Racism, Refugees, and Apartheid

Racism, Refugees, and Apartheid

September 2002 marked the first anniversary of the launching of a global campaign to end Israel's brand of apartheid. The campaign was inaugurated in Durban, South Africa at the 2001 World Conference against Racism (WCAR). September 2002 also marked the second anniversary of the second Palestinian uprising - al-Aqsa intifada in the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories. Over the past year, the Israeli government has responded to Palestinian demands for an end to the occupation, equality inside Israel, and implementation of the right of refugees to return to their homes of origin with increasingly overt forms of racial discrimination, ongoing displacement and attacks on Palestinian refugees, and new measures that bolster forced segregation and apartheid.
In the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories the Israeli government continues to advance polices and underwrite practices - including the expansion of the network of colonies (i.e., settlements), confiscation of Palestinian land, and demolition of Palestinian homes - that aim to permanently alter the demographic, ethno-national composition of the West Bank, including eastern Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Freedom of movement of the Palestinian population between cities, towns and refugee camps is virtually non-existent, while freedom of movement within population centers is severely restricted by ongoing rolling curfews that keep Palestinians locked in their homes for days and weeks on end.

 Israeli Jewish colonists (i.e., settlers) meanwhile, continue to move in and out of the occupied territories on the specially constructed 'bypass roads.' Palestinian civilians, moreover, have born the brunt - in lives, injuries, damage to homes and properties etc. - of Israel's military campaign to suppress the Palestinian uprising. There is no apparent distinction between civilian and combatant in Israel's selfdeclared' war on terrorism' in the occupied territories. The July  extra-judicial killing of Hamas activist Saleh Shehada, which left more than a dozenother Palestinians dead and 140 injured, including women and children, is only one example.

 Israeli military officials, who characterised the attack as a great success, also admitted that they were aware of the fact that the assassination would result in civilian deaths. One can only explain the scope of the humanitarian crisis resulting from Israel's military policies, where more than 50 percent of the population is unemployed and more than 60 percent are living below the poverty line (US$ 2 per day), if one accepts the view that every single  Palestinian - by virtue of their ethno-national character - is a potential 'terrorist.'

Only a global, co-ordinated and effective Boycott Campaign can convey a clear message to Israel and change the unfavorable balance of forces in favor of universal respect for international law as the foundation for building a comprehensive, just and durable solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict and Palestinian refugees. It is contingent upon all those interested in a comprehensive, just and durable solution to the conflict to return to the roots of the conflict - i.e., the mass displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian people in 1948 and after.

Israel's profiling of an entire population based on their ethno-national character, however, is not limited to the 1967 occupied territories. Over the past year the Israeli government has adopted policies that have led to further isolation and maginalization of Palestinian citizens of the state. These policies include: suspension of family reunification for Palestinian citizens marrying nonresident  Palestinian spouses; consideration of new laws to further restrict Palestinian access to land; the reactivation of a Council for Demography to study mechanisms to increase the Jewish population relative to the Palestinian population; establishment of new Jewish settlements to alter the demography in the Galilee and Naqab; revocation of citizenship;ongoing attacks on the traditional way of life and land ownership of the Bedouin; and refusal to address rights of internally displaced Palestinians.

These policies have been accompanied by a veiled campaign to target outspoken Palestinian political leaders including MKs Azmi Bishara and Ahmad Tibi as well as the Islamic Movement. While most of these policies are framed in the  language of 'national security', the primary motivation behind these policies is the over-riding political imperative to maintain Israel as a 'Jewish state.' According to a 1988 Israeli High Court decision (Ben Shalom vs. Central Election Committee), the Jewish character of the state is defined by three-inter-related components: 1) that Jews form the majority of the state; 2) that Jews are entitled to preferential treatment such as the Law of Return; and 3) that a reciprocal relationship exists between the state and the Jews outside of Israel. Israel's definition of itself as a Jewish state also explains the public discourse around the socalled demographic threat posed by the Palestinian population inside Israel and in the 1967 occupied territories. Public discussion of the demographic threat and the concomitant 'final solution' ofpopulation transfer (i.e., ethnic cleansing) have become regular staples of public discussion and debate inside Israel.

"[Israel] is a country in which the streets are plastered with posters calling for a population transfer," comments Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, "and no one bothers to remove them or to indict those who put them up." (Ha'aretz, 9 September 2002). Recent public opinion polls by the Rabin Center, the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, and independent researchers, moreover, have found that a majority of Israel's Jewish citizens support the idea of limiting Palestinian rights, that the government should prefer Jews over Arabs because Israel is a Jewish state, that Palestinian citizens should be encouraged to leave the state, and that Palestinian political parties should not take part in a governing coalition and should not be involved in important decisions. Commenting on proposals tabled over the summer to restrict access to land to Jews, former MK Shulamit Aloni noted, "By the right of our might, we are acting as a racist nation.

South Africa, as well was white and democratic [a reference to Israel's definition of itself as a Jewish and democratic state].' (Ha'aretz, 9 July 2002) Refugees The outcome and continuing impact of this system of racial discrimination has been the creation of millions of refugees. The creation of the Jewish state in 1948 resulted in the expulsion and displacement of some 800,000 Palestinians. More than 500 Palestinian villages with a land base of 17,178 km2 were erased from the map in a process described as "cleaning up the national views." Between the end of the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948 and the beginning of the second war in 1967 tens of thousands of Palestinians who remained inside the territory that became the state of Israel were transferred internally, forced across armistice lines and deprived of their lands.

 It is estimated that by the 1960s Israel had expropriated some 700 km2 of land from the indigenous Palestinian community that remained within the borders of the Jewish state. In 1967 some 400,000 Palestinians  were displaced - half for a second time - during the second Arab- Israeli war. Israel acquired immediate control of more than 400 km2 of land in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Throughout the post-1967 period Palestinians remaining in areas of their historic homeland have been subject to continued displacement and dispossession through a process that includes deportation, revocation of residency rights and demolition of homes. It is estimated than more than three-quarters of a million Palestinians have been affected while Israel has acquired control of an additional 300 km2 of Palestinian land inside Israel and more than 3,000 km2 of land in the occupied territories.

Today, it is estimated that more than two-thirds of the Palestinian people are displaced; more than half of the Palestinian people are displaced outside the borders of their historic homeland. While Palestinians owned over 90 percent of the land in mandatory Palestine on the eve of the 1948 war today Palestinians have access to just 10 percent of their land. The Palestinian people constitute one of the largest and longest standing unresolved cases of displacement in the world today. Approximately one in three refugees world-wide is Palestinian. In total, 6 million Palestinians - more than two-thirds of the Palestinian people world-wide - are refugees or displaced persons.The lack of geographical and temporal limitations on the displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian people for over five decades points to a clear policy of population transfer or in more common parlance - ethnic cleansing.

While some commentators are reluctant to use to the term 'ethnic cleansing' as descriptive of Israeli policies and practices, it is worth remembering that the modern origins of the term ('etnicko ciscenje' in Serbo- Croatian), which conjures up images of concentration camps and mass graves in the former Yugoslavia, initially related to administrative and non-violent policies in Kosovo fully a decade before the mass displacement and slaughter of the civilian population in Bosnia and Kosovo. The causes of population transfer in the Palestinian case are both dramatic, as in the case of armed conflict in 1948 and 1967, and subtle and insidious - a kind of 'lowintensity transfer' - through decades of discriminatory legislation, planning and the administration of justice.

Racial Discrimination and Refugees
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Conscious of the fact that foreign military, nonmilitary and/or ethnic conflicts have resulted in massive flows of refugees and the displacement of persons on the basis of ethnic criteria in many parts of the world, 2. Emphasizes in this respect that:
(a) All such refugees and displaced persons have the right freely to return to their homes of origin under conditions of safety;
(b) State parties are obliged to ensure that the return of such refugees and displaced persons is voluntary and to observe the principle of nonrefoulement and non-expulsion of refugees;
(c) All such refugees and displaced persons have, after their return to their homes of origin, the right to have restored to them property of which they were deprived in the course of the conflict and to be compensated appropriately for any such property that cannot be restored to them. Any commitments or statements relating to such property made under duress are null and void; General Comment XXII, 'Article 5 and refugees and displaced persons,' Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (excerpts

Israel's system of racial discrimination has not only led to the mass displacement, denationalization and dispossession of the majority of the Palestinian people, it has also engendered a system of physical separation characterised by segregation and 'bantustanization.' The NGO Declaration and Program of Action from the 3rd World Conference against Racism termed this system as Israel's 'brand of apartheid.'
The imposition of a military government between 1948 and 1966 to 'administer' the remaining Palestinian towns and villages inside Israel enabled the state to consolidate its hold on the land and congregate the Palestinian population in isolated zones separated by Jewish only colonies built on land expropriated from Palestinian refugees as well as Palestinian citizens of the state.

The process replicated itself in the West Bank and Gaza Stripfollowing Israel's ilitary occupation in 1967. The 1967 territories were further segregated under the Oslo process into Areas A, B, and C, (H1 and H2 in Hebron), and then subdivided once again for socalled security reasons during the last two years of the Palestinian uprising.Today, the West Bank is divided into some 64 noncontiguous zones surrounded by 46 permanentcheckpoints and  126 roadblocks. As of May 2002 Palestinian residents need special permits issued by the Israeli Civil Administration, Israel's military government, for travel between Palestinian citiesand  between the various 'zones' or 'bantustans.' The culmination of the idea of separation is unfolding inthe form of a new wall that is eventually to run the length of the border area separating Israel and Jerusalem from the West Bank.

According to details released to the public the components of the barrier spread over a width of about thirty meters and a trench intended to create an obstacle against tanks, a dirt path that would constitute a "killing zone" onto which access is forbidden, an electric warning fence, a trace path to disclose the footprints of infiltrators, and a two-lane patrol road. In some areas the zone may be as wide as 100 meters. (B'tselem, Separation Barrier, September 2002). The Gaza Strip is already surrounded by a similar fence.

Palestinian refugees in exile, meanwhile, are separated from each other by virtue of the borders of the host countries in which they reside, and they  are separated from their historic homeland by Israel's refusal to accept its obligations under international law and permit the voluntary, safe and dignified return of Palestinian refugees to their homes of origin simply because the refugees are not Jewish.

According to the 1973 Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (Article II), the 'crime of apartheid' includes legislative measures that deny members of a racial group basic human rights and freedoms, including the right to leave and to return to their country and the right to a nationality, for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them. It also includes legislative measures designed to divide the population along racial lines by the creation of separate reserves and ghettos for members of a racial group and the expropriation of land property belonging to a racial group.

Beyond Oslo
The experience of the Oslo period raises serious questions about the viability of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Since the beginning of the Oslo process, for example, every Israeli government has continued to strengthen the network of colonies in the occupied territories, expanding Israeli control over Palestinian land and other natural resources such as water, and separating the Palestinian population into increasingly smaller non-contiguous zones. As one  observer noted already back in the 1980s: "In the long-term the [Palestinian] community would be cut into isolated blocks [by the colonies], separated from one another. … On a West Bank segmented in this fashion it would be difficult to imagine any genuine self-government beyond the municipal level as a practical possibility."

(W. Harris, Taking Root: Israeli Settlement in the West Bank, the Golan, and Gaza-Sinai) Over the last two years, the government of Ariel Sharon has used the Palestinian uprising as a means to wipe out the infrastructure of Palestinian autonomy and the last vestiges of the Oslo process. Throughout this period the US and Europe have largely sat on the sidelines. Policy has been characterised by the complete absence of basic standards of international humanitarian and human rights law, substituted by an emphasis on 'dialogue with Israel' and minimal political intervention.

While both the US and Europe continue to promote a two-state solution, the absence of effective and timely political intervention has resulted in a situa tion where prospect of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is no more likely than the creation of an Israel apartheid state in all of Palestine or a binational or secular democratic state in all of historic Palestine. International donor money has now largely shifted from projects intended to build a prosperous Palestinian state to short-term relief for the Palestinian people intended to reduce such things as malnutrition and epidemics. For all practical purposes Israel has 're-occupied' the 1967 Palestinian territories (as if it ever left) only now the international community is paying for the occupation.

The likelihood of effective international intervention is further diminished by the US-British focus on war against Iraq.In this context only a global, co-ordinated and effective Boycott Campaign can convey a clear message to Israel and change the unfavorable balance of forces in favor of universal respect for international law as the foundation for building a comprehensive, just and durable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Palestinian refugees. It is contingent upon all those interested in a comprehensive, just and durable solution to the conflict to return to the roots of the conflict - i.e., the mass displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian people in 1948 and after.

"The refugee issue needs to be placed at the centre of the process from where it has mysteriously disappeared. [A]ll those involved in resolving the conflict must have the public courage to confront the Israeli denial of the expulsion and ethnic cleansing at the heart of  the Palestinian refugee question. This remains the single largest stumbling block towards a lasting peace between both peoples." (Karma Nabulsi and Illan Pappe, "Facing up to Ethnic Cleansing" The Guardian, 19 September 2002).