The Israeli/Palestinian Conflict: The Evidence

  evidence-based reports | authored and compiled by
constantine kaniklidis
scholars for peace in the middle east (spme) | director, progressive voices for peace in the middle east (pvpme)


The Ten Elements of Apartheid under International Law

The Charge
BDS deploys the hyperbolic language of demonic ascription, Israel as "apartheid state". Argument by demonization is not argument about ideas. It is a distortive analogy, with no congruence with apartheid as defined by international law authorities (ICC (Rome Statute), ICERD), ascribing diabolic intention to a nation that is multiethnic, multiracial, and religiously plural (with African, Yemenite, Georgian, and over a million Israelis who don't practice Judaism), and one in which religious coercion, racial segregation laws, indoctrination of racial ideology, media censorship, political party bans, are absent, and in which Arab citizens vote and serve in all strata of government from cabinet to Knesset, serving on and bringing successful suits before the Supreme Court. There are no saints in geopolitics - not Israel, not the United States, nor Arab regimes - but vilification, and selective delegitimization, is not argument, and so again fails to engage true issues.

On the Elements
Two of the ten essential elements establishing apartheid under international law are:

(1) inherent racism, this as opposed to the essence of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as a clash of competitive nationalist aspirations for self-determination in the same land, and
(2) legally codified racial domination, as opposed to Israeli law explicitly mandating equality.

The apartheid accusation is rooted in the 1975 "Zionism is Racism" resolution of the UN General Assembly, revoked in 1991 for moral repugnancy. Contrast with the Palestinian Authority's announcement that any future Palestinian State will be judenrein (Jew-free) and will enact the very "law of return" that Israel is demanded to give up, and which would prohibit Jewish citizenship and land ownership (PLO Ambassador Maen Areikat, Address to the UN), effectively religious and ethnic discrimination in an Islamic state with current Palestinian law making land sale to Jews punishable by death or life imprisonment (PA Property Law for Foreigners; also, admission of Ahmed al-Mughani, PA Public Prosecutor).   The hyperbolic BDS language of demonic ascription, transforming a territorial and political dispute into a “racial” conflict via charging Israel as "apartheid state", constitutes distortive analogy, with no congruence with apartheid as defined by international law authorities such as ICSPCA (International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid) and others.   Such a charge ascribes ethno-nationalist racist intent and acts, to a nation multiethnic, multiracial, and religiously plural (Arabs comprising ~20% of Israel's population, and over a million Israelis not practicing Judaism), and one in which wholly absent are the other elements of apartheid under international law:

(3) religious coercion,
(4) racial segregation laws,
(5) indoctrination of racial ideology.

Also absent:  

(6) Suppression of free speech: even BDS’s Omar Barghouti writes freely within the putative "apartheid" state, rights guarded and defended by that state, while enjoying the academic freedoms he seeks to deny Israeli academics.  
(7) Media censorship: Al-Quds, the Palestine Report, and Jerusalem Times, all Palestinian newspapers, publish freely, and critically, in Israel.  
(8) Political party bans: Ra’am Ta’al, Balad, Hadash, and the National Democratic Assembly are Palestinian parties represented in the Knesset.  
(9) Discriminatory land access: the apartheid charge repeats the slander that the Israeli government reserves 93% of the land for Jews, falsely claimed expropriated from Arabs without compensation. In fact: all such land is not sold to Jews either, but rather is leased out by the Israeli Lands Authority (ILA) and equally available to all citizens of Israel, roughly half of the Israeli land farmed by Arabs leased from the ILA ("Legal Status of the Arabs in Israel", International Journal of Middle East Studies, and "Can Arabs Buy Land in Israel?", Middle East Quarterly).  
(10) Bar against political participation: Arab citizens vote and serve in all strata of government from cabinet to Knesset (Raleb Majadele, a Muslim minister, one of 14 Arabs currently serving, with 49 past serving Arab Knesset members), serving on and bringing successful suits before the Supreme Court (Arab Salim Joubran is permanent Justice on the Supreme Court; even the rejectionist Adalah organization brings dozens of often successful petitions yearly in Israeli courts, belying claim of “apartheid” by Adalah).  

And although not an essential element, absent is the customary element of bar from military participation: contrary to the widespread oft-repeated fabrication that Palestinians are barred from serving in the Israeli military (service is open to all, Palestinians simply not required to serve but may do so freely, and do), approximately 3,000 (!) Palestinians currently serve in the Israeli military (richly documented by Palestinian scholar Rhoda Ann Kanaaneh: “Surrounded: Palestinian Soldiers in the Israeli Military”, Stanford University Press).  

The Apartheid Charge Fails To Meet Standards of International Law:
The apartheid charge moreover is a distortive analogy, with no congruence with apartheid as defined by international law authorities - ICC-Rome (International Criminal Court, Rome Statute), ICERD (International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination), ICSPCA (International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid). The charge thus ascribes diabolic intention to a nation that is multiethnic, multiracial, and religiously plural: Israeli Muslims, Christians, Druse and other minority groups continue to enjoy the same civil and political rights as Jews themselves.

The Security Fence: One flawed reason cited for designating Israel an “apartheid state” is the security fence - fence, and not a wall over most of its length, the only walled portions having been built in areas where sniper incidents have occurred - between Israel proper and the territories constructed in order to prevent the multiple suicide attacks that have killed hundreds of Israelis and grievously wounded thousands more, a security necessitated by the lawful need for self protection and one which has proven exceptionally successful, preventing virtually any such attacks since its completion. Indisputably the security fence can constitute a cause of inconvenience for some of the Arab population but just as assuredly, it is a self-inflicted annoyance.

Thus, against the Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RToP), not appointed by any international body with legal authority, that “concludes” the apartheid libel and promotes the BDS agenda, with both ‘jury’ (including such ‘experts’ as Alice Walker) and ‘witnesses’ selected and renowned for being virulently anti-Israel (denounced by Richard Goldstone, South African journalists and activists Benjamin Pogrund and Maurice Ostroff, and even by Richard Falk, himself a current RToP patron, who called the tribunal a “juridical farce”), an impartial assessment of the apartheid accusation on the elements under international law demonstrates judicial inapplicability to Israel. Israel may be arguably accused of many things. Apartheid state is not one of them.

Misunderstanding True Apartheid
Israel v South Africa: Furthermore, the apartheid charge misses the heart of a critical distinction between South Africa and Israel: in South Africa the essence of the struggle was for a shared civic society and for individual equality within that shared society, whereas, the Israel-Arab conflict remains in essence a struggle between two nationalist aspirations for self-determination in the same territory.

More Reasons Why the Apartheid Charge is Inapplicable and False: The moral sins of apartheid rested on two indefensible wrongs: the racist basis of apartheid's enforced inequalities, and the adamant refusal of the apartheid regime to accept negotiation as an option for resolving the consequent conflict, neither of which apply in the case of Israel, whose government explicitly calling for a mutually negotiated agreement that will satisfy the national requirements and human right needs of both sides, and being furthermore willing to let a Palestinian state come into existence alongside Israel. This is in contrast to Palestinian rejectionism, with Palestinians proceeding to elect a Hamas government which refuses to negotiate on the basis of mutual recognition and declares that it will wage war until Israel is wholly displaced by a Palestinian State. Given this truth, public condemnation and boycott should be directed against Hamas, not against Israel's government.

The Apartheid Charge as an Obstacle to Regional Peace: Cynically but realistically, given the BDS position, it is clear that even the surrender of all of the occupied West Bank would not materially alter these delusions: (1) denial in principle of Jewish nationalist need and entitlement, (2) labeling of the entire Zionist enterprise as loathsome colonialism, and of course (3) the false calumny and equation of the Jewish national purposes and symbols of the State of Israel with racism and apartheid, which all serve BDS well as weapons aimed at the de-legitimization of Israel, and its eclipse as a state that is Jewish in any meaningful sense whatsoever.

The Charge of Colonialism:
In this atmosphere of vilification, the differences between Zionism and definitively known cases of colonialism are also deliberately erased. This fallacy draws heavily on Edward Said's polemic against so-called ‘Orientalist' discourse which sought to depict Zionism and the Jewish state as an entirely colonialist enterprise, despite the fact that a Zionist state in Palestine neither emanated from nor was activated in the interests of a state outside of Palestine. And the Zionist movement invested in Palestine rather than drawing profit or resources out of it. Israel manifestly did not institutionalize human inequality on the grounds of race, nor like colonialist states would it refuse the option of fair negotiation to resolve the conflict which has engulfed it.

The charge of colonialism also exhibits alarming credulousness in favor of Arab ideological perspective and intent, a one-sidedness compounded by simplistic reduction of a complex Israeli state to the fringe Jewish national-religious ideology upheld by the settlers of the occupied areas and elevating the settler-occupation moral controversy to the only and most essential fact of Israel. Yet the same argument does not by parity reduce the Palestinians to Hamas' Muslim-nationalist ideology (even after it has easily garnered the votes of a majority of the Palestinian electorate).

evidence-based reports: our reporting

Imperative in this context is a new equity in geopolitics that eschews disproportionate approbation of one actor to the exclusion of all others while also acknowledging the competitive narratives of national ambition and identity in the Middle East, with the need for new engagement and negotiation. 

This misplaced and uncritical reliance on ideological and prejudicial sources has evolved to be a formidable obstacle to peace in the Middle East. It has led to what others have termed a new “soft powerlessness” for Israel whose legitimacy has been successively eroded and who stands accused and convicted in the international arena. And it helps account for the current moribund state of peace negotiation. We therefore realized that what is needed to overcome these barriers to peace is effective confrontation through the exposure and refutation of lawfare as practiced by anti-peace NGOs and obstructionist initiatives like BDS. This will in turn require a new rational and equitable discourse in addressing the clash of competitive nationalist aspirations for self-determination in the same land, in order to achieve a fair and durable peace in the Middle East for Israel, and for the Palestinians.

To that end, I as Director of Progressive Voices for Peace in the Middle East (PVPME) and a member of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME), have authored and compiled a series of evidence-based reports (EBRs) on the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict which are founded on an objective critical systemic review of the core issues and a critical appraisal of the relevant arguments, sustained by scrupulous attention to and respect for principles of international and human rights law.  This demands (1) systematic review of all credible sources on an issue, (2) critical appraisal of all sources extracted for factual basis, (3) cross-confirmation of accuracy wherever viable, and (4) use of the highest caliber of sources available, with preference to peer-reviewed literature.

These evidence-based reports hone to the principles of the evidence-based paradigm and methodology as it has evolved from initial domain of application (medicine) into a broad spectrum of evidence-based practice and research, in the form of evidence-based sociology, evidence-based education and evidence-based teaching, evidence-based psychology, evidence-based crime policy / policing, evidence-based  decision making /policy, evidence-based social work, among many others. We  also commit to industry-standards promulgated by the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) in their SPJ Code of Ethics, and also those of the Ethical Journalism Network (EJN) in their 5 Principles of Ethical Journalism, as well as the principles articulated in The Poynter Institute's The New Ethics of Journalism: A Guide for the 21st Century.    

progressive voices for peace (PVPME)

Progressive Voices for Peace in the Middle East (PVPME), a Brooklyn based initiative, grew out of the recognition that these next-generation obstacles to peace require effective confrontation through counter-lawfare initiatives and the need for a new rational and equitable discourse in addressing the clash of competitive nationalist aspirations for self-determination in the same land.

Director, Constantine Kaniklidis

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Constantine Kaniklidis | Progressive Voices for Peace in the Middle East | 2018.  All rights reserved.