Israel continues to build settlements in the Palestinian Territories against international law and against the urgings of the international community, including the United States of America. This building programme along with the escalation of infrastructure which prohibits and restricts Palestinian movement, is making the long hoped for Two-State solution an almost forlorn hope.
If a Two-State solution is now impossible because of ‘facts on the ground’, a situation clearly desired by and created by Israel, under the leadership of Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu, in reality there is one state, a bi-national state. This intolerable situation is hard to describe without using the word Apartheid. It is a word one uses with great caution and reluctance because apartheid is a crime under international law and the perpetrators of apartheid can be, and should be, brought before the International Criminal Court.
What situations justify the name apartheid?
· A situation in which the majority indigenous population is held indefinitely under military law while the minority settler population is subject only to civilian law is apartheid. This is the reality in Palestine and means Palestinians can be and are held without charge for indefinite periods of time. Most shamefully children as young as 10 are held in custody without charge and frequently taken from their homes in the middle of the night. The charge leveled at a World Vision operative in Gaza is being held secretly under military law. An adverse finding can have no credibility under these circumstances.
· A situation in which the indigenous population is herded into increasingly small enclaves with restricted movement while the minority settler immigrant population is provided access to expanding tracts of land without compensation to the owners of that land. This is apartheid.
· A situation where a dual system of roads has been created, modern highways for the minority settlers and goat tracks for the majority peoples. This is apartheid
· A situation where rules and laws are determined by race or ethnicity. This is apartheid.
· A situation in which basic services such as communications, water and electricity are restricted on the basis of race and particularly where those in power enjoy maximum access while the occupied and oppressed people enjoy minimum access – this is apartheid.
The political stance constantly articulated by the US and Australia is that a solution must be negotiated by the two parties and not imposed by the international community. Plainly this position supports the end of any hope for a Two-State outcome, the espoused position of the governments of both countries, because Israel uses the hiatus to strengthen its position and dis-empower the Palestinians. If the US and Australia genuinely support a Two-State solution then both countries must become proactive in their condemnation of Israel’s aggressive activity including the imposition of sanctions each time the line is crossed and settlement building continues. If neither country is prepared to take this step then political commitment to Two-States should be abandoned and in its place Australia and the US should develop an appropriate policy to deal with a pariah State which has created apartheid division.
Failure to do this will not only mean supporting an apartheid and non-democratic state, it removes any leverage that may have existed to pressure surrounding nations in the Middle East to adopt liberal and democratic principles. The West will be seen, as sadly it so often is, as highly hypocritical, condemning foes for their corruption and lack of democracy while supporting a partner which is behaving in a similarly unconscionable manner.