I have been thinking about the charges that Israel is an apartheid state following the many excellent posts on the topic by Joel Pollak. Joel will soon be participating in a debate on this topic. He also has a great list of 26 thoughts around the apartheid charge - one of the best apartheid posts on the blogosphere.
Apartheid was a legal framework by which whites (a minority) sought to ensure their continued political and economic domination of South Africa. It was based purely on race – South Africans were divided into 2 groups – whites and non-whites (blacks, Indians and colours).
There were two components to Apartheid – grand apartheid with its goal of political separation, and petty apartheid which sought to segregate whites from non whites. Both components were equally important and intertwined for one could not succeed without the other.
Grand apartheid was to be achieved by creating separate political realities for whites and non whites. This was done by revoking the citizenship from non-white South Africans reducing the ‘legal’ population of South Africa so that the whites would be the demographic majority. Homelands called Bantustans were created and these were eventually to become separate independent states. Blacks were to either be physically moved into these homelands, or nationally tied to them (i.e. they would become a citizen of the homeland that they might have never set foot in; and not a citizen of South Africa). Naturally, even blacks that were not yet assigned a Bantustan, were denied suffrage (i.e. they were denied the right to vote).
Legislation was passed to legally separate blacks from whites in all aspects of daily life. The separate public amenities act ruled that blacks and whites would receive separate public services. Blacks and whites were to have separate education, medical care, transport and beaches. The legislation even pervaded to the use of parks – blacks could not sit on the same benches as whites and they could not even use the same water fountains used by whites.
Laws were also passed prohibiting blacks and whites from having sexual relations. This was policed to the extent that a white could be incarcerated for allowing a black of the opposite sex to sit on the front seat in their car.
Apartheid ensured the domination by a white minority over a black majority in every apsect of their daily lives. Blacks could not participate in the political process, they were forced to study in languages selected by the government and their education was geared towards making them useful labourers for their white ‘bosses’.
It is thus easy to see that Israel is not an apartheid state. All citizens of Israel (whether Muslim or Jewish, Arab or European) have equality before the law. There is nothing close to resembling the separate provision of amenities – Muslims and Jews use the same hospitals, Muslims and Jews use the same public transport, Muslims and Jews all vote in Israeli elections, Muslims and Jews can run for election etc etc. Muslims in Israel can choose to study in the language of their preference and Arabic is even one of the national languages of Israel. In apartheid South Africa, although blacks made up over 80% of the population, not a single African language was recognised by the state.
So why does the comparison still stick? The peddlars of this fraudulent comparison often focus on the Bantustan analogy in order to push it.
The peddlars explain that the West Bank and Gaza (Palestinian territories) equate to the old South African Bantustans. It is claimed that this ‘separation’ is a convenient measure for the Jews to devoid themselves of responsibility for the Palestinians. (As a side note, it is this that is the real “Transfer” problem in Israel - - the transfer of all responsibility for the Palestinians to Israel. The Palestinians are never responsible for anything, not even for themselves).
The problem with the comparison is that the separation between Israel and the Palestinian territories is more akin to the separation between South Africa and Mozambique (or any other bordering state) than to South Africa and the Bantustans.
There are many differences in practice (Israel does not rely on the Palestinian territories for labour) but the key difference is one of design.
The separation between South Africa and the Bantustans was designed and implemented by apartheid South Africa. The separation between Israel and the Palestinian territories however, was designed by the 1947 UN partition resolution 181. It was not Israel that created this separation (in order to racially subjugate a majority population!) The UN created the separation in order to create two separate states for two separate nations. This happened all over the Middle East once the Ottoman Empire collapsed.
Those that now claim that Israel has created Bantustan-like homelands for the Palestinians are either completely ignorant of the Middle East history, ignorant of what apartheid really was, or they are being deliberately malicious. Either way I am certain that part of their campaign is driven by hate.
I wonder how many of the silly American students participating in the recent “Israeli Apartheid week” can even name a single apartheid law passed by the old South Africa.