Israel's Wall in Bethlehem, West Bank, April 2011, on which has been neatly painted Israel's Wall in Bethlehem, West Bank, April 2011. Photo: Montecruz Foto.

Israel’s history, from its origins in 1948’s Nakba, is characterised by racism, violence and apartheid policies towards Palestinians, explains Sybil Cock

The very public smearing of Jeremy Corbyn for his support for the Palestinian struggle throws the Israeli state back into focus.

Israel is very clearly a racist state – the new Nationhood laws only codify the reality and make it clearer to the world.

More than 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes by force in the Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948, the ethnic cleansing involved in founding the state of Israel. Those Palestinians who remained inside Israel’s borders after 1948 were subject to military rule until the 1960s. They continue to be discriminated against by over 50 Israeli laws. They may be citizens and may have the vote, but they are not equal to Jewish Israelis.

Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem live under martial law.  Israel controls everything they do – from the postal service to building permits in most of the Occupied Territories.  All ‘borders’ are controlled by Israel, so visiting Palestine means showing an acceptable face at an airport or one of the very few other crossing points.  Gaza is under full military siege on land and from the sea.

In fact Israel has no internationally recognised borders – the intention in 1948 was for Israel to grab as much land as possible, containing as few Palestinians as possible. 

These stark facts are little known, as Palestinian voices are silenced by the media frenzy of support for ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’.

There are many parallels with apartheid South Africa. The BDS movement makes such comparisons and uses many of the same tactics deployed in global solidarity with the anti-apartheid struggle.

Israel is moving into a new phase of defending itself.  Gone are the endless ‘peace process’ talks of the Oslo years in the 1990s. The gloves are off. Israel is experiencing a crisis of legitimacy and pouring millions into its defence.

A key example is the Right of Return for Palestinian Refugees.  In fact this is central to the ongoing mobilisations at the fence surrounding Gaza.

As the Electronic Intifada website puts it:

The right of return is also enshrined in international law. The UN General Assembly in December 1948 adopted Resolution 194, which called for the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes. In June 1967, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 237 calling on Israel to facilitate the return of refugees, thereby including those forced out by Israel’s seizure of land days earlier.

Importantly, the right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants challenges Israel’s apartheid state, which requires a Jewish majority. Israel is a settler colonial state that allows Jews worldwide to move to Israel while stealing land from those who have historically belonged there. The Israeli state demonises calls for Palestinian refugees’ right of return as antisemitic.

None of this means that Israelis and Palestinians could not live together in a single democratic state.

As a Gazan activist said recently: 

Our problem is with the racism and the occupation of Israel, not with the existence of Jewish people in Palestine. Our goal is to topple the project of Occupation while allowing anyone born in Palestine to remain here based on equal human rights as citizens of a single state.

The Israeli thinktank The Reut Institute in 2010 published a chillingly detailed report on the tactics Israel needs to use to contest the worldwide movement to delegitimise it. Many of the current developments can be traced to that.

We have to build a mass movement in support of Palestinian rights.  And nowhere is this more important than in the UK.  London was identified by Reut as one of the major centres of resistance.

I’m proud to be an active member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and especially to know how closely our activities are followed by Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

Pressing activity for all those who support this cause includes defending Corbyn from spurious attacks over antisemitism, joining rallies over this and supporting the lobby of Labour’s NEC to reject adoption of “IHRA examples equating criticism of Israel with antisemitism”.

I’d urge all readers too to get in touch with their local PSC branch, and join in activities. Up next on September 15th we will be protesting HSBC’s murderous funding of the Israeli military infrastructure, in a nationwide day of action.