16 January 2021   2 comments

One of the leading Human Rights organizations in Israel, B’Tselem, has characterized Israel as an apartheid regime in terms of its treatment of Palestinians. The term refers to the institutionalized system of racial segregation in South Africa from 1948 to the 1990s. The system was universally condemned by most states when it was in force. The use of the term to describe Israeli conduct is highly provocative, and Hagai El-Ad, the director of B’Tselem defended the use of the word in an interview with The Week:

“In a recent report, B’Tselem, one of Israel’s leading human rights organizations, says that while Palestinians live under different forms of Israeli control in the occupied West Bank, blockaded Gaza, annexed east Jerusalem and within Israel itself, they have fewer rights than Jews in the entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

“’We have decided to use this word because it is the correct term to describe the reality between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea and the entire area that is under Israel’s control,’ said Hagai El-Ad, executive director of B’Tselem.

“’There are no two regimes between the river and the sea. The perception that Israel is somehow a democracy on one side of the green line to which a temporary occupation project is attached on the other side of the Green Line, that perception has become completely untethered from reality,’ El-Ad added.”

The B’Tselem report outlines specific areas which it believes justifies the use of the term: Immigration for Jews only; Taking over land for Jews while crowding Palestinians in enclaves; Restriction of Palestinians’ freedom of movement; and Denial of Palestinians’ right to political participation. The report also marks 2018 as the year in which the discrimination against Palestinians became institutionalized:

“Recent years have seen a rise in the motivation and willingness of Israeli officials and institutions to enshrine Jewish supremacy in law and openly state their intentions. The enactment of Basic Law: Israel – the Nation State of the Jewish People and the declared plan to formally annex parts of the West Bank have shattered the façade Israel worked for years to maintain.

“The Nation State basic law, enacted in 2018, enshrines the Jewish people’s right to self-determination to the exclusion of all others. It establishes that distinguishing Jews in Israel (and throughout the world) from non-Jews is fundamental and legitimate. Based on this distinction, the law permits institutionalized discrimination in favor of Jews in settlement, housing, land development, citizenship, language and culture. It is true that the Israeli regime largely followed these principles before. Yet Jewish supremacy has now been enshrined in basic law, making it a binding constitutional principle – unlike ordinary law or practices by authorities, which can be challenged. This signals to all state institutions that they not only can, but must, promote Jewish supremacy in the entire area under Israeli control.

“Israel’s plan to formally annex parts of the West Bank also bridges the gap between the official status of the Occupied Territories, which is accompanied by empty rhetoric about negotiation of its future, and the fact that Israel actually annexed most of the West Bank long ago. Israel did not follow through on its declarations of formal annexation after July 2020, and various officials have released contradicting statements regarding the plan since. Regardless of how and when Israel advances formal annexation of one kind or another, its intention to achieve permanent control over the entire area has already been openly declared by the state’s highest officials.”

The practical effect of the different treatment of Palestinians is obvious when looking at the vaccinations against COVID-19. Israel far exceeds other countries in its successful vaccinations in Israel, but has not extended that system to the Occupied Territories. The Middle East Eye points out:

“However, the same responsibility of the State of Israel  does not appear to apply to Palestinians in areas it occupies.  Edelstein [Health Minister Yuli Edelstein] calls them instead ‘neighbours’ who should really learn to take care of themselves.

“Edelstein, told Sky News on Monday: ‘I think that we’ve been helping our Palestinian neighbours from the very early stages of this crisis, including medical equipment, including medicine, including advice, including supplies.

“‘I don’t think that there’s anyone in this country, whatever his or her views might be, that can imagine that I would be taking a vaccine from the Israeli citizen and, with all the goodwill, give it to our neighbours.’

“The use of the word “neighbour” to describe Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and in Jerusalem is a legal nonsense. To establish this, I turned to Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC, one of the UK’s legal experts on human rights. Bindman has examined the international legal implications of Israel’s responsibility to provide Palestinians under its occupation with the Covid-19 vaccine.”

“He said they were obliged to do so under Article 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that Israel as an occupying power must ensure ‘the adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics’.”

This abdication of responsibility is reprehensible. Either the Israelis control the lives of Palestinians or they do not. If not, then the Palestinians deserve their own state so that they can discharge the obligations of sovereignty to the people that live on their territory. If the Israelis do control the Palestinians, then they have to discharge those obligations to the people that live within their control.

Posted January 16, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

2 responses to “16 January 2021

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  1. I wish you’d look at the Oslo Accords treaty which is the internationally guaranteed governing agreement and the Palestine Authority. It explicitly says that the PA is responsible for the health of Palestinians under its jurisdiction. Vaccination is explicitly included. The PA has refused any offer of vaccine from the hated Israelis. Read Alan Baker who was Israel’s chief negotiator of the Oslo treaty. And take B’Tsalem with a glass of Dead Sea water. as most present Israelis do.


    • You are correct that the Oslo Accords placed the responsibility for vaccinations on the Palestinian Authority. The Oslo Accords also specified that a peace agreement would be signed 5 years after the Accords were signed. In fact, there are a lot of specifics in the Accords that were never honored. The Oslo Accords have become (unfortunately) irrelevant to today’s circumstances.
      I was not aware that Israel had offered vaccines to the PA. I would appreciate it if you could send me the references to this fact.
      Virtually every source I have read suggests that, outside of East Jerusalem which Israel claims to have annexed, fewer than 100 Palestinians have been vaccinated (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/01/15/israels-vaccine-efforts-are-incomplete-until-they-include-palestinians/)
      As long as the power of the Palestinian Authority is subordinate to Israeli military control, the West Bank remains Occupied Territory. Israel must honor the requirements of an Occupying Power as specified by the Fourth Geneva Convention. B’Tselem is but one human rights organization that shares this understanding of that pact.


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