Ilan Baruch and Alon Liel were once Israeli diplomats. They both served as ambassadors to South Africa. And now, they’ve penned an article in South African outlet GroundUp stressing that the apartheid they witnessed as ambassadors several decades ago is also existent in occupied Palestine.
Apartheid South Africa as “inspiration” for Israel
The former diplomats write that the “experience and understanding” they gained as ambassadors in South Africa “helped us to understand the reality at home”. They then insist:
For over half a century, Israel has ruled over the occupied Palestinian territories with a two-tiered legal system, in which, within the same tract of land in the West Bank, Israeli settlers live under Israeli civil law while Palestinians live under military law. The system is one of inherent inequality.
They also mention an anecdote about former Israeli leader Ariel Sharon. During a 1980s visit to South Africa, Sharon apparently “expressed great interest in South Africa’s bantustan project”. And as Baruch and Liel stress:
Even a cursory look at the map of the West Bank leaves little doubt regarding where Sharon received his inspiration.
The bantustans of South Africa under the apartheid regime and the map of the occupied Palestinian territories today are predicated on the same idea of concentrating the “undesirable” population in as small an area as possible, in a series of non-contiguous enclaves. By gradually driving these populations from their land and concentrating them into dense and fractured pockets, both South Africa then and Israel today worked to thwart political autonomy and true democracy.
Israel imposes the same systematic discrimination against Palestinians
A South African diplomat insisted in 2018 that “Israel is the only state in the world that can be called an apartheid state”. And in January 2021, Israeli human rights group B’Tselem also used the word apartheid to describe the occupation. It stressed that:
The Israeli regime enacts in all the territory it [controls] (Israeli sovereign territory, East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip) an apartheid regime.
Then, in April 2021, a Human Rights Watch report reached the same conclusion. It said “Israeli authorities are committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution”.
Baruch and Liel agree. They conclude:
Israel is the sole sovereign power that operates in this land, and it systematically discriminates on the basis of nationality and ethnicity. Such a reality is, as we saw ourselves, apartheid. It is time for the world to recognize that what we saw in South Africa decades ago is happening in the occupied Palestinian territories too.
And they finish with a call to act, saying:
it is time for the world to take decisive diplomatic action