I recently had the opportunity to participate in an ecumenical programme, which entailed spending a period of 3 months in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT’s) where we served as human rights observers, monitoring and documenting the gross human rights violations which the Palestinians endure under the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.
It was impossible not to take notice of the stark similarities between Israel and Apartheid South Africa. Just as non-whites were oppressed and discriminated against during Apartheid, so too the Palestinians are suffering under the Zionist government of Israel. Group areas, Bantustans, segregated roads, bannings, passbooks, forced removals and home demolitions were all too common in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT’s) and Israel. Coming from a troubled past as a South African, one cannot help but sympathize with the Palestinians who are now in the very similar and even worse position non-whites were during the Apartheid era and much worse according to former Anglican Archbishop, Desmond Tutu.
Over the three month period during which I was station in the OPT’s of the West Bank I witnessed first hand the effects that these discriminatory policies had on a seemingly helpless people, clinging on to the hopes that they will one day be free again, to live free from daily human rights violations which they suffer, which the Western powers prefer to not only ignore but support the oppressive colonial Israeli regime.
In the first month, we visited Silwan, at town just outside of the Old City in Jerusalem right opposite the supposed ‘City of David’. The Israeli government had commenced with excavations and constructions in the Silwan under the pretext that the City of David is an important historical sight and must be preserved at all costs. The Israeli government likes employing the religious story as justification for most of the crimes it commits, which violate international law. These excavations, evictions and home demolitions in the Silwan area are causing great distress to the local Palestinian inhabitants who have lived there for several hundreds of years, thereby forcing them out of their homeland.
The truth is that the Zionist Israeli government is ethnically cleanse the whole of Jerusalem from Palestinians so that they can obtain a Jewish majority and fully claim the holy city as the capital of Israel.
In Khan-al-Akhmar, a Bedouin village, which is situated inside the West Bank, outside of Jerusalem, there was a school made of tyres and mud which has been constantly harassed by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) and settlers from Israeli settlements adjacent to the village. The soldiers are constantly visiting the village, serving demolition orders and intimidating the Bedouin community, leaving the children who are completely innocent too traumatized to even talk,
The Israeli government would answer these accusations with explanation of administrative policies (which are discriminatory towards Palestinians) but the truth is that Israel seeks to expel these Bedouin communities from their lands so that Israel can extend the borders of Greater Jerusalem, which would in effect, cut the whole West Bank in half making a “ two-state solution” impossible.
The Dompas (Pass books) for Palestinians
All Palestinians living under the occupation suffer a great deal and the situation is extreme in Hebron, which is the biggest city in the West Bank.
Detention of minors (for ‘throwing stones’ in most cases), a road where Palestinians are only allowed to walk on and not drive and complex network of checkpoints restricting freedom of movement are issues which spark clashes with the IDF, resulting in deaths and long detentions without trial of hundreds of Palestinians.
In retrospect, one could easily reach the conclusion that Israel’s version of Apartheid is much worse than that of South Africa, because the discrimination is not as blatant as it was in South Africa, but rather it manifests itself in the administrative processes Israel has put in place which force the Palestinians to comply or face abuse from the military.
Without effective international solidarity, Apartheid in South Africa might not have been abolished. Therefore, we owe it to the Palestinian people, to stand with them in solidarity and advocate for the fall of the Zionist regime in Israel and just peace based on international law with all Palestinians and Israeli in one country of historic Palestine with equal rights for all.