Saturday, 16 April 2011

Israeli Apartheid.

The use of Apartheid to describe Israel is seen as very controversial but it really shouldn’t be. Two peoples live under Israeli sovereignty, Palestinians and Jews. The Palestinians are the majority but have no real self determination over any significant part of their lives. Depending on whether they live in Israel, East Jerusalem, the West Bank or Gaza they are subjected to differing levels of discrimination and oppression that denies their basic human rights and keeps them as second class subjects.

This fits exactly the both the ICSPCA (International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid) and the ICC (International Criminal Court) definitions of Apartheid. The ICSPA definition states that the crime of Apartheid shall apply to the following 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.” The inhuman acts undeniably committed by Israel include (among others): murder, torture, arbitrary arrest and illegal imprisonment, denial to freedom of movement and residence, expropriation of landed property and Persecution of organizations and persons-by depriving them of fundamental rights and freedoms-because they oppose apartheid.[1]

Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the ICC states "The crime of apartheid" means inhumane acts of a character similar to those referred to in paragraph 1, committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime. The acts referred to in paragraph 1, committed by Israel, include (among others): murder, deportation or forcible transfer of population, imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law and torture[2].

The apartheid analogy is so accepted and applicable it is regularly used by figures within Israel, experts on international law and human rights, and figures on both sides of the fight to end South African Apartheid.

Israeli Society

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert writes: "If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories) the state of Israel is finished".

Another former Prime Minister Ehud Barack writes: "As long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic. If this bloc of millions of ­Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state."

Another former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has been quoted as calling 'the Bantustan solution' as the most appropriate for dealing with the Palestinians.

David Ben-Gurion reportedly said on Israeli radio after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War that Israel would become an apartheid state if it did not "rid itself of the territories and their Arab population as soon as possible[3]"

Israel's former Attorney General Michael Ben Yair has written that "Passionately desiring to keep the occupied territories, we developed two judicial systems: one - progressive, liberal - in Israel; and the other - cruel, injurious - in the occupied territories. In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture."

Yossi Paritsky, former infrastructure minister wrote an article called “our Apartheid state"

Israel's former education minister Shulamit Aloni has saidthe state of Israel practises its own, quite violent, form of Apartheid with the native Palestinian population”.

Israeli newspapers like Haaretz constantly discuss and refer to the 'apartheid regime' in the occupied territories sometimes without even qualification[4].

Human rights and International Law

B’tselem (Israeli Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories) "Israel has established in the Occupied Territories a separation cum discrimination regime, in which it maintains two systems of laws, and a person’s rights are based on his or her national origin. This regime is the only of its kind in the world, and brings to mind dark regimes of the past, such as the Apartheid regime in South Africa."

The Association of Civil Rights in Israel has described the situation in the occupied West Bank as being "reminiscent, in many and increasing ways, of the apartheid regime in South Africa."

Richard A. Falk reported to the General Assembly Third Committee "It is the opinion of the current Special Rapporteur that the nature of the occupation as of 2010 substantiates earlier allegations of colonialism and apartheid in evidence and law to a greater extent than was the case even three years ago. The entrenching of colonialist and apartheid features of the Israeli occupation has been a cumulative process. The longer it continues, the more difficult it is to overcome and the more serious is the abridgement of fundamental Palestinian rights."

United Nations General Assembly President Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann has said Israel's actions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were like "the apartheid of an earlier era," and that "We must not be afraid to call something what it is."

Jimmy Carter Has said on numerous occasions that “Israel’s apartheid policies are worse than South Africa’s”

Figures in the Apartheid Regime

Hendrik Verwoerd, former Prime Minister of Apartheid South Africa, said in 1961 that "The Jews took Israel from the Arabs after the Arabs had lived there for a thousand years. Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.[5]"

Former deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Meron Benvenisti recounts a meeting with an Apartheid official who compared Israeli-Palestinian relations to South African policy for the Transkei. When the Israelis expressed their shock he said "I understand your reaction. But aren't we actually doing the same thing? We are faced with the same existential problem; therefore we arrive at the same solution. The only difference is that yours is pragmatic and ours is ideological."[6]

F.W de Klerk former and last Prime Minister of Apartheid South Africa wrote “what apartheid originally wanted to achieve is what everybody now says is the solution for Israel and Palestine”

Anti-Apartheid Activists

Desmond Tutu condemns “Apartheid in the Holy Land” along with prominent activists Ronnie Kasrils, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Dennis Goldberg and Arun Ghandhi Arun Ghandi (Mahatma’s grandson) said “When I come here and see the situation [in the Palestinian territories], I find that what is happening here is ten times worse than what I had experienced in South Africa. This is Apartheid"

Kgalema Motlanthe, the Deputy President of South Africa says that conditions for the Palestinians are "worse than conditions were for Blacks under the Apartheid regime." The South African Government has on two separate occasions condemned Israeli Apartheid.

The Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) released a 300 page report indicating that Israel is “practicing both colonialism and apartheid in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” Its executive summary states that “Israeli practices in the OPT exhibit the same three 'pillars' of apartheid.”

· The first pillar "derives from Israeli laws and policies that establish Jewish identity for purposes of law and afford a preferential legal status and material benefits to Jews over non-Jews".

· The second pillar is reflected in "Israel's 'grand' policy to fragment the OPT [and] ensure that Palestinians remain confined to the reserves designated for them while Israeli Jews are prohibited from entering those reserves but enjoy freedom of movement throughout the rest of the Palestinian territory. This policy is evidenced by Israel's extensive appropriation of Palestinian land, which continues to shrink the territorial space available to Palestinians; the hermetic closure and isolation of the Gaza Strip from the rest of the OPT; the deliberate severing of East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank; and the appropriation and construction policies serving to carve up the West Bank into an intricate and well-serviced network of connected settlements for Jewish-Israelis and an archipelago of besieged and non-contiguous enclaves for Palestinians".

· The third pillar is "Israel's invocation of 'security' to validate sweeping restrictions on Palestinian freedom of opinion, expression, assembly, association and movement [to] mask a true underlying intent to suppress dissent to its system of domination and thereby maintain control over Palestinians as a group."

John Dugard (regarded as the father of human rights in South Africa) wrote an extensive report to the UN on human rights in the OPT, concluding that there is "an apartheid regime in the territories worse than the one that existed in South Africa.". After establishing multitudinous human rights abuses by the Israeli authorities he writes: “Can it seriously be denied that the purpose of such action is to establish and maintain domination by one racial group (Jews) over another racial group (Palestinians) and systematically oppressing them? Israel denies that this is its intention or purpose. But such an intention or purpose may be inferred from the actions described in this report.”

Criticisms of the Apartheid analogy usually take one of two forms. Either they just focus on the undeniable differences[7] between Israel and Apartheid South Africa without acknowledging the similarities or the legal definition of Apartheid. Or they try to remove the occupied territories from the equation and just talk about Palestinians within Israel. The problem with this is that Israel doesn’t (and has never) had any plans to give real self determination to the Palestinians. The policies pursued by Israel since 1967 establish and maintain domination by one racial group of persons over another racial group of persons and systematically oppress them. The failure of the international community to punish Israel for its repeated violations of international law, including the crime of apartheid, necessitates us to take action.

[2] See above.

[5] The linked articles are reports about the collusion between Apartheid South Africa and Israel. That are well worth reading for themselves.

[6] Benvenisti, Meron, Conflicts and Contradictions, New York: Villard Books, 1986. p. 112

[7] It is true that there are significant differences between Israel and South Africa, but apartheid regimes need not be exactly the same for them to be categorised as such, only that there exists a systematic regime of one racial group dominating another. There is a key difference between Israeli apartheid and South African apartheid, the motive behind them. In South Africa the whites were dependent on the black population for their labour but did not want to give equal rights. However Israel does not want to exploit the Palestinians as such; it wants them out so as to maintain the "Jewishness" of the state, the same reason why it expelled the majority of the non-Jewish population of Palestine in 1948. As the editor-in-chief of the South African Sunday Times Mondli Makhanya wrote in July 2008 "It seems to me that the Israelis would like the Palestinians to disappear. There was never anything like that in our case. The whites did not want the blacks to disappear." But placing people under harsh military rule with no civil or social rights because they're Arabs whilst another people living on the same land live under Israeli civil law and receive generous state subsidies because they're Jews is still apartheid regardless of the reasons.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

George Galloway talk on Israel - Birmingham University - 2009

Talk given by George Galloway at the University of Birmingham in November 2009.

Opening words:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Question and Answers:

Sunday, 3 April 2011

ISRAEL AWARENESS WEEK 2011 at Birmingham University (21st-25th March)

Peace Bridge outside Main Library

Chalking in Student Village

Mock Israeli Checkpoint on campus

The Day Freedom of Speech on Campus Died

by Friends of Palestine Society

On Tuesday 15th March, I spent nearly six interminable hours sitting through Guild Council. The session was cut short as we were about to be thrown out of the building, so I didn't get to say any of what I came to say, but I'm glad I went, as I feel it's incumbent on me to inform Birmingham Students of what Guild Council has done.

Just before midnight, it passed a motion called "It Doesn't Matter If You're Black Or White" (IDMIYBOW) dealing with racist, sexist or homophobic speech on campus. Now down to it's title it seems to be designed to be impossible to argue with but the underneath the flowery words lie some really troubling implications.

The motion states that "racism, sexism and homophobia in all and any forms is totally unacceptable on campus" and goes on to mandate that any student group hosting a speaker who makes remarks that are racist, sexist or homophobic should be subject to investigatory proceedings by the Guild if a complaint is received. This would explicitally include cases where the group in question had followed all the Guild's procedures in vetting and having the speaker approved by both the Guild and the University, and the speaker had no history of such speech. I will publish the motion as a separate note so people can examine it for themselves. For those who don't know, the Guild's investigatory procedure involves the group in question appearing before Student Groups Comittee who can impose sanctions up to and including derecognition as a Guild affiliated society. This is a radical tightening of the Guild's current policy, which is that the responsibility for outside speakers lies with the Guild and the University, who vet them in line with the "no platform policy" rather than the individual group.

Now no one wants students to face hate speech on campus, but let's think about this carefully. Suppose your views on immigration and multiculturalism lean to the right. They may fall well within the mainstream, but there are those who would consider that racist. Does that fall within what the Guild now declares to be "totally unacceptable?" What about a speaker with conservative views on gender rolls. Sexist? Possibly. Should they be affectively barred from speaking on campus, though? What about the many Guild affiliated religious societies with views on sexual morality that are orthodox within, at least, the three Abrahamic religions. It doesn't take any kind of stretch of the imagination to envisage a situation in which remarks were made that would be considered homophobic by a significant number of people. Should those with such views be excluded from participation in Guild recognised activities? Consider also that casual prejudice is, unfortunately, not uncommon and perhaps better tackled with dialogue than by hitting people with the ban stick. Except in one, small instance, that I shall say a little more about in a minute, what speech falls under the remit of this motion is not well defined. I think the Guild should be extremely cautious about declaring certain views beyond the pale, even for discussion. The University, after all is a seat of academic debate, and should include space for discussion of ideas that some may find difficult or challenging. We didn't come here not to have our minds changed or broadened. Members of debating society stood up during the debate to say that their societies activities could not continue in there current form with this motion in place.

My only word of comfort to the many who have reason to feel threatened by this motion, is that this isn't really about you. To understand the motion you have to know a little about the history behind it. This January, University of Birmingham Friends of Palestine Society, of which I'm a member, hosted former US soldier, turned prominent antiwar activist, Mike Prysner. It's a very interesting and important perspective on the actions of western governments in Iraq and the wider Middle East.

He also likened Gaza to a concentration camp and the actions off Israel to those of the Nazis. Now this is cheap and below the belt and doesn't really add any understanding to the situation there. We clarified ( that this did not reflect our views when the Guild received complaints. However, few would consider it racist, and it certainly doesn't invalidate the rest of his talk. However according to a controversial definition ( of antisemitism, endorsed by the Guild, in a motion, last year, any comparison between the actions of Israel and the Nazis is antisemitic. I will not dwell on why this definition, called the "EUMC working definition" is so problematic- I have already written about it at length here: - suffice to say it is wide ranging and highly contentious. It was never formally adopted by the body that produced it but was allowed to fall by the way side, when it became apparent that it was not useful for it's stated purpose of identifying and monitoring antisemitism. I am not aware of any cases of it being used against uncontrovertible instances of antisemitism such as that by the far right and classical religious antisemitism as these things are too clear to need an official document to label them antisemitic.

Where it has come into unofficial use it's main purpose seems to be to police the boundaries of discussion on Israel/Palestine. It was accepted by the NUS after significant lobbying. The earlier motion only passed through Guild Council after being watered down to reduce it's roll to a guidline rather than legislation. It was also only applicable to the Guild itself, when assesing outside speakers, rather than student groups.

Nevertheless, with a large campaign led by Joseph Moses- Guild Anti Racism and Fascism Officer, author of both the EUMC and IDMIYBOW motions and a long time vociferous defender of Israel on campus- encouraging complaints to the Guild about the Mike Prysner talk, most from those not even in attendence, FoP had to appear before Student Groups Comittee. This was only the latest event in a long standing conflict between FoP and a subset of Jewish students who take exception to any serious critical treatment of the State of Israel or it's actions. FoP was required to make a clearer apology on their website, and were censured for inadequacies in chairing the talk (although this part of the judgment was reversed on appeal, and one of the Comittee found to have had an undisclosed conflict of interest). Beyond this they were found to have been in compliance with Guild regulations in inviting or hosting the speaker. Moses and others were extremely unhappy with this result. He was determined to close the loophole that allowed the small matter of having acted reasonably throughout allow the society to escape serious sanctions and came back to have the EUMC definition, that had been watered down the year before, tightened again,this time making it even more strict than the original unamended EUMC motion. He had already published a post on his official Guild blog, calling for such events to be "stamped out." ( It's authors obviously felt that Guild Council was unlikely to accept this if it were presented to them upfront so this portion was packaged in a larger motion, seemingly made up of motherhood and apple pie. It was then that IDMIYBOW was put forward.

The blog post also contained untrue statements about the motivation of FoP in hosting the event, which occured on the same day the ARAFO organised holocaust memorial was held the day before Holocaust Memorial Day. Moses believed that this was a deliberate slight against Jewish students. In fact the organisers had been unaware of the clash when they booked Mike Prysner to speak. Simon Furse tried to have Moses censured for these statements during Guild Council, during which I had access to my laptop, and was able to bring up a hotmail notification of a message posted by the President of FoP, dated 1:26am on 16th January. It reads:
"Just realised Mike Prysnor coincides with the Holocaust Memorial commemoration which is also at 3pm on Wed 26th.
So I'm trying to change the booking to 1pm instead of 3pm"
I was prevented from officially putting this to Guild Council, and Joseph Moses was loudly applauded when reiterating his claims. This was the first time that I felt actual physical anger at Guild Council. New Guild Councillors and Residence Association representatives must have been left the impression that Mike Prysner had said something truely beyond the pale.

The whole Guild Council session was a procedural abomination. An earlier motion reinstating the Guild's "No Policy, Policy" of enforced neutrality on Israel/Palestine had been passed with no opportunity given for opposing speeches when a motion was carried to proceed straight to a vote after only an impassioned speech by it's proposer on the necessity of the motion and some discussion of amendments. Further amendments of this motion and IDMIYBOW were blocked by the chair of Guild Council seemingly arbitrarily, including one removing the contentious EUMC definition. This was on the grounds that it would substantially alter the motion. Whilst I agree that this clause was the heart of what the motion was, in actuality, intended to achieve, it made up only a small part of the stated purpose of the overall motion. IDMIYBOW was passed late at night when many Guild Councillors had already left, most of those remaining were desperate to get home and the debate had to be curtailed to one round of speeches and brief questions as the building was about to close.

It is a travesty that a motion so cutting away at student groups rights to freedom of expression was passed under such circumstances to further a personal dispute between two groups on campus. If I was any other student at this University I wouldn't feel that Mike Prysner calling Gaza a concentration camp was heinous enough to warrant such drastic restrictions on my rights. IDMIYBOW notes:
That there is currently no policy in place to deal with racism, sexism or
homophobia on our campus unless the person or group in question is covered
under the No Platform Policy
but fails to demonstrate that these mechanisms were inadequate to deal with hate speech on campus. It also relies on an unstated asssumption that students have the absolute right to be protected from offence, I would disagree with that assumption and would dispute even more strongly that a small group on campus has the right to restrict student activities to prevent them from hearing things they do not want to hear.