B’Tselem, Israel’s oldest and one of most prominent human rights group, published a position paper on Tuesday, January 12, in which it describes Israel as an apartheid state. The paper gives a detailed report of how Israel has constituted an apartheid regime in all territories it controls.
The report titled, “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to Mediterranean Sea: This is Apartheid,” was the first time the group had used “apartheid” to describe Israel and its policies.
The position paper of the organization also rejects the Israeli claim of being a “democracy” and argues that “one organizing principle lies at the base of a wide array of Israeli policies: advancing and perpetuating the supremacy of one group-Jews-over another-Palestinians.”
They argue that policies and laws devised by Israel to entrench control over Palestinians are discriminatory. The paper points out that the Israeli regime uses engineering of “space geographically, demographically and politically” to maintain Jewish supremacy. Palestinians have been forced to live as second-class citizen not only in the three occupied territories of West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, but also in Israel proper due to the widespread use of state violence and its policies related to land, citizenship, freedom of movement and political participation, which are all designed to consolidate Jewish supremacy.
“A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea”
For the human rights group, Israel’s land policy has always designed to judaize the entire region from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean Sea, ghettoizing and segregating Palestinians from the Jewish population since 1948. This process, they argue, intensified after the war and occupation in 1967, when Israel began to build illegal Jewish settlements inside occupied territories. They highlight that citizenship policies are also discriminatory. Whereas, Jews living anywhere in the world can become citizens, Palestinians who were forced to migrate to other places in subsequent wars cannot even come back to their homes.
The paper mentions well-known facts about how Palestinians’ fundamental rights are restricted under Israeli control. For example, Jews can go anywhere in the Israel controlled regions, with the exception of Gaza, unlike Palestinians, who, living in one territorial “unit”, need special Israeli permits to visit another. Palestinians, whether citizens of Israel or not, also have limited political rights. While “Israeli Arabs”, who constitute around 20 percent of the Israeli population, can participate in the elections, they are treated as social pariahs by the dominant non-Palestinian political groups. Palestinians in the occupied territories cannot even participate in any political activity and do not even have basic civil rights such as freedom of speech and expression.
These realities have brought dozens of international and Palestinian human rights groups to call Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as apartheid, however this is the first time that a prominent Israeli group has described the regime as such.
The term Apartheid was originally coined in reference to the white supremacist rule in South Africa until 1994 which was dismantled after a strong global campaign of boycott and sanctions was led by the United Nations.
The executive director of B’Tselem, Hagai El-Ad, argued that though Israel has been using discriminatory practices for a very long time, they “have recently grown more explicit.” “This happened both with the discussion of de jure annexation after decades of de facto annexation, and with the enactment of the Nation State Basic Law,” he said.
Israel’s Nation State Law passed in 2018 has been criticized for its recognition of the state of Israel as a state of Jewish people with exclusive right to national self-determination which deprives all non-Jewish citizens of the country equal status.
El-Ad concluded: “Israel is not a democracy that has a temporary occupation attached to it: it is one regime between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and we must look at the full picture and see it for what it is: apartheid. This sobering look at reality need not lead to despair, but quite the opposite. It is a call for change. After all, people created this regime, and people can change it.”