What is Apartheid in Israel?

15 May 2009

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Dr. Jeff Halper, an Israeli academic and activist, as well as co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, gave a lecture on 16 March 2009 at the University of Sydney, Australia, where he explained why he believes Israel's "separation barrier" enforces "apartheid" between Israelis and Palestinians.

His lecture - as captured in this video clip - is transcribed below.

JEFF HALPER: This is why we use the word "apartheid." Apartheid, in our view, is not a slogan. It's not just some political curse word. It's a very precise word for a system that can be constructed -- and it can be imported and exported and so on. 

What's apartheid?

Apartheid is two elements, basically. One is when one's population separates itself  from the others. That's what apartheid means - apart. It means that in Afrikaans and that's the word we use in Hebrew. The official name of our policy is apartheid, except we say it in Hebrew, "hafrada." 

Hafrada, which is apartheid or separation, is what we call our policy towards Palestinians. That's why we us the term a "demographic border." That's an official term.

And the official name of the wall is not the "security barrier," because it is sold as security. The official name is "the separation barrier."  The "apartheid" barrier - (inaudible) hafrada in Hebrew. That's the official name in the concept. 

So that this wall then, is more than twice as high as the Berlin wall was. And here it's interesting you know -- there were two outrageous issues back in the 60's, 70's 80's that everybody in the world was up in arms against. One was apartheid -- the apartheid regime. The other one was the Berlin Wall. Remember, even Reagan went to Berlin and said to Gorbachev, tear down this evil wall. 

And here you have both of those systems in the same little country with the support of the Australian government and everybody else. It's really interesting how, you know - to ask - why that's the case?

So the wall is eight meters high. The Berlin wall was four meters high. The Israeli wall is five times longer than the Berlin wall was and the Berlin wall was linear. This (Israeli) wall, in fact, encompasses, imprisons tens of thousands of Palestinians.

So that (Halper points to slide) -- this is the city of Tulkaram. About 70,000 people completely surrounded by the wall with one entrance and exit controlled by the Israelis - forever.

And the wall does not separate Israelis from Palestinians as you would expect, if it were really a separation barrier. Here's the wall. I don't know if you can see it. I'll just turn this off for a second (dims lights). Here you see it going through this Palestinian community.

In other words, (Halper points to slide) this is a Palestinian grandmother in Bethlehem. Her grandchildren live here in Beit Jala. And the wall goes (between) ... 

There's no Israelis in this picture. So what kind of a security barrier is it if your enemies are on both sides?

It's clear that the wall is built in a way that Israelis can't see it. First of all, they can't see it, so it's not an issue and also we don't want to imprison ourselves. We want to give ourselves the feeling of open spaces, unhindered movement -- and so the wall is built deep into Palestinian areas. 

It goes through school courtyards. This is a high school in Anata with a basketball hoop on the other side.

And it goes through not only Palestinian communities like Abu Dis, but this is Al Quds University. I mean I don't know why the wall going through university campuses preventing students in faculties from getting to classes is not an issue in every university in the world. 

Remember a couple years ago when the British Union of Teachers called for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions? Not Israeli academics, not individual scholars, but the institution. There was an outrage. University presidents sent letters of outrage, Nobel prize winners, thousands of faculty members - outrage at this violation of academic freedom. 

Where was the outrage when Israel built, years ago, a wall not only through Al Quds - there's other university campuses as well. 

And I wrote an article on the second day of the attack on Gaza. Israel bombed the Islamic University. The university with 17,000 students was bombed and according to the Israeli papers, it was destroyed.

Where was the outrage? Did anybody speak out about that?

So that there is a real racist undertone here. You know, in which Gilad Shalit - everybody knows his name. Who knows the names of the 12 or 13 thousand Palestinian prisoners who are being held?

You see, when there is a boycott against a white university, it's an outrage. When walls are built with other people's universities - who cares?

Editors Note: This lecture was transcribed by SACSIS. for the most part, it's been transcribed verbatim.

You can find this page online at http://sacsis.org.za/site/article/134.19.

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