In a rather sad coincidence, the abolition of apartheid was celebrated in South Africa last week, while the implementation of apartheid was celebrated by Israel and its supporters!
While world leaders gathered to remember the great South African leader, Nelson Mandela, on his 100th birthday last week, and reflect on his powerful legacy and life-long fight for justice, Israeli Knesset (parliament) members were busy pushing through a controversial set of bills aimed at curtailing the rights of Palestinians. The nation-state bill was touted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “defining moment in the annals of Zionism and the history of the state of Israel”. [Zionism is an ideology advocating for a Jewish-only homeland, which emerged in the early 19th century and led to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 that forced thousands of Palestinians to flee their land and become refugees].
However, critics of the bill were quick to label it for what it actually is — the legalisation of apartheid. The bill stipulates that only Jews have the right to self-determination and makes Hebrew the official language. It is hard to imagine in this day and age that such a racist bill could be passed by a so-called “democratic” state. While Israel has long pursued racist policies and the bill is not surprising to Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, it is an extremely dangerous normalisation of such policies.
Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset, Ahmad Tibi, tweeted: “The end of democracy and the official beginning of fascism and apartheid. A black day.”
Meanwhile, the international community was timid in its reaction to the bill, with the European Union expressing concern that the bill would jeopardise the two-state solution. Palestinians are beginning to scoff at the term ‘two-state solution’ after witnessing decades of policies that only aim to make this solution obsolete.
For decades, Israel has built colonies on Palestinian land that it had captured in the 1967 war — a move never recognised by the international community. Israel has flouted international resolutions calling on it to cease its occupation of Palestinian land.
This year it has only become more bold in its transgressions under the presidency of United States President Donald Trump — considered to be the most pro-Israeli US administration to date. Palestinians fear the bill is the first step towards the official annexation of the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem by Israel and it very well could be. Yet, the world stands by idly. Democratic nations should forcefully condemn Israel for this bill, which is a shameful stain on the very democratic values they claim to uphold.