Israeli Apartheid And Terrorism:
Part 1, The Reality
Edward S. Herman

If Jews in France were required to carry
identification cards designating them Jews (even
though French citizens), could not acquire land or buy
or rent homes in most of the country, were not
eligible for service in the armed forces, and French
law banned any political party or legislation calling
for equal rights for Jews, would France be widely
praised in the United States as a "symbol of human
decency" (New York Times) and paragon of democracy?
Would there be a huge protest if France, in
consequence of such laws and practices, was declared
by a UN majority to be a racist state?

The Apartheid Reality

In Israel, Arabs dwelling within the pre-1967
boundaries are subject to these forms of
discrimination, and those in the occupied territories
are treated far more harshly. Inability to serve in
the military might appear superficially as an
advantage to non-Jews, but it is evidence of less than
complete citizenship, and important state benefits are
attached to military service in Israel. The doctrine
that Israel is the state of the Jewish people in
Israel and abroad, not of its citizens, is now part of
the Basic Law of that country, and one Supreme Court
Justice stated publicly that "it is necessary to
prevent a Jew or Arab who calls for equality of rights
for Arabs from sitting in the Knesset or being elected
to it."

In the mainstream Israeli press there have been a
number of articles comparing Israel's discriminatory
policies with those in South Africa, sometimes
unfavorably to Israel. It has been noted, for example,
that while South African land was divided into two
(very unequal) parts, the division is at least
stabilized, whereas the Israeli state keeps buying
land and houses for the exclusive use of Jews. This
racist process is referred to by the World Zionist
Movement as the "redemption of the land," with land
owned by non-Jews implicitly impure and polluted,
until "redeemed" (Gabi Baron, "The Mysterious
Redeeming of the Lands," Yediot Ahronot, April 24,

The ownership of land in Israel is under the
jurisdiction of the Israel Land Authority, which
applies as a "fundamental criterion" of land use,
religion and nationality. As noted by Professor Uzi
Ornan, "Those registered as `Jews` have full rights in
regard to most of the land, cities, and settlements;
those who are not registered as `Jews` are barred from
owning real estate in most sectors of the country"
("An Amazing Resemblance to South Africa," Ha'aretz,
Feb. 10, 1991). These restrictions apply to over 90
percent of Israeli land, within which, as Israel
Shahak states, "the non-Jewish citizens of Israel--and
of course all the non-Jews of the rest of the world
too--simply cannot live; they cannot rent a house or
an apartment, or open a business, unless they
surreptitiously sublet it from a Jew." Shahak goes on
to say: "One can imagine what a storm would be raised
if such official policy of discrimination was
practiced against Jews" ( Lies of Our Times, May

The Land Robbery

In the occupied territories, land is acquired for Jews
partly by purchase but mainly by large scale
confiscation. Much of the land within the present
boundaries of Israel was seized many years ago at the
time of the great, forced exodus of Palestinians in
1948-1949, based on tactics that "ranged from economic
and psychological warfare to the systematic ousting of
the Arab population by the army" (Simha Flapan). After
the 1967 war, the process of confiscation was renewed
in the occupied territories, as the Israeli state took
advantage of its position and used military force to
implant Jewish settlements at the expense of the
Palestinians, some now subjected to removal for a
second time. This great land robbery has all been done
according to careful plan, implemented at different
rates and by marginally different tactics by all the
leaders of the Israeli state, Rabin and Labor as well
as Shamir and Likud. (Construction in the territories
continues even today at about the pace pre-Oslo.) And
this looting of the occupied territories, slowly
uprooting the Palestinian population, stripping away
its assets, and making life more and more precarious,
has been and continues to be done with U.S. aid and
under U.S. protective cover, very much needed as the
robbery has been carried out in violation of numerous
UN resolutions as well as international law. (The last
formal State Department legal opinion on the status of
the settlements, by the Department's legal adviser
Herbert J. Hansell, in April 1978, concluded that they
were "inconsistent with international law.")

When the 1967 war ended, Israel quickly seized and
incorporated East Jerusalem within its own territory,
in defiance of UN resolutions. Palestinian families in
the old Jewish quarter were ordered to leave and their
houses and nearby mosques bulldozed; and all 6,500
Palestinians were soon pushed out of the quarter. In
the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israeli moves were
quick, brutal and extensive. Even before 1971 a UN
Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices in
the Occupied Territories documented the complete or
partial destruction of 48 Palestinian villages (on the
alleged ground of "military necessity"). In 1974 the
Red Cross reported that 19,152 Palestinian homes had
been destroyed since 1967. By 1992 more than 200
Jewish settlements had been built on expropriated
Palestinian land, and these plus the land taken to
build the accompanying infrastructure of roads,
electrical grids, and military encampments totalled
nearly 70 percent of the West Bank and 50 percent of
the Gaza Strip.

While subsidizing Jewish settlements, the occupying
authority has been extremely stingy about allowing
Palestinians to build houses, plant trees, or open
businesses. A new Palestinian shopping complex, almost
completed in Baqa Sharqiya on the West Bank, was
demolished by Israeli army bulldozers on July 25,
1991, without notice to the investors. Palestinian
houses may be destroyed by the army for "security"
reasons, in retaliation for acts of individuals like
throwing stones at a protest, even if the home owner
did not commit the act. Well over a thousand
Palestinian homes have been demolished on these
grounds. Many thousands of olive trees on Palestinian
property have been uprooted and destroyed for reasons
of "security" or the convenience, need, or arbitrary
desire of the occupation. On November 24, 1991, an
Israeli army squad drove a bulldozer through an olive
grove to the top of a hill overlooking the West Bank
village of Beit Sira, to build an army camp. No notice
was given or compensation paid the owners of the grove
who lost 30 trees. A few months previously the army
had destroyed several dozen trees in the same village,
at a place from which stones had been thrown shortly
before; and before that settlers had come without
warning, under army protection, and destroyed 30 more
trees, while the villagers watched. The Jerusalem
Media and Communication Center, a Palestinian
organization that tracks tree destruction, says that
some 122,500 trees, 80 percent olive, were uprooted or
cut down by the army or settlers in the period January
1988 through 1991.

The settlements are, of course, confined to Jews, and
occupation authorities (with U.S. financial aid) have
built a grid of roads serving the settlements, and
provided them ample water supplies. The water
resources of the occupied territories were quickly
placed under the control of the Israeli Water
Authority and some 85 percent of the water resources
have been diverted to Israeli settlements and Israel
proper. It has been estimated that on average the
settlers use ten times as much water as the
Palestinian inhabitants.

The Racist Underpinning

The occupation and settlements have contributed to a
steady growth and institutionalization of racist
attitudes and practices, as the Palestinian population
is poorer, is militarily weak and has been deprived of
any legal or political rights, and because the
occupying power regards them as standing in the way of
Jewish settlements. Israeli planner Elisha Efrat has
pointed out that a "minor difficulty" in settling the
occupied territories is that the Palestinian
inhabitants "are not prepared to leave any place of
their own free will." Thank God for the powers of the
occupation authority and the army, and for the West's
understanding that mistreatment of the Palestinians is
of little moment!

The attitudes and practices are not new, however, and
trace back to the very concept of a Jewish state and
vision of a land for Jews. From the beginning there
was no place for non-Jews, and the Palestinian
inhabitants were dealt with accordingly from 1947
onward. Given their status and treatment in the
occupied territories, the Palestinians have
necessarily fought back, even if episodically and from
positions of extreme weakness, which of course has
made them "terrorists" and a "security threat,"
conveniently providing the basis for further
expulsions and expropriations.

In the wake of the Hebron massacre of Muslim
worshippers by settler Baruch Goldstein in late
February 1994, even the New York Times mentioned Rabbi
Yaacov Perrin's statement at Goldstein's funeral
service that "One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish
fingernail," and termed it "the language of terrorism
and of ethnic cleansing" ("Hatred Stalks the
Settlements," March 1, 1994). But ethnic cleansing and
racial hatred and discrimination have been operative
for a long time--blatantly under the occupation and
settlement program, which is grounded on the
confiscation and marginalization of the Palestinian
population--with the assistance of the U.S. government
and New York Times. For years Israeli leaders have
openly called the Palestinians "grasshoppers,"
"two-legged animals," "insects," "drugged
cockroaches," and worse (suffering much less criticism
for this than Jesse Jackson did for using the phrase
"hymie town"). The New York Times itself has
frequently used racist language, as well as steadily
framing news in ways that dehumanize the Palestinians.
Its long-time Middle East correspondent, Thomas
Friedman, in a 1988 interview in the Israeli press,
used the word "Ahmad," with similar connotations to
"Hymie," in his line "I believe that as soon as Ahmad
has a seat in the bus, he will limit his demands." As
an example of the use of racist language in the
"news," in an article "Hijacking Suspect Arrested By
Bonn" [Jan. 16, 1987], Times reporter James Markham
noted that the suspect was a Lebanese, but kept
referring to him thereafter as an "Arab." In a class
on Media Bias at Penn, I experimented with this
article by translating it into one involving an
Israeli, thereafter identified as a Jew. In two
successive classes, the students were unanimous that
the article was blatantly anti-Semitic.)

But the most important evidence of racism is the
actual practice, as in the apartheid system of housing
and land ownership, the subsidies and encouragement
for Jews and confiscation, brutal treatment, and
deportation for Palestinians. It was the present head
of government, Yitzhak Rabin who, as Defense Minister,
issued the instruction to the Israeli army that they
could freely enter Palestinian homes and "beat" men,
women and children, without fear of prosecution.

Moderate Torture

Perhaps most notable in Israeli practice is the
institutionalization of torture as a normal part of
the interrogation process in dealing with Palestinians
(not Jews). This was well established in a London
Times investigation back in 1977, but it has been
maintained and eventually enlarged in response to the
Intifada, and given open, official legal status. A
report of Justice Moshe Landau in October 1987
concluded that "moderate physical pressure" is
legitimate when interrogating Palestinians, which led
one Israeli Knesset member to ask: At what voltage
does an electric current applied to one's testicles
stop being "moderate physical pressure?" This gross
perversion of human and civil rights became Israeli
law and legitimized torture, without any reaction
whatever from the West.

It is now standard practice to handcuff, blindfold,
insult and beat, and often further torture Palestinian
prisoners, including small children, many of whom are
psychologically shattered by their experience in the
hands of security police (Shin Bet, also called
Shabak) interrogators. An April 1992 report by the
Israeli human rights group B'Tselem estimated that
5,000 Palestinians had been tortured in the prior
year, or some 420 per month. Every few months there is
a small back page article about another Palestinian
prisoner who died in jail during or after
"interrogation." In one case in 1992, a young man
named Al-Akawi, brought to court after "moderate
physical pressure," looked so badly beaten and unwell
that the judge took the "unusual step" of giving the
Shin Bet only eight more days for interrogation. But
by 5 PM the next day the authorities summoned
Al-Akawi's father to come and remove his son's body.

Israeli analysts Haim and Rivca Gordon, who did a
study of Israeli interrogation and torture, claim that
"the Shabak interrogators of the Palestinians are
legalized sadists<193>[many of whom] attain much
personal and physical gratification from brutally
beating the Palestinians<193>[as it] is part of the
interrogators vocation. How could it be otherwise?"

It should be noted that Israelis in general do not
disapprove of these practices. Of a random 100
Israelis queried by the Gordons who were willing to
give their opinions on the activities of Shabak, 90
were fully satisfied with its performance, 9 expressed
some doubts on the adequacy of oversight and
information, and only 1 person clearly condemned
Shabak operations on grounds of human rights and

Other Violations of Dignity and Human Rights
The occupation has allowed a suspension of due
process--for Palestinians; the Jewish settlers are
subject to a different system--under which torture and
other abuses can grow like cancers, although media eye
aversion is necessary for their full flowering. The
occupation authorities can at their discretion arrest
and keep in "administrative detention" any
Palestinian, without giving any reason to family or
court. The arrests are often made in the small hours
of the night, and are often accompanied by serious
mistreatment, in procedures reminiscent of those of
the police and death squads in El Salvador or under
classic fascist regimes. The numbers held in
administrative detention without trial have hovered
between 9-11,000 in the early 1990s, but many times
this number have passed through the process.

The victims may be educators, labor leaders,
journalists--anybody who lifts a finger for the
Palestinian cause is vulnerable as a "security
threat," although there is an element of
capriciousness in the ongoing system. An enlightening
case was that of Faisal Husseini, an academic who
headed an Arab Studies Center in Jerusalem (now shut
down), and a prominent Palestinian spokesperson for
dialogue and negotiations. He was arrested on July 30,
1988, in a 2 AM raid by 15 plainclothes police, who
scoured his house "going through everything from
personal letters to the school report cards of his
children," in a search for his PLO connections and
proof of his "terrorism!" This arrest--and six months
sentence, imposed without trial--came three days after
he had addressed a meeting of Israel's Peace Now
organization in which he once again appealed for
dialogue and mutual understanding and concessions. It
has been a long-standing pattern for Israeli
authorities to arrest and treat with special harshness
Arab moderates and especially those reaching out to
Israeli peaceniks.

Deportation complements imprisonment and torture as a
method of occupation control over any independent
Palestinian cultural or political life. Hundreds of
Palestinians have been deported without hearings or
trial, and in violation of international law. (Article
49 of the 1949 Fifth Geneva Convention prohibits
individual or group transfers to another country "for
whatever motive." Article 13 of the 1948 Universal
Declaration of Human Rights includes a right to return
to one's country, a right of the Palestinians expelled
from Israel that was at least formally recognized by
the U.S., until a Clinton administration vote to the
contrary in December 1993.) The case of the 415
alleged Hammers "leaders" and "terrorists" pushed into
the desert in December 1992 was only the most dramatic
in a continuing series of acts that are cruel,
illegal, and violate western rules of due process.

In 1988, in response to the Intifada, the occupation
authorities closed down West Bank schools and
universities, some for several years, allegedly on
security grounds, but incidentally inflicting damage
on the Palestinian community for resistance to the
occupation. The punitive objective is evidenced by the
fact that during school closings even in-home teaching
of young children was considered a crime punishable by
imprisonment. The authorities have also engaged in
extensive censorship of the press and intellectual
activity in general, imprisoning and deporting
journalists and educators, closing down newspapers and
news services, and cutting off telephone communication
and the distribution of printed materials to control
information. A Palestinian artist was arrested for
painting a picture using the colors of the Palestinian
flag; union leaders have been imprisoned for
distributing pamphlets notifying Palestinians of their
rights as workers (for extensive documentation, see
Chomsky's Necessary Illusions, pp. 337ff). The Israeli
treatment of the Palestinian media and cultural
organizations in general has been vastly more
arbitrary and oppressive than that of the Sandinistas
in Nicaragua in the 1980s, but only the Sandinista
abuses were newsworthy in this country. The greatest
U.S. media hysteria over Sandinista suspension of La
Prensa, which followed a congressional vote to renew
contra aid, only a few days after the World Court had
found U.S. actions in Nicaragua unlawful, coincided
with Israel's permanent shutting down of two
Palestinian newspapers on grounds of alleged PLO
support. The closings by Israel were of no interest
whatever to the Free Press.

"The Problem"

We see in Israel a remarkable system of racial
discrimination and apartheid, institutionalized in law
and practice, and making steady advances, and an
Israeli occupation that has used great brutality in a
system of ethnic cleansing and associated
expropriation and robbery that, again, proceeds apace.
This is done in the occupied territories in brazen
disregard of a stream of UN resolutions ordering
Israel to respect the 1967 borders, stop oppressing
and discriminating against the non-Jewish population,
and to get out; and in violation of international law
on settlements, deportations, and other matters. The
use of torture against the non-Jewish population has
been made standard operating procedure and is used

It is true that there are more horrible cases of
ethnic cleansing that we can point to, but the special
features of the Israeli-Palestinian case are that it
has gone on for decades, is openly aided with money
and diplomatic support by the U.S. and other western
powers, and the oppressors, law violators, and robbers
are portrayed as model democrats whose "security" is
being threatened by those being robbed and tortured.
When the victims rose up in anguish and fought back,
sometimes with stones, they were not seen as having a
just cause; aid to their oppressors was not cut back
at all, and the violent response to the uprising has
been treated in low key, as the West even assists the
oppressors' efforts to return the victims to a proper
state of apathy.

The problem then is why and how is this done? In a
follow-up article I will examine the intellectual
devices that have made the victims unworthy and their
oppressors virtuous in their racism, robbery, and
terrorism. In a third article I will look at the
institutional and political forces that underlie the
Free World's intellectual cover and positive support
for a worthy terrorism.