Palestinian/Israeli Conflict Redux

by Justine Mccabe

Litchfield County Times
Friday, August 01, 2014

I’m responding at length to letters of Messrs. Wilkins and Kilchevsky, who expressed similar views opposing my 7/11 letter, “Decolonization” and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. They both deny my claims:

That Israel was founded by the same national formative act as the U.S.: ethnic cleansing of the majority native inhabitants; and

That Israel practices apartheid within both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

As a scholar, who has worked in the Navajo Indian Medical Center and Navajo reservation, as well as in the Middle East (Lebanon, Iran and the OPT), I find it would be unconscionable for me to make such strong indictments of anyone or any country without the evidence that follows.

To the first claim, in 1947, Palestinian Christians and Muslims, were two-thirds of the population of Palestine and owned 94.2 percent of the land; Jews were about one-third of the population and owned the remaining 5.8 percent. Scholars, including Israel-Jewish scholars, are in agreement that between 1947-’49, more than 750,000 Palestinian Christians and Muslims—about 60 percent of the native population and the majority of the country—were ethnically cleansed by Zionist/Israeli forces because they were not Jews. One-half of those were expelled before the creation of Israel in May, 1948 and before one Arab army entered the fray. For evidence, see the works of Jewish-Israeli “new” or revisionist historians” such as Simha Flapan, Avi Shlaim, Tom Segev, Benny Morris and Ilan Pappe (“Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,” Oxford, 2007), whose books were based on research of documents in newly accessible Zionist/IDF archives, including evidence of “Plan Dalet” to “transfer” non-Jews from the country. In violation of international law, Israel continues to allow those Palestinian refugees to return home.

[See “Survival of the Fittest”  and ]

Historically speaking, to say that Israelis did not expel Palestinians from their homes to create a Jewish state is like saying that global warming is not occurring and, if it is, it’s not the result of human activity. Indeed, the first Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion’s would concur about such “transfer” of non-Jews: “If I were an Arab leader, I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal; we have taken their country. It is true God promised it to us, but how could that interest them? Our God is not theirs. There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They see but one thing: we have come and we have stolen their country. Why would they accept that?” — David Ben Gurion (speaking to Nahum Goldman, 1956)

Significantly, this 1948 dispossession and ongoing settler-colonization of Palestine, including the 1967 illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, is the heart of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the latest iteration of which is happening now in the open-air prison of Gaza.

Second, apartheid within Israel and the OPT has been amply documented. Unlike any other state in the world, Israel currently defines itself as the state of Jews worldwide rather than the country of all its citizens, including approximately 25 percent who are non-Jews, mainly Palestinians. By law, Israel has institutionalized privilege of Jews over non-Jews. Like South Africa and Jim Crow US, this is institutionalized racism or apartheid under the UN’s 1973 International Convention.

Within the OPT, documentation of apartheid including separate laws and roads for Jewish-Israeli colonists and the non-Jewish/Palestinian population of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza. See Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa /HSRC study, 2009

Also the UN Special Report, Human Rights Council Jan. 29, 2007, “Report of the Special Rapporteur” on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, John Dugard. (

But Israel’s apartheid regime within Israel against its non-Jewish citizens is also documented:

The 2011 [Bertrand] Russell Tribunal on Palestine, which includes a list of Israeli Laws and legislation giving exclusive land and citizenship rights to Jewish-Israelis over non-Jewish citizens:

“The Tribunal finds that Israel subjects the Palestinian people to an institutionalized regime of domination amounting to apartheid as defined under international law. This discriminatory regime manifests in varying intensity and forms against different categories of Palestinians depending on their location. The Palestinians living under colonial military rule in the Occupied Palestinian Territory are subject to a particularly aggravated form of apartheid. Palestinian citizens of Israel, while entitled to vote, are not part of the Jewish nation as defined by Israeli law and are therefore excluded from the benefits of Jewish nationality and subject to systematic discrimination across the broad spectrum of recognized human rights. Irrespective of such differences, the Tribunal concludes that Israel’s rule over the Palestinian people, wherever they reside, collectively amounts to a single integrated regime of apartheid.”


List of endorsers of the Tribunal’s findings, include the Center for Constitutional Rights, Jewish Voice for Peace, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and others []

See also the March 9, 2012, report by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) [] CERD are legal specialists who monitor the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which states that any doctrine of superiority based on racial differentiation is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous. Article 3 of CERD includes and condemns apartheid.

An especially significant area of apartheid is the exclusive use of state land by Jewish Israelis. As a consequence of the laws referred to above, non-Jewish Israelis—”non-nationals”—who had succeeded in remaining in their native land, were dispossessed of their property at Israel’s founding in 1948, internally displaced and excluded by law from leasing, purchasing, building, or farming 93 percent of the land of Israel within the Green Line—land that is regarded by Israel as the inalienable patrimony of the Jewish people wherever they live, and is owned by the Jewish National Fund and the state and regulated by the Israel Land Authority. Jewish-Israeli anthropologist Uri Davis describes the process by which these quasi-governmental agencies maintain Israel’s discriminatory land polities. (Apartheid Israel, p. 48):

“In other words, in the critical areas of immigration, settlement and land development the Israeli sovereign, the Knesset, which is formally accountable to all its citizens, Jews and non-Jews alike, has formulated and passed legislation ceding state sovereignty (including taxation) and entered into Covenants vesting its responsibilities with organization such as the WZO [World Zionist Organization], the JA [Jewish Agency], and the JNF [Jewish National Fund], which are constitutionally committed to serving and promoting the interests of Jews and Jews alone. It is through this procedure of legal duplicity, the ceding of state sovereignty and vesting its responsibilities . . . with Zionist organizations constitutionally committed to the exclusive principle of ‘only for Jews’, that legal apartheid is regulated in Israel. It is through this mechanism of legal duplicity that the State of Israel has successfully veiled the reality of Zionist apartheid in the guise of legal democracy since the establishment of the State of Israel to date.”

Such land control mechanisms perpetuate a legally enforced system of territorial separation, by which Palestinian-Israelis (20+ percent of the population) now own only 3 percent of the land. This situation is actually worse than apartheid South Africa’s policy of “influx control” restricting the residence and land available to black South Africans citizens—13 percent—while the remaining 87 percent was reserved for “white South Africa.”

Similarly, U.S. Prof. Virginia Tilley, author of “The One-State Solution,”answers the following question in detail: “Is Israel really an apartheid state? YES.” Cape Town February 2011

Analysis in this summary draws partly from the full study:Virginia Tilley, ed. “Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid? A Reassessment of Israeli Policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories under International Law (Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa, Cape Town,” 2009). []

Finally, as someone who knew South African apartheid intimately, Desmond Tutu described Israel an apartheid state while urging the U.S. Presbyterian Church to pass its divestment resolution (which they did in June), “Desmond Tutu: U.S. Christians must recognize Israel as apartheid state”: Ha’aretz, June 17, 2014 []

In sum, Israel’s institutionalized racist policies toward non-Jews, meet the criteria of the “crime of apartheid,” which are described in Article II, International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (1973) []:

“For the purpose of the present Convention, the term ‘the crime of apartheid,’ which shall include similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination as practiced in southern Africa, shall apply to the following 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:

(c) Any legislative measures and other measures calculated to prevent a racial group or groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country and the deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of such a group or groups . . .

(d) Any measures, including legislative measures, designed to divide the population along racial lines by the creation of separate reserves and ghettos for the members of a racial group or groups, the prohibition of mixed marriages among members of various racial groups, the expropriation of landed property belonging to a racial group or groups or to members thereof;”

For a side-by-side comparison of the convention’s definition of “apartheid” with examples of Israel’s human rights record within Israel as well as in the Occupied Territories, see report by Israeli Uri Strauss, “Defining Apartheid: Israel’s Record” []

I acknowledge that for Mr. Wilkins and Mr. Kilchevsky it may be difficult to accept that Jews, who have historically suffered so much, could identify with their aggressors and recreate such suffering for another people, the Palestinians, in a Zionist Israel and OPT. But ethnocracy and colonialism are anachronistic in the 21st century. Try as Israel might, no country or population is purely one thing. Israel-Palestine is and always has been multicultural; the attachment of both peoples to the land is fierce and unyielding. One Democratic State would reflect those realities and necessitate the transformation of currently racist laws into equality before the law for everyone. It offers the best potential for a sustainable peace.

Jewish-Israeli classicist Aharon Shabtai expresses this reality and vision poignantly:

For we belong to a single body –

Arabs and Jews

Tel Aviv and Tulkarem,

Haifa and Ramallah –

What are they

If not a single pair of shoulders,

Twin breasts?

(Our Land by Israeli poet Aharon Shabtai in J’Accuse, 2001)

Justine McCabe, Ph.D., lives in New Milford.