Photo: Amit Shabi
Route 443
Photo: Amit Shabi
Milestone in right direction
Court ruling to allow Palestinians access to Route 443 in place, but its justification misses point, avoids bitter truth of discrimination and apartheid against Arabs in territories

The court reached the only logical conclusion. The prohibition against Palestinians driving on Route 443 was nullified. The decision was a brave one, but its explanation is likely to invite some misunderstanding.


Instead of declaring that a regime of separation on the roads is fundamentally wrong, the court ruled that the prohibition for Palestinians to travel on the road, which was paved on land taken from them, was not within the military's jurisdiction to impose. It was also ruled that a total and sweeping prohibition of Palestinian movement is disproportionate.


However, whoever makes the effort to read between the lines would understand that a different kind of separation – for instance, granting travel permits to only some of the Palestinians – is possible.


In actuality, any separation regarding traveling on a road is almost a kind of Israeli-style apartheid taking place right outside our window. The claim that the separation is being made between Israeli citizens and Palestinian residents, and therefore is in essence not a racist separation, does not hold water. The separation is between Jewish residents of the territories who move freely on the road and Arab residents of the territories, for whom movement is forbidden.


The time has come to rule that the separation regime in the territories is wrong at its core. This conclusion is obligated by the law against discrimination in public places that prohibits discrimination in granting entry to a public place on the basis of race, religion, nationality, personal status, and more. We are familiar with this law because it is exercised here and there in Israel, particularly when bouncers block entry for certain ethnic groups to nightclubs. The logic of this law must also be applied to Route 443, whose operators are Israelis. It is in this spirit that the most important statements made by Justice Dorit Beinish in her ruling must be addressed.


Beinish indicated the danger in "complete separation between various populations in using the roads" in a manner that evokes "a sense of inequality and even an association with illegitimate motives." However, as someone who is taken aback by the bitter truth in her statement, she warned against using the word apartheid. "Not all unjust discrimination is apartheid," said Justice Beinish, because apartheid indicates "a policy of racial separation and discrimination on the basis of race and nationality rooted in a series of discriminatory practices whose objective is to create superiority of members of a certain race and to oppress members of other races." Therefore, separation based on security measures taken against terrorist attacks is not apartheid.


But this is precisely the problem. Apartheid of today no longer comes in a blatant package that includes an explicit declaration of superiority or oppression. It brews below the surface and crawls with a desensitizing and cunning slowness to the surface with prejudices already sprouting alongside it such that it is acceptable to speak of an "Arabush (a derogatory term for Arabs) appearance" or to explain where prostitutes come from.


Route 443 is just one example of the practices put in place in the territories which are part of a systematic and declared policy of applying one law to Jews and another law to Arabs. It is unrelated to the war on terror, but to a policy that prioritizes Jewish interests in the territories in the realm of water, land, etc.


No one likes to hear that our country is almost like South Africa or is becoming like it. Despite this, one must be careful. Apartheid states form slowly and tend to crash in one fell swoop. When they do, it is without early warning signs, just like the dance floor in Versaille hall or like a marionette whose strings have suddenly been cut.


פרסום ראשון: 12.30.09, 12:32
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