Would South Africa have been less of an Apartheid state if blacks and whites could swim at the same beaches - but laws like the 1913 Land Act, Group Areas Act, Mixed Marriages Law, pass laws, and Bantu education still existed? Absurd as that argument is, that is exactly what Israel's apologists are asking us to believe.
When Israel is called an Apartheid state, its defenders - including some South Africans - cite the absence of state-sanctioned racial segregation, and the presence of Palestinian parliamentarians, as evidence that Israel is not an Apartheid state.
In doing so, they insult South Africans and our struggle against Apartheid. Apartheid was much more than racial segregation, and whether there was a black Miss South Africa. The struggle against Apartheid was not just about the right of blacks and whites to be able to sit on the same park benches. As the sham tricameral system showed, neither was it only about obtaining the right to 'vote'. It was also about access to land, equal education, freedom of movement and political association, and equal infrastructure and services. It was grand Apartheid that truly oppressed and subjugated, while 'petty' Apartheid - designed to humiliate and dehumanise - rubbed salt in the wound.
It is ridiculous that Israel's propagandists see Apartheid purely in South African terms, and conveniently ignore that Apartheid was defined in international law in 1973, when the UN adopted the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (ICSPCA). According to ICSPA, Apartheid involves "inhuman acts" committed for the purpose of "establishing and maintaining domination by one group" over another, and systematically oppressing them.
This Convention is a 'universal instrument', applicable to Apartheid systems anywhere in the world, and offers examples of these inhuman acts, noting that they might be 'similar' to acts in South Africa but need not be identical.
In line with ICSPA, Israel is not replicating South African apartheid, but Israel's occupation and Apartheid system is established on the same three 'pillars' that South African Apartheid was built on. A Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) study in 2009 found that, like Apartheid South Africa, Israeli authorities have demarcated its population into racial groups; segregated them into geographic areas; and instituted draconian security laws and policies to maintain Apartheid.