Apartheid, the word that annoys when applied to the Jewish state

Apartheid, the word that annoys when applied to the Jewish state

France must condemn Israel for the apartheid regime it leads against the Palestinian people: this is what some thirty deputies of the New People’s Ecological and Social Union are asking for (Nudes), mostly communists, including Jean-Paul Lecoq, Fabien Roussel, David Guiraud, Thomas Portes, Aurélien Taché. Their motion for resolution n°143 of July 13, 2022 has no chance of passing the National Assembly. But she makes a stir there, as we have seen Tuesday August 2.

Israeli political leaders, Yitzhak Rabin or Ehud Barak had they not however themselves expressed the fear that in the event of failure of the “peace process”, Israel would be reduced to such a regime? And for the past two years, several reports from Israeli NGOs (B’Tselem), international (Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International) Where United Nations subscribe to this qualification.

It is true that the Politics and Israeli practice with regard to the Palestinian population sometimes resembles South African apartheid, which has now disappeared. But simply equating the two is simplistic.

A relevant qualification?

L’apartheid (literally “separate development” in Afrikaans) is an institutionalized regime intended to ensure the domination of one racial or ethnic group over the others, through the separation of races first of all (places of residence and social activities), inequality and then submission (the dominated groups being deprived of most fundamental rights, especially political rights and freedom of movement, and subjected to systematic oppression).

Inspired by an authoritarian and racist ideology, it was instituted in South Africa from 1948 by the Boers, rigorous white Calvinists, among whom many descendants of French survivors of the revocation of the Edict of Nanteswho said to themselves “chosen people of God”. Under the weight of increasing sanctions, and under American pressure, apartheid was finally dismantled in 1994. It is now considered a crime, punishable by the International Criminal Court.

Indiscriminately qualifying the regimes in force in these different zones as apartheid is simplistic.


Can we thus qualify the regime instituted by Israel in territories under its jurisdiction? Yes, answers Amnesty International. Motion for resolution no. 143, for its part, tends “condemning the establishment of an apartheid regime by Israel against the Palestinian people, both in the occupied territories (West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza) and in Israel”.

The assertion here is global and without nuance. She does not know that the situation is different depending on the territories concerned: “In Israel, Palestinian-Arab Israelis are fighting for equality, Palestinians in the occupied territories are fighting for freedom”very rightly points out Jean-Paul Chagnollaud, Emeritus Professor of Universities and Director of the review Confluences Méditerranée, quoted by journalist Charles Enderlin.

In fact, it is discrimination to which the Palestinian-Arabs of Israel are subjected, while their Palestinian brothers in the occupied territories suffer oppression. This distinction is essential. On the territory of Israel, it is the relationship between individuals and their State, the nature of which is to be a “State for the Jews”, which is at stake: the Arab-Palestinians who live there have Israeli nationality and quality of citizens; they have the right to vote and enjoy the main fundamental freedoms, but they do not belong to the Jewish nation. In Israel, there are several nations (Jewish, Arab, Druze) governed partly by different rules, some of which are discriminatory: this may make one think of apartheid. “The constitutional principle adopted in 2018, that “Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people” endorsed existing discriminations. Yet to speak of apartheid in Israel would be abusive when this is what is happening in the occupied West Bank”judges the Franco-Israeli essayist Marius Schattner.

The West Bank lives under a regime of military occupation, which is a regime of oppression. What happens there is reminiscent of past colonial domination, based on the minor condition of the natives, the Palestinians in this case, contrasting with the full-fledged status of the Israelis living in areas that are expanding more and more , carved out of the Palestinian territories, the “settlements”. And then, if we want to be really precise, we must again distinguish between East Jerusalem, whose Palestinian population enjoys the status of “resident” (more advantageous, but precarious), and the Gaza Strip under blockade since 2007.

Whoever says apartheid often means sanctions, and making the link between the two is at the center of the approach of French deputies.


Indiscriminately qualifying the regimes in force in these four different zones as apartheid is therefore simplistic: of course, one finds everywhere the discrimination suffered by Palestinian nationals and the oppression to which they are subjected, characteristic of apartheid. But the essential, which establishes the status of those concerned, is blurred: for the Palestinians of Gaza or West Bank, the separate development and subjection, consequence of the military occupation; for the Palestinians of Haifa, the inequality of personal status in the State of Israel.

On the one hand, a population administered by local authorities with limited powers, as in the bantustans from South Africa; on the other, a state that discriminates against its citizens, but with a much less intensity than that which prevailed in South Africa (where, unlike the Palestinians of Israel, blacks, coloreds and Indians did not have the right to vote at the national level). Therefore, if the qualification of apartheid is not unfounded, it is not relevant everywhere, not highlighting the heart of the situations concerned.

An efficient qualification?

Talking about apartheid about Israel is of course intended to shock, to make the legitimacy of a cause heard, with the hope of better mobilizing against the violation of human rights which results from this situation.

The insistence on the criminal character of apartheid can embarrass the partners of the Jewish state. With one nuance, however: the excessively systematic character of this accusation leads, in fact, to a negative reaction. Hence the accusation ofanti-zionism – or even, more abusively, of anti-Semitism – addressed to Israel’s despisers, which can weaken this denunciation.

Whoever says apartheid often means sanctions, and making the link between the two is at the center of the approach of French deputies, who are calling on the French authorities to lift the ban on boycott Israeli products. If the sanctions were effective in the case of South Africa, why would they not be in the Israeli-Palestinian case, they think.

In reality, it is the recognition of the existence of a Palestinian nation and its state, and not the dismantling of a supposed apartheid regime, that should be sought. However, the continuous development of the settlements makes less and less probable the possibility of a “real” Palestinian State, replaced by an insubstantial archipelago of “Palestinian zones” without links between them, recalling then yes, indeed, the scattering in “leopard skin” of the Bantustans of South African apartheid.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.