It is a fool’s errand to attempt to write a one pager ( and yet we are trying) on apartheid that clearly lays out the case pro or con, which is one of the reasons that PFMEP is opposed to even considering such an overture under the format of the 225th GA. However, since the overture is appearing before the committee on International Concerns, we will endeavor to attempt to shed light on the overture.
The overture condemns the State of Israel as being an apartheid state, which is difficult to prove and explains why there is no consensus. The internationally recognized borders of the State of Israel do not include the occupied regions of the West Bank or Gaza. To make the claim that the State of Israel is an apartheid state requires two actions. The first is to state that the West Bank and Gaza are part of the State of Israel, which they are not, and Israel does not claim them as such as; Israel has not annexed the land. The second would be that the internationally recognized State of Israel is apartheid, which it is not. In the State of Israel, the internationally recognized state, Jews, Arabs, Druze, Bedouin, and all other groups live under the same laws and exist in a political system that recognizes one person one vote. Arabs have the right to vote, can hold elected office, are members of the ruling coalition and serve on the Supreme Court. Are there issues of discrimination and bigotry, yes, but these issues do not reflect any form of apartheid.
The author of this overture recognizes that their apartheid claim is spurious when one reads the sections 1 a-e. These sections clearly refer to the Occupied Territory, not the State of Israel. The Occupied Territory is also referred to as the West Bank by those in the West, or in Israel as Judea and Samaria. For the purpose of this guide, we will call it what it is, the Occupied Territories. So the question know becomes what is the nature of the Occupied Territories and how did they come into existence.
The division found in the Occupied Territories is the result of a national conflict that has not found a peaceful resolution and not a system of racial oppression, or apartheid. The overture speaks to walls and divisions and of Jewish roads and non-Jewish road, and yes all those exist. But the author fails to acknowledge history. The land that we are discussing here is the result of the War of 1967 where Israel was besieged by Arab armies on its borders. A war broke out, with Syria and Egypt being the main belligerents with Israel. Israel pleaded with Jordan to stay out of the war, but unfortunately Jordan entered the war and lost the area that Jordan referred to as the West Bank. Israel did not annex this land but recognized that it was an occupier and historical documents prove that they held the land in hopes of swapping it for peace. However, the Arab nations were not interested in peace and refused even to sign peace treaties with Israel.
At first, there was tremendous freedom of movement after 1967 and in many cases families who had been separated by the War of Independence in 1948 were reunited. That freedom of movement has diminished due to political agreements and security concerns. The present system was created by the Oslo Accords, an agreement between the Palestinian Authority and the State of Israel, where the Occupied Territories were separated into three regions, A, B and C. In Area A, Palestinians were given civil and security control, in Area B, Palestinians have civil control and share security with Israel and in Area C, Israel has civil and security control. Most of the population resides in Areas A and B, while most of the territory are comprised of Areas B and C.
The Oslo Accords were recognized by all parties to be a temporary status, as negotiations were to continue for five years to reach a Final Stage agreement. Most of the world thought that moment had come in 2000, where at Camp David, President Clinton, Prime Ehud Barak and President Yasser Arafat were to meet and sign the final agreement. However, at the last moment, Arafat left the summit, returned to Ramallah and the Peace Process hit a wall. Two months later the Second Intifada broke out, where suicide bombers from the Occupied Territories killed hundreds of innocent Israelis and Arabs. To provide stronger security to disrupt the movement of these suicide bombers, Israel built the security wall, established separate roads that Palestinians could use and set up security check points. These actions proved successful as the suicide bombings came to an end. Notice however that the items that the overture points out are not systems of racial oppression but security efforts to protect innocent lives. Have these precautions made lives more difficult for the Palestinians, yes. However, it was the actions of extremist Palestinians who chose bloodshed over peace, that lead to these systems.
As you can see from above, the charges of apartheid can not stand the test of truth and history. Do not take our word for this, any book covering the history of Israel will relay this information because it is established history, not the half-truths of the BDS Movement and its supporters. But there are other problems with this overture exemplified by the misleading language found in rationale.
Are there two systems in the Occupied Territories as the rationale points out, yes, but then again, there are two governments, the Palestinian Authority and the State of Israel. Yes, settlers are governed by the laws of the State of Israel, a system that leads to abuse, but most Palestinians live under the governance of the PA. Business suffer from the same situation, building in some regions are governed by Palestinian decrees and some by Israel. It is far from perfect, but again it is not apartheid.
In the section “Denying Palestinians the Right to a Nationality” the rationale again offers a rewriting of history to support its claims. First Israel did not systematically occupy and annex Palestinian land. In 1948, Israel agreed to the partition plan of 1948 (Jews accepted all partitions plans that were offered, while the Arab world did not) and declared themselves a state based upon that plan. However, the Palestinians and their Arab allies did not vote for the plan and instead chose war. The land Israel gained was the outcome of the Palestinian and Arab desire for war instead of peace. Yes, following the War of 1967, Israel did not withdraw from occupying the land, which was a stipulation of the UN Resolution 242. However, that Resolution also called upon the Arab states to recognize the State of Israel which they refused to do. Israel’s stated policy was always trade land for peace, see the Camp David Accords between Begin and Sadat. The lack of adherence of both sides to 242 is the reason for the present status quo.
That the author attempts to mislead the commissioners on history is a core strategy of the BDS Movement. The author’s claim that today Palestinians control less than 10% of the British Mandate is a great story but lacks the facts of reality. The British Mandate was comprised of modern-day Jordan, portions of Iraq, Syria, Israel and Gaza. When Jordan gained its independence, 70% of the mandate went to Jordan. The creation of Jordan was not an action of Israel. The UN Partition Plan of 1948 was to divide the region that was left after the creation of Jordan and that plan gave 60% of the land to the Jews, and 40% to the Palestinians. The 60% includes the Negev desert which is sparsely populated, even today. So to speak as if Israel has swindled the Palestinians out of land is a lie, and not a very convincing one.
Now there are more things that are problematic with this overture, but the above demonstrates why this overture fails to accurately reflect the present condition in Israel/Palestine. We write this not to say that the present status quo is good, for it is not. Nor are we attempting to say that the Palestinians are not oppressed because they are. They are oppressed by the State of Israel and they are oppressed by their own leaders who do not demonstrate democratic principles, are corrupt and only look after their own interests. But labeling Israel as an apartheid state does not solve any of the above. It will only further incite extremists, Palestinians terror networks like Hamas and Hezbollah will be emboldened and the Israel Right will further attempt to respond with more repressive actions.
No, the right course of action would be to vote against this overture, to follow the lead of the Presbyterian Foundation and invest more in Palestine to foster a strong middle class and to build bridges between Israelis and Palestinians to create leaders for the future who can create a lasting peace.