Apartness in Israel
There appears to be more of an understanding that the state of Israel seeks to establish a form of religious apartheid but which supporters of Israel vigorously deny.
In our analysis of the South African regime of racial apartheid, we were perhaps unique in our hopeful anticipation of its dismantling because we considered that the capitalists running the country’s industry themselves found such a strict racial divide an obstacle to their profits. It was not because of any global boycott but rather the need to fully integrate the nation’s black population into the economy as productive workers and lucrative consumers.
We pointed out in one of our pamphlets:
‘Apartheid is essentially a pre-capitalist form of oppression; it is an attempt to impose the colour patterns of a frontier farming community onto a modern industrial economy. It will never work properly because what the government is trying to separate the economy keeps bringing together… South Africa’s big capitalists want to encourage this tendency of capitalism so that they can make more profits on the basis of a modern wages system and a stable, integrated urban working class. They recognise apartheid as an obstacle to this and oppose it’ (www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/pamphlet/racism/).
However, the situation in Israel is not the same. When the first Intifada in 1987 exposed the vulnerability of a reliance upon daily West Bank workers for Israel’s business, the policy of importing migrants from the Far East and Eastern Europe was adopted to bolster the labour supply, all hired on temporary contracts, denying them any chance of permanent residency. There are currently over 300,000 migrant workers in Israel who were described in 2003 by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network and the International Federation for Human Rights report as ‘contemporary form of slavery’ (fidh.org).
Similarly, the outright rejection of 35,000 or more, mainly African, asylum-seeking applicants demonstrates a bias against non-Jewish newcomers who are nevertheless employed in menial jobs replacing West Bank Palestinian workers who are increasingly superfluous to the labour needs of Israel’s capitalist economy.
In March 2019 we reported on how the Israeli government is displacing (to use the polite word for ethnically cleansing) its own Bedouin second-class citizens. How much worse it is for those who are considered captive civilians.
In 2006, former American president, Jimmy Carter, wrote a book called Palestine: Peace or Apartheid? and remarked in an interview:
‘When Israel does occupy this territory deep within the West Bank, and connects the 200-or-so settlements with each other, with a road, and then prohibits the Palestinians from using that road, or in many cases even crossing the road, this perpetrates even worse instances of apartness, or apartheid, than we witnessed even in South Africa’ (bit.ly/3f640f4).
In 2011, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine ‘found grounds to conclude that Israel’s rule over the Palestinian people under its jurisdiction, regardless of their zone of residence, collectively amounts to a single integrated regime of apartheid’ (ohchr.org).
Then in 2017 a report (bit.ly/3f640f4) was published by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) which described Israel as an apartheid state. The diplomatic pressure from Israel’s allies very quickly buried that report and it disappeared from the public discourse.
The Israeli human rights organisation, Yesh Din, published a legal opinion in 2020 where it argued that apartheid was being practised. ‘The crime of apartheid is being committed in the West Bank because, in this context of a regime of domination and oppression of one national group by another, the Israeli authorities implement policies and practices that constitute inhuman acts as the term is defined in international law’.
Another Israeli human rights campaign group, B’Tselem, issued their findings in January 2021, A Regime of Jewish Supremacy From the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. This is Apartheid (bit.ly/3xTCn1c). It said ‘B’Tselem rejects the perception of Israel as a democracy (inside the Green Line) that simultaneously upholds a temporary military occupation (beyond it). B’Tselem reached the conclusion that the bar for defining the Israeli regime as an apartheid regime has been met after considering the accumulation of policies and laws that Israel devised to entrench its control over Palestinians’.
The report describes how Israel systemically privileges Jews over Palestinians: permitting immigration for Jews only; appropriating land for Jews while crowding Palestinians into enclaves; restricting Palestinian freedom of movement, and denying Palestinians the right to political participation. The report also points to the 2018 nation-state law, which establishes ‘Jewish settlement as a national value’ and enshrines the Jewish people’s ‘unique’ right to self-determination to the exclusion of all others.
The international rights body, Human Rights Watch, in its April report (bit.ly/3ezhAbF) is the latest to level the charge of apartheid against Israel. HRW stated that:
‘Israeli authorities use a series of policies and practices to methodically privilege Jewish Israelis and repress Palestinians. The severity of the repression carried out in the OPT [occupied territories] amounts to ‘systematic oppression’ by one racial group over another, a key component for the crime of apartheid as set out in both the Rome Statute and Apartheid Convention.’
Answers are not found in segregating peoples and enforcing separation by decree such as with the American Jim Crow laws. Nor do solutions lie in the creation of sovereign states, nor in retaining them, but rather in their complete elimination.