Two South African groups; one pro Palestine and the other pro Israel protest side by side in front of Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, August 24, 2018. The two opposing groups have been demonstrating peacefully in front of parliament every Friday for two years to express their point of view. (Photo: EPA-EFE / NIC BOTHMA)
“It is clearer than ever that the occupation is not temporary, and the Israeli government lacks the political will to end it.”
First published by GroundUp.
Ilan Baruch has served as Israel’s Ambassador to South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Dr Alon Liel was Israel’s Ambassador to South Africa and Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
During our careers in the Foreign Service, we have both served as Israel’s Ambassadors to South Africa. In this position, we learned firsthand the reality of apartheid and the horrors it inflicted. But more than that, the experience and understanding we have gained in South Africa has helped us understand the reality back home.
For more than half a century, Israel ruled the occupied Palestinian territories with a two-tiered legal system, in which, on the same stretch of land in the West Bank, Israeli settlers live under Israeli civil law while Palestinians live under military law. The system is a system of inherent inequality. In this context, Israel has sought to change both the geography and demography of the West Bank through the construction of settlements, which are illegal under international law. Israel has advanced plans to connect these settlements to Israel proper through intensive investment in infrastructure development, and an extensive network of highways and water and electricity infrastructure have transformed the settlement enterprise into a comfortable suburban version. This has happened alongside the expropriation and takeover of massive amounts of Palestinian land, including the evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes. That is, settlements are being built and expanded at the expense of Palestinian communities, who are forced to settle on smaller and smaller tracts of land.
This reality reminds us of a story former Ambassador Avi Primor described in his autobiography about a trip he took with then Defense Minister Ariel Sharon to South Africa at the start of the 1980s. During the visit, Sharon expressed great interest in South Africa’s Bantustan Project. Even a quick glance at the map of the West Bank leaves little doubt as to where Sharon received his inspiration. The West Bank today consists of 165 “enclaves”, that is to say of Palestinian communities surrounded by the territory taken by the settlement enterprise. In 2005, with the withdrawal of the Gaza settlements and the start of the siege, Gaza became simply another enclave – a block of territory without autonomy, largely surrounded by Israel and therefore effectively controlled by Israel as well.
The Bantustans of apartheid South Africa and the map of the occupied Palestinian territories today are based on the same idea of concentrating the “unwanted” population in as small an area as possible, in a series of non-contiguous enclaves. By gradually driving these populations from their lands and concentrating them in dense and fractured pockets, then South Africa and Israel today have worked to thwart political autonomy and true democracy.
This week we mark the fifty-fifth year since the occupation of the West Bank began. It is clearer than ever that the occupation is not temporary and that the Israeli government lacks the political will to end it. Human Rights Watch recently concluded that Israel has crossed a threshold and that its actions in the occupied territories now meet the legal definition of the crime of apartheid under international law. Israel is the only sovereign power operating on this land, and it systematically discriminates on the basis of nationality and ethnicity. Such a reality is, as we have seen ourselves, apartheid. It is time for the world to recognize that what we saw in South Africa decades ago is also happening in the occupied Palestinian territories. And just as the world has joined the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, it is time for the world to take decisive diplomatic action in our case as well and to work towards building a future of equality and dignity. and security for Palestinians and Israelis. DM
The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of GroundUp.
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This notice was published: 2021-06-08 09:01:39