South Africa Model Needed to End Israeli Apartheid

The media frenzy surrounding the Palestinian application for UN statehood clouds a simple fact: whichever way the vote goes, Israel wins.

Even the Palestinian Authority (PA) admits that the granting of statehood status at the UN would not change conditions on the ground. It would do nothing to address the 500,000 illegal Israeli settlers in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, nor would it dismantle the apartheid structure of the occupation. What it would do, perhaps, is increase Palestinians’ access to international legal institutions in which they can attempt to prosecute Israel for crimes.

In fact, this point is what worries Israel the most: were Palestine to become a member state it may be in a better position to legally challenge Israel. However, Israel has already been prosecuted by various organs on many occasions and found guilty, but the rulings against it have never been enforced. A case in point is the ruling by the International Court of Justice that the Apartheid wall built by Israel around the West Bank is illegal – a ruling completely ignored by Israel.

Since 1948 the US has vetoed a total of 41 resolutions at the UN General Assembly and the Security Council in defense of Israel. It is doubtful that this would change if the PA became a UN member state with observer status. Witness Obama’s appalling speech to the UN on 22 September 2011. He failed hopelessly to acknowledge the Palestinians suffering, concentrating almost exclusively on the alleged plight of Israelis. As Hanan Ashrawi noted; "I couldn't believe what I heard. It sounded as though the Palestinians were the ones occupying Israel.”

For anyone who doubted Obama’s intentions his speech totally exposes the role of the US as a biased player in the Middle East.

The other problem that the Palestinian bid presents is that it is being brought by someone who does not have a democratic mandate from the Palestinian people and whose PA regularly suppresses demonstrations for equality and democracy. He is effectively a lame duck President with no mandate, who, according to Robert Fisk, once wrote a 600 page book on Palestine without once mentioning the word ‘occupation’.

Let us consider the two possible outcomes of the UN vote:

If the UN votes against a Palestinian state...

The diplomatic deadlock continues. Illegal settlement building on Palestinian land continues, some 8000 Palestinian POWs remain in Israeli jails, the military occupation would remain in place, the siege of Gaza continues and Israel would continue to find excuses to delay negotiations.

If the UN votes in favour of a Palestinian state:

• The PLO would be replaced by the PA as the representative of the Palestinian people at the UN. Since the PA represents only 2 million Palestinians in the West Bank, the remaining 10 million Palestinians (those living inside Israel, in Gaza and in the diaspora), would cease to be represented in the UN. This is in Israel’s interest and is the reason that right wing Israelis are tacitly supporting the PA application for statehood.

• Legal experts have warned that such a move could abrogate the Palestinians' right of return and forfeit the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel who face discrimination in the Israeli state. Israel would very likely try to force the transfer of Palestinians from Israel into the newly created bantustan-style Palestinian state.

• Israel would maintain its settlements in the West Bank thereby making the new Palestinian state resemble a collection of islands separated by Jewish-only roads rather than an entity resembling a normal country. The Gaza siege would remain unaddressed.

Human Rights before a state

The IAWM expresses total solidarity with the plight of the Palestinian people and their struggle for justice and human rights. We believe that the only way to avoid both of the negative outcomes noted above is if Israel is isolated as Apartheid South Africa was. More important than the declaration of a state is a declaration by the world that Palestinians have equal rights as Israelis or anybody else. Before the two parties can sit down and negotiate a settlement, Israel must recognize that Palestinians are equal human beings. It should stop expelling them from their homes on spurious grounds that they lack “legal building permits”, it should allow them equal access to water with Israelis, it should allow them the same freedom of movement both within, and in and out of, their country and it should stop bombing them with F16s (over 2200 Palestinians have been killed by Israel in the last two years (Ref. B’tselem).

Since Israel (and the US) are not about to confer these inalienable human rights onto the Palestinians any time soon, it is up to the citizens of the world to demand those rights. The only way Israel will budge is by being isolated, as Apartheid South Africa was. The global movement for a campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law promises the best chance for changing the obscene imbalance of rights. People under military occupation have a right to resist; boycott is a non-violent method of resistance. For anyone interested in seeing a resolution to the Israel/Palestine question, please check out: http://bdsmovement.org/.