Amos Schocken, the publisher of Israel’s liberal daily Ha’aretz newspaper, has defended his paper’s applying the word “apartheid” to the Israeli- occupied West Bank, as well as the phrase “Jews-only roads.” According to journalist and blogger Phillip Weiss, who attended an Oct. 23 conference called “Israel and its Jewish Defamers,” by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), Schocken’s statements came in a result to inquiries from CAMERA, which is led by Andrea Levin:
Levin said that after Haaretz ran an opinion column describing the separate roads in the West Bank as “apartheid” roads, CAMERA members wrote letters to Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken saying this was a false charge. She then read from Schocken’s responses. In one he said “the term ‘roads for Jews only,’ which may be mathematically incorrect, is fine with me.. because it describes the true nature and purpose of the roads.” In another reply, Schocken wrote, “Your legalistic response is exactly the type that is used to blur reality, rather than clarify it. It is utterly ridiculous not to call these roads apartheid roads because the entire presence of Jews in the Occupied Territories is of an apartheid nature…”
The following is from a non-violent group in the West Bank, Apartheid Masked, Oct. 25:
Blocking the road to Apartheid: Palestinian nonviolent protestors are blocking highway 443
An anti-apartheid protest today blocked busy Highway 443, one of many highways that run on occupied Palestinian land but are reserved for Israelis only. Israeli Security forces used force to move the demonstrators. Three of the protesters, Blake Murphy, from Boston and Yonatan Polak, and Dmitri from Tel Aviv were arrested and released with conditions limiting their movement.
The protesters blocked the highway for over fifteen minutes by organising a mass sit down in the road backed by six protestors chained into a four metre pipe. Rush hour traffic was backed up for miles before the protestors were removed by force. They distributing a message to the drivers on the highway: “We know what it feels like to be blocked. We experience it daily.”
The masses of Israelis who regularly travel to Jerusalem via the settlement of Modi’in were surprised this morning to find the highway blocked by non-violent protesters. Despite obvious road blocks at the junctions with roads from the Palestinian villages along the highway, few are aware that for seven years now, Highway 443 has been accessible to Israelis only. Palestinians are forbidden to travel on the highway, even on the 9.5 kilometer-long segment which passes through occupied West Bank territory and is built on land that has been confiscated from Palestinians whose olive trees have been cut down “for the benefit of the local population.” [See comment from Israel’s newspaper Haaretz, “The Law as Roadkill”
The Israeli military claims that the prohibition of Palestinian traffic on the main road is temporary and subject to security considerations. But their actions on the ground suggest otherwise. In order to “compensate” the communities, the military has confiscated more land for the creation of what they term “fabric of life” roads at an estimated cost of 177.9 million shekels (approximately US$44.5 million). These roads will funnel Palestinian traffic under the Israeli road network via tunnels and underpasses connecting communities in nearby enclaves, thus putting the Palestinians out of sight and out of mind for Israelis.
The Israeli Human rights group B’tselem states that the prohibition on Palestinian use of Highway 443 appears to be based on Israel’s desire to annex the area along which the road runs. B’tselem explains that if Israel was only interested in protecting the lives of Israelis, rather than annexing the area, it could limit or even prohibit the travel of Israelis on the road cutting through the West Bank and build roads inside Israeli territory, thus providing safe channels of transportation to connect Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
The policy of prohibiting movement on this road is not an isolated case but is part of a general widespread policy [see map]. On 312 kilometers of main roads in the West Bank, vehicles bearing Palestinian license plates are forbidden or restricted access. The creation of a regime of “forbidden roads” has converted the right to freedom of movement in the West Bank into a privilege that is dependent upon the national origin of an individual. [see International Convention on Apartheid] These roads, in addition to the segregation wall, carve up Palestinian areas into isolated enclaves. This fragmentation is at the root of the West Bank’s declining economy.
In an appeal, The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI ) states that the term “Crime of Apartheid,” applies to acts that are used as a means for establishing and maintaining domination of one racial group of persons over any other racial group and systematically oppressing them. ACRI states that an accepted systematic policy of discrimination against the Palestinian population constitutes a practice of apartheid as defined by the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. Separation exists between Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank in many other aspects of life, as with the two separate legal systems that exist for the two populations.
A spokesperson for the Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Movement said: “Israel wants to legitimize apartheid and call it peace. This is the first in a series of popular non-violent protests against the Israeli system of apartheid. “anti-apartheid activists block highway 443 Thursday morning, protesting the Israeli-only road which traverses occupied Palestinian land. A major highway, it is inaccessible to Palestinians.
See our last post on Israel/Palestine.