Israeli Apartheid Week Update: Day 1

Today marks the start of this year’s Israeli Apartheid Week, a yearly event held first in Toronto in 2005 and now in 55 cities around the world which draws attention to Israel’s citizenship policies which are based on principles of racial separation. Events at Israeli Apartheid Weeks are also used to raise awareness of the Israeli military’s various crimes, and generally support the rights of the Palestinians, which includes those living under Israeli Occupation, blockade, and also the diaspora, to self-determination.

My school, York University, has been the site of many tense rallies and protests where clashes between zionist and pro-palestinian activists produces situations no one is proud of. So it’s not surprising that IAW at York is a tense affair: while there were no IAW tables at York today there was a strong presence of Christian Zionists, and there were more police in the halls than I have ever seen on campus.

While I was unable to attend the IAW events at York today, I attended the inaugeral U of T IAW event tonight which included presentations by Judy Rebick, Abigail Bakan, and a presentation by the U of T campus group “Students Against Israeli Apartheid” where they announced demands that U of T divest from 4 companies it current invests in which directly support and profit from the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the Blockade, and military campaigns against Palestinian civilians such as the massacre appropriately named “Cast Lead”. The companies are BAE systems, Northrop Group, Lockheed Martin, and Hewlett Packard.

Abigail Bakan‘s talk was the most scholarly, and also the most useful to me, of the presentations given. She gave an analysis of the history of the term “Apartheid”, and made a case for its appropriateness as used in the expression “Israeli Apartheid”. If you have 47 dollars, or journal access through a university or proxy server, you might want to read her article “Israel/Palestine, South Africa and the ‘One-State Solution’: The Case for an Apartheid Analysis“. My summery will not be adequate, but here goes:

She began by pointing out that the term Apartheid means “separateness”, and was the self-declared policy of the South African state between 1948 and 1990. The separateness at hand was a racial one, and that state was proud to self-declare that it possessed a differential citizenship policy based on racial separateness. Since then, the term has expanded to be used to refer to other forms of separateness, such as in the terms “global apartheid” which refers to the disparity between the global north and south, and “economic apartheid”. These terms are used with little fanfare – for instance their employment rarely provokes a front page story on the national post. There is also an international law statute which concerns the “crime of apartheid“, under stood to be “the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by oneracial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime”.

So the question to ask in the context of an event called “Israeli Apartheid Week” is obvious: given what we know about the term ‘apartheid’ and its history, is Israel an apartheid state? We might first look at what its politiciens say – no major Israeli political parties claim Israel is an apartheid state. And, that’s obviously a major difference from South Africa, where the state did claim to be an apartheid state. But, Bakan pointed out, the fact that a state disagrees that it has a particular property is not a sufficient reason for believing that it does not have this property. For instance, Stalin might have said the USSR was a “communist” country, but we needn’t believe him – we can apply what we know about communism to the empirical situation of Stalin’s Russia and ask if the definition actually fits the case. Similarly, the United States calls itself a democracy, but whether it is a democracy or a plutocracy is an empirical and theoretical question which is to be decided by your own analysis and judgement, not an appeal to authority.

Another point we often see made by those who oppose IAW is that apartheid refers specifically to the situation of South Africa, so it is equivocation to call Israeli apartheid, and this does violence to the South African struggle. I wrote a long piece on this last year, but I think Bakan’s approach is better than mine: she simply pointed out that many situations of oppression which are now deemed international crimes were first associated with a specific state, and a specific struggle. For instance, the term “slavery” when it became a crime referred to the Atlantic slave trade – but it is not accepted to use the term “slavery” to refer to anywhere someone is enslaved, not merely people enslaved in that particular history. Similarly, the crime of “genocide” was first drawn up to persecute the Nazi regime, but that is not given as a reason why other states which commit the crime as defined under international law should not be tried with genocide.

If we want to know whether Israel is apartheid, we should look at what the word means today, and ask if the situation in Israel and the territories fits the meaning. If the term means a differential citizenship policy based on race, and the domination of one racial group over another, then quite clearly the Israeli territories are “Apartheid”: a person born Jewish in the territories has far greater rights than a person born in the same town to non-Jewish parents. Thus it is ensured that while the Israeli settlers in the territories gain full Israeli citizenship rights, and can travel and work anywhere in Israel, people born to non Jewish families have fewer rights and are, according to Bakan, increasingly exploited as a cheap labour pool by Israeli industry.

So, if you live in Toronto or Ottawa or  Montreal or Belfast or Boston or Dublin or Edmonton or London Ontario or New York City or Peterborough or Winnipeg or Waterloo, or any of the other cities where IAW is happening this year, try to make it out to one of their events. And if you do, tell me how it goes, and feel free to comment below.


19 thoughts on “Israeli Apartheid Week Update: Day 1

  1. I’ve deleted a spurious comment by “Ariely”, on the grounds that it was obviously not written in response to my comment but a copy and paste job. If he or she wants to write an actual response to my post I will respond to that, and not censor his or her actual views. I have no problem with divergent views, but I don’t respect “copy and paste” propagandists trolling the blogsphere who pitch red herrings in an attempt to draw attention away from Israel’s differential racial citizenship policies.

  2. This is a trivial and maybe obvious point, but I think that what ties the word “apartheid” so closely to South Africa as to make it almost a proper name–and, really, if no one had ever used the word in reference to Israel, I suspect that it would occur to very few people that “apartheid” might be anything but a proper name, at least in the English language–is that it is an Afrikaans word, which only entered the English language (and, obviously, never would have entered it otherwise) as a result of South African apartheid. The only other Afrikaans word I know of in the English language is “aardvark”. says that “aardvark” means “earth-pig”–or, you might say, “ground-hog”. “Apartheid” means “apart-ness”–or, you might say, “segregation”. (An analogy: one can use the Greek-derived word “holocaust”, which is apparently among the oldest words in the English language, to refer to events other than the Holocaust, though some (increasingly many?) find it in poor taste. But one can’t use the word “shoah” in English to refer to anything but the Shoah, and not just because some hold the view that the Shoah was a unique event. After all, “shoah” in Hebrew is an ordinary word, like “apartheid” in Afrikaans, and–I suppose–like “naqba” in Arabic. But it is not an ordinary word in English, though it is a word in English.)

    I think that what, if anything, distinguishes the Israeli case from the South African one is that South African apartheid is perceived as being associated with a doctrine of racial superiority, and Israeli exclusionary policies are not, and so the word “apartheid” has strong connotative associations with Nazism that seem inappropriate in the case of Israeli exclusionary policies. (The difference, you might say, is between favouring your own because you think your own are superior and objectively deserve more, and favouring your own just because they’re your own and you think everyone ought to favour their own–whatever they take to be their own.) I don’t have enough information to confidently assess the truth of that perception, but I do think that the perception is very strongly and widely held, and I am inclined to believe there is at least some truth to it. (It’s kind of an interesting question whether the Israeli situation is more like South African apartheid or American segregation of the pre-Civil-Rights-Act era.)

    The issue of the justifiability of the use of the word “apartheid” wielded as a weapon in a just war of words against Israel, in the interests of achieving the best possible “solution” in Israel/Palestine, is another matter–although whatever effectiveness it has (as opposed to, say, the word “segregation”) it has because it is so strongly associated with what are so widely taken to be the very deepest of political evils.

  3. One more thing, after reading your comment above: I’m curious why you use the word “racial” rather than “ethnic”. This is connected to the use of the word “apartheid”, which is connotatively associated with a doctrine of racial superiority. It seems odd to describe the distinction between Israeli Jews and others in Israeli as being a racial one, given the ordinary understanding of “race” as having to do with biological lineage rather than cultural group-membership. As “race” is ordinarily understood, there seems to be at least not much less racial difference among Israeli Jews as there is between Israeli Jews and non-Jews in Israel. (I can guess that you might want to use the word “race” in such a way as to performatively undermine its ordinary meaning.)

  4. The Arabs/Iran are building a false Myth.
    They will not be confused with real facts!
    Unfortunately some innocent people (or not?) from the west are joining the false chorus.

    By the Israeli law and practice all citizens are:
    Equal by low—–Full political rights—-– Equals in universal human rights ––religious freedom––Citizens express freely––Women equality––Social rights equality–- study on same universities—- sharing the same medical treatment in hospitals- serves as judges and lawyers- play in the same sport clubs–share equally all public infrastructures– and more…..

    This is apartheid!!- it should be changed!!!
    It is the call of some so called human rights organization or democratic supporters!

    What s the status in Muslim countries?
    *Iran- more than 200 gays have been executed
    *Iran- Teachers were hanged up because teaching Bahai religion.
    *Iran Women low- Virgin women to be executed is raped by a guard ahead execution.
    *All over the Muslim countries: Christians are being persecuted and are under run.
    *Building or repairing of non Muslim shrines is either forbidden or severely restricted
    *Limited woman rights
    * Acceptable honor killing of doters and wife’s
    *People conversing from Islam to other religions may get by low death sentence
    * Political parties are either forbidden or limited.
    *Iran- By low only Shia Muslim cab be president, army chief, judge.

    The so called human rights organization or democratic supporters don’t blame, vote resolutions or demonstrate against Muslim countries.
    What is the definition of this behavior? Hypocrite!

  5. Ariely,

    If you insist on continuing to copy/paste your propaganda piece here, I suppose i can do nothing to stop you.

    I will simply point out that while Israel may accord rights to its citizens, Israel occupies significant territory peopled by people who do not enjoy rights to Israeli citizenship. Their citizenship is worse than Israeli citizenship, and ergo, it is an apartheid state, or apartheid “empire” if you want to insist that Israel does not exercise sovereignty over all the land it occupies militarily or through blockade. Does that make you happy – not “israeli apartheid” but “israeli imperial apartheid”? It’s six of one, half a dozen of the other to me.

    The fact that many problems exist in other Muslim countries is simply not relevant to the moral case against Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. In philosophy, we call this the “red herring” fallacy – to raise irrelevant but emotionally persuasive issues to distract from the real argument.

  6. @ Cincinnatus C.

    The word “apartheid” means “seperatedness”. In Israeli newspapers, South Africa was described as a “hafrada” state, because hafrada means seperatedness in Hewbrew. “Hafrada”, incidentally, is the official state policy of differential rights towards different groups who live under Israeli rule.

    As for “racial superiority”, the international statute refers not to superiority but “domination”, and domination of Jews over Arabs in the Palestinian territories is certainly the goal and reality of Hafrada.

    I use the term “race” because Israel uses the Nazi definition of Jewishness: “A jew is a jew is a jew”, meaning that if you have one jewish grandparent you are eligible for Israeli citizenship. Or, if you convert and become a practicing Jew, you can apply for citizenship, although the process is slightly more complex and difficult than if you claim racial identity.

    As for the issue of Apartheid being a “proper name”, please see the other post linked above, where I attempt to use Derrida’s notion of propriety and “economy of violence” to adjudicate that question.

  7. “it has because it is so strongly associated with what are so widely taken to be the very deepest of political evils.”

    Personally, I think differential citizenship rights based on race, and the indiscriminate killing of those who enjoy the lesser rights in such events as the Gaza Massacre, but also as collateral damage in the regular extra-judicial execution of Palestinian political figures, is “the very deepest of political evils”.

    Arabs determination to destroy Israel and not creation of Palestine state lead to Israel control of the West Bank and Gaza.
    *After the British mandate the west bank was governed by Jordan and Gaza by Egypt.
    They didn’t forma Palestinian state.
    Up to 1967 they used those territories for terror attacks against Israel civilians.
    * On 1947the UN proposed the formation of the Jewish state Israel and the number 22 Arab state.
    The Arabs refused and 7 Arab armies attacked the defending Israel.
    Arab league declared:
    This will be a war of extermination and a massacre which
    Advising local Arabs to leave, later return and grab Jewish property.
    * Nasser speech May 1967
    Taking over Sharm el Sheikh meant confrontation with. The battle will be a general one and our basic objective will be to destroy Israel
    *Israel wants peace, good relation with all Arabs.
    For peace with Egypt Israel give up Sinai,Oil fields
    Israel evacuated Gaza.In return received over 6500 rockets on Israeli citizens.
    * Palestinians in Gaza are governed by Hamas Islamists:
    * Palestinians majority in West Bank are governed by the Palestinian Authority.
    They can provide all the civil rights.
    Equal to Israel or more.
    **However they don’t
    Example:Christians are persecuted and chased.
    In Beth Lehem Christians were the majority,today a small minority.
    In Gaza;Hamas dug up Christian graves and burned the bodies because they felt the remains defiled the land.
    -Conclusion:Israel apartheid week is one additional example of Arabs use of Taqiyya lying to infidels cult.
    Used by Arab propagandists to confuse,masking Muslims intentions
    Few west people are aware about the lying Takiyya cult.
    Read: Islamic Principle of Lying for the Sake of Allah

  9. “By the Israeli law and practice all citizens are:
    Equal by low—–Full political rights—-– Equals in universal human rights ––religious freedom––Citizens express freely––Women equality––Social rights equality–- study on same universities—- sharing the same medical treatment in hospitals- serves as judges and lawyers- play in the same sport clubs–share equally all public infrastructures– and more…..”

    Discrimination against Arabs in Israel is well documented. You might want to check out report of the Or commission:

    And the 2004 U.S. State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in Israel:

    “Israeli Arabs were not required to perform mandatory military service and, in practice, only a small percentage of Israeli Arabs served in the military. Those who did not serve in the army had less access than other citizens to social and economic benefits for which military service was a prerequisite or an advantage, such as housing, new-household subsidies, and employment, especially government or security-related industrial employment. The Ivri Committee on National Service has issued official recommendations to the Government that Israel Arabs not be compelled to perform national or “civic” service, but be afforded an opportunity to perform such service”.”

  10. Your reply is an excellent example of Israeli humanitarian values and citizens freedom of choice:

    — Discrimination is not part of Israeli culture—

    Israel values and actual practice are based on the independence declaration stating:
    *will promote the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants;
    *will be based on the precepts of liberty, justice and peace taught by the Hebrew Prophets;
    *will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex;
    * will guarantee full freedom of conscience, worship, education and culture;
    * will safeguard the sanctity and inviolability of the shrines and Holy Places of all religions
    Israeli citizens are free people and have option to choose.
    Israel is not imposing on Israeli Arabs citizen the citizen duty to defend the country against endless types of aggression by serving in the army.
    If willing, Arabs can volunteer to the army or to civic service.
    A citizen serving in the army devoted 3 years on regular service and in addition they serve in the reserve troupes.
    During this period they cannot study, get a job, and build a carrier.
    However the Arabs that chooses not to serve the country can do all the above.
    The Israeli Arabs that choose not to perform the duty of defending their country actually get a great accumulated economical advantage.
    The Israeli Arabs are free to choose!
    * Nothing is perfect in real life. Israel has its share of mistakes or claims that mistakes have been done.
    In the sack of endless improvement, Israel forms enquiring committees, analyzing the mistake root cause.
    The finding is published to the public.
    Regardless either they are positive or negative to Israel image.
    This is freedom- democracy- human right- equality.
    **** The same cannot be said about Arab/Iran countries.
    By low they discriminate non Muslims, woman, deny religious freedom.

  11. “The Israeli Arabs that choose not to perform the duty of defending their country actually get a great accumulated economical advantage.
    The Israeli Arabs are free to choose!”

    What a great economic advantage it is to be excluded from household and education subsidies.

  12. Results of the last Israeli Arabs poll:

    70% of Israeli Arabs declared that they would much prefer to live in Israel than in any other country in the Middle East.

    They graded that the life is so much better for them so much more prosperous than it would be any place else.

    This opinion is despite the anti Israeli Arabs propaganda and endless wars and terror against the defending Israel.

    !!Compare their life to the poor life in Arab countries!

    However the anti Israeli hate chorus will not be confuse with the fact that Arabs prefer Israel and not the Arab country haven.

    By the way- Arabs in the entire Arab world are demonstrating demanding to get less that Israeli Arabs have

    Consider the following idea:
    Do the anti apartheid actions to protect the Christians in Arab countries that by laws are discriminated, not permitted to build or repair churches, killed, churches are burn.

  13. The fact that Israeli Arabs would rather live in Israel rather than the other countries in the region does not show that they are not discriminated in Israel, or that Israel is not apartheid.

    Arabs I’ve spoken to at AIW events have agreed that Arab nations in the region are apartheid as well. If Lebanon is apartheid, for instance, this doesn’t make Israel any less apartheid.

    And please, can you write an actual response, rather than copy-pasting pre-given zionist propaganda?

  14. By ideology, tradition and law- Israel is a free country and apartheid is against Israeli values.
    Israel values and practices posted are reality and not propaganda.
    By ideology, tradition, law Arabs countries implement Apartheid.
    Following real facts of Arabs/Iran Apartheid values and practice:
    *When we hear that bombs killed Christian’s prayers from Cairo up Bagdad, we hear Arabs/Iran Apartheid
    *When we hear that non Muslims have been decapitated from Algeria up the Philippines, we hear Arabs/Iran Apartheid
    *When we hear that slavery is still practice in Sudan and Golf states, we hear Arabs/Iran Apartheid
    *When we hear that Arabs kill Israeli civilians,and later requiring to get immunity for their crimes when the defending Israel responses we hear Arabs/Iran Apartheid
    *When we hear that women have been raped and the women is punished while the men are free, we hear Arabs/Iran Apartheid
    *When we hear that non Muslim praying shrines have been destroyed, we hear Arabs/Iran Apartheid
    *When we see women dressed in black sacks, we see Arabs/Iran Apartheid
    *When we learn of amputations and stoning, we see Arabs/Iran Apartheid
    * When we hear the hate preaching and teaching worldwide funded by Arab countries we hear Arabs/Iran Apartheid.
    ( Refer to BBC program Panorama)
    *When we see the hate teaching TV shows dedicated to children garden, we see Arabs/Iran Apartheid.
    *When we hear of honor killing of wife’s, doters, brothers, we see Arabs/Iran Apartheid.
    Apartheid is the ideology of Hamas,Muslim brotherhood and Saud Arabia Wahabi.
    * Christianity, Judaism may coexist under the Islam wing.
    Peace and quiet would not be possible exept under Islam
    *Sharia goes for any land the Moslems have conquered by force till the day of judgment.( Spain,Potrugal,Sicilia,Balcans up Vienna, Russia up Moscow, half France, India ,Israel)
    *The Day of Judgment will not come until Moslems fight killing the Jews.
    The stones and trees will say O Moslem, there is a Jew behind me, kill him
    **** *************************
    The speech of the Muslim brotherhood leader in Cairo delivered in Arabic, before 1 million people saying is:
    !!!! Not Apartheid- actually it is Nazism !!!!
    Hitler didn’t finish the job against the Jews.
    Now the Muslims brotherhood will finish the job.
    Pls watch the BBC program Third eye Egypt.

    * Propaganda and spreading leis is what the Arabs are doing while using the lay to infidels cult named Taqiyya

    However the anti Israeli chorus will not be confused by real facts.
    They will not demonstrate, not initiate protest weeks, not vote or boycode the countries and political groups practicing the above atrocities :
    They have a mission: Building the false myth

  15. “By ideology, tradition and law- Israel is a free country and apartheid is against Israeli values.
    Israel values and practices posted are reality and not propaganda.”

    No, Israel is an apartheid country by law because Arab citizens, both in Israel and in the territories have differential citizenship – different rights for different groups.

    Apartheid is against certain Israeli values, like “jewish democratic advantage” and courts which rule that Arabs in Jerusalem must share their home with extremist settlers. This is an apartheid court – with one set of laws for Jewish settlers, and another set of laws for displaced Palestinians. But calling Israel “Apartheid” is not “against Israel” or “against Jews” – it’s in favour of the liberation of Israel from the shackles of racism and tribalism.

  16. “The Day of Judgment will not come until Moslems fight killing the Jews.
    The stones and trees will say O Moslem, there is a Jew behind me, kill him”

    This is hate-speech because it incites violence on the basis of sectarian difference, please refrain from this kind of thing on my blog.

  17. “The Day of Judgment will not come until Moslems fight killing the Jews.
    The stones and trees will say O Moslem, there is a Jew behind me, kill him”

    This is hate-speech because it incites violence on the basis of sectarian difference, please refrain from this kind of thing on my blog.
    Agree- it is hate.
    However it is not speach.
    It is cut and pace from Hamas charter.
    It is Hamas and Muslim brotherhood idiology.
    Read Hamas charter;

    The so called human rights organizations don’t like to be confused by the truth.
    They don’t demonstrate, organize protests weeks, and demand to stop the killing ideology.
    They are blind supporters of the ideologies that stand against all the values they pretend to defend.

  18. I see, sorry I mis-understood the context of part of your endless copy-and-paste posts.

    Actually, many Zionists believe that part of the Hamas charter, they are called “Christian Zionists”, and they support Israel not because they like Jews (they tend to be anti-semitic) but because they believe the day of judgement arrives by way of a great war between the Jews and the Arabs in the middle east – and they see a strong Israel as a pre requirement for such a war. They are a significant force of support for Israel in the United States, which is the major military source of its armaments and the political force behind exempting it from being held to international law.

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