Palestinophobia and Africanophobia: Apartheid Parallels in Contemporary History


Prof Hoosen Vawda – TRANSCEND Media Service

“The atrocities committed by tyrannical regimes in history, and presently, based on human phenotypes, knows no bounds.” [1]

Main Picture:  The Israel Apartheid Wall, in urban areas, such as Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Qalqiliyah and Tulkarm, is an eight to nine-meter high concrete wall, encircling the entire West Bank, segregating the Palestinians from the Settlers in the Occupied Territories, financed by US and EU funding. It will be approximately 770 kilometres long when finally completed and it is illegal according to International Criminal Court of Justice, built on Palestinian land.  It has ditches, electric fencing, surveillance camera with night vision and it is topped by barbed and razor wire, with intermittent watch towers built at strategic points. It even separates motorways for Palestinians and Jews. Note the newly constructed Jewish settler buildings, in the background.
Inset: A Municipal Notice on the Beach in Durban, South Africa, Pre-liberation from the apartheid White, nationalist government, officially excluding non-whites from public places, solely reserved for White use, declared by official government legislation, under the separate Amenities Act of the South African Parliament.  The permanent notice, in white enamel, reads: “City of Durban Under Section 37 of the Durban Beach by-laws, this bathing area is reserved for the sole use of members of the White race group” declared in English, Afrikaans and IsiZulu languages. This was prior to South Africa becoming a democratic state on 27th April 1994, under the first Black, President Nelson Mandela, of the “Rainbow Nation”

This paper, discusses the formation of the State of Israel and the scourge of apartheid, formulated, perfected and practised, as an ideology by the White nationalist government of pre-1994 liberation of South Africa[2]. The narrative and relevant graphics further illustrates the similarities between the atrocities practised by the present-day Israeli government of the Zionist[3], Minister Benjamin Netanyahu[4] and his ultra-right-wing parliament, led by his security minister Itama Ben Gvir[5], since January 2023. This has resulted in unprecedented levels of major Peace Disruption, in the Holy Land[6], the land of Palestine,[7] causing desecration of holy sites[8], destruction of 133 Palestinian homes[9], private property and death, mostly of unarmed Palestinians, including children and women. Israeli forces and Jewish settlers have killed 78 Palestinians since the start of 2023, including 14 children and a woman.[10]

On 14th May1948, David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency[11], proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel. U.S. President Harry S. Truman recognised the new nation on the same day[12]. The State of Israel was officially established, following the United Nations’ partition plan to divide the British Mandate of Palestine [13]into Jewish and Arab states[14]. This marked the culmination of a decades-long Zionist movement advocating for a Jewish homeland. The legacy of Israel on the global stage is multifaceted, encompassing politics, conflict, diplomacy, culture, and technology.[15],[16]  The Mandate for Palestine was a League of Nations[17] mandate for British administration of the territories of Palestine and Transjordan, both of which had been conceded by the Ottoman Empire following the end of World War I in 1918. The mandate was assigned to Britain by the San Remo conference in April 1920[18], after France’s concession in the 1918 Clemenceau–Lloyd George Agreement of the previously-agreed “international administration” of Palestine under the Sykes–Picot Agreement[19]. Transjordan was added to the mandate after the Arab Kingdom in Damascus was toppled by the French in the Franco-Syrian War. Civil administration began in Palestine and Transjordan in July 1920 and April 1921, respectively, and the mandate was in force from 29th  September 1923 to 15th  May 1948 and to 25th  May 1946, respectively.[20]

Geopolitical Impact: Regional Dynamics and Conflicts

Almost immediately after its creation, Israel found itself embroiled in conflicts with its Arab neighbours, leading to several major wars such as the 1948 Arab-Israeli War[21], the Six-Day War in 1967[22], and the Yom Kippur War in 1973[23]. These conflicts have shaped regional dynamics, affecting not only Israel but also neighbouring countries, including Palestine.

Diplomacy and Peace Efforts

Over the years, Israel has engaged in diplomatic efforts to establish peaceful relations with its neighbours. The Camp David Accords in 1978 [24]led to a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, making Egypt the first Arab country to officially recognise Israel’s right to exist. In recent years, Israel has also normalised relations with certain Gulf Arab states through the Abraham Accords[25], marking a significant shift in regional alliances.

Complex Relationship with the United States[26]

Israel has maintained a strong alliance with the United States, receiving substantial military and economic aid. This relationship has had a significant impact on global politics, with the U.S. often supporting Israel in international forums. However, it has also been a source of tension in the Middle East due to differing perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and Occupation

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains a central issue in the region and has attracted global attention. The ongoing dispute over land, borders, refugees, and the status of Jerusalem[27] has led to tensions, negotiations, and intermittent violence. The question of a two-state solution continues to be a subject of international diplomacy.

Technological and Innovation Hub[28]

Israel has developed a reputation as a technological and innovation hub, often referred to as the “Startup Nation.”[29] The country has made significant contributions to fields like cybersecurity, agriculture, biotechnology, and artificial intelligence. Israeli startups and companies have had a global impact, attracting investments and partnerships from around the world.

Cultural and Academic Contributions

Israel’s cultural influence extends to literature, film, music, and art. It is home to a diverse range of communities and traditions, reflecting its immigrant history. Israeli literature, such as the works of Amos Oz[30] and David Grossman[31], has gained international recognition. Moreover, Israeli universities have contributed to various academic disciplines, fostering global collaboration.

Humanitarian and Aid Efforts

Israel has engaged in humanitarian aid missions around the world, providing assistance during natural disasters and crises. Its expertise in fields like disaster response and medical technology has been crucial in providing support to countries in need.

Challenges and Criticisms

Israel’s actions have also sparked criticisms and debates on the global stage. Some concerns revolve around its treatment of Palestinians, settlement expansion, and adherence to international law. The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions [32](BDS) movement has emerged as a form of protest against Israel’s policies.

On 27th April 2021, one of the world’s largest and most credible rights groups, Human Rights Watch[33] (HRW), concluded, in a comprehensive 213 pages report[34], that Israel is an apartheid state.  The date of 27th April incidentally coincides with the date on which South Africa became fully democratic in 1994.  This detailed report conclusively stated that Israeli authorities are committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution against the approximately two million Palestinians, who have been systematically discriminated, disposed, oppressed, maimed, displaced, disenfranchised and killed in their own occupied territory by the Zionist Israeli government,[35] with their centuries old family homes demolished, thereafter, all in contravention of the Geneva Convention[36], relating to occupied territories.

“Across these areas and in most aspects of life, Israeli authorities methodically privilege Jewish Israelis and discriminate against Palestinians. Laws, policies, and statements by leading Israeli officials make plain that the objective of maintaining Jewish Israeli[37] control over demographics, political power and land has long guided government policy,” the report entitled “A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution” read in part.[38]

More specifically, HRW wrote that Israeli “authorities have dispossessed, confined, forcibly separated and subjugated Palestinians by virtue of their identity to varying degrees of intensity.” This led it to unequivocally conclude that “these deprivations are so severe that they amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.”

While, on their own, HRW’s conclusions carry a significant legal and potentially political weight, the report is hardly an isolated event. Only a few months ago, in January, a leading Israeli rights group, B’tselem[39], reached a similar conclusion.

In addition, on 01st February, 2022, Amnesty International [40]released a report contending that Israel is “committing the crime against humanity of apartheid against Palestinians and must be held accountable.” Among the crimes that Amnesty examined in its 280-page report is the construction of the separation wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory[41], the areas that Israel has occupied since 1967. Although the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in 2004 that the wall is illegal[42] and called on Israel to dismantle it, Israel has continued to expand it. In doing so, Israel has violated the rights of Palestinian people and caused irreversible damage to the Palestinian economy. It also has demonstrated how international organisations lack the power to compel states to abide by international law.[43]

The word “apartheid” originates from Afrikaans[44], an oppressors language, spoken primarily in South Africa, of Dutch origins. It was used to describe the official policy of racial segregation and discrimination that was implemented by the government of South Africa from 1948 to 1994. The term itself is derived from Afrikaans words: “Apart” meaning “separate” or “apart.” “Heid” meaning “hood” or “hooded,” which in this context can be interpreted as representing the state of being separate or divided.  When combined, “apartheid” essentially translates to “apartness” or “separateness.” This term was used to label the system of racial segregation, inequality, and oppression that the South African government enforced during that period.

The apartheid[45] policy enforced strict racial classifications and segregated all aspects of life, including housing, education, healthcare, and public facilities, based on race and human phenotypes. It aimed to establish and maintain white minority rule while oppressing the majority non-white population, primarily Black South Africans.  The term “apartheid” gained global attention and condemnation as awareness grew about the injustices and human rights abuses being perpetrated under this system. International pressure, combined with domestic resistance and activism, eventually led to the dismantling of apartheid and the transition to a more inclusive and democratic South Africa in 1994[46].

Originally coined in relation to South Africa, apartheid today is a universal legal term. The prohibition against particularly severe institutional discrimination and oppression or apartheid constitutes a core principle of international law. The 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid[47] and the 1998 Rome Statute to the International Criminal Court (ICC)[48] define apartheid as a crime against humanity consisting of three primary elements:

An intent to maintain domination by one racial group over another.

A context of systematic oppression by the dominant group over the marginalised group.

Inhumane acts.

The reference to a racial group is understood today to address not only treatment on the basis of genetic traits but also treatment on the basis of descent and national or ethnic origin, as defined in the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination[49]. Human Rights Watch applies this broader understanding of race.

The crime against humanity of persecution, as defined under the Rome Statute and customary international law, consists of severe deprivation of fundamental rights of a racial, ethnic, or other group with discriminatory intent.  Human Rights Watch found that the elements of the crimes come together in the occupied territory, as part of a single Israeli government policy. That policy is to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians across Israel and the occupied territory. It is coupled in the occupied territory with systematic oppression and inhumane acts against Palestinians living there.

Drawing on years of human rights documentation, case studies, and a review of government planning documents, statements by officials, and other sources, Human Rights Watch compared policies and practices toward Palestinians in the occupied territory and Israel with those concerning Jewish Israelis living in the same areas. Human Rights Watch wrote to the Israeli government in July 2020, soliciting its perspectives on these issues, but has received no response.

“In the entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, the Israeli regime implements laws, practices and state violence designed to cement the supremacy of one group, Jews, over another, Palestinians,” B’tselem’s report, titled “A Regime of Jewish Supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is Apartheid”, [50]read.

The above, are two significant, if not earth-shattering, additions to a burgeoning legal literature that points to Israel’s racial discrimination and outright apartheid. All of this signals a vastly changing discourse concerning Israel’s unlawful practices in occupied Palestine.[51]

Across Israel and the occupied territory, Israeli authorities have sought to maximize the land available for Jewish communities and to concentrate most Palestinians in dense population centres. The authorities have adopted policies to mitigate what they have openly described as a “demographic threat” from Palestinians. In Jerusalem, for example, the government’s plan for the municipality, including both the west and occupied east parts of the city, sets the goal of “maintaining a solid Jewish majority in the city” and even specifies the demographic ratios it hopes to maintain.

To maintain domination, Israeli authorities systematically discriminate against Palestinians. The institutional discrimination that Palestinian citizens of Israel face includes laws that allow hundreds of small Jewish towns to effectively exclude Palestinians and budgets that allocate only a fraction of resources to Palestinian schools as compared to those that serve Jewish Israeli children. In the occupied territory, the severity of the repression, including the imposition of draconian military rule on Palestinians while affording Jewish Israelis living in a segregated manner in the same territory their full rights under Israel’s rights-respecting civil law, amounts to the systematic oppression required for apartheid.

Photo left: Shows separate entrances, with huge and explicit signage, into government buildings such as post offices, courts, banks police stations and prisons during the Apartheid era in South Africa. It was mandatory, by legislation, as promulgated by the Separate Amenities Act, for all citizens to comply with these laws
Photo right: Shows present day segregated pathways for Palestinians and Jews.  Note the Palestinian children walking to their kindergarten, separated from the paved path reserved for Israeli settlers.
It is to be noted that in South Africa, apartheid was deeply entrenched in the official legislature in the period between 1948 and 1994, while in Israel, it is deeply entrenched in the philosophy of “shoot to kill” of any transgressors, including minors and women, for security reasons.

The use of the term “apartheid” to describe Israel is a subject of ongoing debate and controversy. Some argue that the term is used unjustifiably or inappropriately, while others believe it accurately reflects certain policies and practices. Here are a few points to consider regarding the use of the term:

Critics of classifying Israel’s discriminative policies as apartheid:

Complexity: Critics argue that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is complex, and using the term “apartheid” can oversimplify the situation and historical context.

Historical Comparison: Some contend that comparing Israel to apartheid-era South Africa may not fully capture the nuances and differences between the two situations.

Legitimate Security Concerns: Supporters of Israel’s policies assert that security concerns in a region with a history of conflict can influence policies that may resemble segregation or restrictions on movement.

Supporters of use of the term Israeli Apartheid:

Human Rights Concerns: Those who use the term “apartheid” often do so to draw attention to human rights concerns, including issues related to settlements, occupation, and restrictions on Palestinian movement.

International Law: Some argue that certain Israeli policies may violate international law and principles of equality, which they believe justifies using the term “apartheid.”

Highlighting Injustice: Advocates argue that using the term can raise awareness about alleged inequalities and injustices faced by Palestinians, stimulating international discussions on potential rights violations.

It is important to approach this topic with sensitivity, acknowledging that the term “apartheid” is emotionally charged and can evoke strong reactions from various sides. As with any complex and deeply rooted conflict, different individuals and groups will have varying viewpoints on the appropriateness and accuracy of using this term to describe Israel’s policies and practices. “Both Israel and pre-1994 South Africa faced international scrutiny for policies and practices that raised concerns about segregation, discrimination, and unequal treatment of certain population groups within their respective territories.”  However, South Africa is liberated, but Israel’s discrimination has worsened over the years with killings and maiming of numerous Palestinians.  However, discussions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the comparison with other historical situations, such as apartheid-era South Africa, can be deeply sensitive and emotionally charged. Perspectives on these matters can vary widely based on individual viewpoints, experiences, and interpretations of events. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is complex, and opinions about the actions of various parties involved can differ significantly. Some individuals and organizations assert that there have been human rights concerns and alleged violations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including civilian casualties, displacement, and restrictions on movement. Others emphasise Israel’s security concerns and the broader geopolitical context.   Efforts to address these issues, promote peace, and ensure the rights and safety of all individuals involved are ongoing and continue to be the focus of international discussions and diplomatic efforts. It is advisable to approach discussions on these topics with respect for diverse viewpoints and a commitment to understanding the complexities of the conflict, but the harsh reality is that since the beginning of 2023, until 15th May 2023, 108[52]  Palestinians including women, elderly and children have been killed by Israeli security forces, with absolutely no accountability.  The body count is increasing daily since then.  In addition, numerous journalists have been assassinated[53] while on active reporting duties for the international media, such as Shireen Abu Akleh, an Al Jazeera Media Network Journalist.[54] ,[55]

There are several Arguments Citing Apartheid-Like Practices in Israel:

Occupation and Segregation: Critics argue that Israel’s policies in the occupied West Bank, including the construction of settlements, separation barriers, and restrictions on Palestinian movement, resemble aspects of segregation.

Settlements and Discrimination: Some critics assert that the establishment and expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank result in differential treatment of Israeli settlers and Palestinian residents, which they view as akin to apartheid-era racial segregation.

Dual Legal Systems: Critics point to the existence of separate legal systems for Israeli settlers and Palestinians in the West Bank. They argue that this separation reinforces inequality.

Counterarguments and Complexities:

Different Context: Supporters of Israel reject the apartheid comparison, emphasizing that the historical and political context of Israel’s situation is different from that of South Africa’s former apartheid regime.

Security Concerns: Israel’s supporters often emphasize that certain security measures, such as checkpoints and separation barriers, are implemented in response to security concerns rather than racial discrimination.

Legal Status: Israel’s supporters argue that the West Bank and Gaza are not part of sovereign Israeli territory, and therefore the legal framework differs from the apartheid regime’s internal policies.

Human rights abuses in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict[56] have been a subject of international concern and debate. It’s important to note that discussions about this topic are highly contentious, and different perspectives exist on the nature and extent of these abuses.

Below is a summary of some of the key human rights concerns related to Israel’s policies and actions in the occupied Palestinian territories:

Occupation and Settlements: Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip, which began in 1967[57], has led to concerns about violations of Palestinian rights. Israel’s construction and expansion of settlements in the occupied territories are considered illegal under international law and have resulted in displacement of Palestinians.

Restrictions on Movement: Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza face restrictions on their movement, including checkpoints, roadblocks, and the separation barrier. These restrictions can hinder access to healthcare, education, and employment.

Gaza Blockade[58]: Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, in place since 2007, has had a significant impact on the daily lives of Gaza’s residents. It has restricted the flow of goods and people, contributing to humanitarian challenges.

Demolitions and Displacement: Palestinian homes and structures in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have been demolished by Israeli authorities[59], leading to forced displacement of Palestinian families. Critics argue that these demolitions often target Palestinian communities.

Arrests and Detentions: Palestinians, including minors, have been arrested and detained by Israeli authorities, sometimes without trial or access to legal representation. Concerns have been raised about the treatment of Palestinian detainees, including allegations of abuse.

Gaza Conflicts: During conflicts between Israel and Gaza-based Palestinian armed groups, civilian casualties have occurred, leading to concerns about proportionality and the protection of civilians.

Settler Violence: There have been reports of settler violence against Palestinians and their property in the West Bank, with concerns about inadequate law enforcement by Israeli authorities.[60]

Freedom of Expression: Critics have raised concerns about restrictions on freedom of expression and the press, including the treatment of journalists covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.[61]

Access to Basic Services: The provision of basic services such as water, electricity, and healthcare has been a challenge in some Palestinian areas, particularly in Gaza.

There are also reports of massacres of Palestinians by Israel, forming a basis for genocide, by definition.  A few notable examples of incidents that have been referred to as massacres in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are listed, noting that narratives and interpretations may vary, and the historical context of each massacre is important to understand:

Deir Yassin Massacre (1948)[62]: During the Arab-Israeli War of 1947-1949, the village of Deir Yassin was the site of a deadly confrontation between Jewish paramilitary groups and Palestinian residents. The incident resulted in civilian casualties and has been widely characterised as a massacre.

Sabra and Shatila Massacre (1982): [63]During the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, Lebanese Christian militias entered the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in Beirut and carried out a massacre of Palestinian civilians. Israeli forces controlled the area at the time, and the incident led to international outrage.

Jenin Refugee Camp (2002): During the Second Intifada[64], there were allegations of a massacre in the Jenin refugee camp. Israeli forces launched an operation in the camp, resulting in civilian casualties. The scale of the casualties and the extent of the violence remain disputed.

Gaza Conflict (2014)[65]: During the Israel-Gaza conflict in 2014, known as Operation Protective Edge, there were allegations of civilian casualties in Gaza due to Israeli airstrikes and ground operations.

Gaza Protests (2018-2019):[66] During protests at the Gaza-Israel border in 2018 and 2019, clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces resulted in multiple deaths and injuries, sparking debates about the use of force.

Part of the problem is that Israel needs additional land for Jewish settlers and it is expropriating that from the indigenous Palestinians who have been living there for centuries, in their family homes.  Israel has also encouraged and experienced waves of immigration from various parts of the world, including Jewish communities from Europe, the former Soviet Union, North Africa, the Middle East, and other regions. These waves of immigration have contributed to population growth, which needs housing.  Birth rates have varied among different population groups within Israel, with higher birth rates generally observed among Jewish ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities.

The impact of an economic recession in the United States[67] on Israel would depend on various factors, including the severity of the recession, the interconnectedness of their economies, and the specific economic policies implemented by both countries. Some general insights into potential effects are, if United States undergoes severe economic recession in the future:

Trade and Investment: The United States is one of Israel’s major trading partners and a significant source of foreign investment. A severe recession in the U.S. could lead to reduced demand for Israeli exports and potentially lower investment flows to Israel. This could negatively impact Israel’s export-oriented sectors and overall economic growth.

Technology and Innovation[68]: Israel has a strong technology and innovation sector, and it has close ties with U.S. tech companies and investors. An economic downturn in the U.S. could lead to reduced demand for technology products and services, affecting Israel’s tech exports and innovation ecosystem.

Tourism: The U.S. is also a significant source of tourism for Israel. During an economic recession, Americans might cut back on travel, which could impact Israel’s tourism industry [69]and related sectors.

Financial Markets: Israel’s financial markets [70]are linked to global financial trends, including those in the U.S. If the U.S. experiences a recession, it could have implications for global financial markets, potentially affecting Israel’s stock market and investor sentiment.

Aid and Support: The U.S. provides military and economic aid to Israel[71]. If the U.S. faces economic challenges, it might impact its ability to provide the same level of aid to Israel.

Global Supply Chains: If U.S. companies reduce production or consumption due to a recession, it could affect global supply chains and indirectly impact Israel’s economy if it’s part of those supply chains.

It’s important to note that Israel’s economy is known for its resilience and diversification. Israel has navigated economic challenges in the past and has a well-developed tech sector that has driven growth. Additionally, the Israeli government has taken measures to attract foreign investment and diversify its trade partners.

The precise impact of a U.S. recession on Israel would depend on the interplay of these and other factors. Governments and policymakers would likely take steps to mitigate potential negative effects and promote economic stability

Israeli, currently can be classified as a pseudo-democratic state, in which authorities have committed a range of abuses against Palestinians, who are stateless.  Many of those in the occupied territory constitute severe abuses of fundamental rights and the inhumane acts again required for apartheid, including: sweeping movement restrictions in the form of the Gaza closure and a permit regime, confiscation of more than a third of the land in the West Bank, harsh conditions in parts of the West Bank that led to the forcible transfer of thousands of Palestinians out of their homes, denial of residency rights to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and their relatives, and the suspension of basic civil rights to millions of Palestinians.

Disenfranchisement refers to the deprivation of certain rights or privileges, particularly the right to vote and participate in the political process. In the context of Israel, there are certain groups of individuals who may face challenges in fully exercising their rights, although it’s important to note that the situation is complex and may vary.

Palestinian Citizens of Israel[72]: While Palestinian citizens of Israel have the right to vote and participate in elections, there have been concerns raised about political representation and influence. Some Palestinian citizens feel marginalized or underrepresented in the political sphere.

Arab Citizens: Arab citizens of Israel, who make up a significant minority, have expressed concerns about political and economic inequalities, which could impact their ability to fully participate in the democratic process.

Certain Minority Groups: Some smaller minority groups, such as the Bedouin community[73], have faced challenges related to access to services, land rights, and political representation.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews[74]: In some cases, members of ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities have faced difficulties in integrating into the workforce and participating fully in the secular education system, which can impact their engagement in the broader political process.

Migrant Workers and Asylum Seekers: Non-citizen migrant workers and asylum seekers may lack political rights due to their legal status. Their ability to participate in the political process can be limited.

It’s important to recognise that while certain groups may face challenges or inequalities, Israel has a democratic system in which citizens have the right to vote and participate in elections. However, discussions about political representation, social inequalities, and access to services continue to be important topics in Israeli society. The approximate total population of Israel was around 9.3 million in 2021[75]. The population figures can change over time due to factors such as birth rates, immigration, and other demographic changes. It was estimated that approximately 74% of the total population of Israel is Jewish. The remaining percentage includes various minority groups, such as Arab citizens, Druze[76], Circassians[77], Bedouins, and others. The citizenry of the state of Israel is made up of a diverse range of ethnicities due to its multicultural nature. Here are some of the major ethnic groups that are officially recognized within the population of Israel:

Jewish: The majority of Israeli citizens identify as Jewish. However, within the Jewish population, there is a diversity of ethnic backgrounds, including Ashkenazi Jews (of European origin), Sephardic Jews (of Middle Eastern and North African origin), Mizrahi Jews (from Middle Eastern countries), and others.

Arab: Arab citizens of Israel are the largest minority group. They are primarily Palestinians who remained within the borders of Israel after its establishment in 1948. The Arab population includes Muslims, Christians, and Druze.

Druze: The Druze community is a distinct religious and ethnic group in Israel. They have their own religious practices and cultural traditions.

Circassian: The Circassians are a small ethnic group with origins in the Caucasus region. They settled in Israel during the late 19th century.

Bedouin: The Bedouin population in Israel includes traditional Arab nomadic communities that have settled in various parts of the country.

Ethiopian Jews[78] (Beta Israel): Israel is also home to a community of Ethiopian Jews who immigrated to the country, mainly in the late 20th century.

Russian and Former Soviet Union Immigrants: The immigration wave from the former Soviet Union brought a significant number of citizens with Russian and Eastern European backgrounds.

Other Minorities: In addition to the above groups, Israel is home to smaller communities, including Armenians, Assyrians, Samaritans[79], and more.

A general overview of some of the key differences between citizens of Israel and Palestinians, particularly in terms of ethnic, religious, cultural, and historical aspects, is warranted. It is important to note that both groups are diverse, and individual experiences and identities can vary widely within each group.

Citizens of Israel:

Ethnicity: Citizens of Israel come from diverse ethnic backgrounds, including Jewish, Arab, Druze, and various other minority groups. The majority of Israeli citizens are Jewish.

Religion: The majority of citizens in Israel practice Judaism. There are also religious minorities, including Muslims, Christians, Druze, and others.

Culture and Tradition: Israeli culture is a blend of various influences due to its diverse population. Jewish culture and traditions play a significant role, but there are also influences from Arab, European, and other cultures.

Language: The official languages of Israel are Hebrew and Arabic. Hebrew is the primary language used for communication, administration, and education.

Historical Context: The modern state of Israel was established in 1948. The Jewish people have historical and religious connections to the land, and the establishment of Israel was a response to centuries of persecution and the Holocaust.


Ethnicity: Palestinians are a diverse group with various ethnic identities. The majority are Arabs, including both Muslim and Christian Palestinians. There are also smaller communities like Druze, Bedouins, and others.

Religion: The majority of Palestinians are Muslims, but there is also a significant Christian minority. Religious practices and traditions are integral to Palestinian culture.

Culture and Tradition: Palestinian culture is deeply rooted in history and tradition. Traditional music, dance, cuisine, and clothing reflect the Palestinian identity.

Language: Arabic is the primary language spoken by Palestinians. It is used for communication, education, literature, and religious practices.

Historical Context: The Palestinian people have a historical connection to the region, and many identify with the land that includes areas now part of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict centers around competing claims to the same territory.

Anthropometric Differences:

Anthropometry refers to the measurement of human physical characteristics. In the context of Israel and Palestinians, physical characteristics can be diverse and varied within both groups due to their historical and cultural interconnections.

The status of non-Jewish citizens of Israel, including Arab citizens, Druze, Circassians, Bedouins, and other minority groups, has been a subject of discussion and debate due to various social, political, and historical factors. While all citizens of Israel are entitled to legal rights and protections, there have been concerns raised about issues such as discrimination, privileges, and equal treatment.


There have been instances and concerns about discrimination against non-Jewish citizens in Israel. Arab citizens, in particular, have reported facing various forms of discrimination in areas such as employment, education, housing, and access to public services. Discrimination can be both institutional and societal.

Privileges and Jewish Identity:

Israel defines itself as a Jewish state, and this has implications for policies and practices. Some privileges, such as certain legal and economic benefits, are associated with Jewish identity due to Israel’s status as a homeland for the Jewish people. For instance, the Law of Return grants Jews around the world the right to immigrate to Israel and gain citizenship.

Citizenship and Equality:

Arab citizens, Druze, Circassians, and others are full citizens of Israel with equal legal rights and protections under the law. They have the right to vote and participate in the democratic process. However, discussions about the nature of Israel as both a Jewish and democratic state have prompted conversations about balancing the rights of different ethnic and religious groups.

Challenges and Integration:

Integration of minority communities within Israeli society has faced challenges. Some communities, such as the Bedouins and Druze, have expressed a commitment to serving in the Israeli military and contributing to society. Others, particularly Palestinian citizens, have at times faced tensions due to their historical and political context.

Many of the abuses at the core of the commission of these crimes, such as near-categorical denial of building permits to Palestinians and demolition of thousands of homes on the pretext of lacking permits, have no security justification. Others, such as Israel’s effective freeze on the population registry it manages in the occupied territory, which all but blocks family reunification for Palestinians living there and bars Gaza residents from living in the West Bank, use security as a pretext to further demographic goals. Even when security forms part of the motivation, it no more justifies apartheid and persecution than it would excessive force or torture, Human Rights Watch said.

“Denying millions of Palestinians their fundamental rights, without any legitimate security justification and solely because they are Palestinian and not Jewish, is not simply a matter of an abusive occupation,” Roth[80] said. “These policies, which grant Jewish Israelis the same rights and privileges wherever they live and discriminate against Palestinians to varying degrees wherever they live, reflect a policy to privilege one people at the expense of another.”

Statements and actions by Israeli authorities in recent years, including the passage of a law with constitutional status in 2018 establishing Israel as the “nation-state of the Jewish people,” the growing body of laws that further privilege Israeli settlers in the West Bank and do not apply to Palestinians[81] living in the same territory, as well as the massive expansion in recent years of settlements and accompanying infrastructure connecting settlements to Israel, have clarified their intent to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis. The possibility that a future Israeli leader might someday forge a deal with Palestinians that dismantles the discriminatory system does not negate that reality today.

Main Picture: The Apartheid Wall of Israel: A Palestinian boy runs near Israel’s separation barrier in the city of Qalqilya in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The barrier entirely encircles the city, which is home to more than 55,000 Palestinians (2018). Note the squalor and lack of drainage on the Palestinian side of the wall.
Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images 2018
Inset:  Racially segregated entrances and paths, to overhead pedestrian bridges, at railway stations for Europeans and Non-Europeans, in South Africa, enforced by law pre-1994. A permanent, stark, twice daily reminder, to the discriminated Black railway commuters of South Africa, that they are second class citizens of the country and they have to obey the Whites, as their masters and superiors.

On 19th March 2021, Human Rights Watch in a statement, Item 7 [82] General Debate, highlighted Israel’s discriminatory vaccine push underscores need for action.[83]  As millions of Israelis slowly return to normalcy, with the majority of citizens vaccinated, millions of Palestinians just a short distance away in the occupied territory return to lockdown, with the prospect of mass vaccination nowhere in sight. The Israeli government exercises primary control of the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea; yet, while it has vaccinated the majority of its citizens, including those living in unlawful settlements in the West Bank, it has failed to provide vaccines for the vast majority of the nearly 5 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Fourth Geneva Convention [84]obliges Israel to ensure access to vaccines to Palestinians in the occupied territory. Israeli authorities claim that responsibility for vaccinating this population, under the Oslo Accords[85], falls on the Palestinian Authority [86](PA). However, the PA’s activities, particularly given its limited authority and economic means, do not absolve the Israeli government of its responsibilities under international law, as it remains the occupying power. Moreover, the Israeli government maintains exclusive control over Area C of the West Bank[87], encompassing more than 60 percent of the West Bank, leaving it no excuse not to vaccinate Palestinians living there.

After more than 50 years of occupation with no end in sight, Israel’s duties go beyond offering spare doses. At a minimum, it should ensure Palestinians in the occupied territory have access to vaccine equivalent to what it is providing to its own citizens.

Israel’s discriminatory vaccination policy [88]underscores the repressive nature of its rule and the need for international action to address its serious abuses. We encourage the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights[89] to publicly provide the annual update of the database of businesses facilitating Israeli settlements in the coming months as mandated by the Human Rights Council and transmit it to the Council for discussion. Furthermore, following the International Criminal Court prosecutor’s decision to open a Palestine investigation, ICC member states should speak out in support of the court and its staff, and make clear they will protect its independence from any political pressure.[90]

Given the flexibility of the lead sponsors in merging and presenting under item 2 the resolutions on the human rights situation in the OPT[91] and on accountability, we urge all Council members, particularly from the Western Group, to support the text on its merits. Failure to do so would suggest that these states are less concerned with the agenda item than with shielding Israel from accountability.[92]

Main Photo: Zionism: The brand of Apartheid practised by Israel, since its formation by European Powers in 1948. A display at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.  This display, outside the Great Hall of the University,  was arranged by the Black Students at this former White university, under apartheid South Africa, as a public information exercise during the “Palestine Week”. 
Inset: The Iconic Great Hall Building of the University of the Witwatersrand, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, South Africa, with its unique blend of different architectural styles, The Great Hall was completed in 1940 and was opened by the Governor General, Sir Patrick Duncan in June. The author studied at the university for his doctorate under Professor Phillip Valentine Tobias and graduated in this Great Hall.

The Bottom Line is that there is a prevalence of an overarching Israeli government policy to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians and grave abuses committed against Palestinians living in the occupied territory, including East Jerusalem[93]. These oppressive measures, instituted and executed under the pretext of state security measures are analogous to the measures employed by the south African State security apparatus under the white mnoity government of apartheid South Africa before 1994.  These discriminatory measures were not only strictly practised by the South African Nationalist White government[94], but also formally and officially deeply entrenched in the state legislature at the time from 1948 to oppress and subjugate the people of colour based on their phenotype in the land which originally belonged to the Black indigenous people of Southern Africa, but also similarly occupied by White imperialist colonial forces[95].  The original invaders of the Black lands were people of Dutch origins, from Holland, with the first Governor of Cape being Jan van Riebeeck who arrived in 1652[96] to the Cape of Good Hope and enslaved the local black population.  Subsequent the British invaded the land which led to a series of Anglo-Boer wars [97]in which the British were victorious and the Dutch setters moved off inland during the Great Boer Trek[98] to a place called Transvaal[99].

While the White Nationalist, Afrikaner people of South Africa, did not invent apartheid, they PERFECTED it[100] from the ideology, as espoused by British imperialist forces throughout the world which Britain invaded, from China, South East Asia, to India, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and the Americas, where oppression, subjugation and apartheid was the operating philosophy, based on the physical appearances and colour of skin of the invaded nations[101].

In an analogous manner, the People of Jewish origins were placed by Britain after world War 11 in the territory originally belonging to the people of Arab descent[102].  The 213-page report, “A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution,” examines Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. It presents the present-day reality of a single authority, the Israeli government, ruling primarily over the area between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea, populated by two groups of roughly equal size, and methodologically privileging Jewish Israelis while repressing Palestinians, most severely in the occupied territory.  “Prominent voices have warned for years that apartheid lurks just around the corner if the trajectory of Israel’s rule over Palestinians does not change,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “This detailed study shows that Israeli authorities have already turned that corner and today are committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.”[103]  The finding of apartheid and persecution does not change the legal status of the occupied territory, made up of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza, or the factual reality of occupation.

To restore sustainable peace, Israeli authorities should dismantle all forms of repression and discrimination that privilege Jewish Israelis at the expense of Palestinians, including with regards to freedom of movement, allocation of land and resources, access to water, electricity, and other services, and the granting of building permits.

The ICC Office of the Prosecutor should investigate and prosecute those credibly implicated in the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution. Countries should do so as well in accordance with their national laws under the principle of universal jurisdiction, and impose individual sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, on officials responsible for committing these crimes.

The findings of crimes against humanity should prompt the international community to reevaluate the nature of its engagement in Israel and Palestine and adopt an approach centered on human rights and accountability rather than solely on the stalled “peace process.” Countries should establish a UN commission of inquiry to investigate systematic discrimination and repression in Israel and Palestine and a UN global envoy for the crimes of persecution and apartheid with a mandate to mobilize international action to end persecution and apartheid worldwide.

Countries should condition arms sales and military and security assistance to Israel on Israeli authorities taking concrete and verifiable steps toward ending their commission of these crimes. Countries should vet agreements, cooperation schemes, and all forms of trade and dealing with Israel to screen for those directly contributing to committing the crimes, mitigate the human rights impacts and, where not possible, end activities and funding found to facilitate these serious crimes.

“While much of the world treats Israel’s half-century occupation as a temporary situation that a decades-long ‘peace process’ will soon cure, the oppression of Palestinians there has reached a threshold and a permanence that meets the definitions of the crimes of apartheid and persecution,” Roth said. “Those who strive for Israeli-Palestinian peace, whether a one or two-state solution or a confederation, should in the meantime recognize this reality for what it is and bring to bear the sorts of human rights tools needed to end it.”

The Late Emeritus Archbishop Desmond M[104]piloTutu’s [105]remarked in his book Apartheid Israel: Possibilities for the Struggle Within, in which he argues that “fundamental apartheid structures of the Israeli polity” with respect to property inheritance rights, access to state land and water resources and access to state welfare resources “fully justify the classification of Israel as an apartheid State.”[106],[107]  The Archbishop has conclusively drawn parallels between apartheid in South Africa pre-1994 and the current Israeli policies deployed in the Occupied Territories, in the 21st century.

The legacies of Israel and South Africa have had significant impacts on the world in the 21st  century, shaped by their unique historical trajectories and the challenges they’ve faced. While both countries have distinct bimodal legacies, their effects have unfolded in different ways:

Israel’s Legacy:

Technological Innovation: Israel has emerged as a global leader in technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship. The country’s emphasis on education, research, and development has led to the creation of a vibrant tech ecosystem known as the “Start-Up Nation.”

Regional Dynamics: Israel’s ongoing conflict with its neighbors, particularly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, continues to influence regional geopolitics. The unresolved issues and tensions have implications for stability and security in the Middle East.

Diaspora Influence: The Jewish diaspora maintains strong connections with Israel, contributing to the country’s cultural, economic, and political links on a global scale.

Security and Defense Expertise: Israel’s experience in dealing with security challenges has made it a sought-after partner in matters of counterterrorism, intelligence sharing, and defense technology.

South Africa’s Legacy:

Transition to Democracy: South Africa’s transition from apartheid to a multiracial democracy, symbolized by the leadership of Nelson Mandela, remains a powerful symbol of reconciliation and nonviolent change.

Truth and Reconciliation: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission[108] established in post-apartheid South Africa provided a model for addressing past atrocities[109], [110] [111] [112]and promoting national healing, influencing transitional justice efforts globally.

Economic Inequality and Challenges: Despite political transformation, South Africa continues to grapple with high levels of economic inequality, poverty, and unemployment, which have social and political implications.

Social Movements and Activism: The legacy of apartheid has fueled social movements advocating for social justice, human rights, and equality. South Africa’s experience has resonated with global movements seeking justice and equality.

Both Israel and South Africa have left indelible marks on the world in the 21st century, shaping discussions on conflict resolution, human rights, social justice, and technological progress. The complexities of their legacies, the good, the bad and the ugly, continue to be explored and debated, influencing international perceptions and responses to various global challenges.  The future for both countries in somewhat bleak, during these tumultuous times of global belligerence and gross Peace Disruptions. Great nations and empires of the past, who practiced tyranny, oppression and impunity, no longer exist today[113].  The end must materialise.

Main Picture: Israel Security forces practicing apartheid under the guise of State Security. Note the female Palestinian worshippers, searched for passing through the Qalandiya checkpoint from Ramallah into Jerusalem, through the “Wall of Apartheid”, during the holy Islamic month of fasting: Ramadan, amidst heavily armed security forces, ordered “shoot to kill”
Inset, Top Right: Huwwara Checkpoint, one of many Israeli checkpoints and closures that restricted the movement of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and have been compared to the apartheid pass laws. Note the congested and animal like passageways, with fully armed security forces.
Inset Top Left: Pre-1994 Apartheid South Africa Pass Laws with a South African, White Policeman scrutinising the “Pass” (Reference Book) of a Black man.  Not having a “Pass” on person, would result in immediate arrest and incarceration in jail, without further questioning.
Photo credit: Mayibuye


[1] Personal quote by author August 2023




























[29] ttps://


































































[95] https://en.wi











[106] Peteet, Julie (2017). Space and Mobility in Palestine. Indiana University Press. p. 63. ISBN 978-0-253-02511-1









Professor G. Hoosen M. Vawda (Bsc; MBChB; PhD.Wits) is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment.
Director: Glastonbury Medical Research Centre; Community Health and Indigent Programme Services; Body Donor Foundation SA.

Principal Investigator: Multinational Clinical Trials
Consultant: Medical and General Research Ethics; Internal Medicine and Clinical Psychiatry:UKZN, Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine
Executive Member: Inter Religious Council KZN SA
Public Liaison: Medical Misadventures
Activism: Justice for All

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 28 Aug 2023.

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