Just Another Week in the Life of an Apartheid State

Dozens of international activists detained and arrested at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport for the crime of declaring their intention of visiting Palestine, Palestinian prisoners announcing the start of a mass hunger strike protesting Israel’s policy of administrative detention and occupation, and it’s business as usual when it comes to the world’s only apartheid state.

Who now apart from the ignorant or wicked can continue to deny the fact that for the State of Israel crimes against humanity are the norm rather than a departure from the norm? More, they are the very foundation upon which its government, institutions, armed forces, social relations, and entire history rests.

The fly-in organised by the international Palestine solidarity movement has succeeded for the second year in a row in laying bare the lie of Israeli democracy. However this year hundreds of those booked on flights to take part in the fly-in were prevented from doing so by airlines in their country of origin in response to a request by the Israeli authorities. This alone reveals the vulnerability of Israel to its apartheid heart being exposed. It also speaks to the shameful complicity of international companies and corporations in apartheid, illegal military occupation, and ethnic cleansing.

It is worth recalling that today four million Palestinians are incarcerated in the giant open prison otherwise known as the Palestinian Territories. Under the rubric of security, which occupying powers have always upheld as justification for barbarism, Israel operates an apparatus of military occupation, economic strangulation, settlement building, ethnic cleansing, harassment, arrest and imprisonment without trial, plus regular bouts of state-sanctioned murder. Taken together it makes the dystopia described in Orwell’s 1984 almost seem like Tenerife by comparison. Compounding the aforementioned crimes further is a massive propaganda operation designed to deny the Palestinians, forced to eke a semblance of a human existence out of this state of affairs, the right to be classified as victim.

Instead, utilising the inverted logic of an upside down world, they are deemed responsible for, to paraphrase former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, forcing Israel “kill their children”.

A particular insult to the very concept of human decency are the settlers, among them the most committed of Zionist thugs and terrorists, who act as the vanguard of the right wing Israel establishment’s objective of a Greater Israel. Imagine if the KKK in the southern states of the US enjoyed the tacit support of its government and you begin to understand the role eagerly played by these religiously and politically committed racist settlers in Palestine.

When it comes to the prisoners, according to the Palestine Monitor over 650,000 Palestinians have been detained by Israel since the beginning of the occupation in 1967. This forms approximately 20% of the total Palestinian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

Of the just under 5000 Palestinians currently being held in detention by Israel, around 300 exist in what is categorised as ‘administrative detention’, an Orwellian term designed to sanitise indefinite imprisonment without trial, charges being brough, access to legal counsel or any of the rights afforded prisoners in a civilised society. At present 11 Palestinian prisoners are on hunger strike in protest at administrative detention, with two of those now having refused food for 46 days.

The case of one hunger striker, Hana Shalabi, recently became an international cause celebre to the extent that her plight became an embarrassment to the Israeli authorities. Originally from Jenin in the West Bank, Shalabi initially spent 25 months in administrative detention before being released as part of the prisoner swap with Israel last year for Gilad Shalit, who up to this point was the only Israeli being held prisoner by the Palestinians. Shalabi was re-arrested in February of this year and spent 43 days in hunger strike in protest before the Israelis agreed to release her, deporting her to Gaza. The commencement of a mass hunger strike of an additional 1600 prisoners will focus even more international attention on the injustice being suffered by the Palestinians both in and out of prison – though again who could argue that the West Bank and Gaza are not themselves glorified open prisons?

Previously, the injustice, cruelties, and depredations suffered by the Palestinians throughout the Occupied Territories would have remained more or less concealed from the world. Such was the ability of western governments and Israel’s supporters to provide effective political and moral support to the apartheid state. Not anymore.

Since Operation Cast Lead, described by Amnesty International as “22 days of death and destruction”, was unleashed on the Gaza Strip in 2008/ 09, a veritable army of activists from around the world has emerged. In the three years since it has organised and delivered numerous aid convoys to Gaza by land and sea – in the process being assaulted and murdered by Israeli commandoes – organised peace walks which have likewise broken the siege, and conducted fly-ins to Israel demanding open access to the West Bank. Most important of all has been the building of an international movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) with the aim of isolating Israel economically, politically, and culturally. It has grown exponentially since its inception in 2005, when the call for a boycott by Palestinian civil society was first made, and has succeeded in bringing the issue to public consciousness and awareness across the world.

The tangible result has been to increasingly turn support and cover for Israel from a political net gain to a political albatross for politicians and public figures in the West, cutting through the pro-Israel nexus of professional lobbyists and supporters, who despite their access to political power are now finding their influence on the wane.

It is only right that it is so. Israel is an apartheid state.



Israeli Occupation is Neither Moral nor Legitimate

by Noam Chayut

The Independent 

In 1979, the year I was born, the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank was 12 years old. I was 10 during the first Palestinian uprising, when my father and his comrades in a reserve unit forced innocent Palestinians out of their homes and shops and, as a form of collective punishment, sent them to clean the streets of graffiti opposing Israeli occupation.

When I joined the army, the 30th anniversary of occupation was being “celebrated”, and three years later, as a young officer, I was sent with my soldiers to confront the second intifada. In one month of riots we killed a hundred Palestinians and many more were wounded by live ammunition.

We were told that our goal was “to sear into the consciousness of Palestinian civil society that terrorism doesn’t pay.” To achieve this, we were to “demonstrate our presence”. This meant entering Palestinian residential areas at any time, day or night, throwing stun grenades, shooting in the air or at water tanks, throwing tear gas grenades, creating noise and fear. For the very same reason, we committed revenge attacks such as demolishing the homes of terrorists’ families, or killing random Palestinian policemen (armed or unarmed): an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. If militants attacked a road, we would close it to Palestinian traffic; if stones were thrown at cars on a road, we would place an indefinite curfew on the closest village.

The Israeli military regime over the Palestinian population is now in its 45th year, and while Palestinian violence has dramatically declined, Israeli soldiers still testify about being assigned to “disrupt the day-to-day routine” in Palestinian areas to create in the local community the feeling of “being constantly pursued”.

It is still unclear what the Palestinian leadership will propose to the UN tomorrow, beyond recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. We don’t know if, or how, the outcome of any vote will be felt on the ground. However, testimonies from more than 750 former Israeli soldiers and officers who have served in the Occupied Territories over the past decade, make one thing clear: from the point of view of the Israeli army, the occupation is not a temporary means of controlling the population. There is no end to it in sight.

Those who oppose the recognition of a Palestinian state cling to a false belief that Israel’s occupation is temporary, its aim to create political space for democratic rule in a future Palestine. This belief is what makes the occupation morally tolerable. Because if an occupation is a permanent one, it can only be illegitimate, not just because the ruler is foreign, but because controlling people via coercion and military orders is immoral.

Even if we accept that a 44-year-long occupation is still temporary in a 63-year-old state; if we ignore the reality of hundreds of thousands of Israeli Jews settled in Palestinian territories, or the existence of two separate and unequal legal regimes imposed on the two ethnic groups in the same small piece of land, it is hard to remain optimistic about Israel’s intentions to evacuate, when we hear its soldiers’ reports to Breaking The Silence, an NGO which collects their testimonies.

We should accept the fact that the army does not intend to withdraw from the Occupied Territories, and that the status quo is the Israeli government’s plan for the future. We should take the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs – who lives in a settlement on Palestinian land – at face value when he declares there won’t be peace even in 50 years.

When security and prosperity continue to flourish for “us”, while liberty and freedom are continually withheld from “them”, it is difficult to think of any other non-violent action the Palestinian leadership can take besides seeking international support for ending the Israeli occupation.

The writer is a former Israeli army officer and member of ‘Breaking The Silence’, an NGO which gathers and publishes testimony from soldiers and works in partnership with Christian Aid to expose the realities of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories