November 17, 2006

Apartheid in 21st Century.

There is an article in today's New York Times about the ubiquitous presence of road blocks and check points on most roads used by Palestinians in the West Bank. It talks about the hardships caused by this to ordinary Palestinians who are already facing untold miseries by the illegal occupation of their land by Israel. Palestinians are truly a tragic people.

I wrote the following on this issue on a different occasion. I think this is a good time to post it here.

A Political and Geographical Background

In 1946 there were about 1,240,000 Palestinians and 600,000 Jews (through extensive immigration encouraged by Zionist organizations) in the area that now forms the state of Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). The land ownership was 92% Palestinian and 8% Jewish.

In 1947 UN proposed a partition plan after a bitter and acrimonious debate (a plan opposed by Britain) by which Jews got 56% of the land and Palestinians 44%. This plan was opposed by most Arab states in the region and war ensued. Israel emerged victorious and 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their land and 400 villages were destroyed. State of Israel was formed in 1948.

Israel occupied all the remaining Palestinian land after the Six-Day war in 1967. The occupation continues to this day, in spite of International condemnation (always exclude Israel and the US). UN has passed more than 60 resolutions criticizing Israel, but to no avail. Almost 40 UN Security Council measures criticizing Israel were vetoed by the US, in each instance, the US vote being the only dissenting one.

These numbers pale in comparison with any in the case of so-called rogue states. One questions the worth of a UN resolution when not backed up by the might of the most powerful military in the world.

Since 1967 Israel effectively controls the whole of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem. After 1994 Oslo accord, the Palestinian National Authority was formed and was mandated to have security-related and civilian control of Palestine urban areas and civilian control over Palestine rural areas. However some parts were reserved for complete Israeli control. For the most part the Palestine region still is occupied .

Israel is Practicing Apartheid against its Palestinian Population

There are about 3.8 million Palestinians living in West Bank and Gaza.

Israel practices policies toward them which can be construed unambiguously as apartheid.

What is Apartheid?

The United Nations in 1973, in response to the brutal apartheid then prevalent in South Africa adopted the "International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid" making it a crime against humanity. In it was set forth what constitutes apartheid. Some of the obvious features are:

--Denial to a member or members of a racial group or groups of the right to life and liberty of person:

(i) By murder of members of a racial group or groups;

(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

(iii) By arbitrary arrest and illegal imprisonment of the members of a racial group or groups;

--Deliberate imposition on a racial group or groups of living conditions calculated to cause its or their physical destruction in whole or in part;

--Any legislative measures and other measures calculated to prevent a racial group or groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country and the deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of such a group or groups, in particular by denying to members of a racial group or groups basic human rights and freedoms, including the right to work, the right to form recognized trade unions, the right to education, the right to leave and to return to their country, the right to a nationality, the right to freedom of movement and residence, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association;

--Any measures including legislative measures, designed to divide the population along racial lines by the creation of separate reserves and ghettos for the members of a racial group or groups, the prohibition of mixed marriages among members of various racial groups, the expropriation of landed property belonging to a racial group or groups or to members thereof;

Full document can be found here.

More than 70 countries subsequently signed it. Major Western countries and Israel however refused to sign. The United States refused to accept that apartheid is a crime against humanity.

Systematic Oppression

Israel practices the most egregious form of ethnic and religious segregation in OPT. Most of the data below is taken from "Witness in Palestine" by Anna Baltzer.


These are barriers manned by Israeli soldiers and/or border police used to monitor the movement of Palestinians. Most of these checkpoints are NOT on the Green Line (the border Israel and OPT), but in the interior between Palestinian towns and villages. These hinder people going to work, school, hospital etc. Because of these checkpoints routine commutes take hours for Palestinians. Also many of these are closed during nights making it impossible for people to attend to emergencies.

This is a DAILY feature of Palestine life.


These are unmanned concrete or earth mounds to prevent Palestinians from using their vehicles on certain roads, forcing further delays.


The habitation and transport in OPT are segregated. There are mostly different roads for use, with Israeli roads unhindered and built for fast and luxurious driving, while Palestinian roads are often dilapidated. There are also different colored license plates for Israeli and Palestinian vehicles to easily spot them. In time of checks, Israeli vehicles pass on on one side of the road while all Palestinian vehicles are stopped and searched.


These are exclusive Jewish colonies inside OPT. There are currently 450,000 settlers living ILLEGALLY in internationally-recognized Palestinian land. Of these 250,000 are in the West Bank and 200,000 in East Jerusalem. From its inception, Israel did not express insistent desire to occupy Gaza. But it always wanted to control all of Jerusalem (not just its assigned part of the historic city) and the West Bank.

At the same time as the much publicized evacuation of 8,000 Jewish settlers from Gaza Strip in 2005, 13,000 new settlers moved into new and expanding settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

International Law prohibits an occupying power from transferring its citizens from its own territory to the occupied territory (Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 49). Yet, Israel spent roughly $430 million in a recent year ($2000 per person) to encourage Jewish citizens and businesses to move to OPT by offering financial incentives such as tax breaks, subsidies etc.

The Wall

The Wall Israel is building ostensibly for security provides the best illustration of real Israeli intentions and the sick impotence of International system.

The Wall will separate 34.4% of Palestinians from each other or their land. Moreover, the Wall is being built not on the Green Line. More than 80% of the Wall is in the interior of OPT trapping 274,000 Palestinians between the Wall and the 1967 border.

In July 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that the construction of the Wall is illegal. Israel subsequently rejected this ruling insisting that the wall is necessary for its security.


More than 8,000 Palestinian political prisoners are held in Israeli prisons. Around 10% of them are "administrative detainees": they can be held without charge or trial, indefinitely. Around 40% of the adult Palestinian male population has spent time in Israeli detention. According to Amnesty International, torture, brutalization and humiliation of Palestinian prisoners are widespread and systematic.

Note to American Taxpayers

The United States provides upwards of $5 billion aid to Israel every year, amounting to $15 million a day. Israel is also the only country receiving US aid that is not held accountable for how the aid is spent.


At 12:27 AM, November 18, 2006, Blogger Yzerfontein said...

The Palestinian story is, indeed, tragic - not exactly the same as apartheid South Africa, but there are similarities.

What's even more tragic to me is that the life expectancy of your average South African is 43 years (compared to 73 in the West Bank).


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