Palestinians still defying apartheid

July 29, 2018
Gazans protest for the right to return to their lands.

As Israel passes legislation that reinforces its apartheid system against non-Jews, Palestinians across the West Bank and Gaza, bearing the brunt of Israel’s plethora of discriminatory laws and practice, continue to resist, writes Lisa Gleeson.

Dozens of already existing laws entrench Palestinians’ place as second-class citizens, either within the official borders of Israel or the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza.

According to Palestinian Liberation Organisation secretary-general Saeb Erekat, the de-facto apartheid of the past 70 years has become de jure apartheid across all of historical Palestine.

Palestinians living under apartheid have very limited means with which to fight back against the growing illegal settlements that take ever-more land and resources, or the Israeli Defence Force that brutally upholds apartheid.

Israel’s problem in countering the reality of apartheid is that it is hard to claim that things such as rights, freedoms and self determination are the exclusive domain of one class of special people, and then convince the world your country is democratic and respectful of all the people that live there.

In this context, support for the boycott, sanctions and divestment (BDS) campaign targeting Israel is gathering strength. An unprecedented joint statement supporting BDS was issued on July 18 by dozens of Jewish groups from 15 countries.

Activists and supporters of the BDS movement have taken inspiration from the boycott and sanctions campaign undertaken in the 1980s that helped end apartheid in South Africa.

Meanwhile, life continues for Palestinians, as Gazans continue their weekly marches to the fence with Israel, even as Israeli bullets and bombing raids hit the besieged territory.

A deal brokered by Egypt between Israel and the Hamas-led Gazan authorities appears to be holding and limited supplies of gas and fuel are allowed into Gaza. Yet bombing raids could restart at any time.

Israel expresses outrage when burning kites fly over the border it enforces against Gaza, yet Israeli soldiers regularly breach the border in the name of Israeli “security”. This means it is likely a case of “when” not “if” Israeli bombings resume.

Each Friday, ordinary Gazans — students, workers, men, women and children — go as close to the border fence as they can. The list of Palestinian casualties due to Israeli retaliation for this gross offence is growing. On July 19, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs listed 152 deaths and 16,499 injuries after 18 weeks of continues protests that began on March 30.

Palestinians are protesting for the right to return to homes from which they were expelled. The aftermath of the nation-state law will likely ramp up the theft of Palestinian land in strategic areas as part of the ongoing annexation of what remains of Palestine.

The on again/off again demolition of the West Bank village of Khan Al-Amar is a case in point. The village’s school, which serves five outlying Bedouin communities as well as locals, has brought the start of the school year forward by six weeks in a bid to protect it. So far Israel has acted with impunity in arresting and assaulting Khan Al-Amar villagers.

The village, sitting in a strategic location as part of a corridor linking illegal settlements to Jerusalem stands for now. But it is scheduled for demolition on August 15.

A de-escalation of hostilities and the limited movement of goods into Gaza is positive. But Israel is using the pause in its bombardment to seek to convince Gazans to reject Hamas. Israeli defence minister Avigdor Liberman has sought to convince starving, destitute Gazans living in bombed out shells of houses that their economic problems will be solved if only they’d give up on Hamas. He even claimed the mass refugee camp that is Gaza could become “the Singapore of the Middle East” with his and Israel’s help.

Israel is like a torturer who tells their victim their pain will end as soon as they give the torturer whatever they like. The response of Palestinians is to continue resisting.

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