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.
New laws and bills promulgated in the Knesset, seek to dispossess Arab citizens of Israel and exclude them from the land; turn their citizenship from a right into a conditional privilege; limit the ability of Arab citizens and their parliamentary representatives to participate in the political life of the country; criminalize political acts or speech that question the Jewish or Zionist nature of the state; and privilege Jewish citizens in the allocation of state resources. All in the name of 'security'.
In the Bantustans of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), ethnicity determines which roads you can use, whether you must cross a checkpoint, how much water you get, whether you need a pass, if your home will be demolished, and what kind of legal system you will face. Again, necessary for the security of the Jewish State.
Israel also continues to be in an official 'state of emergency' which the Knesset has renewed every year since 1948. There are almost 200 regulations enabling the state to legally declare any part of the country, including the OPT, a closed military area, exercise administrative arrest without trial, expel, and even execute citizens. All in the name of 'security', of course.
Like Apartheid South Africa's propagandists, Israel's spin doctors depict the country as a progressive state with vast natural resources, a booming capitalist economy, and a rich cultural life with ties to the West. In an attempt to deflect attention from the Apartheid issue and instead focus on "positive" traits, Israel claims it wants to share its agricultural and technology know-how with its neighbours. Israel's PR campaign, particularly in South Africa, is based on the "What can we do for you?" approach.
In February 2010, former Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, warned that Israel's failure to make peace with the Palestinians could possibly result in an Apartheid regime. In February 2011, former Israeli Ambassador to South Africa, Ilan Baruch, cautioned that the collapse of Apartheid South Africa was an important lesson for modern-day Israel.
The people of Palestine are stateless, they suffer the worst of racist oppression and colonialism of a special type, capitalist exploitation and imperialist domination, all presided upon by Israel, which by the way enjoys automatic and active support from the United States of America, its subordinate allies and puppet regimes. No human being deserves the devastation of life and the atrocities experienced by the Palestinian people who are denied a fundamental right to have a viable state in peaceful co-existence with the other communities of states.
Baruch's warning should be heeded. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel is growing. As we head into Israeli Apartheid Week, Israel's 'South Africa moment' is here.
The SACP has been fully behind the strategic objectives, campaign and goal of the Israel Apartheid Week which aim to express solidarity for the liberation and socio-economic and cultural emancipation of the people of Palestine and the restitution of their land and dignity.
Cde. Solly Mapaila is SACP 2nd Deputy General Secretary. This article first appeared in the Party's online journal, Umsebenzi Online.
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