Apartheid is described as a ruling government policy of racial segregation formerly practised against a race by the ruling class and which involves political, legal and economic discrimination against them. The policy requires separation in all forms between the ruling class race and the oppressed majority. It was the cornerstone of South African politics before Nelson Mandela managed to overturn it.
There is another state that has been practising apartheid albeit very quietly and without much fanfare and it is Israel, the pariah state that is holding on to this despicable policy of discrimination against the lawful residents of the land. It has been doing this for decades, often without much censure from their principal benefactors — the US.
In recent times, Israeli transgressions against Palestinian residents have spiked up dramatically. So much so that the peace talks that started some nine months ago have shown no increment of progress towards relief for the Palestinians. As a matter of fact, since the latest rounds of peace talks had begun, the Israeli government sanctioned the building of some 14,000 colony homes on illegally-acquired land and demolished more than 500 Palestinian owned property to make room for more. This rate of such expansion was four times the rate of building colonies in recent years. In a statement to the press, Yariv Oppenheimer, the head of the NGO Peace Now, charged that “Netanyahu broke construction records during the nine-month peace talks”.
The Palestinians, on the other hand, are witnessing the gradual and illegal seizure of the land they once called home by the Israeli authorities, who then bulldoze the land and sanction it for illegal colony for Jews. They are mighty upset in witnessing the shrinking of their land and have continuously protested that a complete colony freeze be enforced while the talks were going on. They simply want to create an independent state in the West Bank, occupied East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip — land Israel had captured in 1967.
Unfortunately, that was not to be as, publicly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu played lip service to the US sanctioned talks, while behind-the-scenes, his ministries kept approving more colonies on Palestinian land.
Just as in pre-Nelson Mandela South Africa, the Palestinians today find their land being rapidly usurped as they are slowly cornered into camps surrounded by 30-foot walls topped off with barbed wire. Frustrated with the foot-dragging and the blatant land-grab provocation of the Israelis, the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, was somewhat kind when he said last week that Israel risked becoming an apartheid state. Israel is an apartheid state today, period!
Stephen Robert, an American Jew and an ardent supporter of Israel and from whom I borrowed the title of this column, wrote sometime back of his own experiences during a visit to Israel: “What I witnessed in the West Bank — home to about 2.5 million Palestinians and 400,000 Israeli settlers [colonists] — exceeded my worst expectations. While the world’s statesmen have dithered, Israel has created a system of apartheid on steroids, a horrifying prison with concrete walls as high as 26 feet, topped with body-ravaging coils of razor wires. Spaced along these walls are imposing guard towers that harbour bunkers from which trespassers can be shot at by Israeli soldiers. From this physical segregation — one land for Israelis; another, unequal land for Palestinians — flows a torrent of misery, violence and human rights abuses.” The West Bank suffers from acute shortages of water, housing, jobs and health care. Palestinian children are separated from their parents, denied access to hospitals and stoned and beaten by Jewish colonists. Human rights sanctioned by international law, including the right to health, the prohibition on transferring populations into Occupied Territories and equal treatment before the law are routinely violated.
Elaborating on the wall, Robert says: “The wall that Israel is building does not follow the post-1967 border. It makes major incursions into the West Bank, the largest about 14 kilometres deep. Circuitous, twice as long as the actual border, the wall snakes through the West Bank to envelop Jewish settlements [colonies] and military bases, dividing Arab towns and families from each other.” A trek through the town of Hebron caused Robert to add: “In Hebron, the largest town in the West Bank, we witnessed grievous and malicious violations of human rights. The main settlement [colony] sits above the old Arab market. Settlers [Colonists] throw huge rocks and garbage down on the market, causing serious injury and disruption. In defence, the Arabs have erected a large net above their market to protect them. Now, the settlers [colonists] throw Molotov cocktails that burn through the rope nets.
“We spoke with an Arab father whose 12-year-old son was recently blinded by a container of acid tossed from above. Children are stoned and beaten going to school and Arab fields are torched when the settlers [colonists] are angry, often at some policy of the Israeli government. If the government disappoints the settlers [colonists], the Palestinians pay the price. Many Palestinian shops have been shuttered by Israeli security, and 1,800 families have lost their income as a result. We saw about 20 IDF [Israeli Army] soldiers hassling a young Arab kid for walking on a street reserved only for Jews. For that, he could be arrested, but blinding an Arab boy is not investigated.”
For Robert, Israel and apartheid going hand in hand became evident very quickly. He was an eyewitness to the daily debauchery of human rights one group of people imposes on another. He wonders like the rest of us how Jews with their history of being persecuted could inflict such horrors on others? “Where is their moral compass? How can this situation be acceptable to Judaism’s spiritual and political leaders? I don’t have that answer; except to say that Israel’s biggest enemy has become itself.”
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@talmaeena