Yes, it is Apartheid. Palestinians, their allies, and the entire international solidarity movement have been clear and loud about this for a long time: This is Apartheid! This is the continuous ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and this is settler colonialism.
Finally, Amnesty International has declared that Israel is an apartheid state and has documented the details in their February 1st report Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime Against Humanity. This report is a strong weapon for everyone fighting for Palestinian human rights, and joins decades of documentation produced by Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights organizations on the apartheid policies of the Israeli state. The report states:
The crime of apartheid is committed when inhuman or inhumane acts are committed within the context of a widespread or systematic attack directed at a civilian population with the intention of creating or maintaining such a system of oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups.
The totality of the regime of laws, policies and practices described in this report demonstrates that Israel has established and maintained an institutionalized regime of oppression and domination of the Palestinian population for the benefit of Jewish Israelis¬—a system of apartheid —wherever it has exercised control over Palestinians’ lives since 1948. (p. 266).
Every Palestinian, no matter whether they are in the West Bank, Gaza, 48 Palestine, or in the diaspora, has experienced this Apartheid in one way or another. And we still live it. The Amnesty International report is rooted in international law and describes the many ways that the structural racism of apartheid affects Palestinians: uprooting them from their lands, destroying their houses and villages, controlling resources, controlling their movement and travel, dehumanizing them through criminalization, erasing history, destroying culture, and segregating educational opportunities. For example, Palestinian children are already criminalized before they are born. As they grow up, often in refugee camps or under siege in Gaza, they are constantly subjected to the threat of arrest, imprisonment, house arrest, torture, and even death.
Israel markets itself as experts in the field of water sustainability, but the report exposes the truth of Israel’s apartheid practices in regards to water and natural resources too. Palestinian children can’t access clean drinking water, especially in Gaza where 97% of the water is polluted and children are dying from diarrhea. Meanwhile, only a few miles away, illegal Israeli settlers are washing their cars and swimming in water stolen from Palestinian aquifers.
The careful, legal language in the AI report establishes apartheid as a fact. This is important, given how some intellectuals hide apartheid behind gentler language. Words like “war” and “conflict” deny the reality of what is happening to the Palestinian people. What happened to Palestinians in 1948 was conquest and ethnic cleansing, it wasn’t a war; and the current situation is apartheid and resistance to apartheid, not the timeless “conflict” the media likes to portray.
While Apartheid is the means of implementation, from a political perspective, however, the situation should be more deeply understood as settler colonialism. Palestinians understand that because they live it every day, but also they know what settler colonialism is because of the experience of many other peoples in the world—Native Americans in North America; the African populations of Algeria, South Africa, and Zimbabwe; the Indigenous peoples of New Zealand and Australia. Even before 1948, Palestinians knew that the Zionists’ goal was settler colonialism. They clearly spelled out their goal to occupy the land and drive the current population out. Settler colonialism is not recognized as a legal term, but it’s the reality Palestinians are experiencing.
While the report doesn’t discuss the settler colonial roots of Israel’s apartheid system, this report is still very significant. It sharpens the necessity for solidarity; it makes it obvious that there is no space to stand in the middle and try to be neutral. Israel is now more vulnerable to political pressure—more recognized worldwide as a racist state. Those who in the past considered themselves neutral now will need to take a stand against these injustices. In the 70s and 80s millions of students, workers, and human rights activists around the world rose up to say no South African apartheid, boycotting the regime and those companies that propped it up, shutting down ports and refusing to participate in cultural activities that served to hide apartheid’s bloody reality. Eventually the movements inside and outside South Africa brought the regime to its knees. Now it’s clear we are facing another apartheid regime. The Palestinian people are expecting that the international community will stand with them again against apartheid.
Please read the report, talk with your friends and family about it, and get organized. Let’s use it to fight for the liberation of Palestine.
For key highlights, takeaways, and conclusions as well as what actions we can take, please watch Dr Hatem Bazian’s video discussing the Amnesty report and how you can use this in your organizing: “Amnesty International Report and Israeli Apartheid”