Call it what it is – ApartheidIsrael

2021 is proving to be the year for Palestine. Rep. Betty McCollum just introduced historic legislation that would prohibit US funding of Israeli human rights abuses. Last month, Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Rep. Mark Pocan called on the Biden Administration to oppose all forms of Israeli annexation and colonization, including the impending home demolitions in Jerusalem.

Sen. Bernie Sanders and his colleagues also sent a letter to the Secretary of State asking him to urge the Israeli government to ensure that Palestinians in the occupied territories received the COVID-19 vaccine. Earlier in January, CNN shared the B’TSelem report that identified the system in Israel as a system of apartheid.

And today, Human Rights Watch released a 213-page groundbreaking report that found Israel to be committing “crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution” against Palestinians. The leading human organization encouraged policymakers to shift focus away from a ‘political solution’ to a rights-based approach.

The Israeli foreign ministry has responded to the report, labeling it as “propaganda” and “preposterous and false.”

What is “apartheid”?

The legal definition and elements for apartheid has been well-established in international law, independent of any investigations or reference to Israel. The word apartheid is a translation of the word “apartness” in Afrikaans. Apartheid is instituted by organizing society and the ruling regime in a way that ensures “apartness” in all aspects of life, and the dominance of the ruling race.

The United Nations General Assembly first recognized the foundation to apartheid in 1950, stating that “a policy of racial segregation (apartheid) is necessarily based on doctrines of racial discrimination.” Article 1 of the International Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) defines the term “racial discrimination” to go beyond discrimination on “race” alone. It cites that “any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on race, color, descent or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, or any other field of public life.” This is accurate in the description of Israel’s political, social, economic system as outlined in the stories shared by Palestinians who are subjugated on a daily basis due to their ethnic, national, and religious background. 

The Rome Statute of 2002 also lists apartheid as one of the eleven crimes against humanity, and defines it as, “Acts of a character… committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”

There are three main elements to the crime of apartheid; 1) the intent to maintain domination by one racial group over another, 2) a context of systematic oppression by one racial group over another, and 3) inhumane acts committed by the dominating race. The HRW report, as well as numerous others including The Israeli Occupation of the West Bank and the Crime of Apartheid legal opinion by Yesh Din and the Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid? report by the Human Sciences Research Council prove that Israel’s acts meet the elements outlined by international law. 

What does “ApartheidIsrael” look like?

For decades, millions of Palestinians have suffered, and continue to suffer, under military occupation, colonization, and apartheid. The HRW report echoes and joins the voices of millions of Palestinians who have labeled the system in Israel as a system of apartheid.

Esteemed Palestinian human rights attorney, professor, and author Noura Erakat coined the term “ApartheidIsrael”, “one word reflective of its singular system of domination over all Palestinian lives without regard to false partitions and various judicial regimes.” 

ApartheidIsrael is characterized by the discriminatory targeting of Palestinian freedom – freedom of movement, the freedom to build and maintain a healthy family, the freedom to learn and educate, the freedom in cultural preservation, the freedom in employment and economic independence. The physical apartheid is most starkly represented in segregated infrastructure, premised by the Jewish state bill, passed in 2018, which exclusively reserves the right to self-determination to Jews. It allows for the establishment of segregated towns for Jews only, and also grants legal precedent to Jewish-only schools, Jewish-only roads, Jewish-only neighborhoods and settlements in ApartheidIsrael. Even the commodity of water is restricted and prioritized to Jewish nationals – Israeli settlements in the West Bank (who comprise 15% of population in the West Bank) are given access to over 80% of its freshwater resources. 

The Israeli Citizenship Law of 2003 is renewed annually, and grants the ‘Jewish State’ the ‘import’ the right kinds of citizens and exile the wrong kinds. While Jewish people, globally, are given birthright citizenship, Palestinians continue to be exiled and uprooted from century-old family homes. The impending home demolitions in Jerusalem exemplify this most graphically. 

Palestinians are also subject to a ‘dual legal system.’ Palestinians as early as 16 years old, compared to Jewish counterparts at 18, are tried in military courts. The trial consists of a judge and prosecuting attorney who are all Israeli army officials. Palestinians face a more than 99 percent conviction rate in Israel’s military courts.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination independently reported that Palestinians and Israeli settlers in the occupied territories are subject to different criminal laws, leading to longer detention and harsher punishments for Palestinians than for Israelis for the same offenses. 

ApartheidIsrael is exposed for all to see. Credible human rights organizations have investigated and reported on the crimes against humanity that Israel has committed to devastate Palestine and Palestinians for decades. The United States’ role in legitimizing, funding, and perpetuating these crimes must be cut. To the United States, to Americans, to the world: call it what it is – ApartheidIsrael. 


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