Tonight's Q&A program raised the issue of Israel as an apartheid state, but unfortunately neither of the pro-Palestinians on the panel (The Greens' Lee Rhiannon and Fairfax journalist and author Paul McGeough) seemed particularly well equipped to explain exactly why Israel should be so described.
Allow me, therefore, to introduce (yet again*) the definitive study on the subject of Israeli apartheid: the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa's report, Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid?: A re-assessment of Israel's practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law.
In its report, the HSRC finds:
a) that, although Israel has clearly been in military occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs) since 1967, according to international humanitarian law it has no right whatever to annex or permanently control these territories;
b) that Israel's policy and practices in the OPTs (fragmenting, annexing, appropriating land and water, merging economies, dominating Palestinians etc) are colonialist and therefore violate the Palestinians' right of self-determination, one of the essential principles of international law;
c) Israel's laws and policies in the OPTs fit the definition of apartheid in the International Convention on the Suppression & Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (aka the Apartheid Convention).
Here is that definition: "Inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them."
In South Africa, apartheid had 3 key features:
1) laws which demarcated the population into racial groups and accorded superior rights, privileges and services to the white group;
2) the segregation of the non-white group into fragmented geographic 'reserves' (black homelands) and their confinement to same;
3) a matrix of draconian security laws and policies to suppress any opposition to the regime and reinforce the system of racial domination, by providing for administrative detention, torture, censorship, banning, and assassination.
In the OPTs, the privileged Jewish settlers are the 'whites' and the occupied Palestinians the 'non-whites'; the besieged, non-contiguous and invariably shrinking Palestinian enclaves (along with the blockaded Gaza Strip) are the new fragmented black homelands; and Israel's mantra of security, used to validate sweeping restrictions on Palestinian freedom of expression, assembly, association and movement, is designed to mask its intent to suppress resistance to its system of domination over Palestinians as a group.
To summarise, Israel has been found to be an apartheid state by South Africa's pre-eminent national social science council, the HSRC, because in the OPTs it privileges Israeli Jews over occupied Palestinians legally and materially; confines them to reserves; and, in the name of security, pauperises, humiliates, imprisons, tortures and murders them in order to keep them from challenging its rule.
And that's just Israeli apartheid in the OPTs. For apartheid within Israel (im)proper see my 16/7/10 post Howes: Apartheid? No Way!
[* See my 21/9/09 post Israeli Apartheid: The Jury's In]