Israel's apartheid state laws acknowledged

July 12, 2008

The latest extension to racist citizenship laws has turned Israel into an apartheid state, according to a June 29 report in Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

The Citizenship Law (Temporary Order), introduced in 2003, establishes that the interior minister does not have the authority to approve residence in Israel for non-Jews. This destroys the rights for young Israeli and West Bank Palestinians, under 25 for women and 35 for men, to be able to marry and live together. The ban also covers Palestinians of all ages residing in Gaza.

The law was extended for the eighth time since 2003. In 2006, five judges in the High Court of Justice argued that the laws were unconstitutional. This bold move was opposed in a deciding vote by Justice Edmond Levy, who argued on the basis that the law was only two months from expiration.

Two years on, however, the laws still exist.

The decision from the Israeli government has been flanked by claims that it was purely for security purposes. The Haaretz report explains that the administration's rationale for the laws relied on a belief that through implementing further citizenship laws, they could prevent "terrorists" being "planted" in the Israeli territory via marriage.

Haaretz journalist, Amos Schocken, argued in the June 29 report, entitled "Citizenship law makes Israel an apartheid state", that, with the laws extension, the apartheid nature of the Israeli state needed to be acknowledged.

"The claim that there are characteristics of an apartheid state in Israel is widely heard in the Western world", Schocken wrote. "The word apartheid is catchy and understood in many parts of the world, which makes it useful to send a message that we resent and which we claim has no connection with reality in Israel.

"However, we do not need to replicate exactly the characteristics of South African apartheid within discriminatory practices in civil rights in Israel in order to call Israel an apartheid state. The amendment to the Citizenship Law is exactly such a practice, and it is best that we not try to evade the truth: Its existence in our law books turns Israel into an apartheid state."

The citizenship law's extension comes on the back of a 2007 report submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council that described Israel as an apartheid state. Its release caused great controversy as its author, John Dugard, was both a South African lawyer and the UN's special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The report stated that "It is difficult to resist the conclusion that many of Israel's laws and practices violate the 1966 Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination". The report highlighted the way that the house and building demolitions, checkpoints, closed zones, Israeli "settler-only" roads and limited access to basic necessities in the occupied Palestinian territories has destroyed the "right to life" for Palestinians.

The extension to the latest round of apartheid laws has been followed by the US Congress approving a US$170 million extension in military aid to Israel, with $30 billion to be given over the next decade. It was a decision condemned by a July 2 Palestine Monitor report, which argues that in continuing to fund Israel, the US is violating its own international aid laws, which state "No assistance [ought to be given] to countries that violate human rights".

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