Is Zionism Racist?


I. Introduction

The United States is threatening to pull out of the planned United Nations Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance from 31st August to 7th September to be held in South Africa, on the pretext that discussions on whether ‘Zionism equals racism’ will derail the conference. As usual, Israel’s leading donor remains unwilling to allow any criticism of the Zionist State of Israel, nor scrutiny of its policies that are perceived to be racist. This is not the first time the U.S. has intervened to save Israel’s ideological skin. The U.S. has already boycotted the two previous annual UN Conferences Against Racism due to the inclusion of discussions of the role of Zionism in Israel’s racial policies.

Indeed, the current President’s father, President Bush Snr., while in his term at the White House told the UN General Assembly at its opening session on 23rd September 1991 that to equate Zionism with racism is to “forget the terrible plight of Jews in World War II and indeed throughout history.” The former President, whose son appears to be following meticulously in his footsteps, chose not to elaborate on why the historic suffering of the Jews in Europe somehow places the Zionist State of Israel beyond criticism with regards to its racial policies.

In this case, however, U.S. pressure in the form of threats to boycott the conference have been seconded by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, who has similarly stated her opposition to any discussion of racism in relation to Israeli policies. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said: “The United States stands on the side of what is right. And the United States stands on the side of principle. And the United States can stand on the side of making certain that a variety of third world nations do not hijack a conference that should be aimed at combating racism and under the guise of combating racism turn this into a conference that itself smacks of anti-Semitism.” Mary Robinson also said the UN had already dealt with the issue at great length, and re-opening it could put the success of the conference at risk: “I am acutely aware of the suffering of the Palestinian people, and dismayed at the continuing toll of deaths and injuriesé[But] I believe that it is inappropriate to reopen this issue in any form hereé If there is an attempt to revive the idea of Zionism as racism we will not have a successful conference,” she told reporters in Geneva. She argued that the issue was resolved 10 years ago when the UN repealed a previous General Assembly resolution equating Zionism with racism.

II. U.S. Motives Behind Boycotting the Conference

But the vocal protestations of the world’s leading superpower and rogue state, parroted by the UN High Commissioner, can hardly be rooted in humanitarian concerns. This is clear when we ask: Why should any particular country, state or people be exempted from scrutiny with regards to their racial policies? Surely, a World Conference Against Racism should be ready to debate and scrutinize the racial policies of every nation in the world. Indeed, it would be racist to say that racists can’t be found among all the peoples of the world, that some race or group of people are somehow above question.

Actually, there is good reason to believe that once again, the United States is attempting to manipulate the process of open discussion in an international forum to suit its own vested interests. The longstanding interests behind U.S.-led Western support of Israel as the principal Western client regime of the Middle East have been explained by Israeli General Shlomo Gazit, former Military Intelligence commander and West Bank Administrator. Gazit explicitly described Israel’s role as protector of U.S. interests in the Middle East:

Israel’s main task has not changed at all [since the collapse of the U.S.S.R.], and it remains of crucial importance. The geographical location of Israel at the center of the Arab-Muslim Middle East predestines Israel to be a devoted guardian of stability in all the countries surrounding it. Its [role] is to protect the existing regimes: to prevent or halt the processes of radicalization and to block the expansion of fundamentalist religious zealotry.


For this purpose Israel will prevent changes occurring beyond Israel’s borders [which it] will regard as intolerable, to the point of feeling compelled to use all its military power for the sake of their prevention or eradication.

Thus, Israel aims to impose hegemony on all other surrounding states in the Middle East through military action. The historic roots of Israeli policy in this regard are clear from the very conditions which prevailed during the creation and formation of the State of Israel. Since its 19th Century origins, the most prominent pioneers of the Zionist movement focused on the goal of establishing a specifically Jewish state in which Jews would be protected and privileged over non-Jews. The Zionist occupation of Palestine began at a minimal level (amounting to 10 percent of the population by 1900, and by 1947, Jews were still only about 30 percent of the population of Mandate Palestine. Although they owned only six percent of the land, the 1947 UN Partition Resolution assigned 55 percent of the land to a new Jewish state, without consulting the indigenous Palestinian population and thus in violation of their right to self-determination which the UN Charter itself purports to recognize. As a consequence of this forcible international support of the Zionist penetration of Palestine, Israel took over larger and larger expanses of land by means of the 1947-48 war, culminating in the expulsion of around 750,000 Palestinians. It is in this context that we can understand why, as Gazit points out, Israel asserts its right to intervene militarily in any Arab state facing:

é threats of revolt, whether military or popular, which may end up by bringing fanatical and extremist elements to power in the states concerned. The existence of such threats has no connection with the Arab-Israeli conflict. They exist because the regimes find it difficult to offer solutions to their socio-economic ills. But any development of the described kind is apt to subvert the existing relations between Israel and this or that from among its neighbors.

He thus elaborates on the implications in relation to regional U.S. and Western interests:

In the aftermath of the disappearance of the U.S.S.R. as a political power with interests of its own in the region a number of Middle Eastern states lost a patroné A vacuum was thus created, leading to the region’s instability. Under such conditions the Israeli role as a strategic asset guaranteeing a modicum of stability in the entire Middle East did not dwindle or disappear but was elevated to the first order of magnitude. Without Israel, the West would have to perform this role by itself, when none of the existing superpowers really could perform it, because of various domestic and international constraints. For Israel, by contrast, the need to intervene is a matter of survival.[1]

This leaves us with the question: What exactly are the objectives of imposing this sort of hegemony throughout the Middle East on behalf of the Western powers? The answer to this can be discerned from the observation of the U.S. Senate’s ranking oil expert, Senator Henry Jackson, in May 1973. Jackson stressed the necessity of “the strength and Western orientation of Israel on the Mediterranean and Iran [under the Shah] on the Persian Gulf”. Israel and Iran were “reliable friends of the United States” who, along with Saudi Arabia “have served to inhibit and contain those irresponsible and radical elements in certain Arab states… who, were they free to do so, would pose a grave threat indeed to our principle sources of petroleum in the Persian Gulf”, which are needed primarily as a reserve and a lever for control of the global economy. In other words, Israel is to play the role of a regional proxy force serving to “inhibit” and “contain” the other Middle East regimes by posing a constant military threat. Thereby, the entire region remains under the hegemony of the United States in accordance with Western economic interests in the unimpeded domination of oil. And this entails ensuring that Israel is able to continue crushing any indigenous or internal resistance to its policies of domination and control, without international criticism, so that the Zionist regime can play its strategic regional role without impediments from the international community. That is why we find the U.S. consistently opposing efforts within the UN to reveal the real character of the Israeli State é because to have the UN officially recognizing the apartheid nature of Israel could potentially result in the downfall of America’s principal Middle East guard dog, in exactly the same way South African apartheid collapsed.

III. Internal Authoritative Commentary on Israel as a Racist State

Racists can be found everywhere, among all people, including both Palestinians and Israelis. If institutional racism is apparent even in Western democracies such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and so on, then why should we rule out the possibility of the same occurring in Israel? And why should the possible role of certain interpretations of Zionism be automatically assumed to have no role in this? Indeed, when prominent Israelis themselves have noted the racist character of the Israeli state in its treatment of Palestinians, it would be nonsensical to attempt to prevent open discussion of this important issue.

For instance, Ami Ayalon, retired head of Israel’s domestic security service Shin Bet, spoke against the Israeli policy of “separation” from the Palestinians at an annual meeting of the Israeli Finance Ministry’s budget division last year. “Is the option of a Jewish democracy with apartheid acceptable? In my view, it is not. That’s a dilemma we’ve always wanted to delay.” He added that the Palestinians should not be expected to be content living “in a Bantustan”, separated from Israel, as well as from Egypt and Jordan “for security reasons”.[3] He also observed: “The things a Palestinian has to endure, simply coming to work in the morning, is a long and continuous nightmare that includes humiliation bordering on despairé We have to decide soon what kind of democracy we want here. The present model integrates apartheid and is not commensurate with Judaismé We will never attain security without an in-depth discussion about this issue.”[4]

The Los Angeles Times reported Ayalon’s comments as follows:

[I]n public remarks that shocked Israelis, a former head of the Israeli domestic security service blamed government policies for triggering the Palestinian revolt. Ami Ayalon, retired head of the Shin Bet security service, said Israel is guilty of ‘apartheid’ policies that go against the spirit of Judaism. He suggested that the Palestinians were following a logic in choosing violence, and spoke of the profound ‘humiliation’ that Israel inflicts on Palestinian workers and others who seek to enter Israel.[5]

The UN Conference Against Racism provides an ideal international forum to openly and intensively engage with exactly this issue, in the manner Ayalon indicated is essential for peace and security in the Middle East. The role of Zionism in legitimising Israeli policies that are racist should also be investigated. Unless the international community is allowed to collectively scrutinise these matters in an open dialogue, the human rights of Palestinians will continue to be violated due to Israeli discrimination.

The Israeli human rights organisation, B’Tselem (The Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories), has similarly concluded that Israeli policies in occupied Palestine amount to nothing less than apartheid. Executive Director of B’Tselem Eitan Felner wrote in an article titled ‘Apartheid By Any Other Name: Creeping Annexation in the West Bank’ in an article for the French journal Le Monde diplomatique based on an extensive B’Tselem report, that Israeli settlement policies have been systematically “reinforcing the system of discrimination in the West Bank”. Describing what he labels “Apartheid in the Holy Land”, Felner observes:

The massive network of roads and highways in the West Bank that connect the major settlements to Israel represents the most overt aspect of Israel’s relentless efforts to incorporate the settlements and settlers into Israel. It makes it possible for settlers to commute to Israel each dayé Another aspect of the integration of the settlements into Israel – less conspicuous but no less important – is the application of virtually the whole Israeli legal system to the settlements. Throughout the years Israel’s civil and military authorities have enacted a myriad of laws, regulations, and orders relating to settlers in the Occupied Territories to ensure that in almost every respect the lives of settlers are like those of Israelis living in Israel itselfé

The result, he writes, is the establishment of a system of institutional racism against the indigenous Palestinians under the alien regime Israeli military occupation:

Israel has established a system of segregation and discrimination, in which two populations living in the same area are subject to different systems of law. While Palestinians are subject to military law and usually tried in military courts, Israelis who commit the same offence in the same place are subject to Israeli law and tried in civil courts inside Israel. Jewish settlers enjoy all the rights of Jews in Israel, including complete freedom of movement, speech and organisation, participation in local and national (Israeli) elections, social security and health benefits, etc. For Palestinians, on the other hand, even those living a few hundred metres from Jewish settlements, freedom of movement is limited. They cannot, obviously, vote to curtail the powers of the IDF and they do not enjoy Israel’s social security or health benefits. In Africaans they call it apartheidé [T]his institutionalised discrimination is spelled out in the government’s basic guidelines.[6]

IV. Israeli Apartheid: The South Africa Analogy

UN Resolution 2106, adopted in 1965, defines racial discrimination as “any distinction, restriction, or preference based on race, color, descent or national origin.” As noted by Jewish analyst Elias Davidsson of the Centre for Policy Research on Global Justice: “When evaluating whether certain conditions or practices constitute ‘racial discrimination’, it is not imperative that intent is proved. It suffices that conditions or practices have the ‘effect of nullifying or impairing’ equality of rights, regardless of the declared intent of those conditions or practices.”[7] By this definition, there can be no doubt that the State of Israel is institutionally and officially racist. Since 1948, Israel’s Knesset has applied its state ideology é Zionism – in a series of laws intended to formalise relations between population groups within Israel’s recognised borders. This matrix of Zionist laws has culminated in a regime that, by analogy to South Africa, can only be described as “apartheid” in nature, due to their establishment of separate classes of citizenship and civil rights based on racial criteria.

In principle, Israel defines itself as a “Jewish State”. In 1985, a Constitutional Law was passed by the Knesset prohibiting the existence of a political party that openly opposes the principle of Israel as “the state of the Jewish people” or even proposes to change this principle democratically. By this official definition, Israel in fact “belongs to persons who are defined by the Israeli authorities as ‘Jewish’, irrespective of where they live, and to them alone. On the other hand, Israel doesn’t officially ‘belong’ to its non-Jewish citizens, whose status is considered even officially as inferior.”[8]

There are several other basic (irrevocable) laws with discriminatory implications for non-Jews in Israel. The 1948 Law of Citizenship, for example, establishes eligibility for citizenship status, yet citizenship without “Jewish nationality” grants few fundamental rights that are granted to Jews. The 1950 Law of Return refers to the exclusive “nationality right” for Jews from anywhere in the world to enter and live within Israel, and to claim a superior legal status with full rights (such as those to land and housing) which are denied to the indigenous Palestinians. Professor Anita Shapira of the Department of History at Tel Aviv University comments that: “The Law of Return gave preference to any Jew born in Britain or Morocco over an Arab born in Jaffa and driven into exile as a result of the 1948 waré Arab settlements have been short-changed and discriminated against for decades.”[9] The 1952 Status Law recognises certain “national” institutions operating within Israel, and extraterritorially, as part of the government of Israel to serve “the Jewish people” exclusively (e.g. the World Zionist Organization/Jewish Agency, which is affiliated to the Jewish National Fund).[10]

There are three other particular areas in which Israel officially discriminates against Palestinians in favour of Jews, these being residency, employment, and legal equality. With regards to the first issue, of all the land of Israel, 92 percent is considered to be the “inalienable property of the Jewish people” as per Israel’s Development Authority Law. This means that 92 per cent of Israel’s land is owned by the state and administered by the Israel Land Authority in accordance with Jewish National Fund (JNF) regulations, which deny the right of residency, to open a business and often to employment, to all non-Jews solely because they are not Jewish. Yet Jews possess full freedom to reside or open businesses throughout Israel without restriction. In practice this means that Arabs are forced to live only in very limited areas. Indeed, although Israeli Arabs are theoretically entitled to equal treatment, in reality the regime ensures that their houses are demolished to make way to build new homes for Israeli Jews, as and when is considered necessary.[11]

JNF regulations also officially deny non-Jews their right to work on land administered by the Israel Land Authority. Although these regulations are not necessarily strictly and continuously enforced, their existence indicates the institutionally racist nature of the State of Israel. The Israeli authorities do, however, periodically embark on “enforcement campaigns”, such as when the Agricultural Ministry has attempted to stamp out “the pestilence of letting fruit orchards belonging to Jews and situated on National Land be harvested by Arab labourers”, whether or not they are citizens of Israel. Jews are also forbidden from sub-renting their land, or a part of it, to Arabs, for any period of time é and accordingly punished with heavy fines if found to be doing so.[12]

The right to equality before the law is also denied non-Jewish citizens of Israel by numerous laws which refer to Jews and non-Jews respectively as “anyone who can immigrate in accordance with the Law of Return” and “anyone who is not entitled to immigrate in accordance with the Law of Return.” The late Jewish scholar Professor Israel Shahak of Hebrew University, Chairman of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights, a Holocaust survivor of a Nazi concentration camp and a tireless campaigner for civil and human rights for over 30 years, observes that:  “Depending on the law in question, benefits are granted to the first category [Jews] and systematically denied to the second [non-Jews]é There are so many laws and regulations in Israel which discriminate in favour of the persons defined as those ‘who can immigrate in accordance with the Law of Return’.”[13]

Israeli Professor Uzi Ornan points out the existence of other Zionist laws of the State which are discriminatory in character:

Blatant discrimination against non-Jews can also be found in other laws dealing with the acquisition of property, government support for young couples, educational curricula, and government expenditure for schools, to cite just a few examples. The routine means for enforcing discrimination is the ID card, which everyone is obliged to carry at all times. ID cards list ‘nationality’, which can be Jewish, Arab, Druze, Circassian, Samaritan, Kara’ite, or foreign. When a person presents his ID card to a policeman, a security official, or to a clerk at a government office whose services he requires, they can know which ‘sector’ he belongs to and treat him accordingly, or, refer him to those who are responsible for dealing with his ‘sector’.[14]

That this has resulted directly from the official ideology of the State, Zionism, is also apparent. Professor Ornan admits that: "Apartheid is so powerful a mindset in this society, that its existence and preservation is championed by all the members of the 'Zionist parties', including those who believe themselves to be in the vanguard of the struggle for socialism, peace and equal rights."[15] The plight of Palestinians within the Occupied Territories has been compared by many scholars to the plight of blacks under the apartheid regime of South Africa. Indeed, a comparison between the conditions faced by blacks in South Africa and Palestinians under Israeli occupation shows clearly that, like South Africa in the 1980s, the Israeli regime has integrated a system of institutionalised racism, or in other words, apartheid. The British press, for example, acknowledges that:

If Palestinians were black, Israel would now be a pariah state subject to economic sanctions led by the United State. Its development and settlement of the West Bank would be seen as a system of apartheid, in which the indigenous population was allowed to live in a tiny fraction of its own country, in self-administered ‘bantustans’, with ‘whites’ monopolising the supply of water and electricity. And just as the black population was allowed into South Africa’s white areas in disgracefully under-resourced townships, so Israel’s treatment of Israeli Arabs – flagrantly discriminating against them in housing and education spending – would be recognised as scandalous too.[16]

There can thus be little doubt over the stark similarities between the plight of the three million Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and the darkest days of South African apartheid. Permits must be obtained by Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza for almost every activity, including such basic freedoms as traveling to another town or planting a fruit tree. Yet the issuance of such permits is largely arbitrary, and thus  frequently refused by the Israeli authorities. Consequently, it is virtually impossible for the vast majority of Palestinians to earn a living. A matrix of interlocking mechanisms has resulted in ongoing land confiscations, stifling restrictions on movement, and almost constant curfews, almost identical in nature to the harsh conditions imposed on the black population of South Africa by the white-dominated apartheid regime.

Israeli peace activist Jeff Halper, Professor of Anthropology at Ben-Gurion University and Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, has described in detail the web of mechanisms resulting in the systematic discrimination against indigenous Palestinians under Israeli occupation:

Only a decade after the fall of apartheid in South Africa, after we all thought we had seen the end of that hateful system, we are witnessing the emergence of another apartheid-style regime, that of Israel over the incipient Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and parts of Jerusalem. This, at least, seems the likely outcome of the ‘peace process’ begun in Oslo and continued, if haltingly, at the July Camp David summit. Whether a Palestinian state actually emerges from the Oslo process or Israel’s occupation becomes permanent, the essential elements of apartheid — exclusivity, inequality, separation, control, dependency, violations of human rights and suffering – are likely to define the relationship between Israel and the Occupied Territories/Palestine.

Professor Halper describes “the matrix of control” imposed by Israel as “an interlocking series of mechanisms, only a few of which require physical occupation of territory, that allow Israel to control every aspect of Palestinian life in the Occupied Territories.” This matrix, “similar in appearance to a Go board, has virtually paralyzed the Palestinian population without ‘defeating’ it or even conquering much territory.” In the Japanese game of Go, one wins by immobilizing one’s opponent, through a process of “gaining control of key points of a matrix so that every time s/he moves s/he encounters an obstacle of some kind.” The matrix is built of subtle interventions, although “largely bureaucratic and legal”, remains “backed by overwhelming military force, which Israel reserves for itself the right to employ.” Forcible measures of control which can be taken against Palestinian communities and individuals include “the extensive use of collaborators and undercover ‘mustarabi’ army units, administrative detention, arrest, trial and torture.” Indeed, over 2,000 arbitrary ‘orders’ “issued by the Military Commanders of the West Bank and Gaza have been issued since 1967, supplemented by policies formulated by the Civil Administration, under the direction of the Ministry of Defenseé

Today, 195 exclusively Jewish settlements housing some 400,000 Israelis are sprinkled across the Occupied Territories: about 200,000 settlers live in the West Bank, 200,000 in East Jerusalem and 6,000 in Gaza (the latter occupying a fourth of the land, including most of the coastline). The most significant development in recent years has been the consolidation of small settlements vulnerable to Palestinian demands of dismantling into settlement ‘blocs’ of 50,000 people or more. The blocs control strategic corridors of the West Bank and interrupt the territorial contiguity of the Palestinians’ areas. Areas A, B, C and D in the West Bank, areas H-1 and H-2 in Hebron, Yellow, Green, Blue and White Areas in Gaza, and ‘open green spaces’ of restricted housing covering more than half of Palestinian East Jerusalem – there is no freedom of movement between these four disconnected Bantustans.

A system of highways and bypass roads links the settlements, creating additional barriers between Palestinian areas and incorporating the West Bank into Israel proper. Ironically, the bypass road project enjoys the tacit and misguided support of the Palestinian Authority. ‘Security borders’ – the thick web of closed military areas and internal checkpoints in the Territories – enforce Israel’s declared policy of ‘separation’ from the Palestinians and further hinder Palestinian movement.

Army bases occupy large tracts of land and keep weaponry ready for reasserting control through brute forceé Yet a third set of control mechanisms, the most subtle of all, are those of a bureaucratic or ‘legal’ nature. They entangle Palestinians in restrictions, which trigger sanctions whenever Palestinians try to expand their life space. The West Bank and Gaza are permanently ‘closed’, violating freedom of movement of people and goods and impoverishing the Palestinian population. A system of permits causes, among other things, prolonged separation of family members and limits work, travel and study abroad. Building permits, enforced by house demolitions, arrests, fines and daily harassment, serve to confine Palestinians to small enclaves. Expansive ‘master plans’ around settlements (in contrast to the tight planning rings around Palestinian communities) allow Israel to contend that settlement building has been ‘frozen’ within the larger rings. Planting of crops is restricted, and Israel controls the licensing and inspection of Palestinian businesses.

To all of this must be added, of course, the psychological costs of life under occupation: loss of life, imprisonment, torture, harassment, humiliation, anger and frustration, as well as traumas suffered by tens of thousands of Palestinians (especially children) who witnessed their homes being demolished, saw their loved ones beaten and humiliated, suffered from inadequate housing and lost opportunities to realize their potential in life.[17]

It is this matrix of control that has established apartheid conditions within the Occupied Territories. Professor Ornan rightly observed in 1991 that “it is amazing how closely the discriminatory laws of South Africa – which began to be legislated in 1913 and which are now about to be abolished – resemble the discriminatory laws which began to be legislated in the state of Israel in 1948.”[18] Israeli correspondent Amira Hass has noted the dire consequences:

This control is what has enabled Israel to double the number of settlers in 10 years, to enlarge the settlements, to continue its discriminatory policy of cutting back water quotas for three million Palestinians, to prevent Palestinian development in most of the area of the West Bank, and to seal an entire nation into restricted areas, imprisoned in a network of bypass roads meant for Jews only. During these days of strict internal restriction of movement in the West Bank, one can see how carefully each road was planned: So that 200,000 Jews have freedom of movement, about three million Palestinians are locked into their Bantustans until they submit to Israeli demands.[19]

This has been accompanied by the consolidation, as opposed to reduction, of Israel’s illegal military occupation of Palestine through the expansion of Jewish settlements in receipt of privileges systematically and officially denied to the non-Jewish Palestinian population. The ultimate goal of these policies is the expulsion of the Palestinian people from their homeland which is to become the sole property of the State of Israel and its Jewish citizens. As recorded by Danny Rubenstein, “readers of the Palestinian papers get the impression (and rightly so) that activity in the settlements never stopsé

Israel is constantly building, expanding and reinforcing the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel is always grabbing homes and lands in areas beyond the 1967 lines – and of course, this is all at the expense of the Palestinians, in order to limit them, push them into a corner and then out. In other words, the goal is to eventually dispossess them of their homeland and their capital, Jerusalem.[20]

Other organisations that have studied Israel’s system of administration and related policies in the Occupied Territories as well as within its own internationally recognised borders, have come to similar conclusions. The New York-based NGO, the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR), for instance, has found that the “model of socio-economic, cultural and especially physical separation between Jew and Arab” adopted by the Israeli regime, “derives from the original Labor Zionist ideology that culminated in the 1948 military expulsion of 90 per cent of the indigenous Palestinian population from what became Israel.” Israel’s plan for the Palestinians, backed by the United States among other bystanders in the international community, is as follows:

Palestinians are to be separated from Israel politically and geographically, linked only economically in the form of cheap labor and captive markets. Arafat will be anointed president of his cherished state on 90 per cent of the West Bank and Gaza. But the population will remain confined in territorially non-contiguous bantustans, encircled by and controlled through a network of Israeli settlements, roads and military checkpoints, and subject to repressive PA security forces. In return for Israeli sovereignty over the settlements, the Barak camp has even floated the possibility of ceding sovereignty over Arab areas in northern Israel, thereby ridding the state of 300,000 Palestinian citizens. As the final element in this plan, over three million Palestinian refugees will be denied their internationally recognized human right to return to homes within Israelé[21]

The Middle East Department of the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) has come to similar conclusions. Longtime U.S. Middle East expert and head of the Middle East Project of the IPS, Jewish scholar Phyllis Bennis, points out:

If you are a Jew, you have exclusive use of land, privileged access to private and public employment, special educational loans, home mortgages, preferences for admission to universities, and many other things. Many other special privileges are reserved for those who have served in the Israeli military. And military service is compulsory for all Jews (male and female), except for the ultra-Orthodox who get the same privileges as other Jews, but excludes Palestinians, who do not.

Over 80 percent of the land within Israel that was once owned by Palestinians has been confiscated. All told, 93 percent of Israel’s land can only be leased or owned by Jews or Jewish agencies. Moreover, despite Israel’s booming economy, Palestinian unemployment is skyrocketing – Adalah says it is about 40 percent. In 1996 twice as many Arab citizens (28.3 percent) as Jewish citizens (14.4 percent) lived below the poverty line. Less than five percent of government employees are Arab. And eighty percent of all student drop-outs are Arab.

There are also vast disparities between Arab towns and Jewish towns in government spending on schools, medical systems, roads and electricity, clean water, and social services.

Unlike any other country in the world, Israel does not define itself as a state of its residents, or even a state of its citizens, but as a state of all the Jews in the world. Jews from anywhere in the world, like me, can travel to Israel, declare citizenship, and be granted all the privileges of being Jewish that are denied to Palestinians who have lived in the area for hundreds of years.[22]

In this exceedingly brief paper then, we have seen extensive evidence that there is in Israel a long-established system of apartheid that institutionalises racial discrimination against Palestinians and other non-Jews, in both law and practice. This system consists of an increasingly brutal and tightening military occupation that utilises ethnic cleansing amidst a policy of geographical division and socio-economic deprivation to further marginalise the indigenous population. All this is pursued in violation of an endless number of UN resolutions ordering Israel to halt the oppression of Palestinians and cease its occupation of Palestine.

Collected here is only a segment of the grim record and extensive documentation providing insight into the nature of the Israeli regime and its racial policies. For the UN Conference Against Racism to ignore this issue, as has been urged by the U.S. and its lackeys in and out of the UN, is thus not merely dishonest é it is complicity in an ongoing series of war crimes and crimes against humanity conducted by a regime whose record of hate is far worse than the unconscionable policies of the apartheid regime of South Africa. Our responsibility is clear: to raise awareness of the facts; and to call to account, and indeed pressurise, those in power who, in supporting and conducting Israeli apartheid, are colluding in the convergence of the Middle East region towards all out war, and thus further unimaginable humanitarian catastrophes. We can learn from the example of South Africa, just as we can be sure that the West has also learned. No self-respecting member of the elite pulling the strings of the international regime doubts the danger of people around the world recognising the reality of the situation on the ground in occupied Palestine é which is why they are afraid of entering into international dialogue over the issue.

We should not doubt the danger either. On the contrary, we should use it in the way of peace and justice, and in this path there is genuine hope.


[1] Yediot Aahronot, 1992; cited in Selfa, Laura, ‘The US and Israel’, International Socialist Review, Spring 1998. Also see Chomsky, Noam, ‘The Middle East Settlement: Its Sources and Contours’, in Power and Prospects, South End Press, Boston, 1996, p. 165 and Shahak, Israel, Open Secrets, Pluto Press, London, 1997, p. 11.

[3] Ha’aretz, 5 December 2000

[4] Ma’ariv, 5 December 2000

[5] Wilkinson, Tracy, ‘Israel Hawk Considers Run at a Wounded Dove’, Los Angeles Times, 5 December 2000.

[6] Felner, Eitan, ‘Apartheid By Any Other Name: Creeping Annexation of the West Bank’, Le Monde diplomatique, November 1999,

[7] Davidsson, Elias, Memorandum on Institutionalized Racial Discrimination by and in the State of Israel, Centre for Policy Research on Global Justice (CPR), July 1993,

[8] Shahak, Israel, Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years, Pluto Press, London, 1997, p. 3.

[9] Shapira, Anita, ‘Jewish identity, Israeli identity’, JPR Newsletter, Institute for Jewish Policy Research, Spring 2000.

[10] For brief discussion of these three laws see Schechla, Joseph, ‘Is Zionism a Form of Racial Discrimination?: UN Debate Will Necessitate Re-Examination of Resolution 3379’, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November 1991, p. 35.

[11] Shahak, Israel, Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years, op. cit., p. 5

[12] Ibid., p. 5

[13] Ibid., p. 6.

[14] Ornan, Uzi, ‘Apartheid Laws in Israel é The Art of Obfuscatory Formulation’, Ha’aretz, 17 May 1991.

[15] Ibid.

[16] The Observer, 15 October 2000.

[17] Halper, Jeff, ‘The 94 Percent Solution: A Matrix of Control’, Middle East Report, 216, Middle East Research and Information Project, Fall 2000,

[18] Letter from Uzi Ornan to Editor of Ha’aretz, published 10 February 1991.

[19] Hass, Amira, ‘Israel has failed the test’, Ha’aretz, 18 October 2000.

[20] Ha’aretz, 23 October 2000.

[21] Normand, Roger, ‘The Iron Fist in the Peace Process’, MERIP Press Information Note 33, Middle East Report, 4 October 2000. Normand is Executive Director of the CESR. For further reports and analysis see

[22] Elbaun, Max, Interview with Phyllis Bennis, ‘For Jews Only: Racism Inside Israel’, ColorLines Magazine, 15 December 2000.

Mr. Nafeez Ahmed is a political analyst and human rights activist based in London. He is Director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and a Researcher at the Islamic Human Rights Commission.