During the past two decades, many respected individuals and organizations designated the regime Israel has established in the occupied Palestinian territory—the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza—as a form of apartheid. A small subset of these individuals and organizations designated the regime Israel presided over in the whole of “historic Palestine”—i.e., from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea—as apartheid.
This writer for a long time hesitated to go beyond the broad consensus that designated the oPt an apartheid regime while leaving open the proper legal description of the regime inside the Green Line. However, while researching a lengthy legal appendix to “Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom,” this writer was persuaded that the entire area from the “river to the sea” should be denoted an apartheid regime. The basis of this conclusion was simple and straightforward: A) the defining feature of an occupation under international law is that it is temporary; if it is not temporary, then it constitutes an illegal annexation; B) after more than a half-century of Israeli “occupation,” and after repeated declarations by the Israeli government that it didn’t intend to withdraw from the oPt in conformity with international law, the only reasonable inference was that the oPt had been de facto annexed, regardless of the formal legal label Israel attached to them; C) Israel “from the river to the sea” thus constituted a single entity; if the presiding regime disenfranchised or severely qualified the citizenship rights of its non-Jewish population, then it constituted an apartheid regime.
The respected Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem, has now officially reached this conclusion: “[T]he entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River is organized under a single principle: advancing and cementing the supremacy of one group—Jews—over another—Palestinians”; “A regime that uses laws, practices and organized violence to cement the supremacy of one group over another is an apartheid regime.”
The B’Tselem position paper focuses on four aspects of Israeli apartheid. Two aspects—Jewish-only immigration and Jewish-only land development—operate in the whole of this Jewish supremacist state, and two aspects—blockages to freedom of movement and to political participation—are qualitatively more pronounced in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.
It is this writer’s opinion, however, that, repellent as are these features of the Israeli regime, the aspect that most manifests its Jewish supremacist character is the worthlessness it attaches to Palestinian life. As B’Tselem and other major human rights organizations have documented on literally a daily basis, Palestinians are routinely murdered with impunity by private Israeli citizens, civil police, and military personnel. These murders evoke no interest, let alone protest, from the Israeli-Jewish public.