Israel and the A-Word
Date Written: 17/03/2017
Year Published: 2017
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX20556
Israel's apartheid foundations were laid in its dispossession of the Palestinians in 1948. They were reinforced by the immediate erection of colonial constitutional structures that cemented the exclusion of the colonised. Since then, Israeli law and policy has only deepened the state apparatus of separation and segregation, discrimination and domination. Over the years, countless activists, authors and artists, as well as leading anti-apartheid figures from South Africa, have referred to Israels particular brand of structural discrimination as akin to apartheid. In the last decade, international lawyers have also begun to do likewise, but with reference to the definition of apartheid under international law rather than by analogy to southern Africa.
For a UN Commission report to state this so clearly, and to theorise Israel as a "racial state", is significant. A peoples tribunal, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, did arrive at similar conclusions back in 2011. The momentum that this analysis has gathered in official UN settings since then shows the possibilities of an international law from below one which is not afraid to confront the realities of a state in which increasingly discriminatory legislation has spewed thick and fast from an ascendant far-right.
While the report's findings do hinge on the legal definition of apartheid, the Commission itself does not have the authority of an international tribunal. The International Court of Justice and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination are among the relevant actors when it comes to determining Israel's state responsibility for an unlawful apartheid regime.