By Steve Demarest
On March 18, Students for Justice in Palestine will begin programming for Israeli Apartheid Week. To many, the very name of this weeklong series of events is deeply controversial. Although it did so for many years with the South African regime, it is disturbing to think that the American government could support a similarly racist and oppressive policies in the modern day.
But the reality is all too clear. Considering the situation in the West Bank, one is hard pressed to deny the similarities with the bantustan system in South Africa. Bantustans, formally labeled “homelands,” were areas in South Africa used for the purpose of crowding black South Africans into small bits of undesirable land. This left the majority of the country free for white South Africans disinterested in having a black citizenry for any purpose other than cheap labor. An all-too-similar system was created in the West Bank through the 1995 Oslo II agreement.
As a result of the “peace process,” about two-thirds of the West Bank has been placed under explicit Israeli control. Palestinians who attempted to remain in this part of the land are likely to fall victim to the regular house demolitions carried out by Israeli forces. Those who live in the remainder of the West Bank, designated as areas A and B, live under the corrupt and collaborationist Palestinian Authority, an Israeli puppet comparable to the black South African elite used by the apartheid regime to run the bantustans. This system was established under the supposedly liberal and still celebrated government of Yitzhak Rabin, the Labor party leader who expelled 50,000 to 70,000 Palestinians from the cities of Lydda and Ramle in 1948.
Apartheid was not just a government policy in South Africa but also an international crime. Under the 2002 Rome Statute, it is defined as “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.”
Such acts are all too evident on the part of the Israeli government, regardless of which party rules.
Israeli settlers in the West Bank are provided with up to 280 liters of water a day, while a mere 86 liters are allocated to each Palestinian.
Palestinian houses are frequently destroyed to make way for Israeli settlements, Israeli NGO B’Tselem reporting that hundreds of thousands dunams of land have been taken from Palestinians for settlement construction. Many Palestinian farmers struggle to access their land from which they have been cut off by the massive West Bank wall, while Israeli settlers suffer no such problems.
Even within Israel proper, the Palestinians often referred to as “Israeli Arabs” are effectively barred from living on 93 percent of the land. And needless to say, though Jews from anywhere in the world can easily immigrate to Israel and become citizens, the same does not apply to Palestinians ethnically cleansed in 1948.
These are just a small sampling of the inequalities suffered by Palestinians under Israeli apartheid, a system that is funded to the tune of $3 billion a year by the American government. As Nelson Mandela wrote in 2001, “Apartheid is a crime against humanity. Israel has deprived millions of Palestinians of their liberty and property. It has perpetuated a system of gross racial discrimination and inequality. It has systematically incarcerated and tortured thousands of Palestinians, contrary to the rules of international law.”
Let us act now to end this!
Steve Demarest is a senior in the School of Public Affairs and is the research director of Students for Justice in Palestine.