It is well-documented that Israel systematically discriminates against non-Jews, and Palestinians in particular. This, after all, is a country where its prime minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, openly boasted that ‘Israel is not a state of all its citizens. According to the basic nationality law we passed, Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people – and only it’.
This raises the question of whether this racism is a recent phenomenon or if it was instead embedded in the original thinking of the founding Zionist leaders. This brief tries to answer this question by going back to the origins of the Zionist project and examining how it intersected with colonialism and race theories in the late 19th century. In asserting that Zionism is indeed inherently (both in theory and practice) racist, it draws attention to its clear desire to dispossess, dominate and persecute Palestine’s indigenous population.
International solidarity with South Africans struggling against apartheid and international isolation of the apartheid state both formed a crucial pillar in the country’s struggle for liberation and democracy. The Anti-Apartheid Movement eventually became the largest solidarity movement in the world and the largest civil society campaign of the twentieth century, with structures or activities in most countries. It operated alongside a range of actions by – mostly Global South – governments and intergovernmental organisations. This brief examines the role of the United Nations, and its Special Committee Against Apartheid in particular, in this struggle.
Part I considers the Committee’s role in the period 1962-1975. Part II of this brief, which will be published next week, considers the Committee’s contribution in the period between the Soweto massacre of 1976 and the country’s first democratic elections in 1994. It concludes with valuable insights and recommendations that relate to the Palestinian struggle.
Israeli policies towards the some 300,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem can be addressed more concisely. The discrimination evident in domain 1 is reproduced: Palestinians in East Jerusalem experience discrimination in areas such as education, health care, employment, residency and building rights, experience expulsion from their homes and house demolitions consistent with a project of ethnic engineering of Greater Jerusalem, and suffer harsher treatment at the hands of the security forces.
The central question here, however, is not whether Israel discriminates against Palestinians — amply confirmed by the data — but how the domain for Palestinians in East Jerusalemoperates as an integral element of the apartheid regime.
On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly approved Partition Resolution No 181, and thereby endorsed an arrangement that would split Palestine into Jewish (55 percent) and Arab (44 percent) states and place Jerusalem (1 percent) under a special status of corpus seperatum (‘separated body’).
Somewhat perversely, the number of Arabs (528,000) in the proposed ‘Jewish’ State exceeded the number of Jews (449,000), and this was clearly something of concern for Zionists who viewed a Jewish majority as the necessary precondition of a Jewish state. Far from resolving the problem, the Resolution therefore raised the prospect of further conflict. As Ilan Pappé observes, “when an ideology of exclusivity is adopted in a highly charged ethnic reality, there can be only one result: ethnic cleansing”. And Zionist leaders duly demonstrated this when they applied a plan that drove Palestinians off their land, creating a nation of refugees in the process.
The newly established State of Israel then turned its attention to pillaging Palestinian properties.
It is almost unheard of for a functioning democracy to fail to uphold equality before the law, as this is not just morally indefensible but also violates universal values and principles. This is clearly recognised by Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which stipulates that “[a]ll are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law”.
Israel’s legal architecture codifies a privileged status for its Jewish citizens, and discriminates against all its non-Jewish persons, and particularly its Palestinian citizens.
Since the establishment of the State of Israel, its foundational laws provided the legal basis for Jewish domination over the Palestinian people as a whole, through entrenching their fragmentation. The State of Israel seeks to justify this discriminatory practice by claiming that Palestinians abuse their basic rights by engaging in and facilitating terrorist activity. These laws, and their associated justifications and practices, are the legal basis of Israel’s apartheid regime.
This brief serves to outline the key laws that established this regime and enabled discriminatory policies and practices to be applied to the Palestinian people as a whole.