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Israel’s nation-state law: Apartheid resurrected

After approving the 'new' nation-state law, we seem to be heading to the inevitable: a confrontation with Jewish supremacy in its ugliest form

I am a naturalised South African of Palestinian origin. I spent five to six years in the Republic of South Africa, starting from 1997, three years after the first multi-racial elections which ultimately led to the appointment of Nelson Mandela as the first black president of the country.

Those were turbulent years with the spectre of apartheid still looming after ruling for 46 years, leaving scars that the people of South Africa, in their various races, still have to deal with.

Inhumane apartheid system

What concerns me here is the fact that not a single country in the world in the late 1980s wanted to have anything to do with the inhumane apartheid system, not even recognising the so-called "independent homelands" given as a bribe to some native Africans by the apartheid regime.

It is noteworthy that the international community considers the crime of apartheid as the second gravest crime against humanity after genocide.  

This is why I am, as a Palestinian descendent of refugees from the ethnically cleansed village of Zarnouqa, entitled to my internationally sanctioned right of return. I also take issue with the promotion of the two-state solution to be considered the solution "that fulfils the national aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians".

As a resident of Gaza, I am in constant shock that there are politicians who still believe that there are two equal sides to what they call the 'Israeli-Palestinian conflict'

As a resident of Gaza, I'm in constant shock that there are politicians who still believe there are two equal sides to what they call the "Israeli-Palestinian conflict". Did these same politicians believe during the 1970s and 80s that there were two equal parties in South Africa, white and black, with equal claim to the land?

Unlike the new post-apartheid South Africa, in the state of Israel all human beings are not equal. Israel now defines itself as a "Jewish state". And since almost 22 percent of the citizens of Israel are Palestinians, they are excluded from being citizens of that state. (There are a further four million Palestinians living under direct military occupation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank).

Israel is not a state for all its citizens. It is a state for "the Jewish People", most of whom have no birthright connection to it. So one can be a citizen of any country in the world yet, as a Jew, enjoy full rights in Israel, rights that apartheid Israel denies to us Palestinians, the indigenous people of this land. They also refer to us as "Israeli Arabs", "Jerusalem residents", "Arabs of the territories".

Institutionalised inferiority

To add insult to injury, there is no Israeli nationality. Instead, there is a "Jewish nationality" much like there was a "white nationality" in apartheid South Africa. So, if one is born to Palestinian parents living in Israel, you too would be denied the rights of "Jewish nationality" and be forced to submit to institutionalised inferiority or choose to resist it, which is the natural reaction of any decent human being, like the choice made by Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King.

Relatives of Palestinian protester Abdul Kareem Radwan mourn over his body during his funeral in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on 20 July 2018 (AFP)
The same racist laws that used to forbid black property ownership in white areas in apartheid South Africa are in force in apartheid Israel. Indigenous Palestinian citizens of Israel are not only prohibited from living on land owned by "Jewish institutions", but are also not allowed to reside in any areas designated "Jewish" either.

I, myself, have a legal title to my parents' land in Israel but have no "legal" right to it because my parents' property, like that of millions of other Palestinians', was taken away from us and given to Jewish owners.

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And now, after approving the "new" nation-state law, we seem to be heading to the inevitable. i.e. a confrontation with Jewish supremacy in its ugliest form(s). In Oslo, 1993, the Palestinian leadership had the illusion that it would be able to establish a bantustan that the world would recognise as the State of Palestine.

At the time, the proposal was an acceptance of the programme of the Zionist "left" endorsed by the US. Now, we are being asked to accept the programme of the Zionist far-right government of Israel endorsed by the right-wing government of the US and given a new title, "Deal of the Century".

This is the context within which the new-old Jewish nation-state law can be understood: it is the rebirth of apartheid.

Dr Haidar Eid is associate professor in the department of English literature at Al-Aqsa University in the Gaza Strip.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye. 

Photo: Pro-Palestinian groups and other civil society organisations demonstrate, in Durban on 2 June, 2018 to protest against the killing of Palestinians by Israeli forces in Gaza (AFP)

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