Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi
ISRAELI parliament passed a controversial bill defining country as the nation-state of the Jewish people by granting an advantageous status to Jewish-only communities and downgrading Arabic from an official language to one with a “special status.” The new law defines Israel as the historic homeland of the Jewish nation, with “a singular right to national self-determination within it.” The law “was born in sin,” Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of the American Jewish organization J Street, said in a statement. “Two months ago we celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, where it was written that the State of Israel ‘will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or gender’’. Head of the alliance of Knesset’s Arab-led parties decries it as ‘a law of Jewish supremacy.’
The bill consists of the validation of details such as state symbols, Jerusalem as the nation’s capital and the right of return to Jews in the diaspora. A UN agency has accused Israel of imposing an “apartheid regime” of racial discrimination on the Palestinian people, and said it was the first time a UN body had clearly made the charge. The report concluded “Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.” The accusation—often directed at Israel by its critics—is fiercely rejected by Israel. The report said it had established on the “basis of scholarly inquiry and overwhelming evidence, that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid.
The report said the “strategic fragmentation of the Palestinian people” was the main method through which Israel imposes apartheid, with Palestinians divided into four groups oppressed through “distinct laws, policies and practices.” Israel’s warm ties with the apartheid regime began in earnest in the mid-1970s, with military technology and intelligence-sharing central to the alliance. For some officials on both sides, there was also an ideological component. The South African Prime Minister, Hendrik Verwoerd, for example, believed that “the Jews took Israel from the Arabs after the Arabs had lived there for 1,000 years. Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state”. Mandla Mandela, grandson of Nelson Mandela, in his visit to Israel last year said, “The settlements I saw here [in the West Bank] reminded me of what we had suffered in South Africa because we also were surrounded by many settlements and were not allowed to move from one place to another freely. Palestinians are being subjected to the worst version of apartheid.” He added: “Israel is the worst apartheid regime” and called for continued support of BDS and for South Africa to cut all ties with “apartheid Israel.”
Understanding Israel as an apartheid system reveals the urgent need for a paradigm shift in how we understand and attempt to transform the political reality in Israel and Palestine. Many members of Israel’s present ruling coalition would like to end the debate about the legal status of the Palestinian territories by simply annexing much, if not all, of the West Bank (Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967), transforming the de facto annexation into a de jure one while leaving Gaza’s fate to the international community. Whereas, a growing number of legal scholars believe that after 50 years of unrelenting repression and settlement the occupation itself rather than its specific manifestations has become illegal. While more and more Palestinians and even some Israelis maintain that the correct term to describe the situation is no longer occupation. It is apartheid.
Academically yet most regrettably, the Jewish community— which shares a major part of the Nobel laureates –makes mockery of international law. To preserve its strategic interests and ulterior motives by replicating this Socio- legal-political scheme on the South African Pattern, the Netanyahu government not only limits its own writ and leverage but also undermines the policies indoctrinated by Israel’s political mentors. The said bill—the embodiment of evil policies trajectory — precipitates more erosion and societal spilt within the Israeli community—particularly the seemingly termination of a two state solution. The Jewish policy of societal segregation practiced by the Israeli government since 2004, has, so far, produced nothing but conflagration between Jews and the Palestinians . The Apartheid Wall constructed on the West Bank, serves no security purpose other than the mere impression about Israeli order of brinkmanship, totalitarianism and tyranny in the Palestinian-Israeli borders- unwarrantedly created by Israel in the after- math of 1967 war.
A continues Israeli policy— to negate the established UN’S resolutions on the Palestinians right to return and unacceptable Israeli occupation of the Palestinian lands—to expand this illegal process of annexation of the Palestinian territories via unilateral application of Israel’s domestic laws —creates an academic controversy. In Feb-2018 Knesset’s joint list member, Jabareen had voiced his opposition to the Jewish nation-state bill in meetings with European Union officials in Brussels in November-2017, saying it violates the EU trade agreement with Israel, which states “that the respect for human rights and democratic principles guides the internal and international policy of both Israel and the EU and constitutes an essential and positive element of the agreement.
No domestic or international law gives power to a nation or state to preserve their rights at the altar of undermining the security, freedom and justice of other people. Apartheid – not only in its South African experience, but in its clear definition under the 1973 International Covenant on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid – possesses a fundamental characteristic that defines its practice wherever it exists: “two populations, one of them endowed with all civil rights and the other denied all rights”. The most ridiculously awesome aspect of the present law is that it perceives the Jewish settlements as paragon of national model, hence special focus on its promotion and establishment, an unwarranted Jewish attempt to attack the writ of international law.
— The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-analyst based in Karachi, is a member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies.