Apartheid? Apartheid!

By Guest Contributor

Recently, an independent fact-finding mission of the United Nations (UN) presented a report about the Israeli settlement policy. The report confirms what was assumed for a while: the settlement project cannot be differentiated from the Apartheid system that was once applied in South Africa.

The assignment of the UN fact-finding mission was not to conclude, again, that the settlements are illegal. That much is clear. Settlements are a violation of article 49 of the Fourth Convention of Genève, punishable by article 8 of the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court and are unanimously classified as violation of international law by the International Court verdict of 2004 regarding the Wall.

Rather, the assignment of the mission was to research the consequences of the settlements, especially with regards to the civil, political, social and cultural rights of the Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Moreover, it is noteworthy that the report does not discuss Israel’s military settlement of the West Bank as such. It is bounded to the implications and consequences of the settlement policy. The conclusion that Israel applies some form of Apartheid in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is thus limited to the regime that the settlement policy has produced.

The three main characteristics of South African Apartheid were institutionalized discrimination, repression and forced migration. The fact-finding mission concludes that the settlement establishment is characterized by these three features.

On discrimination, the mission notes the following: (a) there are two judicial regimes in the occupied territories, one for the Palestinians, and the other for the colonialists; (b) colonialists have, compared to Palestinians, a preferential judicial status; (c) in the occupied territories there is a segregated judicial system, which “results in daily violations of a multitude of the human rights of the Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including, incontrovertibly, violating their rights to non-discrimination, equality before the law and equal protection of the law.”

Secondly, the mission notes that Palestinians are subject to a broad spectrum of repressive measurements by the Israeli army and settler colonialists. There are restrictions on the freedom of movement (which resembles the pass-law system under Apartheid) and the freedom of expression and assembly. The last-mentioned restrictions, according to the report, have an aim of “ensuring that the daily life of Israeli settlers continues without interruption.” Furthermore, settlers use violence against Palestinians, their houses, schools and farmlands without restraint by the Israeli army (this form of violence was not a characteristic of Apartheid in South-Africa).

The mission concludes that there is “institutionalized discrimination against Palestinians.” It asserts that the violence and intimidation against Palestinians and their property serves to drive the local population away from their land and make settlement expansion possible.

Thirdly, the report describes a system of demolishing houses and displacing people from their homes, forcing migration elsewhere (normally to densely populated and walled-in cities) in order to serve the settlers. These interventions greatly resemble Apartheid in South Africa.

The mission does not use the term Apartheid to name the system that it describes in the report. However, its argument that the system, created by the presence of 520,000 settlers in 250 settlements and resulting in the seizure of 43 percent of Palestine, represents Apartheid is evident from the following conclusion:

“The settlements are established for the exclusive benefit of Israeli Jews, and are being maintained and developed through a system of total segregation between the settlers and the rest of the population living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. This system of segregation is supported and facilitated by a strict military and law enforcement control to the detriment of the rights of the Palestinian population.”

A more accurate description of Apartheid (as applied in South Africa) does not exist. South Africans who visit the West Bank are immediately struck by the similarity between the repressive regime that discriminates in favor of the settlers and the Apartheid that existed in South Africa. It is therefore that Nelson Mandela reminds us, “Apartheid is a crime against humanity. Israel has deprived millions of Palestinians of their liberty and property.”

In this context, it becomes clear that without justice, a progress in peace is not possible. We can only call ourselves civilized when we also apply human rights and law to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Our endowment is also invested in companies that benefit from Israeli Apartheid. Isn’t it hypocritical to have a “Davis Peace Project” and invest in Apartheid?

Those who propagate human rights have a responsibility to this crisis; we should be ashamed to call ourselves followers of human rights when we allow this injustice to continue. Middlebury expects us to be “thoughtful and ethical leaders.” Let us therefore reach an ethical conclusion on this matter and divest from Israeli Apartheid today, just like we divested our endowment from South African Apartheid in the 80s. It is imperative that racist structures cease to exist. Occupation should not exist.

I hereby invite you to partake with the Justice For Palestine (JFP) meetings every Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Chellis House.

ALI NAIMI ’16 is from Zoetermeer, Netherlands