On April 12, the leaders of Georgetown Israel Alliance published an op-ed in The Hoya titled, “Include Diverse Narratives in Israel-Palestine Debate.” The article’s authors accuse Israeli Apartheid Week, a series of events hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine during the first week of April, of presenting a “one-sided, divisive narrative, baselessly denigrating Israel as an apartheid state.”
Israel, as it currently exists, is an apartheid state. Since 1967, Israel has ruled over the entirety of historic Palestine and has divided residents into a hierarchical arrangement based on ethno-religious status.
Jewish citizens of Israel are guaranteed full rights under the law. However, Palestinian citizens of Israel live under Jim Crow-like laws.
Adalah, a human rights organization that advocates for minorities in Israel, has outlined over 65 laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel. Palestinians without citizenship are subject to military rule that routinely violates their human rights under international law, which includes Israeli soldiers systematically abusing Palestinian children and trying them in military courts without legal representation, according to multiple human rights organizations.
Israel recently passed the “Jewish Nation-State Law,” which institutionalized its discriminatory policies against both non-Jewish citizens and Palestinians in the occupied territories. This law, Adalah explains, “guarantees the ethnic-religious character of Israel as exclusively Jewish and entrenches the privileges enjoyed by Jewish citizens, while simultaneously anchoring discrimination against Palestinian citizens and legitimizing exclusion, racism, and systemic inequality.”
The limited and precarious autonomy Israel grants the Palestinian territories does not change the fact that Israel is an apartheid state, just as the existence of semi-autonomous Bantustans did not change the fact that apartheid existed in South Africa. In a statement from 2014, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu pronounced, “I know firsthand that Israel has created an apartheid reality within its borders and through its occupation. The parallels to my own beloved South Africa are painfully stark indeed.” This statement, coming from one of South Africa’s leading figures in the struggle against apartheid, says it all.
Narratives have power, and we cannot ignore their material impacts. We cannot allow the narratives of the powerful and the oppressed to be deemed equally legitimate.
Mohammed Alhammami is a Palestinian refugee from Gaza and a graduate student at Georgetown University. David Balgley is a Jewish-American member of Jewish Voice for Peace and a graduate student at Georgetown University.