full investigation was never carried out. In an interview with the Democracy Now, her family says that Israel may not allow Rachel Corrie’s Palestinian doctor and the witnesses in Gaza to testify for the case. There is strong possibility that the driver who murdered Corrie will also not be allowed to take the witness stand. Well, those of us who have been following the “only” democracy in the Middle East for quite some time are not surprised by such legal stonewalling from the apartheid state.
It was not too long ago that the Israeli government rejected the conclusion of the UN Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission on the December-January (2008-2009) Gaza conflict. The Goldstone Report accused Israel of violating international humanitarian law, committing “grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention in respect of willful killings and willfully causing great suffering to protected persons,” and war crimes, possibly even crimes against humanity. The Israeli ambassador to the UN dubbed the report as being “conceived in hate and executed in sin.” Imagine what would have been the reaction if the UN fact-finding mission was not headed by a Jewish judge! With a 344-36 vote, the US House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution that urged President Obama and Secretary Clinton to oppose unequivocally any endorsement of the report. Mindful of the Israeli sensitivity and pressure from its powerful Lobby, the Obama Administration dodged the UN debate last November.
This was not the only time that the US government had bailed out the rogue state from being held accountable for its gross violations of human rights and international law. Consider the Jenin massacre of April 2002 when, according to Human Rights Watch, many of the victims were “killed willfully or unlawfully, and in some cases constituted war crimes.” Examples highlighted in the Report include the case of 57-year old Kamal Zugheir who was shot and then run over by IDF tanks while in his wheelchair, and that of 37-year old Jamal Fayid, a quadriplegic crushed to death in the rubble of his home after an IDF bulldozer advanced upon it, refusing to allow his family to intervene to remove him. Israel did not allow emergency workers into the Jenin refugee camp after the massacre of Palestinians had ended. On April 19 the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution to send a fact-finding mission to Jenin, which was blocked entry on April 23 by the Israeli government. On May 2, in the face of mounting pressure from the AIPAC that had influenced President Bush, Secretary General Kofi Annan disbanded the U.N. fact-finding team, which had been waiting in Geneva for nearly a week to begin its mission. Later, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution condemning Israel’s military action in Jenin. The USA was one of the four countries that voted against the resolution.
Israel remains the only state in our world that has the unbridled audacity to bite the very hands that feed her. There is nothing that the generous feeder could do to stop such an unthankful conduct. Consider for instance the recent 5-day trip by the US Vice President Joe Biden to Israel to put some life back into the moribund peace process. Since day one the Obama administration has been calling for a total freeze in the settlement activities by the expansionist regime. But does the Netanyahu administration care? No. Earlier this week it approved 1,600 new homes for ultra-Orthodox Jews in East Jerusalem (West Bank), a move considered illegal under international law. The timing for the announcement could not have been any more audacious than this. Biden, a long time supporter of the Zionist state, is embarrassed. “I condemn the decision. ...,” he said in a statement. The word came after he had spent the day vowing the United States’ “absolute, total and unvarnished commitment to Israel’s security.”
In his meeting with the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday in the West Bank, Biden said, “Yesterday, the decision by the Israeli government to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem undermines that very trust - the trust that we need right now in order to begin as well as produce profitable negotiations.” The same day the European Union urged Israel to reverse its housing decision.
Commenting on the Israeli decision, Arab League chief Amr Moussa said, “The insult has reached a point that not a single Arab could accept.” He further said, “Israel does not care about anybody, neither the mediator, nor the Palestinians.” Not surprisingly, Abbas said that he would not enter indirect talks with Israel.
Last year, the US Congress approved President Obama’s FY2010 budget request for a near-record $2.775 billion in military aid to Israel—an increase of $225 million in aid to Israel compared with FY2009 budget—despite the fact that the United States was in its gravest economic crisis since the Great Depression and that there was no chemistry between Obama and Netanyahu when the two met last year. Based on IRS statistics, this amounted to an average of $17.75 for each individual taxpayer in the United States. If you thought that was amazing, consider the fact that the average taxpayer will provide Israel with $19.19 in weapons as his/her contribution towards President Obama’s FY2011 budget request for $3 billion in military aid to Israel. Do you see any penalty for the Zionist state’s rogue mentality, undermining American goals? According to Congressional Research Service, the United States has provided Israel with more than $100 billion in direct military and economic aid since 1949. The U.S. aid to Israel totaled $28.9 billion over the past decade, a sum that dwarfs aid to any other nation and amounts to four times the total gross domestic product of Haiti. Between 2009 and 2018, the United States is scheduled to give Israel—the largest recipient of U.S. aid—$30 billion in military aid.
Vice President Biden said the U.S. is committed to the creation of a “viable” Palestinian state with contiguous territory. What is he going to do now against the rogue state that does not even put a halt to settlement building? Probably nothing other than swallowing his own vomit! That has been the story of American influence on Israel. Every politician there is afraid of the power of the Jewish lobby and its media! In a New York Times editorial Thursday President Obama is blamed for Israeli actions. Just figure out!
The 6th International Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) is currently underway from March 1 to 14 March. The aim of IAW is to educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system and to build Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns as part of a growing global BDS movement. The friends of Israel are quite uncomfortable with all the publicity surrounding this annual international series of events held in cities and campuses across the globe. Many of them blame President Carter for coining the phrase. However, the similarity is much older.
As noted by the US Campaign to End the Occupation the similarities (shown below) with the erstwhile Apartheid South African regime are unmistakable:
• The South African apartheid regime broke the country into 10 noncontiguous Bantustans made of 13% of the total land, which were to serve as “homelands” for the black population. Israel’s “separation wall/fence” and settlements have broken the Palestinian territories into 12 noncontiguous cantons representing only 12% of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
• Palestinians rely on Israeli-issued “permits” to travel through a system of more than 600 checkpoints within the occupied territories. Israeli refusal to issue permits regularly prevents Palestinians from getting to schools, jobs, and even hospitals. In apartheid South Africa Blacks could be arrested to being outside of Bantustans and townships without government issued “passes.”
• Black people in South Africa could not be citizens, and Colored people were only granted limited citizenship rights. Palestinians in the occupied territories are not citizens of any state, and Palestinian citizens of Israel have different citizenship rights than Israeli Jews. Palestinian residents of Jerusalem are not citizens of Israel—instead, they have a partial “residency” status, one that can be taken away by the state if an individual is deemed to “no longer reside” in their city of birth.
• East Jerusalem and the West Bank are splintered by a network of roads leading to illegal Israeli settlements (where residence is open only for Jewish citizens of Israel); these roads can only be used by Israelis, while Palestinians must use older, often unpaved roads.
• Within Israel, Palestinian citizens are discriminated against by a series of laws, policies, and regulations, including restrictions on the right of Palestinians to own land, inequalities in funding of schools and municipalities, inequalities in the land open to development around Arab towns and cities versus Jewish towns and cities, inequalities in the granting of building permits, and citizenship laws that discriminate against Palestinians. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel recently issued a challenge to one of these discriminatory citizenship laws, which bans Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens from gaining Israeli citizenship. (For more information on the discrimination faced by Palestinian citizens of Israel, check out the websites by the Arab Association for Human Rights, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and Adalah Legal Center for Minority Rights in Israel).
• Citizenship laws also discriminate against Palestinian refugees, who are denied their right of return while Israel grants citizenship to any Jewish person from anywhere in the world.
• Even in language, Israel’s policies toward Palestinians resemble apartheid. The Hebrew word “hafrada,” which is used to refer to the Wall and to the policy of “disengagement,” means separation (as in “separation barrier”). Apartheid is an Afrikaner word which also means separation.
In the 1980s the Apartheid South Africa caved under the overwhelming weight of economic and democratic sanctions that were imposed from outside. These sanctions eventually forced the racist regime to change its apartheid character and become a democracy that it is today. Will Israel need such a push to change hers? Or, will it correct its inhuman ways before such sanctions are imposed from the civilized world?