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Israel and Apartheid | Part 2


Pre-req Introduction  |  Part 1 |  Part 2 | Part 3 |  Part 4 

As discussed previously, apartheid refers to a system of discriminatory polices which divide a population along racial lines and give superior treatment to one race over another. The objective of these inhumane laws is to maintain the domination of one race. The system of apartheid implemented by Israel in the Palestinian territories is designed to oppress Palestinian Arabs and give preferential treatment to Israeli Jews. We will now explore the different apartheid policies enforced by Israel (Note: Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) refers to East Jerusalem, West Bank and the Gaza Strip which have been under Israeli occupation since 1967)

Citizenship and Immigration

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Israel’s institutionalized system of discrimination is rooted on being able to classify population along racial lines. It first legally defines who is Jewish and then extends special privileges to Jews over non-Jews. Israel views itself as the state of the ‘Jewish nation’, not an ‘Israeli nation’. It thus distinguishes between citizenship and nationality [1].

Citizenship is granted to those qualifying its requirements; about 1.3 million Palestinians living in Israel proper have citizenship. Jewish nationals (i.e. anyone falling under the legal definition of a Jew) enjoy special privileges which aren’t accessible to ordinary Israeli citizens [2]. These special privileges will be discussed in this article. Israeli Jews are a group unified by law while Palestinian Arabs are sub-divided into citizens, occupied residents and refugees based on their territory[3].

The 1950 Law of Return extends to Jews all over the world an absolute ‘right of return’. Jews from anywhere with no prior ties to Israel can immigrate to it and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT)  [4]. This law is rooted in the idea that Jews were expelled from this land 2000 years ago and should now be able to return home – the cornerstone of the Zionist movement.

On the other hand, the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees who were either expelled or fled during the 1948 and 1967 wars are not allowed to return to their homes. They are granted entry in neither Israel nor the OPT simply because they aren’t Jews [5,a] . This restriction has created the one of the largest refugee crises in the history; today these refugees and their descendants number around 5 million. It is also in clear violation of UN resolutions, international law and the Geneva Conventions which state that everyone has the right to leave and return to one’s country [6].

While Jews are automatically granted Israeli citizenship, Palestinians are not afforded the same privilege and face insurmountable obstacles [7]. Palestinians within Israel proper have to prove they resided in Israel between 1948 to 1952 (i.e. during the worst of fighting) to be eligible [8]. Palestinians in East Jerusalem have to prove their ‘center of life’ is Jerusalem in order to simply retain their so-called permanent residency status [9]. Palestinian refugees living in the OPT have no rights to citizenship while Jewish settlers in the same area do [10].

In addition, in an attempt to close doors to the ‘creeping right of return’, Palestinians in OPT are restricted from reuniting with their spouses and families in Israel; Jewish settlers face no such restrictions [11][12].

Land Ownership: Palestinian Enclaves, Jewish Colonies 

As discussed in the previous post, land distribution based on race is one of the defining features of apartheid. This is most evident in the West Bank which has been fragmented into numerous ethnic cantons or Bantustans. The Palestinian enclaves (Areas A and B) are currently split up into some 131 disconnected Bantustans; these are surrounded by a contiguous region (Area C) under complete Israeli control [13a]. Jewish colonies are currently made up of over 220 settlements; 121 official ones and the remainder being unofficial ‘outposts’ which are built without Israeli approval. Residence and entry in each ethnic enclave is determined by one’s racial identity; Jewish colonists in one area and Palestinians in the other[13]. Settlers have access to all the amenities of a developed nation while most Palestinians live under substandard conditions.

Though they are illegal by international consensus, these colonies have been constantly expanding on land confiscated from Palestinians for four decades now. At present, 43% of the West Bank is taken up by these settlement blocks which are for exclusive Jewish use [14]. Housing, schools, hospitals and recreational facilities in the settlements are inaccessible to non-Jews.  While a Jewish person from any part of the world can move to and lease land in these cantons, Palestinians are barred from the use of their very own land. Continued expansion of the colonist enterprise means little is left of ‘Palestine’; effectively rendering the two-state solution meaningless. In fact, the official map of Israel doesn’t even demarcate the Palestinian territories from its own boundaries; clearly indicating its de facto annexation of the territory.

Given Israel’s constant claim to democracy, some might falsely argue that the settlements are not Jewish-only; rather they are Israeli-only.  One of Israel’s traditional methods to direct national resources exclusively to the state’s Jewish population, without being accused of discrimination, is delegating responsibilities to the non-governmental organizations such as the Jewish Agency (JA), World Zionist Organization (WZO) and the Jewish National Fund (JNF) [16]. The JA, WZO and other parastatal institutions are currently responsible for the planning and establishment of the settlement enterprise [17]. These institutions act as ‘authorized agents’ of the state and solely work to serve interests of the world Jewry; effectively barring even non-Jewish Israeli citizens from their services.

Creation of the monstrous Separation Wall has further annexed 10% of the West Bank into Israel [15]. The Wall is justified as a ‘security fence’; however, Israel has conveniently planted it on the neighbour’s territory – 85%  of it runs through the West Bank.  As a result, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) deemed the barrier illegal. Although it hasn’t segregated the population entirely, the Wall has further divided it – 85% of the the Jewish settlers live on the western side of this Wall [15a].

In addition to all this, Israel also restricts land usage within its own legally recognized territory. The state controls 93 % of the land in Israel and a government agency, the Israel Land Administration (ILA), manages and allocates this land. This land is owned either directly by the state or by quasi-governmental bodies that the state has authorized to develop the land, such as the Development Authority (DA) and the Jewish National Fund (JNF). According to Israel’s Basic Law, state land cannot be sold. The ILA usually leases land to individuals or institutions for periods of 49 or 98 years. [15b]

The JNF owns 13% of this land and has an explicit mandate to develop land for Jewish use only – thus by definition off-limits to Palestinian Arab citizens [15b,c]. The ILA’s Governing Council is comprised of 22 members—12 representing government ministries and 10 representing the JNF, thus giving the JNF a hugely influential role in Israeli land policies and allocation. The ILA lacks any mandate to disburse land in a fair and just fashion. While by law Arab citizens can lease land owned directly by the state and not transferred to the JNF, in practice numerous obstacles limit Arab citizens’ access to land. It is estimated that Arab citizens are blocked from leasing about 80 % of the land controlled by the state. [15b]

Dual Legal Systems

Israel has implemented two systems of law in the Palestinian territories. It applies Israeli civilian law to Jews while indigenous Palestinians are subject to military law. It treats the settlements as de facto extensions of Israel and grants settlers the rights of citizens with democratic protections, despite them living outside Israel on occupied Palestinian land [18] [19].

Being subject to the Israeli judicial system, Jewish settlers enjoy liberties and legal guarantees that are denied to Palestinian defendants in the Occupied Territories charged with the same offense. The authority to arrest an individual, detention period before hearing, the right to an attorney, the protection for defendants, the maximum punishment period, and the release of prisoners before completion of their sentence – all of these differ greatly in the two systems of law, with the Israeli civilian system providing the suspect and defendant with many more protections [20].

Thus, different legal systems are applied to two populations residing in the same area, and the nationality of the individual determines the system and court in which he or she is tried. This situation violates the principle of equality before the law, especially given the disparity between the two systems. It also violates the principle of territoriality, conventional in modern legal approaches, according to which a single system of law must apply to all persons living in the same territory [21].

Next Post: More Apartheid Policies 


 [1] Occupation, Colonialism and Apartheid? Human Sciences Research Council,South Africa, 2009 – pg 161

[2] Ibid, pg 216

 [3]  Russell Tribunals on Palestine – Capetown Session, 2009 . pg 14

 [4]  Acquisition of Israeli Nationality – Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs

 [5]  United Nations Human Rights, Report of the Special Rapporteur,  Richard Falk.  ID A/65/331, August 2010 – pg 6

[5a]  Occupation, Colonialism and Apartheid? Human Sciences Research Council,South Africa, 2009 – pg 213

 [6]  Palestinian Right of ReturnWikipedia

 [7] Occupation, Colonialism and Apartheid? Human Sciences Research Council,South Africa, 2009 – pg 21

 [8]   Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Israel: Citizenship Law, 6 March 2008, ISR102749.E

 [9] Occupation, Colonialism and Apartheid? Human Sciences Research Council,South Africa, 2009 – pg 206

 [10] Ibid, pg 217

 [11]  Forbidden Families: Family Unification and Child Registration inEast Jerusalem. January 2004. B’Tsaleem, Jerusalem.

 [12]  Occupation, Colonialism and Apartheid? Human Sciences Research Council,South Africa, 2009 – pg 211

 [13]  Ibid. – pg 19

[13a]  Forbidden Roads: Israel’s Discriminatory Road Regime in the West Bank, B’Tselem. August 2004- pg 4

 [14]   Separate and Unequal: Israel’s Discriminatory Treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Human Rights Watch, New York 2010 – pg 9

[15] The Humanitarian Impact on Palestinians of Israeli Settlements and other infrastructure in the West Bank.  UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 2007

[15a] Arrested Development: Long Term Impact of the Barrier, B’Tselem. -pg 13. October 2012

[15b] Off the Map, Human Rights Watch, March 2008

[15c]  Israel and the Occupied Territories – International Religious Freedom Report 2005  U.S Department of Sate


 [16]  Land Grab: Israel’s Settlment Policy in the West Bank, B’Tselem, Jerusalem 2002 – pg 21

 [17]  Ibid.

 [18]  United Nations Human Rights, Report of the Special Rapporteur,  Richard Falk.  ID A/67/379 , September 2012 – pg 5

 [20]  Ibid 

 [21]  Ibid


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Waleed Ahmed writes on current affairs and politics for MuslimMatters. He focuses on Muslim minorities, human rights and the Middle-Eastern conflict. Based out of Montreal, he holds a Ph.D. in particle physics from McGill University. Waleed also has a keen interest in studying Arabic and French. He spends his spare time reading, playing basketball and praying for Jon Stewart to run in the next presidential election. contact: waleed dot ahmed at



  1. Pingback: Why Israel is an Apartheid State | Introduction -

  2. Carlos

    November 13, 2012 at 9:19 PM

    Interesting. Thank you for sharing this information. Does anyone know the justifications the Israeli government gives for these policies? Is it just the argument that Jews need a state of their own? If that is the case, what is the meaning of non-Jewish Israeli citizenship?

  3. Waleed Ahmed

    November 14, 2012 at 6:13 PM

    For some policies there is no justification as both Israel and the world knows they are in complete violation of international law. this includes anything relating to the occupation itself, transferring of population to palestinian territories etc. The objective is simply to take over land and ‘judiaze’ it. Other policies are primarily justified using the pretext of security. Israel’s premise is that all Palestinians are a security threat and its okay to subject them to inhuman laws.

    Jew’s already have a State…but Zionists want to expand into the West Bank as well. The laws mentioned are method to maintain superiority of Jews in the West Bank…if they give everyone equal rights, Palestinians will outnumber them. As for non-Jewish Israeli basically refers to minorities within Israel proper who hold citizenship.

  4. HonestEd

    November 14, 2012 at 9:44 PM

    So, based on the viewpoint taken in this article, Israel is wrong because it, as a nation, has decided the qualifications for citizenship and the like.
    Of course, the Muslim countries are nations of equal opportunities and are world leaders in women’s rights and religious freedom. Saudi Arabia, for example, has an open-door policy to Evangelical Christians to buy land and build places of Christian worship? Iran leads the world in welcoming same-sex marriages? Sudan is an example of a country which welcomes Rabbis to publicly light Hanukkah Menorahs in the Town Square?

    …Oh, right…I seem to have confused Islam’s version of world news with what is actually happening!

    • Carlos

      November 14, 2012 at 11:49 PM

      Now, Ed, don’t change the subject. We are talking about Israel here, not Saudi Arabia or Iran or Sudan. Two wrongs do not make a right. Are Israel’s Jewish-favoring policies justified or not? If you think they are justified, you have to explain why they are justified, not just point to other countries that commit injustices, and effectively claim two wrongs make a right.

    • Waleed Ahmed

      November 15, 2012 at 7:39 AM

      Dear ‘HonestEd’, Israel is wrong because it has usurped land from the Palestinians and is implementing apartheid on them. It has illegally occupied the Palestinian territories for over 45 years now. I am not even gonna get started on the other atrocious crimes it has committed; but please don’t draw analogies between issues of domestic racism/ inequality within Muslim countries and Israel’s belligerent occupation.

  5. HonestEd

    November 15, 2012 at 10:21 PM

    Yes, Israel is justified in their policies which favor Jews. Israel is country and they have set up their own policies. Just as some Muslim countries have set up policies which favor men and forbid any tourists to enter if they have an Israeli stamp on their passport.
    We all know Islam wants to wipe Israel off the map and will try anything to do this.
    Each time I have tried to have a conversation with Muslims about WHY they have such hate for Israel, I never get an answer that makes sense. By the logic used by israel-hating Muslims; Jews should hate Germany because of Hilter; Americans should hate Japan because of a bomb in WW2; First Nations people should hate England for the May Flower; etc.
    Somehow, these other groups move on in forgiveness ad live great lives. Muslims who hate Israel have such violent hate in their hearts!
    Is this hate because land which was once, for a time, ruled by Islam is now no longer in Muslim hands?
    Is it because many of the Jewish people who have returned have come from Russia or the USA and are not ‘Middle Eastern’ so-to-speak? If that is the case and, according to your belief, only Middle Easterners should reside there, then the countries in the West (to where many Arabs/Middle Easterners are flocking) should ban them from entering. Fair? An American Jew or a Russian Jew can’t move to Israel; neither can any one from the Middle East live in Europe or North America!

    • AMoreHonestEd

      November 16, 2012 at 10:44 AM

      Hi HonestEd,

      When you mentioned ‘Americans should hate Japan because of A Bomb in WW2’ you immediately lost all credibility. It was America who dropped 2 atomic bombs on 2 cities in Japan when Japan have already sought to surrender. Oh but if you’re talking about the bombing of Pearl Harbour, then yeah. Perhaps that’s the Americans are still cursing the Japanese online decades after America retaliated the military harbour attack by dropping megabombs on civilian cities. That’s the “forgiveness” and “moving on” that you’re talking about, that Muslims supposedly do not have when they’re Currently being bombed, and being displaced out of their own homes, being marginalised, being separated from their families, etc… right?

      When you attempted to draw parallels between legitimate, Middle Eastern countries setting their own laws in their own countries and Israel who are settling Jews in Palestine… hmm nvm. :)

      Peace be upon you :)

    • Waleed Ahmed

      November 16, 2012 at 6:14 PM

      HonestEd, it seems you aren’t familiar with the concept of international borders. Israel is implementing apartheid policies in the Palestinian territories…which it doesn’t own. It’s occupying these territories and oppressing the people in them. It would have still been wrong had Israel been doing this domestically only; but the analogies you keep drawing out are just flat out wrong.

      • robbie

        December 2, 2012 at 11:19 AM

        Never were truer words spoken Honest Ed !!

        You are 100% right, if Jordan had been called Palestine, there may well have been much less trouble in recent times.
        I think, it is also fair to point out, that when Israel was formed in 1948, the borders were affectively opened for a period of time and people were invited to stay or leave.
        These “Palestinians” that decided to leave, thought that their neighbours, such as Jordan would welcome them with open arms.
        But guess what?? None of the neighboring countries wanted to take the problem on!! So much for the brotherly love!!

        Now, considering everyone is moaning about why Israel need to control the borders, the fact that rockets are being fired from within Gaza City, should tell you all why.
        Can you imagine what would happen if these borders were loosened???

        Enough said, I think!!

        I am from England Ed, and we too have a huge Muslim community, but still all this Islamaphobia rubbish !!
        We like yourselves have suffered the fate of terrorist activities in our country!!

        Does the Nation of Islam really think that all of these terrorist organisations and the callous acts they commit do anything for the image of Islam on a worldwide scale????

  6. Carlos

    November 16, 2012 at 7:20 PM

    I am fairly certain that if a legitimate Palestinian government made it clear that its only goal was to have an independent state consisting of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, and made it clear that it would not be that new Palestinian state’s intention to take over any of Israel proper and massacre and/or suppress Israelis, Jews and non-Muslims, 90% of the world and a majority of even the US population would be in support of such a Palestinian state. The problem is that there are people purporting to speak on behalf of the Palestinians who make statements suggesting the destruction of Israel and the death of the Israelis is their true goal.

    • Waleed Ahmed

      November 16, 2012 at 8:02 PM

      The Palestinian leadership has agreed on a two-state solution on 1967 borders…its been a while since that happened. In fact, at the Taba Summit, both sides almost agreed to finalizing the deal. Then Israel backed down. Now, 1967 borders are considered ‘indefensible’ in Israeli circles. Later this month PA will submit another proposal to be considered as a member of the UN…Israel has vowed to block this move by any means necessary. If Israel was committed to a two-state solution, they wouldn’t try to stifle every attempt to achieve it.

  7. HonestEd

    November 21, 2012 at 1:36 PM

    Islamic nations that surround Gaza should welcome in their ‘suffering’ Muslim brothers…but that is not happening, is it? Don’t blame Israel for all your problems.

    The last time I saw pictures from Gaza, we counted all the nice houses. There are poor people in Gaza, yes; but also wealthy people.

    Also…When was Palestine an actual country?

    The point here is Islam wants Israel off the map and the Hamas has a goal to kill Jews.

    Tell Hamas to stop firing into Israel and Israel won’t have to fire back.

    • Robbie

      November 23, 2012 at 12:23 PM

      Very Well said Honest Ed

  8. Waleed Needs To Learn History

    December 1, 2012 at 8:46 PM

    “Very Well said Honest Ed”
    @Robbie. Seconded.

    @Waleed has no response. What Islam doesn’t (and probably will never) understand is that there never was a Palestine and if you insist there was, it’s called Jordan. The British mandate was in charge of the size of Israel and Jordan and the Arabs got Jordan. Probably should’ve called it Palestine – it would have saved many lives. Since you’re concerned about your fellow Palestinians, call up King Abdulla of Jordan and tell him there are Palestinians that need a home.

    I like how you use quotation marks on ‘indefensible’ borders. Yes, Islam wants to eliminate Israel. Everyone knows this, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist, even you understand. If anyone says something bad against Islam it’s called Islamaphobia, but you can come to the USA and spread your racist terrorist views and nobody can say anything. Stop taking advantage of our democracies. Come to preach happiness and love inside Islam, not the terror we all know exists.

    Also, you have to understand.if you lose land in WAR it’s gone. period. Say goodbye to it, sayanara. It would have been smarter not to fight in the first place. The problem with Gaza is every time Israel fights back everyone gets upset, but nobody says anything on a daily basis for each Iranian-backed Hamas rocket! Why don’t you have any articles condemning terrorism in Gaza? Why doesn’t Hamas spend money on shelters, food, education…because they need the money to shoot at Israel.. Simple true logic.

    Homework: Find one flourishing Jewish community in an Islamic country today that hasn’t been tormented? Germany has a flourishing Jewish community in spite of WWII, something Islam can NEVER do unfortunately.

    O, and look up the definition of apartheid. Either you’re using Islam’s Webster dictionary or you need help with the definition.

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