I$raHell fears the ‘apartheid’ label as it reveals its gruesome tactics

Ben White
In recent years, Israeli leaders and advocates have repeatedly warned of the threat posed by so-called “delegitimisation”. Yosef Kuperwasser, the current director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, has claimed it is the country’s most important challenge.
“Delegitimisation” is frequently used to variously describe Palestine solidarity activism, boycott and divestment campaigns, and opposition to Israel’s definition as a Jewish state. The term is intended to rally the faithful, and place the targeted critics beyond the pale. To describe Israeli policies in terms of apartheid is also considered a form of “delegitimisation”.
Apartheid, outlawed as a crime against humanity in the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, is when “inhumane acts” are “committed in the context of an institutionalised regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime”.
The term itself comes from the defeated South African system – but it can take place anywhere independent of comparisons. Some academics and activists have long described Israeli policies as a form of apartheid: Uri Davis, for example, was writing on the topic in the 1980s. More recently the term has been used by former US president Jimmy Carter, while Archbishop Desmond Tutu – in 2002 and again just this month – has criticised Israeli policies in terms of apartheid.
I was delighted to have Mr Tutu endorse my book Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide, just published as an updated second edition. In the foreword, South African jurist and former UN special rapporteur John Dugard put it in the following terms: “It is Israel’s own version of a system that has been universally condemned.”
Examples abound. There is the legislative framework of ethnocracy embodied in the Absentee Property Law, Law of Return, and Citizenship Law, crucial for maintaining an artificial Jewish majority achieved through violent displacement.
There are the admission committees filtering residents in hundreds of communities used, according to Human Rights Watch, “to exclude Arabs”.
Across the West Bank, hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens live in a network of illegal settlements, while around them, Palestinian homes are demolished in a process EU officials have called the “forced transfer of the native population”.
This is a country whose housing minister in 2009 declared it a “national duty” to “prevent the spread” of Palestinian citizens, whose president, Shimon Peres, called Bedouin citizens a “demographic threat”, and whose former prime minister, Ehud Olmert, as mayor of Jerusalem, said was “a matter of concern when the non-Jewish population rises a lot faster than the Jewish population”.
I marked the publication of my book with a well-attended launch event last night at Amnesty International UK, chaired by David Hearst, former chief foreign leader writer for The Guardian.
In the weeks before the event, the Israeli embassy itself directly contacted Amnesty UK to ask them to cancel the launch, and also pressured Mr Hearst to withdraw his participation.
In targeting my book launch, Israeli diplomats in London resorted to crude smear tactics, the sort that are familiar fare for lobby groups, but rather more extraordinary coming from senior embassy officials. Thankfully, neither Amnesty UK nor Mr Hearst gave them the time of day, but the clumsy efforts by Israel’s official representatives to make certain topics “off limits” only drew attention to the issues my book is intended to address.
Of course, that pales in significance compared to the repression of Palestinian dissent by Israeli authorities, where tools like house arrest, travel bans, detention without trial and the use of deadly force are routinely used against both Palestinian citizens and those under military occupation.

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