Israeli politicians and the press often become indignant when Israel is accused of apartheid. Other than the fact that the Palestinians have endured decades of military occupation, are not entitled to vote for the leaders that decide their fate, and are subject to different justice systems (Palestinians are under a military tribunal), there are many other examples in every day life. One example is Hebron, an occupied city in the West Bank. Here, on streets like Shuhada Street, Jews are segregated from Palestinians. Some may say that this is for “security,” but that is easily refuted because it began not after a Palestinian act of terrorism, but a Jewish one. In 1994 twenty-nine Palestinian worshipers were massacred at the Cave of the Patriarchs by American-born Jewish extremist, Baruch Goldstein.
Today illegal Zionist settlers, who have appropriated land, are given financial incentives to stay there by the Israeli government and are given protection by the Israel Defense Force (IDF). In Hebron the IDF has literally sealed Palestinians into their homes on Shuhada Street, forcing them to enter and exit from their rooftops. At the market in Hebron Palestinians have been forced to put up a net over the walkway because settlers throw garbage, liquid and waste down on shoppers and vendors. Throughout the occupied West Bank Jewish settlers harass Palestinians daily, cut or burn down their olive trees and poison wells with impunity. Palestinians have great difficulty obtaining building permits; and homes are routinely demolished while the Israeli government funds the construction of illegal Jewish-only settlements. As the United Nations revealed, Palestinian children (some as young as 7) are routinely arrested and held without charge or access to their parents for days or weeks.
It should go without saying that criticizing this injustice is not antisemitic, a favorite slur of pro-Israel apologists. But this accusation continues despite the fact that prominent Jews and Jewish Israelis, many Holocaust survivors, have come out against the occupation. These include Miko Peled, Norman Finkelstein and the late Dr. Hajo Meyer and organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace or B’Tselem. They make it clear that this is about holding Israel accountable when it endlessly claims about how it is the “only democracy in the Middle-east” or that it is a bastion of liberty and equality. This farce is easily disputed with even tacit research into the reality. Occupation and dehumanization are married to one another and after decades it lays down the foundations to become a state sanctioned institution.
Apartheid ended in South Africa because of a sustained movement of boycotts and divestment. And today the Boycott Divest Sanction (BDS) movement is attempting to do the same. This region could become a bastion of equality in a secular state for all people. The indigenous population could obtain autonomy and their dignity as human beings could be recognized and honored. Colonialism could be stopped. But as long as the United States supports this kind of intransigence and entrenched racist policy, BDS remains the only non-violent and hopeful alternative to what has become an intolerable nightmare for millions of people.
Kenn Orphan 2015
(The video is courtesy of the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem בצלם.)