Poll reveals Israelis largely acknowledge aspects on the ground that make an apartheid state, even though they don’t agree with the definition.
East Jerusalem has been turned into a war zone. In the last week, Israeli police have been unleashing violence on the neighbourhood, even targeting the Al Aqsa mosque and its compound with stun grenades, teargas, and rubber bullets. The police have come out in support of the Jewish settlers who seem determined in executing a wider Zionist plan, which is to expel Palestinians first from the historical Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood and then from East Jerusalem. The violent takeovers will help them realise their dream of full annexation of whatever little has remained left of historic Palestine.
Is Israel committing a crime of apartheid, a term that was first attributed to South Africa in the 1990s for following a policy of segregation or discrimination on the grounds of race? Palestinians and critics of Israel overwhelmingly agree that violence sponsored and executed by Israel against Palestinians makes the Jewish state an apartheid state.
A new survey inquiring about what people living under Israel’s control think of the term came up with surprising findings. While the majority of Israeli Jews think “apartheid” is not the right word to define the Israeli state’s policy, a growing number of Israelis acknowledge "the factual elements" that make up an apartheid state in relation to Palestine. But the same group of Israelis refuse to call Israel thus.
The poll was conducted by Dahlia Scheindlin and Khalil Shikaki for B’Tselem, a leading Israeli human rights organisation. It found that overall, 45 percent of the population, Israelis, and Palestinians, say the term defines Israel well, or very well. While 77 percent of Palestinians who say Israel controls many aspects of their lives say the description fits, 74 percent of Israeli Jews reject the definition of apartheid.
However, analysing the findings for the Washington Post, Scheindlin wrote that there is “significant agreement that Israel dominates in reality,” from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean.
Only 23 percent of respondents said they believe the Palestinian Authority has total control of the West Bank. The rest either believes Israel controls the area, while the PA only controls it on paper, or Israel and the PA control it together.
In 2018, Israel passed a discriminatory “nation state law” that caused a stir among critics and Palestinians, as well as igniting controversy within Israel. Calling it “apartheid”, the critics point to three major statements of the law that fit the description. What Israel calls Israeli land is unique to Jewish people, Hebrew is the official language by dismissing the Arab population, and Jewish settlements are of national value and to be promoted.
The B’Tselem study finds that 36 percent of Israelis support repealing the law, while less than half want it to remain as it is.
Either by annexation or military rule, Israel seeks to perpetuate its control
The survey shows that Israelis and Palestinians do not agree much over whether Israel’s plan is perpetuating military rule or annexing the West Bank in the future.
However, 61 percent of Israeli Jews, 57 percent of Palestinian citizens, and 85 percent of Palestinians under occupation agree on one thing — that Israel ultimately seeks to perpetuate its control, either with full annexation or military occupation.
The largest portion of Israelis, 43 percent, believe that military rule is what Israel aims to impose on Palestinian territories, while nearly 60 percent of Palestinians say the state is seeking annexation.
But when it comes to answering whether Israel should annex the West Bank, with Palestinians remaining noncitizens, Israelis support declined drastically by 37 percent in 2021, compared to 2017 and 2018.
But do Israelis believe Israel in practice controls the Gaza Strip’s borders? Surprisingly, they answered the questions almost in the same way as Palestinians living in Gaza: seventy-five per cent say Israel partly or completely controls it.
Previous accusations of Apartheid crimes
For a Human Rights Watch study on April 27, the facts on the ground prove that under international law, Israeli authorities’ crimes have indeed passed the threshold of apartheid.
Examining Israeli policies and practices towards Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and Israel, comparing them to the treatment of Jewish Israelis living in the same area, the group said a single Israeli government policy was leading to the elements of apartheid crimes to be committed in the OPT.
“Apartheid is a crime in which one group of people dominates another, irrespective of whether the dominating group has formal sovereignty in the area,” the report said.
“A finding of apartheid or persecution does not change the legal status of a territory, even when it is outside the borders of the state committing the crimes. Nor does it detract from the factual reality of occupation,” it added.
In January, B’Tselem also said Israel meets the criteria.
“More than 14 million people, roughly half of them Jews and the other half Palestinians live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea under a single rule,” the group said. “This is apartheid.”