Israeli apartheid checkpoint

A member of the Israeli security forces directs Palestinians queueing at an Israeli checkpoint in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on April 14, 2023.

(Photo: Hazem Bader/AFP via Getty Images)

1,500+ Academics Say Israel's Occupation of Palestine Is Apartheid

"There cannot be democracy for Jews in Israel as long as Palestinians live under a regime of apartheid."

An open letter equating Israel's illegal 56-year occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in Palestine with apartheid has now been signed by more than 1,500 academics in the United Statesd, Israel, and around the world.

In what one professor of Holocaust and genocide studies at Brown University called "a watershed moment," the academics published an open letter entitled "The Elephant in the Room" in which they "call attention to the direct link between Israel's recent attack on the judiciary and itsillegal occupation of millions of Palestinians."

"Palestinian people lack almost all basic rights, including the right to vote and protest," the letter states. "They face constant violence: this year alone, Israeli forces havekilled over 190 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza anddemolished over 590 structures. Settler vigilantes burn, loot, andkillwithimpunity."

"Without equal rights for all, whether in one state, two states, or in some other political framework, there is always a danger of dictatorship," the letter continues. "There cannot be democracy for Jews in Israel as long as Palestinians live under a regime ofapartheid, as Israeli legal experts have described it."

"Indeed," the letter's signatories asserted, "the ultimate purpose of the judicial overhaul is to tighten restrictions on Gaza, deprive Palestinians of equal rights both beyond the Green Line and within it, annex more land, and ethnically cleanse all territories under Israeli rule of their Palestinian population. The problems did not start with the current radical government: Jewish supremacism has been growing for years and was enshrined in law by the 2018 Nation State Law."

The signers are urging Jewish academics and clerics in North America to:

  • Support the Israeli protest movement, yet call on it to embrace equality for Jews and Palestinians within the Green Line and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories;
  • Support human rights organizations which defend Palestinians and provide real-timeinformation on the lived reality of occupation and apartheid;
  • Commit to overhaul educational norms and curricula for Jewish children and youth in order to provide a more honest appraisal of Israel's past and present; and
  • Demand from elected leaders in the United States that they help end the occupation, restrict American military aid from being used in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and end Israeli impunity in the United Nations and other international organizations.

"No more silence," the letter ends. "The time to act is now."

While many Palestinians and individuals ranging from the late South African bishop and human rights campaigner Desmond Tutu to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter to United Nations special rapporteurs have for decades called Israel's policies and actions in Palestine apartheid, major Western human rights organizations—including Human Rights Watch and the Israeli groups Yesh Din and B'Tselem—have only recently begun to do so.

So have prominent Israelis including former Attorney General Michael Ben-Yair, former Deputy Attorney General Yehudit Karp, and former ambassadors to South Africa Alon Liel and Ilan Baruch, as well as a growing number of journalists, artists, veterans, and others.

Last week, Benjamin Pogrund, a South African-born Israeli author who long defended Israel against charges of apartheid, published an opinion piece in Haaretz in which he asserted: "Israel is going where South Africa was 75 years ago. It's like watching the replay of a horror movie."

"I have argued with all my might against the accusation that Israel is an apartheid state: in lectures, newspaper articles, on TV, and in a book," he continued. "However, the accusation is becoming fact... In Israel, I am now witnessing the apartheid with which I grew up."

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