Friday, 26 December 2014

Is Israel an Apartheid system?

The internet is obviously awash with arguments, rebuttals and keyboard activism on this question. 

My two cents below briefly cover how this analogy is relevant to the Palestinian territories (and to a lesser degree to Israel itself). I'm no professor emeritus but I have had the chance to grow up in that part of the world, and as such, can claim to understand both sides.

By definition Israel is a state made for the Jews, so some Israeli laws (the Jewish National Fund, the Present Absentees, the Right of Return) will favour the Jews over the Arab in Israel (while the Palestinians in the territories will be totally out of this equation).

This status is strange, given the multi-ethnic, multi-religious state of Israel. At the individual level, it becomes even unfathomable when, say, a Jew from France (who very likely emigrated to France from North Africa) can smoothly migrate and reintegrate into Israeli society with full state support. But then a Palestinian from Shafat in East Jerusalem - an area all the staunch pro-Israel crowd brags about as being part of "the united capital of Israel" - cannot get that support.

I guess you can sometimes get away with things, especially when the judges of our times (i.e the West) have the guilt and responsibility for the death of 6m Jews in WWII and before that.

The Arabs in Israel aren't disenfranchised. They have lots of access to government funds/services like any other Jew. Per se, an Arab, or a Palestinian for that matter, going to an Israeli state hospital for medical care or a university for education will still be treated and will receive education.

But still many lament the apparent priority given to Jewish communities in some important aspects. 

The military service is considered a requirement if any Israeli citizen wishes to become part of the system. Arab access to some jobs will be by default restricted without doing the military service (think high-tech and state organizations not assistant bar tender, a brickie or a hotel receptionist). 

But then, again, how can you, as an Arab Israeli, serve in an army where you may go the next day to your village to fire live bullets on nothing-to-do youths who are throwing stones? Going to t his village, which isn't exactly an "existential threat" to Israel, makes no sense. It is confusing and brain-splitting, especially when it is against people you probably know and also identify with.

The bigger problem for Israel regarding the Apartheid analogy is the Palestinian territories: You are occupying an area of 3.5m people, not giving them self-determination and not naturalizing them either. Not only that, but you're incentivizing other Jews to settle in part of that land and you shower those new arrivals with all the help (financial and material) they want. You treat the new comers according to Israeli civil law, while the Palestinian living 200 meter downhill is treated under Israeli military law. Excuse me?

Think of  East Jerusalem, the other half of Israel's "United Capital". Once you cross the 1967 border from west Jerusalem to East Jerusalem, the visually unappealing scene will make you understand the material and the psychological gap separating the two sides. 

Many will tell you "East Jerusalem Palestinians are free to apply for Israeli citizenship if they want to". Of course they are goddamn free to apply. In fact, anyone in this world is free to apply, but does the mere application mean they will get citizenship? and even if they get it, best-case scenario is they will get "privileges"under the same pro-Jewish policies mentioned above i.e they will become "Arab Israelis".

Other will claim that the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank takes care of the public services (health, education, policing..etc) provided to the Palestinians over there. Israel has got nothing to do with controlling them. But what is Area A? It's ~3% of the whole West Bank. Area B? It's ~25 % of the West Bank. 

This division gives Israel more ease in controlling the Palestinians than it gives the Palestinians more self-determination and freedom. Few years ago, the Palestinians began building a new city called Rawabi (on lands in Area A and B). The amount of bullying, blackmailing the Palestinians got to build this city and connect it to other Palestinian areas by a road would make one think the Palestinians were building a nuclear programme.

It is not as if Israel is unaware of these problems. Israeli academia have probably written a warehouse-load of research papers on these issues and on ways to solve them. 

But the problem is that Israeli politicians seem to enjoy a buzzword called "conflict management". In short, it means they can keep playing around, juggling an egg and a stone, while delaying a solution. In the meantime, keep subjugating the Palestinians and bite off parts of their land in tactics meant to to regulate the mood of the Israeli public. 

The wheel of time is rolling faster than how the Jewish rulers are responding, nevertheless. At some point, even if they will decide to improve the situation and achieve equality and justice, it will be just too late. 

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