What is Apartheid?

Apartheid \ ə-pärt'hīt', -hāt'\ A policy of segregation and social and economic discrimination by one group over another group. Separation.

Apartheid stems from “the policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination that combine to form an institutionalized system of racial discrimination that has not only the effect but the purpose of maintaining racial domination by one racial group over the other.”
~ Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa

Apartheid is prohibited by several international laws:

  • Hague Regulations of 1907
  • Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949
  • The Law of Armed Conflict
  • The Law of Self-Determination as established in the Charter of the United Nations
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 1965
  • Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, 2002  

Apartheid laws have been upheld by:

  • International Court of Justice
  • Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States

Apartheid policies:

Some 500,000 Israeli colonialists – people living on Palestinian territory in illegally constructed settlements – enjoy rights and privileges denied Palestinians living in the same areas.

  • Jewish residents in illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are protected by Israeli domestic law and are under the jurisdiction of Israeli civil courts.
  • Palestinian residents in the same territories are subjected to Israeli military law and subjected to Israeli military courts.
  • Jewish residents in OPT enjoy freedom of movement, and civil protection and services.
  • Palestinians are denied freedom of movement and have no civil protection or services.

“This dual system has gained the imprimatur of Israel’s High Court and constitutes a policy by the State of Israel to sustain two parallel societies in the OPT, one Jewish and the other Palestinian, and discriminate between these two.” ~ Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa

Israel denies Palestinians the right to life and liberty in order to repress dissent against occupation. Illegal measures Israel uses include:

  • Extrajudicial  killings
  • Arrests and detentions
  • Torture
  • Indefinite detentions without charge
  • Military courts that don’t offer fair trials

“Palestinians are subject to legal systems and courts which apply standards of evidence and procedure that are different from those applied to Jewish settlers living the OPT and that result in harsher penalties for Palestinians” ~ Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa

Israel denies Palestinians – based upon their heritage – the right as a racial group to participate in the political, social, economic or cultural life of their country. Measures employed:

  • Restrictions on freedom of movement caused by the Apartheid Wall and more than 600 checkpoints, roadblocks and obstacles.
  • Obstructive and all-encompassing permit and ID system that apply only to Palestinians.
  • Palestinians living in the West Bank are not allowed to visit Gaza and vice versa; nor are they allowed to visit East Jerusalem without a permit.
  • Palestinians are not allowed to choose their own place of residency within their own territory because of systematic residency restrictions.
  • Spouses and children living in different parts of the Occupied Territories (i.e., West Bank, the Gaza Strip or East Jerusalem) are denied reunification.
  • Palestinians are denied the right to leave and return to their country
  • Palestinians forced into exile in 1948 are not allowed to return
  • Palestinians displaced from their homes in the 1967 Six Day War are not allowed to return
  • Since 2007, the Palestinians of Gaza have lived under a total blockade and are denied all basic freedoms and rights
  • Israel denies Palestinians in the Occupied Territories their right to a nationality by obstructing the Palestinian right to self-determination
  • Israel maintains a segregated school system – one for Jews and one for non-Jews
    • Israel pays $1,100 per Jewish student annually
    • Israel pays just $192 per Palestinian students who are residents of Israel
    • Palestinian schools in Israel were short more than 1,000 classrooms to meet their needs in 2009-10 academic school year
  •  In the West Bank, the Israeli military often enacts curfews or shuts down Palestinian schools, preventing children from attending classes.  The military also  attacks schools, closes checkpoint crossings and randomly arrests and detains teachers.

Apartheid Wall and Cantons

When completed, the Apartheid Wall, which snakes through the West Bank, will be nearly twice as long as the 1948 Green Line. Palestinians will lose an additional 12 percent of the West Bank.  As many as 500,000 Palestinians live in areas severed by the Apartheid Wall, according to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

  • Israel has used the Apartheid Wall to divide the West Bank into cantons.
  • Entry and residency in each canton is determined by identity.
  • Nonresidents of a particular canton must obtain a permit to enter
  • Israel continually appropriates Palestinian land for exclusive Jewish use
  • 38 percent of the West Bank is completely closed off to Palestinians

“The Wall and its infrastructure of gates and permanent checkpoints suggest a policy permanently to divide the West Bank into racial cantons. Israeli government ministries, the World Zionist Organization and other Jewish national institutions operating as authorized agencies of the State plan, fund and implement construction of the West Bank settlements and their infrastructure for exclusively Jewish use.” ~ Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa

Israel’s Three Pillars of Apartheid

  1. Israel has implemented laws and policies thatestablish Jewish identity. This is used as the basis to confer rights and privileges as well as preferred legal status and material benefits to  Jews over non-Jews
    “The product of this in the OPT is an institutionalized system that privileges Jewish settlers and discriminates against Palestinians on the basis of the inferior status afforded to non-Jews by Israel.” ~  Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa
  2. Israel has an overarching policy to carve up the West Bank into isolated cantons for the purpose of segregation and domination.
    “That these measures are intended to segregate the population along racial lines … is clear from the visible web of walls, separate roads, and checkpoints, and the invisible web of permit and ID systems, that combine to ensure that Palestinians remain confined to the reserves designated for them while Israeli Jews are prohibited from entering those reserves but enjoy freedom of movement throughout the rest of the Palestinian territory.”  ~ Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa
  3. Security laws that are applied discriminatorily against Palestinians only are the third pillar of Apartheid. Israel uses the pretext of ‘security’ to justify the assassinations, torture, arbitrary arrests and detentions and cruel, degrading treatment of Palestinians.”
    “These policies are state-sanctioned, and often approved by the Israeli judicial system, and supported by an oppressive code of military laws and a system of improperly constituted military courts. Additionally, … Israel's invocation of 'security' to validate sweeping restrictions on Palestinian freedom of opinion, expression, assembly, association and movement also often purports to mask a true underlying intent to suppress dissent to its system of domination, and thereby maintain control over Palestinians as a group.” ~ Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa

What you can do

  • Join AMP’s Media Team by sending an email to [email protected]
  • Call or write your elected officials
  • Donate to AMP so we can continue our work to educate Americans about the occupation
  • Educate yourself and speak up to others

The American Muslims for Palestine is a national, grassroots organization whose mission is to educate the American public about issues pertaining to Palestine and its rich cultural heritage.


  • B’Tselem, “Human Rights in the Occupied Territories,” 2008
  • Haaretz, “A welcome initiative, quashed,” by Yousef Jabareen, May 3, 2009
  • Karen Parker, JD  “Understanding Self-Determination, The Basics,” 2000
  • Middle East Project (MEP) of the Democracy and Governance Programme, a research programme of the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa, “ Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid? A re-assessment of Israel’s practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law,” May 2009

 ~ American Muslims for Palestine, February 201