On Friday, the Palestinian Authority welcomed statements by former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo in which he considered that Israel was imposing an “apartheid” regime in the occupied West Bank. These comments sparked widespread criticism in Israel.
In an interview with the American Associated Press published on Wednesday, Pardo said, “There is an apartheid regime here,” while talking about the West Bank, which has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 war.
He added, “When two peoples on the same land are dealt with according to two different legal systems, this is an apartheid system,” indicating that Palestinians arrested by the army or Israeli security services are referred to military courts, while Israelis, residents of settlements in violation of international law, are referred to court. Civil judiciary.
Pardo’s statements, head of the Foreign Intelligence Service between 2011 and 2016, are the most clear criticism from a former senior Israeli official of his government’s practices in the West Bank, after their intensity escalated under the current coalition of Benjamin Netanyahu, which is considered the most right-wing in Israel’s history.
The political advisor in the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ahmed Al-Deek, welcomed Pardo’s statements, noting that similar positions were being issued by “an increasing number of Israeli officials.”
He added in an interview with Agence France-Presse: “We hope that this reflects the beginning of an awakening in Israeli society to support the rights of the Palestinian people and put pressure on the Israeli government to end its occupation of Palestinian lands.”
In April 2021, Human Rights Watch, based in New York, joined a number of Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations in its decision to use “apartheid” to describe the policies practiced by Tel Aviv towards the Palestinians and internal Palestinians.
In 2022, Amnesty International accused Israel of committing “apartheid” against the Palestinians and treating them as an “inferior ethnic group.”
Israel, through its Foreign Minister at the time, Yair Lapid, rejected the report, considering that it cited “lies spread by terrorist organizations,” as he claimed.
Two Israeli soldiers arrest a Palestinian in the West Bank
Criticism inside Israel
Pardo has emerged on the Israeli political scene in recent months through his positions opposing the draft judicial amendments pushed by Netanyahu. The project sparked unprecedented protests at home and criticism abroad.
Pardo’s statements are in addition to similar comments made recently by Israeli officials and diplomats, in which they warned that Israel might become an apartheid state if it continued its practices in the occupied West Bank.
But what Pardo said was the clearest in criticizing Israeli measures and labeling them “apartheid,” and it entailed sharp reactions at the political level, as well as the security and military structure.
The Likud Party, led by Netanyahu, considered Pardo’s statements “flawed and wrong.” The right-wing party said in a statement, “Israeli hospitals treat Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians, in the same way. Arabs and Jews study and work together in Israel.”
For their part, officials in the army, police, and security services who participated in the Israel Defense and Security Forum considered that Pardo’s statements constitute a “distortion of reality.”
They added in a joint statement that the former official “defamed the State of Israel and its security forces” through positions based exclusively on “personal political opinions.”
Outside of East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed, about 490,000 Israelis reside in settlements in the occupied West Bank, which are inhabited by 2.9 million Palestinians.
The current government coalition led by Netanyahu includes figures and political parties from the right and the extreme right that support the annexation of the entire West Bank and the continuation of the settlement policy in its lands.
Many human rights organizations criticize the restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities on freedom of movement in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and discrimination against Arabs in Israel.
About two weeks ago, Netanyahu supported the far-right Minister of Security, Itamar Ben Gvir, after he demanded greater rights for Jews compared to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. The minister told Israeli Channel 12, “My right, as well as the right of my wife and children, to move on the roads (in the West Bank) is more important than the freedom of movement of Arabs.”
Apartheid (the separate development of the races in Afrikaans) is a system that was enshrined by whites in South African laws between 1948 and 1991. The white minority dominated political life until the first multi-racial elections in 1994, won by Nelson Mandela, who led the struggle against this regime.
South African citizens were classified from birth into four categories: whites, blacks, mulattoes, and Indians, with whites occupying the highest status and enjoying special privileges, while blacks languished at the bottom of the social ladder. The largest portion (87%) of South Africa’s land was allocated to whites, while blacks lived in neighborhoods designated for them.