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Dr Musa A Keilani: Apartheid still in practice
January 18, 2012
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Exclusive to The Gulf Today

We have always known that Israel has an apartheid policy against the Palestinians living under its occupation as well as Israelis of Arab origin. It practises an openly violent form of apartheid against the Palestinians living in the occupied territories.

Humiliating them at every given opportunity, whether in their towns and villages or at the hundreds of roadblocks, is a daily practice for Israeli soldiers as well as settlers. Every town and every village in the West Bank could be described as a detention centre since all entry and exit points are tightly sealed off, with Israeli soldiers guarding and enforcing their own rules on whoever passes through the points they control.

The Israeli military and police keep a blind eye towards physical attacks against the Palestinians by the heavily armed Jewish settlers roaming through the West Bank. The Israeli military authorities are continuing to create “Jews-only” roads in the occupied territories and punish any non-Jew who dares to enter them. Vehicles owned by Jews and non-Jews are given distinctly separate licence plates so that they could be easily identified.

The punishment for entering the “Jews-only” roads could be confiscation of the vehicle or heavy fines. But there are no signs saying these roads are “only for Jews” because, as Israelis themselves say, Israel does not want someone to take a photograph of such signs and circulate it around the world and establish that there is indeed apartheid in the Jewish state.

The Israeli authorities impose blanket curfews and seal off entire West Bank areas when Jewish settlers are celebrating anything. Israelis are not permitted to transport Palestinians in a vehicle registered in the name of a Jew without a permit from the occupation authorities. But the Palestinians who have no choice but to work for the settlers are exempt from the ban. Those who cross the bridges across the River Jordan are subjected to such a treatment that many of them would even wish that they had an alternative other than returning to experience the humiliation and abuse. Well, that is the whole idea. Israel wants to drive out as many Palestinians as possible from their homeland through whatever means it has at its disposal.

Former US president Jimmy Carter has observed that Israeli policy in the West Bank represented instances of apartheid worse even than those that were once applied in South Africa.

“When Israel does occupy this territory deep within the West Bank, and connects the 200-or-so settlements with each other, with a road, and then prohibits the Palestinians from using that road, or in many cases even crossing the road, this perpetrates even worse instances of apartness, or apartheid, than we witnessed even in South Africa,” he has said.

Carter was commenting on his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid which he said was meant to spark US discussion of Israeli policies. Carter came under strong criticism from not only Israelis but also leaders of the Jewish community in the US over the book as well as his subsequent comments in which he said he stood by his position as stated in the book.

Israel applies another form of apartheid treatment while dealing with its own Arab citizens, who represent some 24 per cent of its 7.7 million population. Israel, which likes to describe itself as the “sole democracy” in the region and says all its citizens are equals, discriminates against its Arab citizens through many means. The Arab Israelis do not have proportionate representation in the Israeli parliament and their needs of services in the health and education as well as social and community development are more often than not treated as low-priority issues. They are also treated with suspicion and humiliation by Israeli officials and soldiers alike.

Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, is an ardent advocate of stripping a large number of Arab Israelis of their citizenship and placing them under Palestinian sovereignty as part of a land swapping arrangement within the context of a final peace agreement.

It has been also been confirmed that many in the Israeli society – the whites of Israel to be more precise – are practising apartheid against black African Jews.

A demonstration held last week in Kiryat Malachi near the port of Ashdod brought focus on how black African Jews suffer from discrimination in Israel. Attended by more than 2,000 black Jews, mainly of Ethiopian origin, the event highlighted that Kiryat Malachi’s established residents are unwilling to rent out or sell them apartments. Some residents have even signed agreements committing themselves not to sell or rent out apartments to members of the Ethiopian community.

A report presented last year showed that black African students are confined to certain schools in Israel, with others denying them admission. The discrimination is underlined by the approach of many white Israelis that “we don’t think you match our lifestyle and we’re not sure about your Jewishness either.”

In response to charges of racial discrimination, Israeli Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver told the black African Jewish community: “Say thank you for what you got.”

It rings a bell. Wasn’t that what we used to hear in apartheid-era South Africa?
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The author, a former jordanian ambassador, is the chief editor of  Al Urdun weekly in Amman

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