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

France must condemn Israel for the apartheid regime it leads against the Palestinian people: this is what thirty representatives of the New People’s Ecological and Social Union (Nupes), mostly Communists, including Jean-Paul Lecoq, did. Fabien Roussel, David Guiraud, Thomas Portes, Aurélien Taché. Their motion for resolution n°143 on July 13, 2022 has no chance of passing the National Assembly. But this caused chaos, as we will see on Tuesday August 2.

Did not the political leaders of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin or Ehud Barak themselves express the fear that if the “peace process” fails, Israel will be subjected to such a regime? And for two years, many reports from Israeli NGOs (B’Tselem), international NGOs (Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International) or the United Nations have subscribed to this qualification.

It is true that Israel’s policy and practice towards the Palestinian population sometimes resembled apartheid in South Africa, which is now gone. But equating the two is simplistic.

A relevant qualification?

Apartheid (literally “separate development” in Afrikaans) is an institutional regime designed to ensure the domination of one racial or ethnic group over another, by first separating the races (residential and social areas activities), then inequality and subjugation (dominated groups deprived of the most basic rights, especially political rights and freedom of movement, and subjected to systematic oppression).

Inspired by an authoritarian and racist ideology, it was established in South Africa from 1948 by the Boers, strict white Calvinists, where many descendants of the French survivors of the repeal of the Edict of Nantes, claiming that they “God’s chosen people”. 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.

To indiscriminately qualify the regimes implemented in these different zones as apartheid is simplistic.

Can the regime established by Israel in the territories under its jurisdiction be defined in this way? Yes, answers Amnesty International. The motion for resolution no. 143, in its part, depends “condemns the establishment of an apartheid regime in Israel against the Palestinian people, in the occupied territories (West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza) and in Israel”.

The statement here is global and without nuance. He did 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 accurately specified Jean-Paul Chagnollaud, professor emeritus of the University and director of the review Confluences Méditerranée, quoted by journalist Charles Enderlin.

In fact, it is discrimination against Palestinian-Arabs in Israel, while their Palestinian brothers in the occupied territories suffer oppression. This distinction is important. In the territory of Israel, it is the relationship between individuals and their State, whose nature will be a “State for the Jews”, that is at stake: the Arab-Palestinians who live there have Israeli nationality and the quality of citizens. ; they have the right to vote and enjoy basic freedoms, but they do not belong to the Jewish nation. In Israel, there are several nations (Jewish, Arab, Druze) that are governed in part by different rules, some of which are discriminatory: it can make one think of an apartheid. “The principle of the constitution adopted in 2018, that “Israel is the nation-state of the Jews” endorses existing discrimination. Even talking about apartheid in Israel would be abusive if this is what happened 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 happened there is reminiscent of the past colonial domination, based on the minor status of the natives, the Palestinians in this case, which is different from the absolute status of the Israelis who live in areas that are expanding, carved from in Palestine. territories, the “settlements”. And then, if we want to be precise, we need to distinguish again between East Jerusalem, whose Palestinian population enjoys the status of “resident” (more advantageous, but dangerous), and the Gaza Strip, which has been blocked since 2007.

Whoever said that apartheid always meant sanctions, and making the link between the two was central to the approach of the French representatives.

The indiscriminate qualification of the regimes implemented in these four different zones as apartheid is simplistic: of course, the discrimination suffered by Palestinian nationals and the oppression to which they are subjected, characteristic of apartheid, can be seen everywhere. But the essence, which establishes the status of those concerned, is blurred: for the Palestinians in Gaza or the West Bank, different development and subjugation, a consequence of the military occupation; for the Palestinians of Haifa, the unequal status of the State of Israel.

On the one hand, a population governed by local authorities with limited powers, such as the Bantustans of South Africa; on the other, a state that discriminates against its citizens, but with much less intensity than that which prevails in South Africa (where, unlike the Palestinians in Israel, blacks, coloreds and Indians do not have the right to national voting). Therefore, if the qualification of apartheid is not baseless, it is not appropriate anywhere, not highlighting the heart of the situations concerned.

An efficient qualification?

Talking about apartheid in Israel is of course intended to shock, to hear the legitimacy of a cause, with the hope of better mobilizing against the violation of human rights resulting from this situation.

Insisting on the criminal nature of apartheid would embarrass the partners of the Jewish state. With a nuance, however: the overly systematic nature of this accusation leads, in fact, to a negative reaction. So the accusation of anti-Zionism – or even, more abusively, of anti-Semitism – is aimed at those who despise Israel, which undermines this criticism.

Who says that apartheid often means sanctions, and making the link between the two is central to the approach of the French deputies, who called on the French authorities to lift the ban on boycotting those product of Israel. If the sanctions were effective in the South African case, why were they not in the Israeli-Palestinian case, they thought.

In fact, it is the recognition of the existence of a Palestinian nation and its state, and not the dismantling of a so-called apartheid regime, that should be sought. However, the continued development of settlements makes the possibility of a “true” Palestinian State less likely, replaced by an insubstantial archipelago of “Palestinian zones” that there are no links between them, remembering then yes, in fact, the dispersion of the “leopard skin. ” of the Bantustans in apartheid South Africa.

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