Below is a working paper ICAHD and an initial circle of Israeli, Palestinian and international organizations put together, suggesting a world-wide anti-apartheid campaign. It derives from the Israeli elections have initiated the last phase of what can only be called apartheid (and which is has been given the strange and Orwellian label of "convergence" by Olmert). It contains a Civil Society Call to Action against apartheid and proposals for effective action.
Israel is poised in the next few months to a year to unilaterally declare the annexation of the settlement blocs and Greater Jerusalem, containing 80% of the settlers, and include them within the Israeli side of the Wall, declaring the Wall -- and the Jordan River -- the permanent boundary. This constitutes actual, official apartheid.
This campaign is being proposed as THE meta-campaign deserving of urgent attention, one which gives all the various existing campaigns a "big picture" political context. It reflects the overarching importance significance of what is impending, which dwarfs everything else.
At this stage what is posted here is only a draft intended to solicit feedback and suggestions. Once we achieve a basic agreement on the Call, we will begin to circulate the revised proposal to ever widening circles – including circles of activists that have not yet been mobilized. Hopefully by June/July we can have the campaign up and running.
So please look over the draft proposal and let us know what you think. You can also send it to key people you think should be in the initial planning phase, but tell them not to circulate it since it is still only in draft form. Any suggestions of whom else to send it to for review are welcome.
Israeli embassies and consulates have already been instructed to begin "selling" the "convergence plan," first to the Jewish and Christian fundamentalist communities, then to others. So time is of the essence.
We'll await your comments, and hope you will join with us in this Campaign. THIS is something we can and must sink our teeth into.
A CALL FOR AN ANTI-APARTHEID CAMPAIGN
AS ISRAEL PREPARES TO MAKE ITS OCCUPATION PERMANENT
“STOP APARTHEID, END THE OCCUPATION”
“FREEDOM FOR PALESTINIANS!”
A Working Paper and a Proposal for Coordinated Action
Among Palestinian, Israeli and International Civil Societies
The time has arrived. After years of warning of an “impending” regime of apartheid in Israel-Palestine, of the dangerous trend “towards” apartheid, of an “apartheid-like” situation, it has become official: within the next year – four at the most – an expanded Israel will officially and unilaterally impose an apartheid regime over the remaining tiny, isolated and impoverished islands of a Palestinian Bantustan. This is the only way to interpret the “convergence plan” that Ehud Olmert, Israel’s new Prime Minister, has laid out in great detail, though it merely completes an apartheid trajectory begun immediately after the 1967 war. Olmert told reporters that he will "seek to establish the most stable coalition possible," which will be based on his convergence plan - a unilateral withdrawal from areas of dense Palestinian population in the West Bank - and setting Israel's final borders by 2010.
"These plans will be the basis of the government's operations," Olmert said on April 6, 2006, when the President charged him with establishing the new Israeli government. "I believe this is also known to all the potential partners and there is no doubt we will act in this way. My political positions were expressed in detail and will also be expressed in detail in the ground principles of the government that I will head." And, as he asserts, it will be done with the active complicity of the United States and Europe.
The time has therefore come to unite the various specialized campaigns, important as they are, into a coherent, assertive Big Picture “meta-campaign” to prevent an official regime of apartheid from soon being imposed on the Palestinians – and if it is imposed, to transform it into a full-fledged anti-apartheid campaign. Campaigns of divestment and sanctions; campaigns against house demolitions, the construction of the Wall, the uprooting of olive trees; campaigns for applying the Fourth Geneva Convention or norms of human rights to the Occupied Territories; resistance to Occupation on the ground and internationally – as vital as they are to the struggle for justice and peace in Palestine-Israel -- must be integrated into an overarching meta-campaign against apartheid. This is the most fundamental, immediate and urgent political need of the moment – the final and ultimate confrontation with the Iron Wall, with dispossession, with the imprisonment of an entire people.
This, then, is a call for a global anti-apartheid campaign, an international response to, and utter rejection of, the “convergence plan” which Olmert has pronounced the most pressing priority of his new government, a plan that calls for Israel to “converge” into its "thickened" settlement blocs while locking the Palestinians permanently into a truncated, non-viable, semi-sovereign prison-state. While not based on the racial policies of South African apartheid, the formal institutionalization of the Occupation whereby one state assumes permanent and structured domination over another, one people permanent domination over another through a system of institutionalized discrimination, means that Israel’s form of apartheid conforms in principle, conception and structure to apartheid. While some may object to the use of the term on the grounds that it deflects debate from the issues, while
“dispossession,” “ethnic cleansing,” “colonization” and other terms may be more descriptive for what is occuring in Israel-Palestine, apartheid is the only term existing that gets to the deliberately structured, permanently institutionalized form of systemic discrimination underlying Israel’s “convergence plan” that perpetuates the Occupation forever.
Conception and Goals of the Anti-Apartheid Campaign
The proposed campaign is an urgent response to the imminent transformation of Israel’s Occupation into a permanent regime of apartheid, as indicated by Olmert’s “convergence plan.” (For a detailed argument of why his plan constitutes apartheid, see the “background” section of this paper.) The campaign embodies, as of this writing, the following principles and features:
• A triple-focus. The proposed campaign would focus on three fundamental preconditions for a just resolution of the conflict: (1) resistance to any attempt to impose an apartheid regime over Israel-Palestine; (2) insistence on a complete end to the Occupation; and (3) rejection out of hand of any attempt to impose a “solution” unilaterally. The anti-apartheid campaign would remain separate from any effort to promote a particular solution. Unlike the case of South Africa when the anti-apartheid movement fought to establish a single democratic state, there is no consensus among the Palestinians as to the “end game:” the political goal of Fatah differs from that of Hamas; proponents of a one-state solution exist side-by-side with proponents of various two-state solutions and of regional confederation. In order to attract maximal support, then the focus of the campaign should be on the three elements specified above.
• From Prevention to Resistance. The first phase of the Campaign would direct our energies towards preventing Israel from formally imposing an apartheid regime on Palestine with international backing. This really brings the struggle to the doorstep of every civil society group which is charged, among other things, with preventing its country from supporting Israel’s apartheid intentions. In the likelihood that apartheid is in fact announced on a particular date (when Israel officially announces its permanent expanded borders into the Occupied Territories, including the annexation of the settlement blocs and Greater Jerusalem), the Campaign would shift to a full-fledged campaign against apartheid.
• Mobilization of international civil society. Resistance to apartheid and movement towards a just peace will take place only if significant international pressure can be applied to Israel, the Occupying Power. For this it will be necessary to mobilize much wider circles of civil society than we have until now. The Israel-Palestine conflict must be re-framed as a global conflict having an impact far beyond its local confines. Only then will we be able to mobilize wider segments of the activist community than we have until today. And only when we succeed will be able to both pressure our governments and engage with them to secure a just peace.
• Integration of existing campaigns. An anti-apartheid campaign does not replace any existing campaign. It merely provides an overarching and urgent framework in which the various campaigns can “plug in” and coordinate their collective efforts. In addition to their existing activities, each campaign should relate to the urgency of imminent apartheid and gear its demands to that eventuality. We all benefit from coordinated campaigns and sharing resources.
A CIVIL SOCIETY CALL TO END THE ISRAELI OCCUPATION, PREVENT THE IMPOSITION OF AN APARTHEID REGIME OVER THE PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES AND ACHIEVE A JUST A LASTING PEACE
We, representatives of Palestinian, Israeli and international civil societies, call upon governments, international organizations and individuals of conscience to raise their voices against the imminent imposition of a permanent apartheid regime of Israel over Palestine and to join in a collective effort to end the Occupation before all hopes of a just peace in Palestine-Israel are dashed forever. The intentions of the Israeli government are spelled out in detail in its “Convergence Plan.” Immediately upon receiving American approval (even tacit), Israel will move to declare both its illegal Wall extending far into Palestinian territory as its new permanent border and the Jordan Valley as its second eastern border. Its massive settlement blocs containing 87% of its illegal settlers will be annexed, leaving the Palestinians with a non-viable Bantustan comprised of tiny, impoverished and disconnected enclaves – a prison-state. The brutal physical “separation” of Jewish and Palestinian populations in which Israel permanently controls 85% of Palestine-Israel, the borders, Palestinian freedom of movement, the economy, Jerusalem, the richest agricultural lands, the water and even the country’s airspace constitutes nothing less than a full-fledged apartheid regime. Israel’s Convergence Plan will institutionalize Israel’s Occupation in perpetuity, reducing the Palestinians to a fragmented, powerless and dependent population without any rights of self-determination whatsoever. According to Olmert Israel will complete its unilateral program of convergence/realignment while President Bush still holds office.
The international community cannot remain silent, indifferent and inactive. Israel’s Convergence Plan is as illegal in international law as it is immoral, since the Fourth Geneva Convention specifies that occupation can only be disposed through negotiations, not through unilateral actions. It is inconceivable that only a few years after the fall of both the Berlin Wall and South African apartheid the international community would permit an entire people to be literally imprisoned and a new apartheid regime to emerge before our eyes.
We of the Palestinian, Israeli and international civil societies call upon the international community to take immediate and effective steps:
1. To reaffirm the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination as guaranteed in international law;
2. To end totally Israeli occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and to dismantle the Wall;
3. To find a just and mutually agreed-upon solution to the refugee issues that complies with international law and UN resolution 194 regarding the rights of Palestinian refugees;
4. To guarantee to the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel the fundamental right to full equality; and
5. To ensure the integrity and security of all the states in the region.
For the sake of justice and genuine peace in Palestine/Israel, as an essential contribution to global stability and well-being and, indeed, for the promotion of a world based on human rights and international law, we call upon you all to join with us in initiating a world-wide Campaign to Prevent an Israeli Apartheid.
Proposed Campaign Actions
(1) Organization and Mobilization. Although we may have several months in which to organize, the point of no return, a product of secret dealings among Israeli, American and European officials, is likely to arrive well before political declarations or events on the ground. It is crucial that we organize as quickly as possible and that we monitor events and developments.
• The Campaign would be led by a coalition of peace and human rights organizations inside Palestine/Israel and abroad according to agreed-upon principles. This will enable effective coordination. A closed internet list will be established in order to coordinate communication and strategy among the participating organizations, as well as for sharing materials. Local organizations will, of course, have the freedom to embark on initiatives of their own; beyond coordination open to all groups agreeing with the Campaign’s principles and goals, there will be no “ownership.”
• With the help of the growing circle of participants, this working paper/proposal will be circulated widely for comments and suggestions, so that it will develop into a mission statement, statement of principles and an action plan acceptable to the widest circles, yet effective. The organizational goal is not control but merely articulation of our concerns and goals, coordination and the joint development of the most effective campaign possible.
(2) Actions (a preliminary list):
• Stage 1: Prevention. Our first set of actions should be focused on preventing the apartheid scenario. This involves a focused campaign of information dissemination, mobilization of partner organizations, actions aimed at influencing public opinion, lobbying and protest.
-- Information dissemination. Development of effective informational materials. Among the most basic materials needed are:
* Apartheid in Israel-Palestine? A basic brief flyer or brochure raising the issue and possibility of apartheid in Israel-Palestine in an open-ended manner that makes the case forcibly yet leaves the reader to draw his/her own intentions. The piece could include facts, maps, quotes, a concise definition of apartheid and why the Israeli case applies, references to the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid and other documents of human rights and international law (such as the Fourth Geneva Convention), as well as reference to supporting statements of parliamentary, church, human rights or other respected voices. The material could also be translated into a power point presentation as well as film formats.
* Reframings of the conflict “pitching” our case in terms of the worldviews and language of the different groups we are attempting to influence. This is a crucial if we want people to “get it.” The problem is not only information, but transmitting true understanding and sympathy, overcoming resistance to our message and empowering people to advocate effectively. Information is useful only if it can be integrated into a coherent framing that connects to existing worldviews and opinions. The essential task is to replace Israel’s “security framing” with an alternative re-framing that emphasizes (1) Israel as the Occupying Power pursuing a pro-active policy of controlling the entire country west of the Jordan River, and (2) the Palestinian narrative, including their rights to return and to self-determination, as well as their peace overtures towards Israel. That re-framing should then be presented within whatever major conceptual frameworks particular target audiences have: a Christian reframing, for example, or a Jewish one, a human rights one, one emphasizing women’s issues in occupation, a re-framing emphasizing one’s country’s own national interests in a just resolution of the conflict, a global re-framing, even re-framings emphasizing environmental or other specific concerns.
* Development of an on-line Resource Pool of visuals (photos, film-clips, access to films, power point presentations, etc.), maps, brochures, documents and reports.
* Organizing speaking tours for Israeli and Palestinian activists. It might be a good idea to bring anti-apartheid activists from South Africa to both make the point about apartheid and to help in strategizing and mobilizing.
* Exhibits. A number of Palestinian and Israel organizations have exhibits on issues such as house demolitions, checkpoints, women’s issues under Occupation, military and settler oppression in Hebron and more, as well as more artistic exhibits. These visual presentations constitute effective instruments of communication and persuasion.
* Theatrical performances. A number of powerful theatre pieces exist and could be mounted locally: “My Name is Rachel Corrie,” “Territories,” and others.
-- Intensifying Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns.
-- Legal initiatives. These are proving increasingly effective. High Israeli army officers have been advised by the government not to travel to Europe for fear of being arrested. We should develop a strategy for using legal instruments, including against our own governments who violate covenants on human rights and international law that they themselves have signed on.
-- Rapid response. Events on the ground – important events – take place beyond the ability of groups abroad to respond. Israeli organizations should take the initiative and establish an effective monitoring service. We all should then strategize over how information can be utilized and disseminated without overwhelming our target populations.
-- Protest and Resistance; the need for urgency. Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaigns have begun gathering momentum, especially among church groups and anti-Caterpillar activists. Apartheid adds another urgent dimension to these campaigns, which might be expanded as apartheid is entrenched. Other campaigns might also consider incorporating anti-apartheid elements.
One major action should be against the closure, the imprisonment of Palestinians behind the Wall, the sealing in of Palestinians and the inability of Israelis to visit or work with them. Hundreds of Israelis could be mobilized in a mass civil society protest to cross into Palestinian areas via the terminals and declare their defiance of the closure, thereby I inviting arrest.
-- Lobbying. While confronting the political establishment is important, we should also engage with it. Each country’s groups should develop a program of lobbying its leaders, both official and others (church leaders, opinion-makers, intellectuals, etc.), as well as lobbying and currying relations with university teachers and students, trade unions, religious groups and other significant members of the civil society.
-- Learning and Solidarity Activities in Palestine-Israel. Palestinian and Israeli groups offer a wide variety of activities “on the ground” such as critical tours of the Occupied Territories, conferences, workshops and resistance activities. These experiences are powerful ways of bringing target groups – activists, parliamentary delegations, journalists, faculty and students, community leaders and others – into contact with the realities, issues and people involved. They should be employed as effective means of persuasion.
• Stage II: When Apartheid is Declared, a Full-Fledged Anti-Apartheid Campaign. The steps suggested above are intended to call public attention to the coming plan of apartheid, to make it an issue before it happens, and in that way prime public opinion for our strong response. For in all likelihood an apartheid regime will be declared at a particular time. We must be ready for that, primed for a strong response that redefines the conflict from one of occupation to one of apartheid.
In the next few months we should be planning a series of responses within the framework of a major campaign. One proposal that should already be considered is the following:
-- Worldwide Ads. When we decide that apartheid has been declared – the day Olmert or another Israeli leader unilaterally declare Israel’s new permanent borders – we should have ads already prepared and monies raised to take out large ads in our major newspapers proclaiming the establishment of a new apartheid regime, explaining in bullet form why it is an apartheid regime, and calling for protests and resistance activities. We should have materials ready for press conferences, key journalists identified and primed, protests planned and have ready any other measures we think effective. But we must be ready: if we merely respond after the fact, our voice will be lost.
-- Major Gatherings and Demonstrations. Gatherings and demonstrations are ideal ways of mobilizing our supporters; they give focus and urgency to our efforts to organize. They also give tangible expression to our campaign. Two dates stand out as crucial ones: November 29, the date that the 1947 UN partition plan was approved and the recently-declared UN Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People; and June 5, 2007, the 40th anniversary of the 1967 war and the start of the Occupation. Different country groups can decide how to mark these (and other) dates, but we should work in tandem toward major happenings next June 5, certainly in the US (a gathering of religious and civil society leaders at the National Cathedral in Washington has been proposed), in the UK (a “40 Years is Enough!”) campaign has been proposed, and elsewhere.
-- Major Conference/Protest Gathering on the issue of implementation of international law, to be held either in Geneva (the Swiss government being responsible for convening the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention) or in Jerusalem (alternating between Israeli and Palestinian areas). Such a conference, with a strong protest/demand component, would focus attention on the critical problem of implementing international humanitarian law and human rights conventions, with specific demands to apply IHL to end 40 years of occupation.
BACKGROUND: THE CASE FOR APARTHEID
Although apartheid has been coming for many years, Olmert’s “convergence plan,” which calls for Israel to “converge” into its "thickened" settlement blocs and unilaterally declare its permanent borders (and thus the end of the Occupation and the conflict as a whole), is nothing less than a plan for apartheid. Olmert has presented his plan to the Israeli public, which has greeted it with wide-spread support, in great detail. Indeed, acceptance of the “convergence plan” is a precondition for any party wishing to join his coalition government, including Labor.
The following text, delivered in January, 2006 at the Herzliya Conference, constitutes the first foreign policy statement made by Olmert after he succeeded Sharon in power and remains the clearest, most comprehensive statement of policy that will guide his new government. Because Israeli leaders like Olmert couch their policies in conciliatory language so as to blame the Palestinians for the continuation of the conflict and to conform to the norms of international discourse, Olmert’s operative words will be highlighted and a brief commentary appended so as to appreciate the sub-text and implications of his remarks. The policy direction is clear. Just listen:
[Sharon’s] policy always prioritized initiative over inaction, breakthrough over the monotonous route. He knew it was better for Israel to initiate political steps, and not be dragged into dangerous moves forced on it by others….There is no doubt that the most important and dramatic step we face is the determination of permanent borders of the State of Israel, to ensure the Jewish majority in the country.
Ze’ev Jabotinsky defined the importance of a Jewish majority in his insightful and keen way: “The term ‘Jewish nation’ is absolutely clear: it means a Jewish majority. With this, Zionism began, and it is the basis of its existence, it will continue to work towards its fulfillment or it will be lost.” The existence of a Jewish majority in the State of Israel cannot be maintained with the continued control over the Palestinian population in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.
We firmly stand by the historic right of the people of Israel to the entire Land of Israel. Every hill in Samaria and every valley in Judea is part of our historic homeland. We do not forget this, not even for one moment. However, the choice between the desire to allow every Jew to live anywhere in the Land of Israel to the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish country – obligates relinquishing parts of the Land of Israel. This is not a relinquishing of the Zionist idea, rather the essential realization of the Zionist goal – ensuring the existence of a Jewish and democratic state in the Land of Israel. In order to ensure the existence of a Jewish national homeland, we will not be able to continue ruling over the territories in which the majority of the Palestinian population lives [only Gaza, Area A, 18% of the West Bank, and Palestinian enclaves in East Jerusalem]. We must create a clear boundary as soon as possible, one which will reflect the demographic reality on the ground. Israel will maintain control over the security zones, the Jewish settlement blocs, and those places which have supreme national importance to the Jewish people, first and foremost a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. There can be no Jewish state without the capital of Jerusalem at its center.
This is the path Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced several years ago….The existence of two nations, one Jewish and one Palestinian, is the full solution to all the national aspirations and problems of each of the peoples, including the issue of refugees who will be absorbed solely in a Palestinian state.
We will not allow the entry of Palestinian refugees into the State of Israel. This is our clear stance, which is backed by the unequivocal American position expressed in the United States President’s letter of April 2004, to the Prime Minister. The only way to achieve this goal is the full implementation of the Roadmap, and of President Bush’s vision of June 2002. The Roadmap is based on a simple and just idea: if the Palestinians abandon the path of terror, and stop their war against the citizens of Israel, they can receive national independence in a Palestinian state with temporary borders, even before all the complicated issues connected to a final agreement are resolved. All these issues will be resolved later during negotiations between the two countries, in the accepted manner in which countries resolve their differences.
On the eve of elections in the institutions of the Palestinian Authority, I say here….that Israel has already proven, including through the Disengagement, that it is prepared to advance peace. It will continue to act so in relation to the commitments it has taken upon itself, in exchange for Palestinian commitments. This includes: limiting construction in the settlements, improving the quality of life of the Palestinian population, and dismantling unauthorized outposts…..
We must adhere to the Roadmap, conduct negotiations on its implementation, and act to create massive international pressure on the Palestinians to fight terror. Those who are in a rush have asked whether, because of the elections, the present Government has already committed to another disengagement if future contacts with the Palestinians are not successful. We would prefer an agreement. If our expected partners in the negotiations in the framework of the Roadmap do not uphold their commitments, we will preserve the Israeli interest in every way….
It is important to be clear: we are interested in neighborly relations which are good, productive and progressive. We support the establishment of a modern, democratic Palestinian state which respects civil rights, and is economically prosperous. Their welfare is our welfare, their well-being is our well-being, their stability is our stability….
Here, then, is one of Olmert’s clearest statement of where his government is going – towards “convergence” (in Hebrew, hitkansut, a “withdrawal into ourselves). Is this really as conciliatory as it sounds? Is it coming from Israel’s genuine frustration over the Palestinans refusal to conform to the Road Map, or is there another agenda hidden by appeals to the Road Map? How can Olmert’s declared support for “a modern, democratic Palestinian state” be reconciled with the carving of Palestinian territories into isolated, non-viable “cantons” (Sharon’s word)? Following is a critical rendition of Olmert’s policies – a reading “between the lines” – that demonstrates both the intention and intended outcome of establishing an apartheid system over Palestine.
• Terms. First of all, language. Over the years Israel has succeeded in framing the Israel/Palestine conflict in terms that support Israel’s policies, place the blame solely on the Palestinians and obfuscate the nature of the conflict. In the Israeli framing, Israel is a democratic, Western, peace-seeking victim of Palestinian terrorism, the term “occupation” is completely eliminated from the public debate, and hence the entire conflict is reduced to an issue of Israel’s security.
Terms adopted in the past few years continue that deceptive strategy. “Separation” and “disengagement” connote a positive, understandable reaction to intractable terrorism; the fact that they merely represent new, more subtle forms of repression within an ongoing Occupation is concealed by the terminology. “Convergence” (hitkansut) is equally misleading. It does not mean, as it is meant to sound to Israelis and others, a “folding into” oneself, a kind of withdrawal of Israel back to territory within the “Green Line” that is indisputably Israeli, but rather a withdrawal (convergence”) of Israeli settlers scattered throughout the West Bank into Israel’s major settlement blocs, between 15-40% of the Occupied Territories which will be annexed to Israel proper. In true Orwellian tradition, a term indicating withdrawal is actually one used for a policy of expansion. Like with all the terms employed to obfuscate what is really going on – “separation,” “disengagement,” the term “fence” for a massive wall or equally massive set of barriers to movement, “constructive ambiguity” to cover the elimination of international law from negotiations with Palestinians or “constructive destruction,” the supremely disingenuous name given to Israel’s policy towards Arafat’s PNA, we must strip away the misleading connotations of “convergence” and expose it for what it is – apartheid.
• Borders, walls, settlement blocs, a “greater” Israeli Jerusalem and control of Palestinian resources. Under Olmert’s “convergence plan,” Israel, in one fell swoop, goes from having no border to the east to having two: the “Separation Barrier” and the Jordan Valley. Having denied over the past several years that the Wall represents an expanded Israeli border deep in Palestinian territory and not a security barrier, Olmert has finally admitted that, yes, it will mark the permanent border of Israel. Seven settlement blocs containing 380,000 of 450,000 settlers (85%) will be incorporated into Israel: the Ariel bloc, the Modi’in bloc, the four blocs of “Greater Jerusalem” (Givat Ze’ev, Ma’aleh Adumim, East Jerusalem and the Etzion Bloc), and the Hebron salient. This robs any Palestinian state of its developmental potential and renders it a non-viable prison state, or Bantustan. In this plan the Palestinians lose their freedom of movement, any economic viability (Jerusalem alone accounts for about 40% of the Palestinian economy), access to water, their richest agricultural land, tourist sites and most other essential resources, leaving them with barren, disconnected and impoverished enclaves.
But this is not all. Israel will not allow the Palestinians an unsupervised border with an Arab country. Therefore it will have – de facto or de jure – a second eastern border, the Jordan Valley. The entire Jordan Valley settlement bloc (the eighth bloc), which has recently been closed to Palestinans, represents 30% of the West Bank. Whether Israel will annex it all or a smaller area along the Jordan River (together with a strip denying the Palestinians unsupervised access to the Dead Sea), the Palestinians will be permanently sandwiched between massive blocs of Israeli settlement, high concrete walls and massive barriers, their lands truncated into five or more islands all separated by Israeli settlements, highways and barriers. Forever.
• The issue of sovereignty. All this involves a sleight of hand exploiting the public’s ignorance of the lay of the land or even of basic maps. The inability to evaluate whether a particular plan in fact contributes to a just peace or is merely a façade for continued control and oppression is what leads people to a common sensical but mistaken belief that the more territory the Palestinians receive the more sovereignty and viability their state will be. This is the cardinal mistake underlying the illusion of Barak’s so-called “generous offer.” The issue is not a state; the Palestinians will get their state, even if Israel has to unilaterally impose it on them. As Olmert repeats at every turn, Israel is facing a “demographic threat” in which the Jews are becoming a minority west of the Jordan River. Since Israel cannot openly transfer masses of Palestinians out of the country, it must “get rid of them” by “giving” them a state, but a truncated mini-state that leaves Israel in control of the entire country – i.e. Gaza, populated islands of East Jerusalem containing an Arab population Israel does not want, and 70-85% of the West Bank.
While this appears “generous” on paper, we must bear in mind that the Occupied Territories constitute only 22% of a small country (an area the size of the American state of Delaware but with five times the population; or a third of the size of Wales with a million more people; or less than half the size of East Timor but four times the population; or 2% of Norway, half of Lebanon, but with almost an equal population) – and the Palestinians, under Olmert’s plan, will get even less, and that sliced into five or six non-contiguous pieces. Israel, on the other hand, with a minority of the country’s population, will occupy contiguous territory covering some 85% of the country. A Palestinian “state” is left with no sovereign borders of its own, no military and no control of its airspace or communications. Indeed, in terms set down previously by Israel, it will not even have the right to enter into foreign alliances without Israeli approval.
• The issue of viability. Beyond the issue of genuine sovereignty, the issue of viability is of prime importance. The Palestinians are faced with an enormous task of national reconstruction and healing when the conflict is over. If the right of return is denied and refugees allowed only into the truncated Palestinian mini-state, how will such a state, deprived of geographic coherency, political sovereignty and economic sustainability, be able to integrate and nurture such a traumatized, ill-educated, unskilled population? How, indeed, will it meet the needs of its young people, 60% of whom are under the age of 18, equally brutalized, traumatized and unskilled? Add to the unsustainability of a Palestinian Bantustan the effects of Israel’s four decades of deliberate economic de-development, resulting in a scorched earth, and Olmert’s “convergence plan” spells permanent non-viability and dependence on Israel.
Why should we call all this “apartheid?” Because it contains the essential elements of apartheid, even though it is not based on race (although Israel’s obsession with “demographic balance” lends it a racial element). The plan of expanding Israel’s borders to include some 85% of the the country while reducing the Palestinians, the majority population (or soon to be) to a Bantustan of truncated “cantons” on the other 15%; privileging the rights of one national group over another; creating a permanent regime of domination of one people and one state over another; claiming Jewish exclusivity over the entire country while denying Palestinians their right of self-determination and other fundamental human rights; and all this in absolute violation of international law and dozens of UN resolutions.
3 circles of apartheid, privileging the entire country for one group while separating itself from the others:
(1) displacement/dispossession/banishment/ethnic cleansing of Palestinians (1947-49; 1967);
(2) Occupation/separation/de facto disenfranchisement;
(3) Second-class citizenship within Israel.
“Apartheid was an extension of the colonial project to dispossess people of their land,” said Ronnie Kasrils, Jewish South Africa intelligence minister and former ANC guerilla on a visit to Jerusalem. “That is exactly what has happened in Israel and the occupied territories; the use of force and the law to take the land. That is what apartheid and Israel have in common.”
Still, even if we decide to launch this overarching anti-apartheid campaign, we should have a thorough discussion of whether to employ the term “apartheid” or use an alternative term: dispossession, separation, colonization, or the like. “Apartheid” is what is emerging (or has already), but is the term itself a red flag that diverts attention from the issue itself? Arthur Goldreich, a prominent South African Jewish anti-apartheid figure now living in Israel resists the temptation to use the comparison. "It is a viable, even attractive, analogy. I have in the past been very reluctant, and still am, to make the analogy because I think it's too convenient. I think there are striking similarities in all forms of racist discrimination," he says. "I think to describe, let us say, the bantustanism which we see through a policy of occupation and separation: they all have their own words and their own implications and it is not necessary to go outside to find them."
Ronnie Kasrils agrees. In an interview for the Guardian he said: "Yes, there are enormous parallels with apartheid, but the problem with making comparisons is it actually distracts from the Palestinian context," he says. "We have to look for another definition. What struck me is dispossession, colonial dispossession. Most colonial dispossession took place over centuries through settlers and forced removals. In South Africa, that was a 300-year process. Here, it's taken place in 50 years; 1948, 1967 and the present in terms of the heightened nature of militarism in the West Bank and Gaza leading to the wall, which I don't see as a wall of security but a wall of dispossession."
On the other hand, is there another term that immediately evokes the systemic character of the institutionalized and permanent structure of separation and oppression that the term “apartheid” does? Whatever we choose to call it, Olmert’s goal of declaring an “end to the conflict” by transforming the present Occupation into a permanent structure of domination is a development we must urgently and universally oppose – in addition to our absolute opposition to occupation itself. We must engage in a pro-active campaign to head off, or defeat, apartheid, and then to ensure that a just political arrangement arise in Palestine-Israel.