Over 14 million people live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, roughly half of them Jews and half Palestinians. It is commonly held that the area is divided into two separate regimes: Within the sovereign borders of Israel – a permanent democratic regime governing about 9 million people, all Israeli citizens. Within the territories Israel occupied in 1967 – a temporary military regime ruling over some 5 million Palestinian subjects.

Is that really the case?

This accepted distinction ignores crucial facts: that this ‘temporary’ reality has persisted for more than 50 years; that hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers live in more than 280 permanent settlements in the West Bank; and that Israel has de jure annexed East Jerusalem, and de facto annexed the rest of the West Bank.

Most importantly, it obscures the fact that the entire area is organized under one principle: advancing and perpetuating the supremacy of one group – Jews – over another – Palestinians.

 

This policy is implemented by engineering space. For Jews, the entire area is open and contiguous (except Gaza).

For Palestinians, it is divided into separate units:

1 | Within Israel’s sovereign territory, Palestinians make up some 17% of the state’s citizenry. As Israeli citizens, they are afforded certain rights, yet these are not equal to those of their Jewish counterparts.

For Palestinians, it is divided into separate units:

2 | In East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed in 1967, the 350,000 or so Palestinians who live there are defined as permanent residents of Israel – a revocable status that allows them to live and work in Israel, receive social benefits and health insurance, and vote in municipal, but not national, elections.

For Palestinians, it is divided into separate units:

3 | In the West Bank, over 2.6 million Palestinians live in dozens of disconnected enclaves under rigid military rule, and are denied political rights.

For Palestinians, it is divided into separate units:

4 | In the Gaza Strip, about 2 million Palestinians are also denied political rights. In 2005, Israel withdrew its forces and dismantled its settlements; in 2007, Hamas seized control. Since then, Israel has held Gaza under blockade while controlling almost every aspect of life from outside.

 

In each of these territorial units, Israel decides which rights to grant Palestinians. In not one of them are they granted the same rights as Jews.

The regime employs several methods to promote Jewish supremacy:

Land

Israel works to “Judaize” the entire area, treating land as a resource chiefly meant to benefit the Jewish population. Jewish communities are established and developed, while Palestinians are dispossessed and corralled into small, crowded enclaves.

Since 1948, Israel has taken over 90% of land within its sovereign territory and built hundreds of Jewish communities, yet not one for Palestinians (with the exception of several communities built to concentrate the Bedouin population, after dispossessing them of most of their property rights).

Land

Since 1967, Israel has also enacted this policy in the Occupied Territories, dispossessing Palestinians of more than 2,000 km2 on various pretexts. In violation of international law, it has built over 280 settlements in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) for more than 600,000 Jewish citizens. It has devised a separate planning system for Palestinians, designed primarily to prevent construction and development, and has not established a single new Palestinian community.

Citizenship and immigration

Jews living anywhere in the world, their children and grandchildren – and their spouses – are entitled to immigrate to Israel and receive citizenship, even if they choose to live in the Occupied Territories.

Citizenship and immigration

Palestinians who live in other countries cannot immigrate to the Israeli-controlled areas – even if they, their parents or their grandparents were born and lived there. Their only option is to marry a person who already holds status in these areas.

 

Palestinians who live in one territorial unit have difficulty obtaining status in another. According to Israeli law, Palestinians from the Occupied Territories cannot receive permanent status in Israel or East Jerusalem even if they marry Israelis.

 

Freedom of movement

Israel allows its citizens and residents – Jews and Palestinians alike – free passage between the units, with the exception of entering Gaza, which is defined as “hostile territory”, and (formally) entering areas in the West Bank ostensibly under PA responsibility.

Freedom of movement

Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza need a permit to travel between the units. Israel has held Gaza under blockade since 2007, prohibiting movement in or out except for rare cases it defines as humanitarian.

 

Freedom of movement

All Israeli citizens can leave and reenter the country at any time.

Palestinian subjects cannot usually fly abroad from Israel’s international airport and need an Israeli permit to get to the airport in Jordan.

Political participation

Israeli citizens – whether Jewish or Palestinian – can participate in national politics, including voting and running for office. However, leading politicians consistently undermine the legitimacy of Palestinian political representatives.

Political participation

The roughly 5 million Palestinians who live in the Occupied Territories (including East Jerusalem) cannot participate in the political system that governs their lives and determines their future. While most can theoretically vote for the PA, its powers are symbolic and subordinated to Israel.

Political participation

Palestinian subjects are denied not only the right to vote but other political rights, such as freedom of speech or association, and are forbidden from criticizing the regime or organizing and working towards social and political change.

This is apartheid

The territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is governed by a single regime that works to maintain Jewish supremacy.

To that end, Israel has divided the area and the Palestinians into several distinct units. In each one, Palestinians are granted a different set of rights, which is never equal to the rights granted to Jews.

This is apartheid

This policy, which denies Palestinians a slew of rights including the right to self-determination, is achieved by engineering space geographically, demographically and politically. This includes: Granting citizenship to any Jew in the world and their relatives, and generally withholding it from Palestinians; seizing land and allocating it to Jews while confining Palestinians in small, crowded enclaves; restricting Palestinian movement; and excluding millions of Palestinians from effective political participation.

A regime that uses laws, practices and organized violence to establish and maintain the supremacy of one group over another is an apartheid regime. This did not emerge overnight but took shape gradually, over time. The accumulation of measures, which receive public and judicial support and are enshrined in both practice and law, points to the conclusion that the bar for defining Israel as an apartheid regime has been met.

Why Now?

In recent years, the Israeli regime has grown increasingly explicit regarding its Jewish supremacist ideology. This process culminated with the enactment of Basic Law: Israel – the Nation State of the Jewish People, which declares the distinction between Jews and non-Jews fundamental and legitimate, and permits institutional discrimination in land management and development, housing, citizenship, language and culture.

Meanwhile, official statements regarding formal annexation of more parts of the West Bank attest to Israel’s long-term intentions to achieve permanent control over the land.

What now?

This is a call for change. It is impossible to fight injustice without naming it: apartheid.
It is painful to look reality in the eye, but more painful to live under a boot. That is why a determined struggle for a future based on human rights, liberty and justice is more vital now than ever before. The reality described here is harsh, yet we must remember: people created this regime, and people can replace it.
There are various political paths to a just future here, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, but all of us must first choose to say: No To Apartheid. 

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