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Byron Shire
February 25, 2021

Question of Israel’s apartheid

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R Goodchild’s letter (Palestinian rhetoric) echoed a letter of mine published in The Echo some months ago in which I questioned whether ‘apartheid’ was an appropriate description for Israel and concluded that it was not. 

My letter concluded, ‘All this doesn’t add up to apartheid – a better parallel would be African Americans in 1970. Either way, it’s not good.’

Since then things have become worse. 

In June, the Israeli Knesset council disqualified a bill that called for redefining Israel as a state for all its citizens, rejecting the argument that it must recognise the rights of its Arab minority citizens as equal to its Jewish majority’s. 

Subsequent to that the Knesset has passed the so-called Nation-State Law, which enshrines discrimination against non-Jewish citizens in Israel.

Time.com reports, ‘The new law essentially makes discrimination constitutional, according to Mordechai Kremnitzer, professor emeritus of the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, writing in the Israeli daily Haaretz. He argues that the new law essentially treats [Israeli citizen] Arabs as if they are trespassers in Israel, and constitutes the start of their ‘actual transfer’ from the land.

‘Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, agrees that it not only codifies discrimination, but also creates a situation in which Arabs are forced to participate in that discrimination because they bear equal tax burdens as citizens.’

Israeli justice minister Ayelet Shaked said, ‘There is place to maintain a Jewish majority even at the price of violation of rights’. 

The Nation-State law permits Jewish-only communities. As The Conversation recently pointed out, ‘Among its other provisions, the most contentious one says that “the state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.” Critics fear this deliberately vague language could be used to legitimise Jewish-only communities and even exclusive towns.’ 

Exclusively Jewish communities and towns from which Arabs are prohibited? That sounds like the definition of ‘apartheid’.

As Maynard Keynes famously observed, ‘when the facts change I change too’. The facts have changed, I have changed too. ‘Apartheid state’ IS now an appropriate description of Israel.

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