Peace Not Apartheid
By John Dugard
01 December, 2006
principle, the purpose of military occupation is Former President Jimmy
Carter's new book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," is igniting
controversy for its allegation that Israel practices a form of apartheid.
As a South African and former
anti-apartheid advocate who visits the Palestinian territories regularly
to assess the human rights situation for the U.N. Human Rights Council,
the comparison to South African apartheid is of special interest to
On the face of it, the two
regimes are very different. Apartheid was a system of institutionalized
racial discrimination that the white minority in South Africa employed
to maintain power over the black majority. It was characterized by the
denial of political rights to blacks, the fragmentation of the country
into white areas and black areas (called Bantustans) and by the imposition
on blacks of restrictive measures designed to achieve white superiority,
racial separation and white security.
The "pass system,"
which sought to prevent the free movement of blacks and to restrict
their entry to the cities, was rigorously enforced. Blacks were forcibly
"relocated," and they were denied access to most public amenities
and to many forms of employment. The system was enforced by a brutal
security apparatus in which torture played a significant role.
The Palestinian territories
— East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza — have been under
Israeli military occupation since 1967. Although military occupation
is tolerated and regulated by international law, it is considered an
undesirable regime that should be ended as soon as possible. The United
Nations for nearly 40 years has condemned Israel's military occupation,
together with colonialism and apartheid, as contrary to the international
different from that of apartheid.
It is not designed as a long-term oppressive regime but as an interim
measure that maintains law and order in a territory following an armed
conflict and pending a peace settlement. But this is not the nature
of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Since 1967 Israel has imposed
its control over the Palestinian territories in the manner of a colonizing
power, under the guise of occupation. It has permanently seized the
territories' most desirable parts — the holy sites in East Jerusalem,
Hebron and Bethlehem and the fertile agricultural lands along the western
border and in the Jordan Valley — and settled its own Jewish "colonists"
throughout the land.
Israel's occupation of the
Palestinian territories has many features of colonization. At the same
time it has many of the worst characteristics of apartheid. The West
Bank has been fragmented into three areas — north (Jenin and Nablus),
center (Ramallah) and south (Hebron) — which increasingly resemble
the Bantustans of South Africa.
Restrictions on freedom of
movement imposed by a rigid permit system enforced by some 520 checkpoints
and roadblocks resemble, but in severity go well beyond, apartheid's
"pass system." And the security apparatus is reminiscent of
that of apartheid, with more than 10,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons
and frequent allegations of torture and cruel treatment.
Many aspects of Israel's
occupation surpass those of the apartheid regime. Israel's large-scale
destruction of Palestinian homes, leveling of agricultural lands, military
incursions and targeted assassinations of Palestinians far exceed any
similar practices in apartheid South Africa. No wall was ever built
to separate blacks and whites.
Following the worldwide anti-apartheid
movement, one might expect a similarly concerted international effort
united in opposition to Israel's abhorrent treatment of the Palestinians.
Instead one finds an international community divided between the West
and the rest of the world. The Security Council is prevented from taking
action because of the U.S. veto and European Union abstinence. And the
United States and the European Union, acting in collusion with the United
Nations and the Russian Federation, have in effect imposed economic
sanctions on the Palestinian people for having, by democratic means,
elected a government deemed unacceptable to Israel and the West. Forgotten
is the commitment to putting an end to occupation, colonization and
In these circumstances, the
United States should not be surprised if the rest of the world begins
to lose faith in its commitment to human rights. Some Americans —
rightly — complain that other countries are unconcerned about
Sudan's violence-torn Darfur region and similar situations in the world.
But while the United States itself maintains a double standard with
respect to Palestine it cannot expect cooperation from others in the
struggle for human rights.
John Dugard is a South African law professor teaching in the Netherlands.
He is currently Special Rapporteur (reporter) on Palestine to the United
Nations Human Rights Council.
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