Israel’s Drift into Apartheid

The latest fury over Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s condemnation of Israel’s Zionist government as “an insult to all humanity” ignores the growing body of evidence that today’s Israel is evolving into an Apartheid state similar to the old South Africa, Nima Shirazi writes.

By Nima Shirazi

As tends to happen whenever Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivers a speech, especially one in commemoration of Al-Quds Day that explicitly rejects the ideology of Zionism and condemns the Israeli government for its inherently discriminatory, exclusivist and ethnocentric policies and actions, all hell broke lose after the Iranian President addressed a large crowd at Tehran University last Friday.

“The existence of the Zionist regime is an insult to all humanity,” Ahmadinejad said, adding that “confronting the existence of the fabricated Zionist regime is, in fact, protecting the rights and dignity of all human beings.”

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivering his Quds Day speech last Friday in Tehran. (Photo credit: Iranian President's Official Web site)

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon referred to the remarks as “offensive and inflammatory.”  The European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is leading nuclear negotiations with Iran, also denounced Ahmadinejad’s speech as “outrageous and hateful.”

Naturally, Ahmadinejad’s words also sparked the usual shock and horror from the usual people, the same people who still insist that (1) Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be “wiped off the map” and (2) believe that such a comment constituted a direct threat of military action against the superpower-backed, nuclear-armed state of Israel.

Without delving into the persistent myths and deliberate falsehoods surrounding that particular talking point (one that has been sufficiently debunked countless times) or seeking to justify anything said by Ahmadinejad, a few things should be noted:

First: While Associated Press described Ahmadinejad’s comment as “one of his sharpest attacks yet against the Jewish state,” which seemed to indicate that this is the first time such language has been used, they failed to point out that Ahmadinejad has used this exact same phrase before.

After Ahmadinejad delivered a speech at a “National and Islamic Solidarity for the Future of Palestine” conference in February 2010, Ha’aretz reported he had said that “the existence of ‘the Zionist regime’ is an insult to humanity,” according to Iranian news agency IRNA. Later that year, he said the very same thing.

Second (and more important): The “insult to humanity” phrase was not coined by the Iranian President to describe a political power structure defined by demographic engineering, colonialism, racism, and violence. For example, a Dec. 11, 1979, editorial in California’s Lodi News-Sentinel stated clearly, “Apartheid is an insult to humanity” and “must be ended.”

But the phrase has far deeper roots – roots with which the UN Secretary-General himself should be well acquainted. A joint declaration by 20 Asian and African countries issued to the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Oct. 1, 1963, called upon the agency to reject the membership of South Africa due to its racist and discriminatory regime of Apartheid.

It noted “with grave concern that the South African Government continues stubbornly to disregard all United Nations and Security Council resolutions and to maintain its apartheid policies in defiance of the United Nations General Assembly, of the Security, and consequently of the IAEA Statute.” The declaration stated:

1. We condemn categorically the apartheid policies of the Government of South Africa, based on racial superiority, as immoral and inhuman;

2. We deprecate most strongly the South African Government’s irresponsible flouting of world opinion by its persistent refusal to put an end to its racial policies;

3. The apartheid policies of the Government of South Africa are a flagrant violation of the principles of the United Nations Charter, as well as being an insult to humanity.

The very first International Conference on Human Rights, held by the UN in (get this) Tehran from April 22 to May 13, 1968, “condemned the brutal and inhuman practice of apartheid,” “deplore[d] the Government of South Africa’s continuous insult to humanity,” and “declare[d] that the policy of apartheid or other similar evils are a crime against humanity.”

On Feb. 15, 1995, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights adopted a resolution praising the end of “the era of apartheid in South Africa” which also reaffirmed that “apartheid and apartheid-like practices are an insult to humanity…”

The UN General Assembly has repeatedly reaffirmed “that the conclusion of an internal convention on the suppression and punishment of the crime of apartheid would be an important contribution to the struggle against apartheid, racism, economic exploitation, colonial domination and foreign occupation” and, more specifically, the UN has affirmed time and again that “the inalienable rights of all peoples, and in particular … the Palestinian people, to freedom, equality and self-determination, and the legitimacy of their struggles to restore those rights.”

Third: No one can accuse Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of having any affinity whatsoever for Zionism or the government of Israel. Clearly he believes that Israel practices its own form of Apartheid against the Palestinian people. And he is not alone.

Back in 1961, Hendrik Verwoerd, South Africa’s Prime Minister said, “The Jews took Israel from the Arabs after the Arabs had lived there for a thousand years. Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.”

In April 1976, just two months before the Soweto Uprising, South African Prime Minister (and known former Nazi sympathizer) John Vorster took an official state visit to Israel, where he was hosted by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. A number of friendship pacts and bilateral economic, military and nuclear agreements were signed.

At a banquet held in Vorster’s honor, Rabin hailed “the ideals shared by Israel and South Africa: the hopes for justice and peaceful coexistence” and praised Vorster as a champion of freedom. Both Israel and South Africa, Rabin said, faced “foreign-inspired instability and recklessness.”

Vorster lamented that both South Africa and Israel were victims of the enemies of Western civilization. Only a few months later, an official South African Government’s document reinforced this shared predicament: “Israel and South Africa have one thing above all else in common: they are both situated in a predominantly hostile world inhabited by dark peoples.”

Both Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and as well as many other South African anti-Apartheid activists, have consistently called Israel an Apartheid state.

Michael Ben-Yair, Israel’s attorney general from 1993 to 1996, has written that following the Six Day War in June 1967, “We enthusiastically chose to become a colonial society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the occupied territories, engaging in theft and finding justification for all these activities.

“Passionately desiring to keep the occupied territories, we developed two judicial systems: one ‑ progressive, liberal ‑ in Israel; and the other ‑ cruel, injurious ‑ in the occupied territories. In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture.”

That oppressive regime exists to this day. Avraham Burg, Israel’s Knesset Speaker from 1999 to 2003 and former chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, has long determined that “Israel must shed its illusions and choose between racist oppression and democracy,” insisting the only way to maintain total Jewish control over all of historic Palestine would be to “abandon democracy” and “institute an efficient system of racial separation here, with prison camps and detention villages.” He has also called Israel “the last colonial occupier in the Western world.”

Yossi Sarid, who served as a member of the Knesset between 1974 and 2006, has written of Israel’s “segregation policy” that “what acts like apartheid, is run like apartheid and harasses like apartheid, is not a duck it is apartheid.”

Yossi Paritzky, former Knesset and Cabinet minister, writing about the systematic institutionalization and legalization of racial and religious discrimination in Israel, stated that Israel does not act like a democracy in which “all citizens regardless of race, religious, gender or origin are entitled to equality.” Rather, by implementing more and more discriminatory laws that treat Palestinians as second-class citizens, “Israel decided to be like apartheid‑era South Africa, and some will say even worse countries that no longer exist.”

Shulamit Aloni, another former Knesset and Cabinet member, has written that “the state of Israel practices its own, quite violent, form of Apartheid with the native Palestinian population.”

In 2008, the Association of Civil Rights in Israel released its annual human rights report which found that the dynamic between settlers, soldiers and native Palestinians in the occupied West Bank was “reminiscent, in many and increasing ways, of the apartheid regime in South Africa.”

Ehud Olmert, when he was Prime Minister, told a Knesset committee meeting, “For sixty years there has been discrimination against Arabs in Israel. This discrimination is deep‑seated and intolerable” and repeatedly warned that if “we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories), then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished.”

Ehud Barak has admitted that “[a]s long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic. If this bloc of millions of ­Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.”

Shlomo Gazit, former member of Palmach, an elite unit of the Haganah, wrote in Ha’aretz that “in the present situation, unfortunately, there is no equal treatment for Jews and Arabs when it comes to law enforcement. The legal system that enforces the law in a discriminatory way on the basis of national identity, is actually maintaining an apartheid regime.”

Last summer, Knesset minister Ahmed Tibi told the Jerusalem Post that “keeping the status quo will deepen apartheid in Israel as it did in South Africa,” while Gabriela Shalev, former Israeli ambassador to the UN, told The Los Angeles Times last year that, in terms of public opinion of Israel, “I have the feeling that we are seen more like South Africa once was.”

Council on Foreign Relations member Stephen Roberts, after returning from a trip to Israel and the West Bank, wrote in The Nation that “Israel has created a system of apartheid on steroids, a horrifying prison with concrete walls as high as twenty-six feet, topped with body-ravaging coils of razor wire.”

In April 2012, Benjamin Netanyahu’s own nephew, Jonathan Ben Artzi, wrote that Israel’s “policies of segregation and discrimination that ravaged (and still ravage) my country and the occupied Palestinian territories” undoubtedly fit the definition of Apartheid.

Linguist, cultural anthropologist, and Hebrew University professor David Shulman wrote in May 2012 in The New York Review of Books that there already exists “a single state between the Jordan River and the sea” controlled by Israel and which fits the definition of an “ethnocracy.”  He continues:

“Those who recoil at the term ‘apartheid’ are invited to offer a better one; but note that one of the main architects of this system, Ariel Sharon, himself reportedly adopted South African terminology, referring to the noncontiguous Palestinian enclaves he envisaged for the West Bank as ‘Bantustans.’”

These Palestinian Bantustans now exist, and no one should pretend that they’re anything remotely like a “solution” to Israel’s Palestinian problem. Someday, as happened in South Africa, this system will inevitably break down.

Whether those who get hysterical over Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric agree with the above assessments – many of which were made by prominent Israeli and Jewish politicians, officials and academics – is irrelevant.  It’s clear that Ahmadinejad himself would agree.

Consequently, his reference to Israel (which he sees as an Apartheid state) as an “insult to humanity” (which repeats the same verbiage used repeatedly by the United Nations itself) appears to be far less inflammatory then the outrage that followed would suggest.

Nima Shirazi is a political commentator from New York City. His Web site is, where this story first appeared. Follow him on Twitter @WideAsleepNima

19 comments for “Israel’s Drift into Apartheid

  1. ilse
    August 23, 2012 at 17:52

    “the Iranian president accused “Zionists” of controlling the world’s media and financial systems…. ”
    He [Ahmadinejad]is not the only one in the world to know that!
    Israel (which A. sees as an Apartheid state) is an “insult to humanity”. (And, again: he is not the only one in the world.)
    Your self righteous ranting and raving renders you obnoxious.

  2. August 23, 2012 at 15:50

    ANYTHING which is not 100% in support of Zionism is anti-semitic

    • ilse
      August 23, 2012 at 17:59

      That is correct. Just questioning a policy is considered to be anti-semitic.

    • Marilyn A.F.
      August 24, 2012 at 18:18

      Now the conversation is getting silly. I read to the end of the comments and they seem to be deteriorating. “Anything which is not 100% in support of Zionism is anti-semitic.” Both sides of that equation show intellectual deficiency. See if you can work it out…

      Like all current ‘phobias’ thrown at nonbelievers, political correctness is counterproductive–and I might add very ‘leftist.’ Leftists have glommed onto convenient tag lines (homo-phobic; Islamo-phobic) that IMO exacerbate problems. They live in some high moral ether distaining other positions, similar to religious fundies, who quote God incessantly and duck logic. Anti-Semitic is a statement of defense, like the others.

      There is political apartheid, social apartheid, sexual apartheid (women among the aggrieved), et al., based on class, gender, and ethnicity; all of those designations will never be reconciled in our unevolved species.

      I support Israel’s right to exist; she is there and is a viable nation state. If the West would butt out and quit arming both factions, they might be forced to hammer out an agreement. But, of course, the West is addicted to OIL. Where is Tesla when we need alternative energy?

  3. Simon
    August 22, 2012 at 13:49

    I’m no expert but I need some clarification on whether being against the the government of Israel (which I believe is the Zionist regime?) is the same as being anti-Semitic? It’s probably a bit of a grey area with no black and white answer, but if there is a someone out there who can respond without spewing vitriol it would be appreciated.


  4. Solomon Grundy
    August 22, 2012 at 12:28

    Not a single one of these statements changes anything about the article above, which is about the outrage over phraseology, as if it’s something so startling and offensive and has never been heard before with regard to an explicitly discriminatory political ideology.

    Furthermore, if you’re going to cut and paste an entire article found on the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, you should probably link back to the original or at least acknowledge that this information came from elsewhere. I’ll help you out:

    Just saying.

  5. Aaron
    August 22, 2012 at 12:11

    Yes and no. The current situation in the West Bank can be comparable to Apartheid to some degree, but not in Israel proper within its legally recognized border defined by international law. And one can say that Israeli Arabs don’t have life perfect, but conditions overall are better than in other neighbouring states, most especially when there is turmoil and when new established regimes have tendency to persecute ethnic and religious minorities.

    If only there can be Synagogues and Churches in Saudi Arabia right next to Mecca just like Jewish communities can live freely throughout the Mid East, Kibbutz from the Nile to the Euphrates among Muslims and Christians throughout the region.

    • Solomon Grundy
      August 22, 2012 at 13:21

      Apparently, Aaron, you are unaware that Israel has no “legally recognized border by international law” and that “in Israel proper” there is a tremendous amount of discrimination, both societal and institutional, against Palestinians (by the way, the term “Israeli Arab” betrays your agenda) as well as other non-Jewish communities.

      To write that Palestinians in Israel “don’t have life perfect, but…” is like trying to justify Jim Crow in the American South by saying “conditions overall were better than in” Kenya, Dominican Republic, Haiti or South Africa. it’s a bogus construction seeking only to deflect attention away from rampant bigotry and inequality.

      Israeli civil rights groups reported that, in just the past few years, “the Israeli government passed at least 21 bills aimed at discriminating against the country’s Arab citizens making the current Knesset…the most racist Israeli parliament since the country’s founding.” Many more racist laws have been proposed.

      For information regarding the systemic and deliberate inequality of the Israeli state, read this: [PDF]

      Also, Ben White’s book, “Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy,” publish late last year is especially instructive and illuminating.

      Nice try, though.

      • Aaron
        August 22, 2012 at 17:00

        I said the occupation of Palestinian territories is similar to an Apartheid state, but not in Israel. That’s a fact. But on the other hand, I don’t deny that there is discrimination against Israeli Arabs (Palestinians who chose to live in an open and free democracy), but that will evolve with time. And I’ll admit that the current far-right fundamentalist leadership is intolerant toward Arabs regarding what it perceives as being a threat to the Jewish character of Israel, which is ludicrous in reality.

        But the UN has already recognized Israel’s borders, and Israel is the one that won’t accept what they’re supposed to be. That’s why I’m for a Two-State Solution for peace. I think it’s disingenuous to associate the illegal military Israeli occupation which has to end completely – and Israel as a normal society.

        Israel exists and will always exist whether you and others like or not.

        • Hillary
          August 22, 2012 at 18:55

          (Israel )—–“its legally recognized border”

          Israel had from day 1 neither constitution nor clearly defined its borders but codified into law discriminatory policies aimed at non-Jew citizens.

          “Israeli Arabs (Palestinians who chose to live in an open and free democracy)”

          Means under occupation.

          BTW—there is little to suggest that Jerusalem, touted by the Bible as David’s capital, was little more than a village during the time of David and of Solomon, and Judah remained little more than a sparsely populated rural region, until the 7th century BCE. Though the Tel Dan Stele confirms that a ruler named ‘David’ existed, it says little else about him.

        • ilse
          August 23, 2012 at 17:56

          “But the UN has already recognized Israel’s borders, and Israel is the one that won’t accept what they’re supposed to be.”
          They won’t accept what they are supposed to be. Why not?

  6. Don Rembert
    August 22, 2012 at 01:45

    Inflamed rhetoric is form of warfare that seeks to dehumanize, demonize and cause harm. However, it is actual war planning, saber rattling followed up by subversive or covert actions that create more of a likelihood of actual armed conflict. Israel and Iran are governments, geopolitical entities that derive their authority through their respective political and cultural institutions as well as some form of popular vote managed by local and national politicians backed by powerful religious interests and business interests. There are also outside players who contribute to the process of accelerating a process of peace or conflict. It is readily apparent to the independent minded observer that there is major bias in play on both sides. However, where the similarities end is where the source of the problem lies. A NUCLEAR ISRAEL feels it is more entitled to nuclear weapons than it’s neighbors. In a neighborhood where one neighbor alone could destroy the entire neighborhood, including itself, the stakes are very high for Israel’s neighbors who are constantly referred to as “The Arabs” rather than by their nationalities or government names. The insidious aspects of racism are present throughout. Racism breeds racism. The history of the region reveals complicated geopolitical realties and facts that can’t be ignored no matter how powerful the PR machine is that tries to reframe the region to one player’s advantage. This is becoming less about Jews and Arabs and more about human beings acting terribly irresponsibly and hiding behind ancient mythologies and revised histories. Those who truly want peace manage to show it with their desire for sane discourse and good will rather than carrying the heavy chip on their shoulders.

  7. incontinent reader
    August 22, 2012 at 00:06

    One must separate the Iranian government’s position toward its Jewish community which is estimated at 25,000-35,000, and its stance toward Israel and Israel’s policies. You can find a good discussion of this by Barbara Demick in her article titled, “Iran: Life of Jews Living in Iran at the Foundation for the Advancement of Sephardic Studies and Jewish Culture’s website:

    The rhetoric is harsh – it is harsh on both sides- but much of the antagonism could be dissipated if not removed if a just and lasting settlement for both the Israelis and Palestinians were achieved.

    You might also read the interview, “Talking to Iran’s Only Jewish Member of Parliament” in the July 14, 2008 issue of Counterpunch at:

    Finally, read “The General’s Son” by Miko Peled, whose father was one of the most famous of the Israeli generals. Miko’s website is at: You can also see him on many YouTube clips. It is a different Israeli perspective than the one you espouse, but it is serious and realistic.

    The goal for all sides should be fairness, accommodation, and trade leading to a peaceful relationship and the opportunity for all sides to achieve prosperity, and can only get there with smart diplomacy. (See Ambassador Burn’s recent article in the Boston Globe adopting the recommendation by Veterans for Intelligence Sanity published in Consortium News, July 31, 2012 to establish a direct line of communication (i.e., hotline) between Washington and Tehran, and advocating diplomacy rather than military action. (See: )

  8. Hillary
    August 21, 2012 at 14:59

    Antiquated sky fairy mumbo jumbo scripture of King David & Solomon , Moses et al is used by Jews to occupy and steal Arab lands.

    Jews were loading their nukes for use against the Arabs in the Yom Kippur war, and would have used them if the war had gone against them. Perhaps future archeologists will dig up the ruins of our “civilization” and come to the ultimate conclusion that we died of insanity.

  9. charles caruso
    August 21, 2012 at 13:48

    The Zionist state has been racist-fascist since day one, and only Phil Giraldi has the guts to say so.
    And like all racist-fascist states, the writing’s on the wall.

  10. Brian Cohen
    August 21, 2012 at 11:36

    Yet another apologist article for the real apartheid carried out in Arab countries. Jews in Egypt? No, they were all expelled. Iraq? The same. Syria? Thankfully they escaped in time. Lebanon? Gone. Jordan? No Jews allowed, sorry.
    Well, Palestinian leaders are on the record saying no Jews allowed. The Palestinians record is similar to that of their neighbors – attempted genocide against the Jews and official apartheid laws on the books. Yes, Palestine has apartheid laws – the best example being the death penalty if a Palestinian sells a house to a Jew.

    Where else in the world is the selling of a house a capital offense based on racist laws? Only in Palestine.

    There is no Palestinian drift to apartheid – it is already there, just like in many of the neighboring Arab countries. But don’t worry, because consortiumnews isn’t concerned with human rights – just with making sure somebody like Iran destroys Israel and sends those damn Jews packing.

    • Simon
      August 21, 2012 at 15:58

      I’m not terribly partial to either side of this debate; to be clear the sides being governments of countries and not hte people or the faith those people hold.

      However, I would like to point out that the law you describe does not refer to the Jewish faith; it refers to selling property to an “enemy of the state” and an enemy is defined as a citizen of Israel.

      Further, if the only defence that can be brought to bear for the Israeli Government is that “other countries do bad things so what’s wrong with the bad things we do”, that is no defence, two wrongs do not make a right. And both sides claim to represent a religious faith, and I’m pretty sure both those faiths teach tolerance, respect, peace, love, etc…

      Get a grip

    • Simon
      August 21, 2012 at 16:10

      One more point, you mention the departure of Jewish people from Arab countries in the Middle East; you neglect to mention the forced displacement and massacre of Arabs by Israeli government forces.

      I agree this was a very bad thing for both sides,and to reiterate the vast majority of these people left after the 1948 Palestine War and the subsequent Arab-Israeli War. During war people who identify with a side generally go to that side, especially if their lives are in danger, to be fare, there are to many examples of both Jewish and Arab war crimes.

      I truly hope that both sides can live side by side peacefully like they did for hundreds years before the Europeans started to meddle in the affairs of the middle east.


    • John
      August 22, 2012 at 15:58

      In response to Brian, the pushing of Jews out of the other Arab countries began when the partition of Palestine was finally considered as the way to go. It was a reaction to an injustice perceived to be along religious lines (the early Zionists were secular but still called themselves Jews). It was a typical reaction, it was wrong, and it had the effect of moving more Jews to the future state.
      I think any abuse of a particular religious group by another only inflames the reaction of people within the religion of the group being persecuted. And the worlds reaction sadly depends on how the world perceives the people being persecuted, are they well known and we can relate to them or are they not and we don’t etc.
      Likewise the tragedy that befell Jews in many cases has made them blind to the inappropriate behaviour they push on others. And it is fear of the past which is used instill this blindness deeper into Jewish psyche, and which Zionist politicians use to great effect. Ben-Gurion told the Zionists to accept what the partition offered and not to be greedy, the rest can be got later. I often wonder if that was why that was reasoning behind the invasion of Lebanon in 82 when all was quiet, and Israel moved right up to the Litani river in Lebanon (territory they had asked for but not received) and settled down. From that stupid move, Hezbollah grew in reaction to the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon.
      Christian-Zionist fundamentalism is another matter, completely ignorant of what Christianity is all about.
      At one time Palestinian Jews, Christians and Muslims lived in peace.

Comments are closed.