To the Editor:
In her article “Let’s Call It What It Is, And It’s Not Apartheid” (The Hoya, A3, Feb. 28), Kate Hopkins brings up an important point: The separation wall between Israel and Palestine does not constitute apartheid. It is a sign of occupation. I agree with the sentiment of an occupation, not apartheid, in Palestine.
However, the term “apartheid” does have a role in the conflict. Palestinians are not afforded equal rights in Israel. The de facto and legal discrimination against Palestinians are markers of a racist society moving toward a South Africa-like apartheid situation.
In January, B’tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, published a statement on Israel’s position on family unification. The report detailed the Israeli Supreme Court’s ruling that “family unification is not a vested right,” meaning that should a Palestinian-Israeli living in Haifa marry a Palestinian from Ramallah, they would not be allowed to reside together in Israel. Several government officials even confirmed that the law was meant to prevent the growth of a Palestinian minority within Israel. The Prawer Plan, an ultra-discriminatory plan to forcibly remove about 30,000 Bedouins in the Negev that drew huge protests from the Bedouin community, was approved by the Cabinet in 2011 but delayed in December following a shift in Knesset support.
On Tuesday, the Knesset passed a law legally distinguishing between Muslim and Christian Arab citizens. The bill threatens to further institutionalize the systematic discrimination of Muslim Palestinians. The sponsor of the bill, Yariv Levin, spelled out the point of the bill when he described the Christians as “our [Israel’s] natural allies, a counterweight to the Muslims who want to destroy the country from within. … We will use an iron hand and demonstrate zero tolerance of Arabs who are liable to identify with the terror of the Palestinian state.” American-Palestinian friends have been refused entry into Israel based only on their appearance and last name. There is systematic, legalized racism within Israel.
In my own conversations with my Israeli friends, they have openly acknowledged the racism in their own society. My friend’s mom whom I visited over winter break made aliyah (Jewish immigration to Israel) from England when she was 18. She lamented the racism she sees toward both Palestinians and African immigrants from Israelis and even from within her own family.
The point is this: The conflict over the two-state solution is not limited to the two territorial areas. It is a societal conflict that is grounded in mistrust, misinformation and ultimately racism. A way forward is recognition that Israeli is becoming an apartheid society and an effort to rectify that through people-to-people dialogue programs that break down imagined walls of segregation. Without recognizing the racial component of the conflict, there may be a political peace, but there won’t be a true, lasting, societal peace.