Israeli Apartheid

“Unrecognized” Palestinians
By Stephen Lendman

Global Research, September 9, 2007

Israel’s population today is about 7,150,000. About 5.4 million are Jews (76%)
plus another 400,000 Jewish settlers in over 200 expanding settlements on
occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank that includes Palestinian East
Jerusalem. They’re the chosen ones afforded full rights and privileges
under the laws of the Jewish state for Jews alone.
Palestinian Arabs are another story. Their population is around 5.3 million
(plus six million or more in the Palestinian diaspora). Around 3.9 million live
in occupied Gaza and the West Bank, and another 1.4 million are Jewish
citizens of Israel (20% of the population), including about 260,000 classified
as internally displaced. Palestinians get no rights afforded Jews even
though those inside Israel are citizens of the Jewish state, have passports
and IDs, and can vote in Knesset elections for what good it does them.
They’re subjected to constant abuse and neglect, are confined to 2% of the
land plus 1% more for agricultural use, and are treated disdainfully as
Arab Israeli citizens live mainly in all-Arab towns and villages in three
heartlands – the Galilee in the north; what’s called the “Little Triangle” in the
center that runs along the Israeli side of the Green Line separating Israel
from the West Bank; and the Negev desert region in the country’s south.
These communities aren’t geographically consolidated and are surrounded
by established Jewish communities, hostile to Arab neighbors, and with
Israel’s full military might backing them. A minority of Palestinians also live
uneasily in mixed Jewish-Arab cities like Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Haifa, Acre,
Jerusalem in the West Bank and others.
The Plight of Palestinian Nonpersons in “Unrecognized Villages”
The term is Orwellian in its worst sense. How can something real not
officially exist? Around 150,000 or more (accurate numbers are hard to come
by) Palestinian Arabs today live in over 100 so-called “unrecognized
villages,” mainly in the Galilee and the Negev desert. They’re unrecognized
because their inhabitants are considered internal refugees who were
forced to flee their original homes during Israel’s 1948 “War of
Independence” and were prevented from returning when it ended.
These villages were delegitimized by Israel’s 1965 Planning and
Construction Law that established a regulatory framework and national plan
for future development. It zoned land for residential, agriculture and
industrial use, forbade unlicensed construction, banned it on agricultural
land, and stipulated where Israeli Jews and Palestinians could live. That’s
how apartheid worked in South Africa.
Existing communities are circumscribed on a map with blue lines around
them. Areas inside the lines can be developed. Those outside cannot. For
Jewish communities, great latitude is allowed for future expansion, and new
communities are added as a result. In contrast, Palestinian areas are
severely constricted leaving no room for expansion. Their land was
reclassified as agricultural meaning no new construction is allowed. This
meant entire communities became “unrecognized” and all homes and
buildings there declared illegal, even the 95% of them built before the 1965
law passed. They’re subject to demolition and inhabitant displacement at
the whim of Israeli officials. They want new land for Jews and freely take it
from Arab owners, helpless to stop it.
All Israeli public land is administered by the Israel Land Authority (ILA) that
has a legal obligation to treat all its citizens fairly. Instead and with impunity,
it serves Jewish interests only using various methods to do it.
It restricts and prohibits Palestinian land development by:
— putting large Arab areas under its control through the creation of regional
— zoning restrictions mentioned above;
— transferring public land adjacent to Arab communities to Jewish National
Fund (JNF) ownership that mandates it’s only for Jews;
— connecting the cost of leasing land to military service that discriminates
against Palestinians not required to serve and almost none do;
— declaring national priority town areas for Jews only;
— delaying, restricting and prohibiting local development in Arab
— ignoring Arab needs in regional and national plans;
— allowing Palestinians little or no representation on national planning
— enforcing a policy of forced evictions and demolitions of buildings
without appropriate permits. In “unrecognized villages,” no permits are
allowed Palestinians on their own land. Entire villages thus face
prosecution in the courts and loss of their homes, land and possessions
through a state-sponsored policy to remove them judicially.
It gets worse. No new Palestinian communities are allowed, and existing
“unrecognized villages” are denied essential municipal services like clean
drinking water, electricity, roads, transport, sanitation, education,
healthcare, postal and telephone service, refuse removal and more
because under the Planning and Construction Law they’re illegal. The toll on
their people is devastating:
— clean water is unavailable almost everywhere unless people have access
to well water,
— the few available health services are inadequate,
— many homes have no bathrooms, and no permits are allowed to build
— only villages with private generators have electricity enough for lighting
— no village is connected to the main road network,
— some villages are fenced in prohibiting their residents from access to
their traditional lands,
— in the North, only one school remains open and children must travel 10 –
15 kilometers to attend another; as a result, achievement levels are low and
dropout rates high.
It’s worse still when home demolitions are ordered. It may stipulate
Palestinians must do it themselves or be fined for contempt of court and
face up to a year in prison. They may also have to cover the cost when
Israeli bulldozers do it under a system of convoluted justice penalizing
Palestinians twice over.
Discriminatory Israeli Law
Israel is a signatory to the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights (ICCPR). Its Preamble states “the obligation of (signatory) States
under the Charter of the United Nations to promote universal respect for,
and observance of, human rights and freedom.” It then covers what states
must observe in 53 Articles that stipulate the following:
— “All people have the right of self-determination.”
— “Each state party….undertakes to respect and ensure to all individuals
within its territory the rights in this Covenant, without distinction of any
kind” for any reason.
— “Every human being has the inherent right to life,” to “be protected by
law,” and no activity may be undertaken to destroy any rights and freedom
covered under this Covenant.
— “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading
treatment or punishment.”
— “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.”
— “Everyone….within the territory (shall) have the right to liberty of
movement and freedom to chose his residence (and) to be free to leave any
country (and not be) deprived of the right to enter (or return to) his own
— “All persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals.”
— “Everyone shall have the right to recognition everywhere as a person
before the law.”
— “All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any
discrimination to the equal protection of the law.”
— In states with “ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities (those persons)
shall not be denied the (same) right(s)….as the other members.”
In Israel, for all intents and purposes, the ICCPR is a nonstarter. It applies to
Jews alone, not to Arabs and other non-Jews. Israeli laws allow it by
subjecting non-Jews, and specifically Arabs, to three types of discrimination:
— legal direct discrimination guaranteeing Jews alone the right to immigrate
and become citizens; it also gives various Jewish organizations in the
country quasi-government status serving Jews only.
— indirect discrimination through “neutral” laws and criteria applying
principally to Palestinians; government preferences and benefits are
predicated on prior military service most Palestinians don’t perform; the
categorization of the country into preferential zones for Jews provides
them privileges and benefits denied Palestinians.
— institutional discrimination through a legal framework facilitating a pattern
of privileges afforded Jews only; they’re allocated through budgets and
resources showing preferential treatment for Jews and discrimination
against Palestinians; Israeli courts enforce the bias by refusing to hear
cases where Palestinians claim their rights have been denied;
— even when courts hear cases and rule favorably, Palestinians get only
crumbs; an example was in the early September Supreme Court decision
that Israel reroute part of its illegal apartheid wall and return a small portion
of stolen land to the people of Bil’in; a far greater issue was ignored by
allowing the illegal Modiin Illit settlement on Bil’in land to remain intact; for
anti-occupation Gush Shalom, the court decision message to settlers is do
as you please, build fast and expect court approval retrospectively.
Israel professes to be a democracy. It is not by any reasonable standard. It
defines itself as a Jewish state which contradicts its claimed democratic
credentials. It treats Jews preferentially and entitles them to special
consideration denied non-Jews who are discriminated against as
second-class citizens and denied comparable rights.
Israel has no formal constitution and instead is governed by its Basic Laws
that before 1992 guaranteed no basic rights. That year, the Basic Law:
Human Dignity and Freedom passed authorizing the Knesset to overturn
laws contrary to the right to dignity, life, freedom, privacy, property and to
leave and enter the country. The law states “There shall be no violation of
the life, body or dignity of any person. All persons are entitled to
protection” of these rights, and “There shall be no deprivation or
restriction of the liberty of a person by imprisonment, arrest, extradition or
For a nation committed to violence, the irony is particularly galling that a
section of the Basic Law also deals with “The Right to Life and Limb in
Israeli Law.” It states “Israeli law has abolished the death penalty for murder
(and corporal punishment).” It notes this penalty exists in principle but only
under limited circumstances such as for treason during war and under the
Law for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. It further notes
Israel’s 1998 Good Samaritan Law requires assistance be given in situations
“of immediate and severe danger to another.” Omitted from the Basic Law is
the right to equality so all rights in it apply to Jews only.
Palestinian Arabs have none, yet can stand for public office in the Knesset.
Some do, a few are elected but have no power beyond a public stage to
state their views and be shouted down or ignored. They’re also constrained
by the 1992 Law of Political Parties and section 7A(1) of the Basic Law that
prohibits candidates for office from denying “the existence of the State of
Israel as the state of the Jewish people.” No candidate may challenge the
fundamental Jewish character of the state or demand equal rights,
privileges and justice under the law for Arabs and Jews. The essential
Zionist identity is inviolable, the rule of law works for Jews alone, and
Palestinians are denied all rights, equal treatment and justice under a legal
system for Jews that discriminates against Arab Muslims. In South Africa it
was called apartheid.
The Current Plight of Palestinian Israeli Citizens in the Negev
About half the 160,000 Bedouin Arabs today face forced displacement in the
Negev. Why? Because they live in dozens “unrecognized villages” making
their homes illegal under Israeli law. They face imprisonment and fines if
they refuse to leave so their land can be cleared, homes demolished, and
the area Judaised for a Negev development plan. It’s described as “A
Miracle in the Desert” that aims to populate the area with a half million new
Jewish residents in the next decade. Plans are for 25 new communities and
100,000 homes on cleared Bedouin lands. For the past two years, Israel has
been ethnically cleansing the Negev and erasing Bedouin villages to make
it possible.
All Bedouin Arabs in “unrecognized villages” face what those living in Tawil
Abu Jarwal endured in January. The entire village was destroyed when the
Israeli military (IDF), a large police contingent and special task forces, a
helicopter and bulldozers came in January 9. They demolished all 21 of its
homes that consisted of shacks, brick rooms and tents. It followed a month
earlier assault when 17 other homes were destroyed and their residents
forcibly displaced. The people became homeless, and 63 of them in January
were children. In late 2006, Israel’s interior minister, Roni Bar-On,
announced his intention to destroy all 42,000 “illegal structures” in the
Negev in a bandit declaration of planned forced ethnic cleansing against
people helpless to stop it.
It’s happening in Al-Sadir, Tel-Arad, Amara-Tarabin and on June 25 to
Bedouin families in the small villages of Um al-Hiran and Atir that are homes
to about 1000 people. Hundreds of police and Israeli security forces
destroyed over 20 of their homes to make way for a Jewish community
called Hiran to replace them. People living in them lost everything including
their possessions they had no chance to remove. Haaretz reported Atir
villagers lived there for 51 years after being transferred to the area in 1956
under martial law. The article continued saying the Israeli Regional Council
of “Unrecognized Villages” will move displaced families to a refugee camp
in the center of Jerusalem (where Bedouins don’t wish to live) “as part of
the government’s (forced ethnic cleansing) relocation project” to make the
“desert bloom” for new Jewish only communities.
This is what all Negev Bedouin Arabs now face unless something can stop
it. Large numbers of them attended an early August protest conference. It
was held in solidarity with unaffected Palestinians who together called on
Arab and other countries to support their right to remain in their homes and
denounce Israel’s racist apartheid laws.
Arab Knesset member, Talab Al Sane, spoke on their behalf. So did Hussein
Al Rafay’a, head of the regional council of the “unrecognized villages,” who
said Israel wants Palestinians to be refugees in their own lands and has
been forcing them into this status by a policy of home demolitions and
continued displacement. Arabs once owned 5.5 million dunams of land
(550,000 hectares) in the Negev, he said. They now own less than 200,000
(20,000 hectares) and are threatened with losing all of it. “We will resort to
the Security Council, and the international court (in the Hague) to provide
the residents and their lands with needed protection.”
With an assured US veto in the Security Council and Israel’s record of
ignoring UN resolutions and World Court rulings against it, there’s little
chance for success and every likelihood legal Israeli Arab citizens will
continue being displaced from their own land.
Advocacy for Palestinian Arabs in “Unrecognized Villages”
Israel denies all Palestinians their basic rights. However, those living in
so-called “unrecognized villages” face a special threat – demolition of their
homes, loss of their land and possessions, and frightening displacement
that will make them refugees along with millions of others in their own land.
Few organizations advocate on their behalf, but a group that does is called
The Association of Forty.
It’s a grassroots NGO in Israel committed to promoting social justice for
Israeli Arabs and to gain official recognition for their “unrecognized
villages.” It was formed in December, 1988 when Arab and Jewish residents
from several of the affected villages and other areas formed the
Association. It now “represents the residents of the ‘unrecognized villages’
and their problems, and promotes support locally and internationally” on
their behalf. It seeks official recognition for the villages, an improvement in
their living conditions, and “full rights and equality for the Arab citizens of
the state” of Israel.
Its work consists of initiating “the preparation and implementation of active
projects within these villages such as paving roads, improving existing
roads and helping the residents to achieve their rights, to connect their
villages to the network of water, electricity and telephones, to establish and
operate kindergartens and clinics for mother and child care, and to obtain
educational non-curricular activities for the schoolchildren….” It publishes
a monthly newspaper, Sawt Al-Qura, has photographic exhibitions, films and
documentaries that reflect the plight of the villages. It also organizes study
days, holds local and international conferences, and participates in other
international ones.
The Palestinians Enduring Struggle for Freedom and Justice
Palestinians today live under horrendous conditions. By any standard,
they’re appalling, repressive and in violation of fundamental human rights
principles under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stating:
— “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
— “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms….in this Declaration,
without distinction of any kind.”
— “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”
— “Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before
the law.”
— “All are equal before the law and are entitled….to equal protection.”
— “Everyone has the right to own property (nor shall anyone) be arbitrarily
(be) deprived of his property.”
Israel offers these rights to Jews alone. It denies them to Palestinian Arab
Muslims in violation of its own Basic Law professing “Fundamental human
rights….founded upon recognition of the value of the human being, the
sanctity of human life, and the principle that all persons are free.” It
continues stating the Basic Law of Israel “is to protect human dignity and
liberty….(that) There shall be no violation of the property of a person….(that)
All persons are entitled to protection of their life, body and dignity….(that)
All government authorities are bound to respect the rights under this Basic
The Basic Law also states Israel is a Jewish state, and the message is clear.
All rights, benefits, privileges and protections are for Jews alone. All others
are unwelcome, unwanted, unprotected, and unequal under the law. For
them, justice unrecognized is justice denied and for Palestinians it’s willful
and with malice.
They face constant harassment, abuse and near daily assaults in the West
Bank and even worse treatment under virtual imprisonment in Gaza. Their
democratically elected government was ousted by a US-Israeli orchestrated
coup in June to the shameless applause of Western leaders and silence
from Arab ones. They’re now isolated, surrounded and dangerously close to
a humanitarian disaster affecting 1.4 million people.
It’s no better for Israeli Palestinian citizens. They’re nonpersons in their own
land, are treated like intruders, given no rights, face constant harassment
and mistreatment, get no justice, and face imminent loss of their homes,
land, freedom and lives any time Israeli authorities wish to act against them.
Yet they persist and endure as do their brethren in the Occupied
Territories. They reach out to the world community, press their case, and a
delegation from occupied Palestine stated it at the World Social Forum in
Nairobi, Kenya in January.
It was a call to action and cry for help for “freedom, justice and (a) durable
peace” and an end to six decades of repression. It called for a “global
Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel until it ends
its apartheid-like regime of discrimination, occupation and colonization, and
respects the right of return of Palestinian refugees and internally displaced
It called for “Consumer boycotts of Israeli products; boycott of Israeli
academic, athletic and cultural events and institutions complicit in human
rights abuses; divestment from Israeli companies (and) international
companies involved in perpetuating injustice, and pressuring governments
to impose sanctions on Israel….”
Silence is not an option, and people of conscience can help. Noted author
and documentary filmmaker, John Pilger, believes “something is changing,”
and he saw it in a recent full page New York Times ad having a “distinct
odour of panic.” It called for boycotting Israel, and Pilger senses the
“swell….is growing inexorably, as if an important marker has been passed
(and it’s) reminiscent of the boycotts that led to sanctions against apartheid
South Africa…..once distant voices,” notes Pilger, have “gone global,” it
caught Israel off guard and may signal change. But not easily or fast and
may not happen at all unless global pressure becomes mass public outrage
that this injustice no longer will be tolerated by people of conscience

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
Also visit his blog site at and listen to the
Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on
Saturdays at noon US central time.

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