Israel’s Legal Apartheid and the Global BDS Movement

The public debate over the introduction of the “Jewish Nation-State bill” in Israel calls the bluff of Israel’s insistence that it can be both a democracy and a Jewish state, laying bare its Apartheid-like laws and policies for the international community to witness and to respond. It is time to act before Israel’s propaganda machine at home and abroad begins a damage-control campaign that would most likely justify the adoption of the new bill as a “national security” matter. After all, Israel has gotten away with using the “national security” excuse to build an Apartheid wall and to convince the world that it is merely a “separation fence,” to operate bypass roads for Jews and tourists only, and to create a network of hundreds of checkpoints across the West Bank, designed to restrict Palestinians’ mobility and livelihood.

In the past when critics would point out that the practices mentioned above are reminiscent of South Africa’s Apartheid laws, Israel’s supporters were quick to come to its defense, using a powerful secret weapon: the Holocaust. Israeli propaganda has managed to convince the world time and again that its military aggression and blatant violations of international law are beyond scrutiny because of its traumatic past.

My father, a Holocaust survivor who witnessed my grandfather’s murder in a concentration camp at the age of 13, could not forgive the international community for failing to act in time. A militant Zionist, my father used the mantra “Never Again” to justify Israel’s aggression against Palestinians. The exclusive interpretation of “Never Again” makes no sense to me. As history demonstrates, Jews have no monopoly on suffering. If anything, the traumatic memory of the Holocaust should inspire compassion for other persecuted groups. It is criminal and inexcusable that the Holocaust has been hijacked to legitimize the colonization of Palestine and systematic attempts to destroy its indigenous population. We cannot look the other way. We must hold Israel accountable!

Because Israel proclaims itself a safe haven for Jews everywhere, we have a responsibility to speak up and to voice strong opposition against the new racist bill. It is time to end our financial and moral support for Israel. Additionally, we must implore the U.S. government, through our elected officials, to end all aid to Israel, even if we think that it is a long shot. On college campuses, we should reach out to students and faculty to broaden and strengthen our coalitions as we link the BDS movement to other struggles for justice and equality in the US and around the globe.

The introduction of the new bill can be a game-changer. Regardless of the future of Israel’s present coalition government, the writing is on the wall: Israel IS an Apartheid state and its leaders seem certain that they will once again get away with cementing their discriminatory practices without serious consequences. We need to prove them wrong. The timing is perfect. The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement is growing and many Jews in the Diaspora are rethinking their support for Israel after the brutal attack on Gaza this past summer. It is time to hold Israel accountable now by making clear that a Jewish state and a democratic state are irreconcilable. In order to be a democracy, Israel must become a state of ALL Its citizens, Jews and non-Jews alike!

Simona Sharoni is Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at SUNY Plattsburgh and the author of Gender and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: The Politics of Women’s Resistance. She is currently working on a manuscript titled: Gender and Resistance in Palestine and Israel to be published by Syracuse University Press.



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