An Apartheid State or the only Democracy in the Middle East? An Empirical Inquiry


This paper argues that Israel’s continuing occupation and military rule of the West Bank since 1967 and its ongoing siege of Gaza since 2007 constitute the International Crime of Apartheid, a Crime against humanity which the State of South Africa practised from 1948 until the 1990s.

Drawing analogical similarities between the South African and Israeli systems of apartheid, this paper refutes claims raised by the  current Israeli government that its continuing occupation of Palestinian territories is necessitated by the need to ensure State security and complies with International law.

It submits that the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories constitutes a gross violation of both international Human Rights law enshrined in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) as well as International Criminal law embodied in the Apartheid Convention 1973 and the Rome Statute 1998. 

Defining the practice of Apartheid 

The Customary law prohibiting the practice of Apartheid is derived from a number of International Conventions, Statutes and judicial decisions of the ICJ and ICC. The practice of Apartheid is analysed by drawing principles from International Human Rights law and International Criminal law, specifically–

the UN International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid 1973 (The Apartheid Convention),

the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination 1965 ICERD,

and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court 1998.

What is Apartheid?  

The practice of apartheid was declared by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to be a Crime against humanity — violating principles of International law and the Charter of the United Nation (Art.1). It’s not difficult to see why.

An Apartheid rule is one in which —-

 practices of racial segregation and discrimination similar to those introduced into South Africa in 1948 are carried out-

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’ (Art 2 of the Apartheid Convention 1973)

This raises the question of whether–

empirically supported  evidence of racial segregation within the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territories) exists; and–

whether such segregation by a racial group in Israel, the Jews, is carried out for the purposes of dominating  and systematically oppressing another racial group – the Palestinians;  

Such an analysis poses the further question of whether the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories are recognized as a distinct racial group.

Recognizing Palestinians as a racial group distinct from Jewish Israelis

Are Palestinians recognized as a distinct racial group defined within the Apartheid Convention?

What has become increasing clear today is that the categorization of racial groups by anthropologists, and other social scientists is perceived to be a sociological rather than a biological question ( Dugard and Reynolds 2013, p.889);

One colored by cultural perceptions, political determinations and national origins.

As Jennifer Jackson Preece notes, the categorization of human beings based on ‘observable hereditary traits such as pigmentation, stature and body shape ….becomes problematic only where these descriptive and essentially arbitrary categories are imbued with political significance’ ( Preece 2005, p.58).

Indeed, the political significance of the lives of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees expelled from their homes during the 1948 Israeli Arab war and their stateless children who continue to live in the OPT  was and continues to be one of denial-

a narrative of denial,  woven disingenuously for more than half a century by the Zionist hasbara (propaganda) in an attempt to erase from the collective conscience of global societies —

any recognition and trace of  the Palestinian People’s indigenous roots, religious, cultural identity and juridical status as nationals of a land on which their ancestors had lived for centuries.

Jamil Khader, Professor of English and Dean of Research at Bethlehem University writing about the senseless Gaza war in 2014 waged by Israel had this to say : 

‘The engineers of Zionist hasbara (the Hebrew word for “propaganda”) pushed back, redoubling their efforts in well-orchestrated PR campaigns–

that tried to reframe their genocidal war with typically hackneyed talking points.

Israeli PR pressure even forced some celebrities, who had posted on Twitter both against the senseless genocide in Gaza and for recognising the humanity of Palestinians, to retract their Twitter posts. 

However, the hasbara apparatus of the Israeli apartheid state failed to concoct myths and rhetorical games creative enough to whitewash their disproportionate use of force and war crimes.” ( AlJAZEERA 2014) 

Edward Said, a professor of Columbia University and Palestinian by birth, described ‘the struggle between Palestinians and Zionism as–

a struggle between a presence and an interpretation, the former constantly appearing to be overpowered and eradicated by the latter.‘ ( Edward Said 1992, p.8) 

Notwithstanding the machinations of the Zionist hasbara, references to ancient Palestine and its people can be found in the writings of ‘geographers, historians, philosophers, and poets who wrote in Arabic from the 8th century on‘  (Edward Said, 1992, p. 10).

From from being  a land without a people ( since ‘there was no such things as Palestinian people’ according to Golda Meir, a former PM of Israel),  awaiting the prophetic fulfilment of the return of the Jewish people —

historical records defy the mythology of Palestinian identity woven by Zionist Hasbara, —

documenting that Palestinian Arabs living on the land at the time colonialist Zionists flocked to Palestine after 1882 made up the large Arab majority (Edward Said, 1992, p. 10) with national origins in Historic Palestine. 

The Palestinian Arabs unique historical, cultural, ethnical and national links to the land of Palestine undoubtedly point to the existence of a racial group recognized by the Apartheid Convention —‘

which makes reference in its preamble to the International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial discrimination (ICERD).  

Art.1(1) of ICERD defines racial discrimination: 

the term ‘racial discrimination’ shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin —

which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.’

Are the Palestinians in the OPT people of a ‘race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin;’ within Art.1(1)?

The renowned expert on International law, Prof Dugard argues that ‘the International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination can be interpreted as —

including descent or national or ethnic origin within the meaning of the term ‘racial’ (Dugard and Reynolds 2013, p.886). 

Notwithstanding attempts made by successive Israeli governments since the 1967 war to erase the Palestinian identity of the Gazans and those in the West Bank by stripping them of their juridical, political and cultural status, Prof. Dugard argues: 

the Palestinian people continue to be  ”defined primarily by national origin, based on family roots in historic Palestine, —

distinguishable from the broader Arab ‘nation’ of which it forms a part by reference to specific local customs and a strong affinity to the common homeland.’

‘Vis-à-vis Jewish Israelis, the Palestinians emerge as a separate group by virtue of ethnic indicators including a distinct language and culture, —

as well as claims to self-determination and indigeneity in territory occupied by Israel.’ ( Dugard and Reynolds 2013, p.890) 

Thus a denial of the Palestinian identity of over 5 million men, women and children —-

is a denial of the very existence of an indigenous, national  group that lived for centuries under the rule of the Ottoman Empire in Palestine…….

An existence of a People even before the arrival of the first Zionists and the birth of the State of Israel in 1948; 

Following this analysis, the Jewish people’s invocation of their historical, cultural and religious ties to the land of Palestine—

fails in every conceivable way to erase the empirical reality of the Palestinian presence in the OPT ;

Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territories (OPT): breaching the prohibitions in Art. II of the 1973 Apartheid Convention

Article II of the 1973 Apartheid Convention reads:

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:

Articles 2(a): denial to a member or members of a racial group or groups of the right to life and liberty of person:

(i) by murder of members of a racial group or groups;

(ii) by the infliction upon the members of a racial group or groups of serious bodily or mental harm

Pivotal to the Apartheid Convention’s proscriptions is proving: 

inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons‘; 

The Israeli military’s decades long brutal domination of the Palestinians in the occupied territories has undoubtedly constituted such inhuman acts,  

acts manifesting themselves as a constant feature of the lived reality experienced by Palestinians since the Six Day War in 1967;

From Area C of the West Bank to the Gaza Strip along the Mediterranean, Israeli Defence Force ( IDF) and its Intelligence agency (Shin Beth) continue to impose draconian policies and military laws

that exists to dominate, oppress, inflict serious injury and kill members of a particular racial group other than the Jewish people- the Palestinians. 

Virginia Tilley notes:

‘Since the occupation began in 1967, thousands of Palestinians in the OPT have been killed by the Israeli military forces.

Over the 24 years from the first intifada in December 1987 and May 2011, such deaths totaled more than 7000.'(Tilley, p. 131) 

Such routinization of Israeli military violence against Palestinians has been far from sporadic;

rather the institutionalization and normalization of daily IDF (Israeli Defence Force) violence inflicted on defenceless Palestinian civilian families is nothing short of an ongoing nightmarish reality for them.

Consider the empirical evidence presented by B’THSELEM, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the occupied territories: 

”Soldiers raiding Palestinians’ homes at the dead of night, waking entire families, including small children and infants, has long since been a fixture in the routine that the occupation regime imposes in the West Bank.

In these raids – which, this time, included the use of violence and intimidation against family members, as well as damage to property –

soldiers are not required to show a search warrant or even provide a reason”(B’TSELEM 6 August 2020) 

 The firsthand testimony of Palestinian victims speaking of deprivation of liberty and infliction of brutal violence at the hands of their Jewish military occupiers—

is meticulously documented by B’TSELEM as evinced in the following case: 

”In a testimony she gave on 1 July 2020, Sanaa Abu Hashhsash, a married mother of five, described that day’s events”:

On Thursday, 25 June 2020, at around 4:00 A.M., I woke up in a fright from banging on the door. My husband went to open it and dozens of soldiers suddenly came in.

One of them, I think he was an officer, ordered us to go into the living room and told the soldiers to search the house. I realized they were looking for my brothers-in-law, Muhammad and Sari, who weren’t home.

My husband, our young daughter Jud (8) and I went into the living room. My sons Adam (19) and Yasin (17) ran out of the house as soon as the soldiers entered. Jud was petrified. It was the first time soldiers raided our home. She cried and held me tight.

After a few minutes, my brother-in-law Ya’qub came into the living room. His nose was broken, and it looked crooked. 

Three soldiers stood at the doorway to the living room, pointing their weapons at us. One of them told us not to move or talk. A few minutes later, the soldiers brought in Ziad, my husband’s brother, and then they brought in my son Mahmoud. Later, Mahmoud told me that soldiers had come into the room he was sleeping in and one of them had kicked him and dragged him by the hair into the living room.

It was one of the hardest experiences I’ve ever had. Not only did they lock me in a room with my little daughter and my brother-in-law, who was half naked, while they kept pointing their weapons at us, —

but I was also worried about Yasin and Adam. I was afraid the soldiers would beat them like they beat Ya’qub, or that they’d been arrested.

They punished me and my family for something we were not involved in, just because we live in the same place.”

Empirically documented evidence such as the above suggests that the Palestinians have been singled out as a racial group by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) for denial of the right to liberty and in some instances life itself

by being imprisoned in what is described as the ‘biggest open air prison in the world’. ( Pappe 2017, p. xxvi)

As Illan Pappe writes:

‘In 1967 the official Israeli navigation between impossible nationalist and colonialist ambition turned a million and a half people into inmates of just such a mega prison . But it was not a prison for a few inmates wrongly or rightly incarcerated:

it was imposed on a society as a whole” ( Pappe 2017, p. xxvi).

Such is the continuing existential reality experienced by over five million Palestinian children, their mothers and fathers today ;

the reality of being victims of a form of collective punishment that singles out the indigenous Palestinians from the Jews for brutal treatment; 

the reality of being trapped in an airless, suffocating cage called the Israeli military occupation that pervades every aspect of their lives from birth to death; 

Amira Hass , the Israeli journalist who had lived in Gaza, writes of such suffering in the besieged coastal enclave: 

‘Violent, unnatural, premature death is unrelenting in the densely populated Gaza Strip.

Last Monday, a 34-year-old woman from Rafah died from wounds she suffered during Israeli shelling in 2014. Her name joins the list of victims of that war:

The physical devastation was rehabilitated, but the psychic traumas and the suffering of the wounded and of the thousands of bereaved families has not been erased, nor has the suffering, bereavement and traumas from earlier Israeli military assaults.” (Haaretz 22 July 2020) 

The near total air, land and sea blockade of close to  2 million Gazans trapped between Rafah in the South bordering Egypt and the Eretz  crossing in the North border with Israel —

is simply unheard of in the post war contemporary world,  

and tantamount to a brutal form of incarceration, a domination of the worst kind, that has cut them off from the rest of the World.

This ghettoization of nearly 2 million Palestinian men, women and children whose essential dietary needs, medications,  clean water supplies, education and other basic rights have been severely curtailed for over 13 years has no parallels today in the post war era.  

The Human Rights Council 2020 Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 was scathing in its condemnation of the Israeli government’s use of collective punishment on civilian Palestinians in the OPT including Gaza

”Collective punishment is an inflamed scar that runs across the entire 53-year-old Israeli occupation of Palestine.”

”Over these years, two million Palestinians in Gaza have endured a comprehensive air, sea and land blockade since 2007, —

several thousand Palestinian homes have been punitively demolished, extended curfews have paralyzed entire towns and regions, —

the bodies of dead Palestinians have been withheld from their families, and critical civilian supplies – including food, water and utilities – have been denied at various times.

Notwithstanding numerous resolutions, reports and reminders critical of its use, Israel continues to rely upon collective punishment as a prominent instrument in its coercive toolbox of population control.’ (Human Rights Council, 15 June–3 July 2020)

Israel’s Domination of the Palestinian People : An Infliction of Collective Punishment in violation of the Geneva Convention 1949

If, as the Israeli government argues, the siege of Gaza by its military is to blamed on Hamas, who Israel officials label as Terrorists, —

why then does the IDF continue to inflict collective punishment on an entire Palestinian race , —

by killing, maiming, besieging the majority of Gaza’s civilians inhabitants, children , infants, mothers and their entire families?

For instance, ‘Operation Protective Edge’ in 2014 witnessed the Israeli defence forces killing over 500 Palestinian children, maiming thousands more without distinguishing between civilians and Hamas operatives…..

The use of such collective punishment on Palestinian civilians by the Israeli military as condemned by Former UN Secretary Generals Kofi
Annan and Ban Ki-Moon (Human Rights Council, 15 June–3 July 2020)—

is clearly incongruous with the practices of democratic States that respect the rule of law and its fundamental maxim espoused by Hugo Grotius,
the 17th century Dutch legal philosopher:

“No one who is innocent of wrong may be punished for the wrong done by another.”

Such an imperative is enshrined in International Humanitarian law, specifically in Article 33 of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, which provides that:

‘No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed.

Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.

Pillage is prohibited. Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.”

And yet, Israel’s military continues to inflict collective punishment on millions of Palestinian civilians including children deemed deserving of such punishment by virtue of their identity or association with the Palestinian community and the leaders including Hamas

Revealing not only gross violations of both International law and fundamental standards of human decency, —

but a visible manifestation of the logic of Collective Punishment-

in the form of a brutal Domination that the Occupying power wields against the Palestinian Race in furthering its Apartheid rule over them. (Human Rights Council, 15 June–3 July 2020)

The Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 explains: 

”The logic of collective punishment has been to project domination in order to subdue a subjugated population through inflicting a steep price for its resistance to alien rule.

Punishment has been imposed on civilian populations for practices ranging from having knowledge of fighters and refugees in the vicinity, to offering passive opposition and noncooperation, and to merely being related to, or neighbours of, resistance fighters.   

Yet, not only are these punitive acts profoundly unjust, they invariably backfire on the military authority, as the 1958 commentary by the ICRC on the Fourth Geneva Convention stated:

Far from achieving the desired effect such practices, by reason of their excessive severity and cruelty, kept alive and strengthened the spirit of resistance.

They strike at guilty and innocent alike.

They are opposed to all principles based on humanity and justice….” (Human Rights Council, 15 June–3 July 2020)

Those of the ideological right may be inclined to respond with incredulity when Hamas or the Islamic Jihad fires rockets from Gaza into Israel or when Palestinian youth fling stones at Israeli soldiers in the West Bank or attempt to break through the Gaza fence……

It’s as if they expect the Palestinians to be thankful, even grateful to their jailors  for imprisoning them in impoverished enclaves for years without access to proper health care and other necessities until they die;

grateful for being tortured in detention facilities run by Shin Beth, Israel’s intelligence agency,  —

stripped of not just national and political rights ordinarily enjoyed by Jewish citizens in Israel, but also of every shred of human dignity, with the bleak prospect of dying in captivity;

Such is the perverse logic of an Apartheid State …….

One can’t help but question whether the oppression of the Palestinians has anything to do with a perception by the Israeli military occupiers and the Hasbara (propagandists) within the Israeli government —

that the more than 5 million Palestinian people in the OPT are an inferior race, —

a race not deserving of their civil rights to liberty, life and security  that the Jewish people Israel are entitled to? 

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu himself reportedly characterized the Palestinians as ‘wild beats’ while touring the construction site of a barrier on Israel’s eastern border.

“At the end, in the State of Israel, as I see it, there will be a fence that spans it all,” said Netanyahu.

“I’ll be told, ‘this is what you want, to protect the villa?’ The answer is yes. Will we surround all of the State of Israel with fences and barriers? The answer is yes.

In the area that we live in, we must defend ourselves against the wild beasts.” ( Haaretz 2016) 

A Temporary Security arrangement or an Apartheid Occupation?

What does one make of the Israeli government’s claim that such military control over the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territories) does not in any way resemble apartheid since they are merely temporary security measures against possible terroristic attacks committed against the Jewish population?

Such arguments that autonomous rule and independence would  eventually be experienced by indigenous groups  echo those raised by the apartheid regime of South Africa when forcibly transporting the Black African population to the Bantustans or Black Homelands ( Tilley 2012, p. 123) 

As Virginia Tilley notes:

”…even the white government of apartheid South Africa could argue that domination was not a goal in itself but a defensive measure ( to preserve white ways of life ) —

and a means towards a mutually beneficial end in which all would enjoy peaceful coexistence”. ( Tilley 2012, p. 123) 

The historical reality of South Africa’s apartheid rule over the Black population had proven to be anything but beneficial to the oppressed population.

This has been true of the Israeli occupation as well over the past 53 years -exploding the myth and meta- narrative that the occupation was temporary.

As Virginia Tilley notes:

“Irrespective of whether it is temporary, domination remains prohibited by the international legal definition of apartheid.

The Apartheid Convention does not specify , and is not concerned with, any long term vision regarding a policy of domination and oppression” ( Tilley 2012, p.123) 

Historical and political parallels may be drawn between South Africa’s colonization of Namibia, for instance, and its apartheid rule over it since 1946 as a Mandatory Power, —

and Israel’s own refusal to recognize the Palestinian People’s right to self- determination in territories seized by Israel during the 1967 war.

International pressure in the form of UN Security Council Resolutions such 264 (1969) condemned South Africa’s presence as well as its establishments of bantustans aimed at autonomous government.’ (Erakat p.225). 

In this respect, Norman Finkelstein contextualizes the origins of both Namibia and Palestine in the Post war Mandate system. Finkelstein argues: 

” a common matrix molded the Namibia and Palestine questions.

Both originated in the post war Mandates system and together the constituted the salient vestiges of that era as the only mandated territories that survived the dissolution of the League of Nations without being converted into UN Trusteeships.”

”The UN General Assembly asserted its authority over both lingering mandates. It passed the Partition Resolution ( 181) in 1947, paving the way to Israel’s creation, and it set out after the 1967 war to complete the unfinished business of creating a reciprocal Palestinian State.

In the case of Namibia, the General Assembly early on rejected South Africa’s bid to annex it, then claimed title to supervise South Africa’s administration of it , then terminated South Africa’s Mandate and declared its occupation illegal, and finally shepherded Namibia to independence.’ ( Finkelstein pp. 390-391) 

Remarkably, while Namibia gained independence from South Africa in 1990, —

more than a half century has lapsed since  the 1967 war and Israel’s perpetuation of its control and planned annexation of the OPT ;

This surreal post war colonial reality remains despite numerous UN Security resolutions and international condemnation over Israel’s continuing occupation of the OPT  in the West Bank and its air, land and sea blockade of Gaza;

An occupation that is premised on the ludicrous claim that Palestinians armed with rocks pose an existential security threat to Israel’s nuclear armed State;

a claim as incredulous as it sounds has convinced countries such as the United States and Australia to support the Israeli government’s plan to annex dunams of Palestinian land within the  OPT —

thereby giving credence to the idea that it was never Israel’s intention to return territories occupied in the 1967 war to the Palestinian People, but to settler colonialize them….

A claim underpinned by evidence of increasing unconditional support from the United States for Israeli exceptionalism,

for its right to self-determination over the OPT rather than demands to withdraw from territories it occupied in the 1967 war.

Rashid Khalidi, Palestinian American Professor at Columbia university,  describes this attitude of the US as ‘a complete transformation of the US stance in 1956 on Israeli control of conquered Arab territory’( Khalidi 2020, p. 104).

Khalidi argues that the ‘result of this new tolerance for territorial gains was Security Council Resolution 242

which ‘linked any Israeli withdrawal to peace treaties with the Arab states and the establishment’ of secure frontiers.’ (Khalidi 2020, p. 104)

Resolution 242 (1967) of 22 November 1967 states:

The Security Council,1. Affirms that the fulfilment of Charter principles requires the establishment of a just and lasting peace

in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:
(i) Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;
(ii) Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force;

The inference one could draw from UNSC Resolution 242  is that:

Israel would not be compelled to withdraw from any illegally occupied territories as required by the Geneva Convention —

until Arab States recognized Israeli sovereignty–

by which time, one may speculate , a transition from a decades long defacto  annexation to the permanency of a de jure annexation of the OPT may no longer be politically inexpedient for Israel. 

Meanwhile, the Israeli government  has refused to  concede a single dunam of land conquered in the 1967 war to the Palestinian People;

Rather, a quid pro quo involved in the ‘normalization’ of international relations between Arab States such as the UAE and Israel is the suspension of applying sovereignty to areas of the West Bank ( Haaretz 13 August 2020)l

Such a state of affairs was recently manifested in the agreement brokered between Trump, Netanyahu and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, crown prince of Abu Dhabi (Haaretz 13 August 2020) without reference to the plight of the Palestinians in the OPT and their right to return to land stolen from them;

Once again we witness the enduring effect of Resolution 242 with Israel essentially maintaining the status quo in the OPT that has persisted for over half a century despite Israel signing a peace treaty previously with also Jordan in 1994.

The predictable outcome of such diplomatic manoeuvrings leaves intact the continuing military occupation of over 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, —

a people stripped of political rights, nationality and human dignity by their rulers 


Analogical Similarities between Israel and Apartheid South Africa’s settler colonial practices

Article II of the 1973 Apartheid Convention defines ‘the Crime of Apartheid’ to include similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination as practiced in south Africa.

An analogical comparison drawn between Israel and Apartheid South Africa’s settler colonial practices reveals the practices of  domination, displacement  and dispossession of their indigenous groups by both States.(Peteet 2016, p.250)

Julia Peetet writes:

‘Israel and South Africa are settler colonial States and societies once supported by imperial Britain constituted by immigrants, and animated by ideologies of separation and exclusivism that resulted in indigenous displacement and dispossession,

Most significantly, both States crafted discontiguous, marginal spaces with forms of limited sovereignty for indigenous populations.’ ( Peteet 2016, p.250)

It should be noted that the racial division and segregation of a population by the expropriation of their land and the ghettoization of their population by a occupier —

is a further manifestation  of the crime of Apartheid according to Article II d) of  1973 Convention:

”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”;

One is also reminded that territorial acquisition of land belonging to indigenous groups by settlers of a particular ethno- religious, national group —

serves as a  defining  feature of settler colonial states such as those of South Africa and Israel. In this respect, Peteet argues:

Both States emerged from wars that resulted in the clearing of large swaths of territory for the exclusive use of White or Jewish settlers;

Access to resources, particularly land , was allocated on the basis of State sanctioned system of racial and/or ethno religious and national classification —

through which rights were distributed and relation to the State was established.”

”As is often the case with settler colonialism, the bulk of the land was appropriated by settlers and or the State ( estimated 87% in both cases)

and native access was subsequently restricted by law and the use of violence.”( Peteet 2016, p.250)

Human rights organizations in Israel argue that the systematic expropriation/ theft and control of over 50% of West Bank land since 1967 was done with the purpose of privileging settlements and creating ‘reserves of land for the future expansion of the settlements. ‘ ( B’Tselem 2017)

B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Centre for human rights in the Occupied territories explains:

”The principal tool used to take control of land is to declare it “state land.” This process began in 1979 and is based on a manipulative implementation of the Ottoman Lands Law of 1858, which applied in the area at the time of occupation.

Other methods employed by Israel to take control of land include seizure for military needs, declaration of land as “abandoned assets,” and the expropriation of land for public needs.

Each of these is based on a different legal foundation. In addition, Israel has assisted private citizens purchasing land on the “free market.” ( B’Tselem 2017)


Some have even questioned whether the Palestinians in the OPT are members of a racial group who are nationals of a State.

It is to be noted, however, that while Palestine was under the British mandate,—

the title ‘Palestinian  was a citizenship and many residents held Palestinian Passports, although Palestine was not then an independent State.’ ( Tilley p.120) .

Far  from being wandering nomads without a land they could call home, ‘Palestinian  national identity is associated with their National origin rather than nationality in the sense of citizenship.’ ( Tilley p. 120)

A national origin in the land of Palestine that predated the influx of Jewish Settlors and the creation of the State of Israel by more than millennia.


Recent Developments 

U.N. Investigator Accuses Israel of Apartheid, Citing Permanence of Occupation – The New York Times (

A_HRC_49_87_AdvanceUneditedVersion.docx (

Video on Apartheid in Israel

Video on the Israeli Occupation in Hebron

Opinion | Ex-I.D.F. Soldiers Share First-Person Accounts in ‘Mission: Hebron’ – The New York Times (

Further Readings 

Apartheid, International Law, and the Occupied Palestinian
Territory, John Dugard and John Reynolds, EJIL (2013), Vol. 24 No. 3, 867–913. 


”Here’s What Happens With the Investigations the Israeli Army Launches When It Kills Innocent Palestinians” Gideon Levy , Alex Levac, Haaretz



Edward W. Said, The Question of Palestine, Vintage Books, New York, 1992. 

Jennifer Jackson Preece, Minority Rights, Polity Press, Cambridge, UK, 2005. 

Apartheid, International Law, and the Occupied Palestinian
Territory, John Dugard* and John Reynolds, EJIL (2013), Vol. 24 No. 3, 867–913. 

Human Rights Council Forty-fourth session 15 June–3 July 2020, ‘Human Rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories’,
Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in
the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.


‘Occupation routine: Soldiers raid two homes in al-Fawwar Refugee Camp, assault family and destroy fuse box in workshop’ , B’TESELEM, 6 August 2020.


‘With Trump’s Help, Israel and the United Arab Emirates Reach Historic Deal to Normalize Relations’, The Haaretz, 13 August 2020.


‘In Gaza, Suicides Are a Political Message’ Haaretz, 22 July 2020.


( B’Tselem 2017)


Virginia Tilley, ‘Beyond Occupation’ , Pluto Press, London, 2012.

Julie Peteet 2016, ‘The Work of Comparison: Israel/Palestine and Apartheid’, Anthropological Quarterly, 89:1, pp. 247-281)

B’Tselem, The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

‘The grand failure of Israeli hasbara’, AlJAZEERA, August 2014.


”Netanyahu’s ‘Wild Beast’ Quote Was Apartheid-speak, Says Chief Palestinian Negotiator”, Haaretz, 11 February 2018. 


Photo by Daian Gan on

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