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#SeeIsraelForYourself: “It’s not apartheid. It’s worse.”

ITANI RASALANAVHO is a 31-year-old law student based in Soweto who has travelled to the West Bank in Palestine and seen the reality of the situation. He has seen Israel for himself, and told Aaisha Dadi Patel his version of events. 

First and foremost, the sponsored trips to Israel are a world phenomenon so people can be taken to see a side of Israel, as opposed to the truth. It’s not just targeting South Africans. Once they’re taken there, these people are shown a materialistic side of life there. But there are also organisations that send people like me to the West Bank to witness what really happens at the West Bank, a contested territory that people taken on propaganda trips are often not taken to [in order] to avoid them seeing what really happens.

Read Ben White on Why Israel is an apartheid state
Read Ben White on Why Israel is an apartheid state

I spent three months there, mostly in the West Bank with Palestinians. My impression of the whole thing is that there is segregation in more ways than one. The first form is between the Israelis and Palestinians, and especially the segregation in the West Bank itself between Palestinians and settlers. From the roads that are used, the signs on the roads, the territory where the Palestinians can and can’t be compared to the settlers. It is separated in many ways. There are roads where you’ll never find a Palestinian car, referred to as settler roads. There are places Palestinians cannot buy land. 93% of the whole of historic Palestine is now Israel, including the West Bank, which is supposed to be under occupation and not taken. But they are losing land on a daily basis and the laws are applied separately. It is only Palestinians you’ll see being stopped at checkpoints. Settlers and Israelis are allowed to pass through without hassle, simply because they have a yellow card and number plate as well as dual nationality.

In Israel itself, there’s a lot of discrimination, particularly amongst the Ethiopians, who are black. The Ethiopian and Eritrean migrants are referred to as “falasha“. They get treated better than the Arabs, but there is a lot of internal segregation still happening. In December, the falasha were issued with a statement saying that Ethiopian women were being injected with contraceptives where they thought it was vaccinations.

They get less access to services than the Jews do in Israel. Jobs are mostly reserved for the Jews. The rest – blacks and Arabs – are mostly just labourers.

When it comes to how outsiders view the conflict, I think the most important thing is the source of information for the people. People use the media as their main source of information and it is unfortunate that the media sometimes gives us distorted information. I feel Israel has huge control and support in the mainstream media because the messages it spreads about Palestine are quite negative.

A few of the #SeeIsraelForYourself posters around Wits University
A few of the #SeeIsraelForYourself posters around Wits University

People don’t always know what to believe until they reach the right news resources. I’ll give you an example with myself. My first interest in the conflict was two days before 9/11. But it took me so many years to find alternative information to what we were being fed, which was primarily pro-Israel. So a lot of people were receiving information that Israel are a group of victims at the hands of these terrorists. When you see the word “terrorist” the first thing that comes to your mind is what you see with your ISIS. When you’re there, you realise there a lot of ways that things can be covered. Not only the propaganda of information we receive through media, but even internally. There are people that go there into the state and travel around it, but not see the actual situation.

If somebody was to come here during the apartheid era, they could travel around Johannesburg and not see shacks and townships, and the poverty and racism supplied during the apartheid regime. And that’s the case with Israel. A lot of people will go there, come back, and say, “We didn’t see it.” Yes, they didn’t see it because they were not shown the areas where the occupation takes place and where segregation laws apply.

It’s fair to have the apartheid analogy. But what raises the question of the fairness is the way that the separation is more subtle. Israel’s apartheid is far more sophisticated. It is not in your face. That is where the difference starts. But when you look into the laws, that’s what determines apartheid. Israeli law mainly favours the Jewish community, and with civil law for Israelis and military law for Palestinians.

I didn’t witness apartheid but those who did and went to the West Bank, they say that what is happening now is even worse than apartheid. Maybe, it’s not even worth comparing the two.

As told to Aaisha Dadi Patel, edited for brevity and clarity.

This is part of a special series called Apartheid 2.0, which The Daily Vox is running this month in partnership with Al Jazeera’s Palestine Remix.

Featured image supplied

Editor’s note: On Tuesday 15 March, this post was edited to update the spelling of what was originally said here to be “fanasha”, the correct term is actually “falasha”. Another point of clarification: While black, African jews officially, at least, enjoy the rights of Israeli citizens, even though these rights are not reflected in their daily realities. The situation of non-Jewish African immigrants into Israel is yet worse.  

7 Comments
  1. TheRealMidnite says

    I’ve always found the comparison between Apartheid-era South Africa uncomfortable because there are fundamental differences between these two regimes… Ever since the British created South Africa (i.e long before 1948) it needed a large, dis-empowered class of people to supply South Africa’s cheap minerals to our foreign “benefactors”. Black South Aricans were saddled with this purpose, which, as everyone here knows, has remained unchanged to this day. Both the National Party and our current ANC regime have merely provided continuity to this scheme. This is very different to the situation in Palestine. The Israelis want Palestinians (and Palestine) to disappear. Permanently.

  2. Robert donovan says

    I’m a 54 year old male. I live in. Sydney Australia. I am not jewish and I’m not Muslim. I have jewish and Muslim associates. I believe I am objective. I am not wealthy – but i am not living on The streets either. From my view point – and i read propaganda from both sides – the Jews have 1. Simply returned to their rightfully owned lands. 2. The Jewish society has flourished whilst the Muslim society has gone backwards. 3. The Jews have bent over backwards to obtain peace with Palestine whilst the Palestinians backed by their state sponsored terrorist leaders have thwarted all attempts at peace. 4. The ongoing fault and blame of the continued conflict rests fair and square on the shoulders of Muslim Palestinians behaviour and actions – and all i see from my neutral position is that Muslim incursions around the entire globe into otherwise peaceful safe happy communities is now the cause of major problems and conflict. It is impossible to attempt to introduce backward processes into progressive communities and not have conflict. The entire globe is currently experiencing what the Jews in Israel and the hindus in india have been facing for ions. You sir might have experienced some forms of segregation whilst you visited Israel for sure – but from where I sit any such thing is more than justified. It is the 12th of March today -7.45am in Sydney – and to prove my point above – let us see what transpires in Israel over the next fortnight. Rather than listen to me through my words – see what happens over the next 2 weeks in Israel – then write yourself a story based on facts.

    1. TheRealMidnite says

      Your claim to objectivity is thoroughly rejected. As is the rest of your argument. 1. Does religion now allow people to “rightfully” own land in complete disregard for any people who might be living on it (in this case, for more than two thousand years)? Funny that that argument should come from a white Australian. 2. If you mean by “gone backwards” being turned into the world’s largest refugee population through a process of ethnic cleansing, then who am I to argue? 3. Yes, I can see the Zionists bending backwards (the 2000+ people slaughtered in Gaza must have really hurt their backs) 4. Yes, and I suppose all these ‘orrible non-white peoples should be glad there are whiteys around to bomb the living civilization into them. You’re about as “neutral” as a Holocaust denier.

      1. Far too nice says

        Been to South Africa a few weeks ago – PE for a few weeks, Apartheid has gone so nowadays all the whites go to the white places and all the blacks go theirs – The latter are living off sh*te on the streets and living in total poverty. Once the maize runs out the country will dissolve. Great job, something to admire.

        As regards Israel, strange that these oppressed Falashas are in the army.. similarly the mental falasha patient that wandered into Gaza has still been not released by Hamas yet these apartheid israelis want him back. Israel is a JEWISH state moron not a skin-colour one.

        Call me old fashioned but people who blow themselves up at parties, discos and religious events should be kept away from these civilised activities?

        I am sure you monitor this site and will add a crass response knowing full well you’ll have the last word… then go ahead and celebrate as that’s the only victory misinformed bigots like you will get…

        Jews are the MAJORITY in Israel, nearly 8 million of them, cities, hospitals, motorways, universities – more than Sweden, Wales and Belgium combined – try to unravel that…

        1. TheRealMidnite says

          Hah! All the maize runs out and we dissolve? That may be. But maize, despite it’s instability, is still more reliant than US military aid, which is the only thing propping up Israel. Must be really nerve-wracking for the more far-sighted in the Israeli government, realizing that the US now has a lot more relevant and credible allies in the region than the modern-day “Heavenly Kingdom” which Israel has become (if you want to know just how fickle and unreliable these Western “benefactors” can be, just ask the old South African government).

    2. Cythera Greece says

      “I believe I am objective.” -Rejected.
      “i read propaganda from both sides” – try reading history from both sides, documented history of the rise of Zionism and its nationalist, colonial settler project.
      You have obviously fallen for Zionist propaganda: “The Jews have 1. Simply returned to their rightfully owned lands.”
      “The Jewish society has flourished whilst the Muslim society has gone backwards” – depends on your viewpoint of what flourishing and backward mean. If you have one group that is supported and armed to the teeth by the richest countries in the world to the tune of billions every year since it was declared a state, one might imagine they would ‘flourish’ in terms of infrastructure and living standards. If you are dispossessed, expelled from the lands you have lived on and farmed for centuries, or from the cities which were once jewels in the Middle East, forced to live under ILLEGAL occupation, humiliated every day, prevented from huilding and working, travelling and moving around freely within your own lands, then one might say that they have gone backwards, of no fault of their own.
      However, if you judge ‘flourish’ in another way, which I do, I would say that Israelis are increasingly morally bankrupt. So, they have gone backwards. Palestinians, on the other hand, are understandably desperate, but incredibly resilient, proud and courageous, besides that, their standard of education is incredibly high. So, in a sense, they have flourished, despite unbelievable hardship and impossible living conditions in Gaza.
      “The Jews have bent over backwards to obtain peace with Palestine whilst the Palestinians backed by their state sponsored terrorist leaders have thwarted all attempts at peace.” – this is simply a lie. It is pure Zionist propaganda and is disputed by innumerable reputable historians and political theorists. The Palestinians agreed too much too much that was unfavourable and would not agree to the worst terms for them. That is what Israel calls thwarting attempts at peace (peace for Israel = no Palestinians)
      “The ongoing fault and blame of the continued conflict rests fair and square on the shoulders of Muslim Palestinians behaviour and actions” utter rubbish, as is your so-called ‘neutral position’ and not worth addressing. You sound like a total Islamophobe, not neutral at all.
      If you do not believe Palestinian accounts, then try reading or listening to the increasing number of Israeli and Jewish historians worldwide who strongly oppose Israeli policies. They provide ample evidence to dispute any of your claims and interpretations.

  3. Lovenothate says

    This was so so sad.
    I live in Israel, and you unfortunately you were fed incorrect information.
    There are reserved places for Arabs, woman and Ethiopians in every University. And by law, every University has to reserve these spots.
    If you were to go to any hospital in Israel, you would notice that there are (and this does depend on the hospital) and almost equal amount of Arab doctors/nurses to Jewish.
    The fact that the Arabs who you saw have less than the Jews in the settlements has nothing to do with the country!!! They have every right in the world to make their lives better, and they just don’t get up and do that unlike the Jews!!
    And just so you know, there have been countless of terrorist attacks on Jews in the settlements that no one knows about, and I have met many people who have been through the trauma of it.
    Unfortunately the majority of Arabs on Israel don’t recognise Israel as a Jewish state, and that’s the source of the Israel Palestine conflict.
    The Jews in Israel aren’t going anywhere, and its time the Arabs understand that and stop attempting to fight it. Only then will there be peace.
    Oh, and I have not said if I am Jewish or Arab…
    Think about that.

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