Israeli Apartheid: The striking parallels to South Africa

Allow me to post this in full.

By Bruce Dixon,
The Black Commentator,
19 August 2006

Imagine, if you will, a modern apartheid state with first, second and eleventh class citizens, all required to carry identification specifying their ethnic origin. First class citizens are obliged to serve in the armed forces, kept on ready reserve status until in their forties, and accorded an impressive array of housing, medical, social security, educational and related benefits denied all others.

Second class citizens are exempted from military service and from a number of the benefits accorded citizens of the first class. They are issued identity documents and license plates that allow them to be profiled by police at a distance. Second class citizens may not own land in much of the country and marriages between them and first class citizens are not recognized by the state. Second class citizens are sometimes arrested without trial and police torture, while frowned upon and occasionally apologized for, commonly occurs.

Citizens of the eleventh class, really not citizens at all, have no rights citizens of the first class or their government are bound to respect. Their residence is forbidden in nearly nine-tenths of the country, all of which they used to own. The areas left to them are cut up into smaller and smaller portions weekly, by high walls, free fire zones and hundreds of checkpoints manned by the army of the first class citizens, so that none can travel a dozen miles in any direction to work, school, shopping, a job, a farm, a business or a hospital without several long waits, humiliating searches and often arbitrary denials of the right to pass or to return. Posh residential settlements for the first class citizens with protecting gun towers and military bases are built with government funds and foreign aid on what used to be the villages and farms and pastures of the eleventh class citizens. The settlers are allotted generous additional housing and other subsidies, allowed to carry weapons and use deadly force with impunity against the former inhabitants, and are connected with the rest of first class territory by a network of of first-class citizen only roads.

Citizens of the eleventh class are routinely arrested, tortured, and held indefinitely without trial. Political activism among them is equated to "terrorism" and the state discourages such activity by means including but not limited to the kidnapping of suspects and relatives of suspects, demolition of their family homes, and extralegal assassination, sometimes at the hands of a death squad, or at others times by lobbing missiles or five hundred pound bombs into sleeping apartment blocks or noonday traffic. Passports are not issued to these citizens, and those who take advantage of scarce opportunities to study or work abroad are denied re-entry.

The apartheid state in question is, of course, Israel. Its first class citizens are Israeli Jews, the majority of them of European or sometimes American origin. The second class citizens are Israeli Arabs, who enjoy significant but limited rights under the law including token representation in the Knesset. The eleventh class citizens are not citizens at all. They are Palestinians. One expects to be able to say that Palestinians live in Palestine and are governed by Palestinians, but the truth is something different. The areas in which Palestinians may inhabit have shrunk nearly every year since the Nakba, their name for the wave of mass deportations, murders, the dispossession, destruction and exile of whole Arab towns, cities and regions that attended the 1948 founding of the state of Israel. As the whole world, except for the US public knows, Palestinians have lived under military occupation, without land, without rights, without hope, for nearly sixty years now.

The difference between life inside and outside the US corporate media bubble is extraordinarily clear on this question. US authorities subsidize the state of Israel to the tune of at least six billion per year, and corporate media take great pains to protect US citizens from news of actual human and legal conditions their tax dollars pay for. The ugly and racist realities of Israeli society and life under Israeli occupation are rarely discussed anywhere most consumers of media might find them. It is nearly taboo in mainstream US print and broadcast media to apply the words racist or apartheid to the state of Israel or its policies, or to call its control at the point of a gun of millions of non-citizens what it is, namely the longest standing military occupation in the world today. In the US media, and on the lips of every administration since Harry Truman's Israel is "a democracy", whatever that word has come to mean.

Though news stories in the US talk about autonomous "Palestinian areas" allegedly controlled by Palestinian authorities, often referring to Gaza and the West Bank by name, actual maps displaying the geographic boundaries of the so-called Palestinian controlled areas are rarely seen by American viewers, let alone maps comparing the size of Palestinian areas year to year, or showing the steady encroachment upon Arab land and water resources year to year by Israeli settlements, military outposts, Israeli-only roads, free fire zones and Israel's wall. The massive and militarized apartheid wall, as the rest of the world calls it, is termed a "separation barrier" or a "separation fence" in the US media, an understandable precaution against hordes of terroristic former owners of the land who lurk just outside.

Still, when you Google the terms Israel + apartheid, you get 5.5 million hits. A lot of somebodies somewhere are making the connection without the help of CNN, ABC or Fox News.The parallels with apartheid South Africa are many and striking. Like its earlier apartheid cousin, Israel menaces all its neighbors with an impressive array of nukes and the largest military establishment in the region. As Noam Chomsky observed back in 2004:
"Not discussed, in the US at least, is the threat from West Asia. Israel's nuclear capacities, supplemented with other WMD, are regarded as "dangerous in the extreme" by the former head of the US Strategic Command (STRATCOM), Gen. Lee Butler, not only because of the threat they pose but also because they stimulate proliferation in response. The Bush administration is now enhancing that threat. Israeli military analysts allege that its air and armored forces are larger and technologically more advanced than those of any NATO power (apart from the US), not because this small country is powerful in itself, but because it serves virtually as an offshore US military base and high tech center. The US is now sending Israel over 100 of its most advanced jet bombers, F16I's, advertised very clearly as capable of flying to Iran and back, and as an updated version of the F16s that Israel used to bomb Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981 ...

"The old South Africa bombed, strafed and invaded all its neighbors with some regularity, crippling their commerce and extracting horrific death tolls from refugee camps and other civilian targets. The last time Israel invaded and occupied Lebanon, it left 30,000 corpses.

White South Africans rightly fretted at the fact that they were a minority ruling over an unhappy majority, and concocted schemes to exile the country's black population to isolated rural reservations it called bantustans. Israeli pundits calmly discuss the demographic bomb, their name for the fact that second and eleventh class citizens, Israeli Arabs and Palestinians will soon outnumber them within the borders of their supposed "Jewish state" while Israeli politicians sit in Knesset and hold ministries in successive governments openly calling for mass deportations and ethnic cleansing.

White South Africans constructed for themselves a bogus scriptural narrative in which the God of Abraham promised them somebody else's land, and brought it into modern history with the embellishment that they were holding the line for the free world against godless communism and the black menace. How similar is Israel's line that European Jews are promised the land of Muslim and Christian Arabs, and that they now hold the line for the free world against radical Islam and those ungrateful brown people?

We at Black Commentator have to believe that if the American people knew the truth about what their tax dollars pay for in Israel and what is left of Palestine, there would be a deep and widespread revulsion, similar to that occasioned by US support for apartheid in South Africa. But there are important differences between that time and this one. Though unspeakably odious, racist South African was only marginally important to US interests. By contrast, the maintenance of Israel's apartheid regime, essentially a white hi-tech and military outpost in the middle of all those brown people sitting atop a large share of the world's proven oil reserves is absolutely central to US foreign policy for the foreseeable future. The US is Israel's banker, its arms depot, and its principal diplomatic sponsor. The US is far more complicit in the crimes of the Israeli state than it ever was in South Africa.

Racism and apartheid being what they are, and our historical experience in America being what it is, African Americans have a crucial role to play. African Americans have seldom supported US imperial adventures overseas as readily as whites. Our American experience inclines us to a skeptical appraisal of our government's means and motives at home and abroad. Even though we live as much within the media bubble as white America, where images of the broken and mangled families, the incinerated homes and bombed hospitals are hard to come by, our skepticism leads us to sympathize with those who live at the sharp end of US foreign policy far more often than do our white neighbors.

Our first duty is to tell the truth to each other. We must combat among ourselves the bogus historical narratives which permit indifference to US policy in the Middle East in general, and support of Israeli apartheid in particular. The churchgoers among us urgently, publicly and repeatedly must confront and debunk the nonsense which holds that "wars and rumors of wars" are something predestined to happen in the biblical holy land for what they are - bad scripture and fake history. We need to interrupt, correct and school everyone who talks to us about a "cycle of violence" in the Holy Land, as though some raggedy fool with a suicide belt, or a few hundred fighters with small arms are or ever have been equivalent to the devastation wrought by the established gulags, checkpoints, airborne firepower, economic strangulation, house demolitions and nuclear armed might of the Israeli state. The two sides do not have access to anything like equal means of inflicting violence, and so cannot be equally culpable or equally responsible for stopping that violence.

We need to catch up with the rest of the civilized world, and talk about what we can do to emphatically withdraw our support from the apartheid state of Israel and its immoral and illegal occupation regime. The Presbyterian church, for example, has in the past considered selective divestiture from Israel and from US companies who profit from the occupation, as have the Anglicans. Both might do so again. What can our churches, our unions, our local elected officials, our young people do? What will we do?

Apartheid in South Africa eventually bit the dust mostly because the inhabitants of that country, black, brown and white resisted it, putting their bodies and lives on the line. Their resistance was aided and abetted materially, financially, politically and spiritually by people of good will the world over. Someday the sun will rise on a post-apartheid Jerusalem, one that belongs to all the people who live there of whatever origin. This is bound to happen because Palestinians as well as substantial numbers of Israeli Jews do and will continue to resist the regime. They will do what they can. What will we do?


At Monday, August 21, 2006 3:29:00 PM, Blogger SC said...

The PLO murdered so many Lebanese and now Lebanese "patriots" support them against Israel.

I guess what they say about muslims is true: You're all evil.

At Monday, August 21, 2006 4:14:00 PM, Blogger hillz said...

keep ur racist crap out of here.

At Monday, August 21, 2006 4:20:00 PM, Blogger Scott said...

Sorry, but I simply do not buy this analogy. There may be a difference between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs, but Palestineans are not Israeli citizens. Therefore they cannot be first, second, or eleventh class. They are an occupied people.

Israel has proven by word and deed that they no longer want to be an occupying force. They withdrew completely from Gaza, and they are (or were) discussing withdrawel from the West Bank as well.

It is the Palestineans themselves who are delaying the process of creating their own nation state. What have the Palestineans who live in Gaza done since Israel left? Did they build schools, shops, homes, a non-corrupt government? NO! They continually luanched rockets at Israel. Then they have the gaul to complain when Israel responds.

I am sorry, but this outside observer has lost most of his sympathy for the Palestinean cause. When they stop glorifying the "martyrs" who kill innocent Israelis; when they stop launching indescriminate rocket attacks into Israel; when they stop whining about victimhood and start building their own state, THEN I will give them more sympathy.

At Monday, August 21, 2006 4:30:00 PM, Blogger arch.memory said...

The fact that we have stopped moderating comments on this blog does not mean that we will condone or in any way tolerate such stupid comments as yours above. And that also means we will have no hesitation in deleting your loathsome drivel; I am keeping your retarded comment above so people know what Hilal and I am referring to. So, Hilal, or anyone else for that matter, if you see any comments that are as obviously out-of-line at SC's above, please do not hesitate to let me or any of the administrators know, and we'll be more than happy to trash them. And if need be, we will reinstate comment moderation, much to everybody's chagrin.

At Monday, August 21, 2006 4:50:00 PM, Blogger Scott said...


What makes my comments either stupid or loathsome? I am neither Israeli nor Jewish nor Arab nor Muslim. I am simply giving my perspective as an outsider. I used to be very neutral in the whole Israel/Palestine issue. Having read the news and blogs such as yours for the past several years, my perspective has changed.

Thus I ask again, what is stupid or loathsome about my comments? Am I not allowed to give an outsider's perspective?

At Monday, August 21, 2006 4:57:00 PM, Blogger Andrey said...

There is ether ocupation or apartheid, yet he uses the both terms in the same sentence. + Israeli Arabs and Jews have equal rights, and when he says otherwise, it is only a lie, wich only purpose is to base his agenda.

At Monday, August 21, 2006 5:03:00 PM, Blogger Mirvat said...

scott arch was talking to sc not you, the first commentator.
as a response to your question i will quote lennybruce, jewish, commenting on the previous post:

lennybruce said...
There is so much to comment on what emil has just said that I almost dont know where to start. So I will limit myself to one salient point.

Stop this insane argument that we left Gaza so everything should be peachy dandy and the Palestinians have no grievance anymore and their continued resistance is only proof of how evil they are. This is such CRAP.

We occupied Gaza for almost 40 years. We left it a tattered, poor, economically unviable proposition. Dont forget that for almost 40 years, 30% of Gaza, was occupied by 3% or so of its population and that was the Israeli settlers living in plush luxury next to 97% of Gaza people living in abject poverty. And since we have left we have lay siege, led incursions, carried out assassinations and kidnappings, undermined the democratically elected government, cut off funding and allowed no real economic activity.

Everything that happens in Gaza is still controlled and determined by Israel. We have left, sure, but all we did was close the prison doors and begin gaurding them from the outside instead of from the inside.

If I didnt know better, I would think leaving Gaza was a nice ruse to say to the outside world, "hey we left and look, we told you so, those palestinians blah blah blah.. now we really have to take care of business.. we gave them a chance but they dont want to take advantage of it to be peaceful."

Am I crazy? Dont think so, cuz just as Hamas and Fatah were starting to discuss a unity government, which could be a major step forward also for us, we start kidnapping some more democratically elected government officials which of course was going to torpedo the talks about unity government.

When are we going to learn? Lets stop pointing fingers at everyone else for a moment and lets take a look in the mirror. I gaurantee you, if we do that, and truly do that, then our so-called 'enemies' may start to look in the mirror also and all of a sudden we can see each other thru different eyes.

andrey, so the black man has an agenda now. oh so typical, you just jump to discredit the character just because you don't want to listen. so sephardic jews are treated the same, do israeli arabs have similar representation as jews? and so now you choose to admit the occupation and all what followed, why not focus on that instead of missing the point, the moral point, the humane point.

At Monday, August 21, 2006 5:19:00 PM, Blogger Scott said...

Thank you, Mirvat, for your perspective.

In your entire statement, you simply blamed the Israeli government for the ills of Gaza without once mentioning the Gazans. Certainly, as you suggest, much or most of the fault of the poverty of Gazans is the fault of Israel for its occupation.

However, you leave the people of Gaza completely blameless. Yes, they may have legitimate complaints against the government of Israel. Does one solve those problems, though, by spending money on armaments rather than schools? Could their leaders not have tried to negotiate Israel's withdrawal from the area with perhaps some economic incentives? Could they have done nothing to better their situation or are they completely victims and unable to do anything?

It seems to me that the Palestinean people are poorly led. Why did Arafat die a billionaire? Could he not have spent part of his unearned wealth on his own people?

At Monday, August 21, 2006 6:09:00 PM, Blogger Andrey said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Monday, August 21, 2006 6:37:00 PM, Blogger arch.memory said...

Scott, as Mirvat said, I was referring to SC, the first commentator, not you. Your perspective as an outsider, and everybody's perspective, is certainly most valuable and welcome, as long as they are expressed respectfully. It is certainly a feat beyond most people's expectations if blogs such as this help change perspectives!

At Monday, August 21, 2006 9:20:00 PM, Blogger Mirvat said...

scott this wasn't my opinion, i simply showed lennybruce's comment, who's speaking from your side, but i definitely stand behind every word he is.

andrey so if you express your views on the humane aspect of this, it will spread hate? i see.

At Monday, August 21, 2006 11:25:00 PM, Blogger Andrey said...

mirvat: are you realy reading this from my comments, or are you just being sarcastic? If there is something I want to tell the israelis, I will tell it to them. It realy angers me to read quotations from Uri Avnery, in comments of some guy, whos nick is "Gas Chambers To Yahwe"

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