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Advocacy group B’Tselem calls Israel apartheid regime for first time

Israeli forces fire tear gas to disperse Palestinian protesters during a demonstration against Israeli settlements in the village of Deir Jarir near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, on January 8, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

An Israeli advocacy group says Israel is not a democracy but an “apartheid regime” that systematically oppresses the Palestinians via military occupation and racist laws.

In a position paper published on Tuesday, B’Tselem, for the first time in its 31-year history, called Israel an apartheid regime — which is a crime under international law — for using “laws, practices and organized violence to cement the supremacy of one group over another.”

It said, “Israeli apartheid, which promotes the supremacy of Jews over Palestinians, was not born in one day or of a single speech. It is a process that has gradually grown more institutionalized and explicit, with mechanisms introduced over time in law and practice to promote Jewish supremacy,”

“These accumulated measures, their pervasiveness in legislation and political practice, and the public and judicial support they receive – all form the basis for our conclusion that the bar for labeling the Israeli regime as apartheid has been met,” it added.

Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds during the Six-Day War in 1967. It later annexed East Jerusalem al-Quds in a move not recognized by the international community.

Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.

But Israel’s aggressive settlement expansion and annexation plans have dealt a serious blow to any prospects of peace.

The Gaza Strip has also been under an inhumane Israeli land, air and sea siege since 2007 and witnessed three wars since 2008.

Elsewhere in its report, dubbed “A regime of Jewish supremacy exists from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean Sea. This is apartheid,” B’Tselem rejected the assumption that Israel operates two separate systems of rule concurrently, a democracy within the occupied territory and a military grip over the Palestinians.

“The 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. All this leads to the conclusion that these are not two parallel regimes that simply happen to uphold the same principle. There is one regime governing the entire area and the people living in it, based on a single organizing principle,” it said.

The rights group further said Israel was creating a system over all the occupied lands in which Jewish citizens have full rights while Palestinians are divided into four tiers with various levels of rights, but always below the Jews.

At the lowest end is the roughly 2 million Palestinians in Gaza, where the Israeli blockade gives the regime “effective control.”

Above them, is the roughly 2.7 million Palestinian “subjects” in the West Bank, who live in “dozens of disconnected enclaves, under rigid military rule and without political rights.”

Next on its hierarchy are the roughly 350,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem al-Quds. They are offered Israeli citizenship, although many have refused on principle and for those that try, the process has a high rejection rate.

The highest tier is Arab-Israelis, who have full citizenship, but are also kept below Jewish citizens.

“Israel is not a democracy that has a temporary occupation attached to it; it is one regime from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, and we must look at the full picture and see it for what it is: apartheid,” B’Tselem executive director Hagai El-Ad said.

“The fundamental tenets of Israel’s regime, although already implemented for many years, have recently grown more explicit,” he added.

He also condemned the controversial “nation-state” law that was passed by the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) in 2018, saying the legislation “took the existing discrimination against Palestinians and turned it into an open constitutional principle.”

The law permits institutionalized discrimination in favor of Jews in settlement, housing, land development, citizenship, language and culture, according to B’Tselem.

The rights group further explained that Israel has, over the past years, used the occupied land to build hundreds of communities for Jewish citizens – yet not a single one for Palestinian citizens.

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