Jan 2 2010

Justice Beinisch: Stop calling Israel “Apartheid”

In a landmark statement, the President of the Supreme Court of Israel, Dorit Beinisch, has rejected unequivocally any comparison between Israel’s policies and the Apartheid regime of South Africa. Such a comparison is “improper… extreme and radical… [and] there is no basis of raising it at all”.

Justice Dorit Beinisch

Justice Dorit Beinisch

Beinisch made this official statement in her ruling this week against the Israeli Army’s decision to close a road for Palestinian vehicles, for security reasons. The Israeli Supreme Court, which enjoys a high reputation among its peers in the democratic world, has ruled many times against the army and other state organs. But this seems to be the first time Beinisch adds her voice to the “Apartheid debate” and in such a clear way.

Closing roads for Palestinian vehicles in the West Bank is one of the main issues raised by those who call Israel an “Apartheid state”. For them, such an act is segregation, and segregation means Apartheid.

In her ruling, Beinisch denounced categorically the comparison between the former South African regime and the State of Israel. She reminded the petitioners in the case that Palestinian terrorists attacked vehicles driving the relevant road numerous times, and that many civilians have lost their lives in that way. In any case, she said, the army’s decision was motivated by security concerns and not by racial superiority.

A synopsis of the ruling is available in English but the full ruling is available for now only in Hebrew. Here is my translation of the paragraph Beinisch wrote about Apartheid:

“Even if we take into account that an all-out separation between populations using the roads is an extreme and unwanted outcome, we should be careful and restrained when using definitions that refer to security measures – adopted in order to protect persons travelling on the roads – as segregation, based on improper reasons of race and ethnicity.

“The comparison made by the petitioners between the use of different roads because of security reasons, and the Apartheid policy of South Africa, is improper.

“The Apartheid policy is a very grave crime. It contradicts the basic principles of the Israeli law, as well as the international human rights law and the international criminal law. It is a policy of racial segregation and discrimination, consisting of a range of discriminatory practices, in order to create supremacy of one race and to subjugate other races.

The stark contrast between the security measures taken by the State of Israel as protection from terror attacks, and the unacceptable practices of the Apartheid policy, demands avoiding any comparison or use of this harsh expression (underlining is mine, A.S.).

“Not every distinction between people, in all circumstances, is necessarily an improper discrimination, and not every improper discrimination is Apartheid. The use of the word Apartheid lessens the gravity of this crime, which the entire international community fought against and which we all condemn.

“Therefore, the comparison made by the petitioners between preventing the traffic of Palestinian inhabitants along road 443 and the crime of Apartheid was so extreme and radical that there was no basis for raising it at all”.

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