OPN 200320 TRUMP-1584695733378
US President Donald Trump takes questions during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 19, 2020. Image Credit: REUTERS

At the height of the apartheid regime in South Africa, the white minority government created something known as the Bantustans so that black-skinned people would live away from the cities. At the time, that was the culmination of racial persecution — apartheid! However, the white government ultimately failed and the native population triumphed. Today, it is the same policy that is being repeated in historical Palestine, where the ‘Trump plan’ gives Israel ‘authority’ to implement a racist regime.

The civilised world is dominated by deep concern expressed by states, institutions, groups and leaders, who warn of the dangers of the Trump plan. In this context, 50 foreign ministers and leaders in Europe have signed a letter expressing their “grave concern about the plan”.

On behalf of the European Union, the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell announced that the Union “urges both sides to demonstrate, through policies and actions, a genuine commitment to the two-state solution as the only realistic way to end the conflict”.

For its part, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) consisting of 12 former Soviet republics, considered Trump’s plan: “an annexation plan full of dangers that does not form the basis for future negotiations and it consolidates unilateral annexation.”

Three candidates for the US presidency opposed the plan. The former vice-president and now Democratic front-runner Joe Biden made a video statement to AIPAC on March 1 and advocated for the “two-state solution”. He added: “Israel has to stop the threats of annexation and colony activity … That’s going to choke off any hope for peace. And to be frank, those moves are taking Israel further from its democratic values, undermining support for Israel in the United States, especially among young people of both political parties. That’s dangerous! A two state solution is the best way to assure a secure and peaceful future, for the Jewish and democratic state of Israel.” On his part, democratic and Jewish candidate Bernie Sanders condemned the plan, calling for “an end to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories that has continued since 1967 …. The Palestinians must have their right to self-determination to establish an independent and democratic state”. Finally, the party’s candidate Elizabeth Warren also opposed the plan and continued: “It is an endorsement of annexation, and it does not provide any opportunity for a real Palestinian state. Launching a plan without negotiating with the Palestinians is not diplomatic, it’s fake.”

Likewise was the position of many churches. The Council of Catholic Churches in the Holy Land said the plan “does not give the Palestinians neither dignity nor rights. It is a unilateral initiative that supports all the demands of one side, the Israeli side and its political programme, and does not take into consideration the rightful demands of the Palestinian people.”

Violation of basic rights

Moreover, the Antiochian Orthodox Church expressed its rejection of the plan, saying that “the Palestinian issue is a case of people whose most basic rights are being violated on a daily basis and are exposed to the worst forms of ethnic discrimination by an occupying power.” Significantly, Pope Francis also warned against “unfair” solutions aimed at ending the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

In a rare move, dozens of prominent liberal Jewish organisations around the world joined an international coalition and issued an unprecedented joint statement against the plan. They included J Street, New Israel Fund, Progressive Israel Network, and the British Yachad Movement among other Jewish organisations from Europe, South Africa, Australia, Canada and Central America. This coalition called on “world leaders to reject the unilateral deal, which, if implemented, will make the Israeli occupation permanent, formalising the unfair status quo”. The signatories announced: “We are a diverse coalition of Jewish organisations and individuals from societies around the world rejecting Trump’s unilateral deal that gives Israel the green light for the dangerous annexation of the Palestinian territory, legalisation of settlements built in clear violation of international law and eliminates the possibility of a viable Palestinian state that can live in dignity alongside a secure Israel.”

Israel has always argued against any similarity with South Africa’s apartheid regime, but the Trump plan is pushing to make it a reality on the ground. In a remarkable article, Israeli writer Amira Haas said: “The deal of the century is a plan in which there is a typical ignorance and disregard for the facts... The deal of the century is consistent with the Israeli colonial project.” Alon Liel, former Israeli ambassador to South Africa (1992 to 1994) during its transition to democracy said: “It is now clear, of course, that attempts to whitewash a repressive and discriminatory regime by creating fictitious autonomous states inhabited by people without real political rights, were unsuccessful in South Africa, and will not work anywhere else.” However, he added: “This lesson is now being tested. With US support in the so-called deal of the century, Israel is seeking to develop the new millennium’s formula of old South Africa’s regrettable policy”. Seeing a close similarity with the apartheid regime, he concluded “this was precisely the goal of the old Bantustan policy of the South African government.”

— Professor As’ad Abdul Rahman is the Chairman of the Palestinian Encyclopedia.