Israel has always defined itself as the State of the Jewish People, and its recent adoption of the Jewish Nation State Law is simply a declaration to the world of its historic commitment, ideologically and programmatically, to Jewish supremacy. Many critics of Israel’s 51-year-old occupation of Palestinian East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, and the Syrian Golan Heights have referred to Israel’s occupation of these territories as a system of apartheid. However, some among these critics, such as President Jimmy Carter, rejected the use of the same term to describe Israel’s relationship to the roughly 20 percent Palestinian Arab minorities who hold Israeli citizenship within Israel’s 1948/49 border. After the passage of the new Israeli law, such critics ought to open their eyes to the historical reality of Israel since its establishment in 1948, and recognize the deep racism that underlies its state and society.
The expropriation of Palestinian land and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the early years of Israel’s existence were traumatic. Israel’s Absentees’ Property Law (1950) and Land Acquisition Law (1953), among others, resulted in the pauperization and ghettoization of Palestinian citizens of Israel. More than 60 laws directly and indirectly ensured that they remain far behind Israeli Jews in every aspect of their existence including their access to the legal system, citizenship privileges, income and employment, distribution of resources and social welfare, accessibility to land, educational resources, availability of health resources, and political participation. The Israeli occupation in 1967 of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights, and the extreme form of apartheid practiced there are an extension of the settler-colonial praxis that created Israel.
What is new is that Israel now feels emboldened by the ascendancy of right-wing racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia in the United States in particular, and western societies in general. It no longer feels that it has to conceal its own racism. The recent love fest of right-wing extremists in the annual conference of Christians United for Israel in Washington, DC is emblematic of the convergence of Zionism with anti-democratic forces in the West. Thankfully, others in the West are speaking out more forcefully against racism and discrimination in all its forms. And the movement of solidarity with the Palestinians is growing worldwide, including in the United States and Europe.
We call on all people of conscience to condemn Israeli apartheid unapologetically and to heed the call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions in solidarity with the Palestinian non-violent struggle for justice, peace, and freedom. In particular, as a faith-based group, we call on other people of faith, including our evangelical brothers and sisters, to challenge Israel’s intensifying apartheid. For Christian groups to remain silent about the implications of Israel’s Jewish Nation State Law and all other Israeli human rights violations stands in contradiction to the Biblical mandate to do justice and to stand with the oppressed.