U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro recently unleashed harsh criticism against Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, particularly in the West Bank. Speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies conference in Tel Aviv, Shapiro said:
Too much Israel vigilantism in the West Bank goes unchecked… there is a lack of thorough investigations… at time it seems Israel has two standards of adherence to rule of law in the West Bank – one for Israelis and one for Palestinians.
In short, Shapiro calls Israel an Apartheid state. The term Apartheid comes from the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, ratified by United Nations General Assembly resolution 3068 (XXVIII) of 30 November 1973. From the Convention:
For the purpose of the present Convention, the term “the crime of apartheid”, which shall include similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination as practised in southern Africa, shall apply to the following inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them:
…Article II(a)(ii): “By the infliction upon the members of a racial group or groups of serious bodily or mental harm, by the infringement of their freedom or dignity, or by subjecting them to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” Article II(a)(iii): “By arbitrary arrest and illegal imprisonment of the members of a racial group or groups.”
According to Bradley Burston at Haaretz, here is what Apartheid means, in the Israeli context:
Apartheid means fundamentalist clergy spearheading the deepening of segregation, inequality, supremacism, and subjugation.
Apartheid means Likud lawmaker and former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter calling Sunday for separate, segregated roads and highways for Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank.
Apartheid means hundreds of attacks by settlers targeting Palestinian property, livelihoods, and lives, without convictions, charges, or even suspects. Apartheid means uncounted Palestinians jailed without trial, shot dead without trial, shot dead in the back while fleeing and without just cause.
Apartheid means Israeli officials using the army, police, military courts, and draconian administrative detentions, not only to head off terrorism, but to curtail nearly every avenue of non-violent protest available to Palestinians.
Certainly, there is a strong case for Apartheid here. But perhaps we are downplaying the true severity of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. In an August 2014 interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, Professor Noam Chomsky described the actions of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land as “worse than South African Apartheid… To call it Apartheid is a gift to Israel, at least if by ‘Apartheid’ you mean South African-style Apartheid.”
The term “Apartheid” can literally be interpreted to mean “separateness” or “the state of being apart.” In South Africa, it was a system of racial segregation enforced through legislation by the National Party (N.P.) between 1949 to 1994. Soon after the N.P. came to power, it instituted a number of policies in the name of Apartheid which sought to “ensure the survival of the white race” and to keep the different “races” separate on every level of society and in every facet of life.
Chomsky is not dismissing the “Israel is an Apartheid state” argument. However, he makes a crucial difference between South Africa and Israel. He states:
What is happening in the Occupied Territories is much worse [than Apartheid]. There is a crucial difference. The South African Nationalists needed the black population. That was their workforce… The Israel relationship to the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories is totally difference. They just do not want them. They want them out, or at least in prison.
Furthermore, Chomsky criticizes the U.S. for being complicit in Israel’s crimes against humanity. He described listening to the American mainstream media as equivalent to listening directly to propaganda agencies: “It is a shameful moment for U.S. media when it insists on being subservient to the grotesque propaganda agencies of a violent, aggressive state [Israel].”
So if Israel is not – in theory – an Apartheid state, what kind of state is it? Let us consider Israel as a Genocidal state. As defined by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Article 2, genocide consists of “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such”:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Dozens of Holocaust survivors – alongside hundreds of descendants of Holocaust survivors and victims – have also accused Israel of “genocide.” In an open letter released by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and published in the New York Times, the group calls for a full economic, cultural, and academic boycott of Israel over its “wholesale effort to destroy Gaza.” The group added:
Genocide begins with the silence of the world… We must raise our collective voices and use our collective power to bring about an end to all forms of racism, including the ongoing genocide of Palestinian people.