OPIRG: Understanding Israel as an apartheid state

Photo courtesy of Palestine Grafities.
Photo courtesy of Palestine Grafities.

There are some common misconceptions when addressing what we mean by Israeli Apartheid.

By definition, apartheid literally means separation. It has its roots in the separation of people based on race in South Africa.

Since then, the application of the word has been made universal, with the adoption of the United Nations “International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid”.

In order to understand the current situation with regards to Israel/Palestine, it is necessary to examine the origins of the Israeli state in 1948.

In the same year that Israel was created, the pro-apartheid National Party was elected to power in South Africa. In 1951, the South African apartheid government began the forced expulsion of over 3 million black inhabitants off the land into reserves known as “Bantustans”, modelled on Canada’s reserve system for First Nations.

More than a two decades after apartheid was abolished in South Africa, Palestinians in the Occupied Territories today live in modern-day Bantustans.

There is a growing majority opinion that Israel’s policies and treatment of Palestinians constitute apartheid. Prominent thinkers have made the comparison, including Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, and Israeli historian Ilan Pappe.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions and the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa both have declared that Israel is practising apartheid in the Occupied Territories.

In 2008, the president of the United Nations General Assembly, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, accused the Israeli government of practising apartheid, and called for boycotts, divestments, and sanctions against the state—the tactics used against apartheid South Africa.

In 2013, the student body voted at the TCSA Annual General Meeting to adopt a policy in support of the BDS movement.

These strategies and tactics have been drafted into the TCSA By-Laws, Policies, & Operating Resolutions and more specifically it can be found on page 66 of the document “TCSA By-Laws, Policies, & Operating Resolutions 2014-2015” (page 72 if looking at the .pdf version online).

I would suggest that we take a deeper look at the Boycott and Divestment against Israeli Apartheid, as outlined in this document.

It states clearly that the Association recognizes that Israel is an apartheid state, as determined and substantiated by many legal frameworks established by international courts, civil society organizations, and conventions.

Then, under the Academic and Cultural Boycott section of the policy, it states what we see as follows: “The Association shall refrain from cooperation, collaboration, or joint projects with Israeli academic and cultural institutions in any form including sharing intellectual resources or property with Israeli universities, offering Study Abroad opportunities for students of Trent University, or hosting Israeli, unless these institutions acknowledge Israel as an apartheid state” (page 67).

This policy clarifies that Trent University is indeed inclusionary, diverse, and promotes freedom of culture and expression as long as the injustices being committed by Israeli Apartheid are acknowledged as well.

This policy response by the TCSA is part of a broader campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) that is shaped by a rights-based approach and highlights the three broad segments of the Palestinian people.

These can include and are not limited to: the refugees, those under military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Palestinians in Israel.

The policy urges various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law by:

1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;

2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

This policy is an effective way of integrating the student governing bodies of Trent and living up to our responsibilities that come along in standing in solidarity with Palestinians and Israelis alike.