"If I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word to describe my firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two-state solution," US Secretary of State John Kerry said in an effort to minimize the damage caused by his comments leaked from a closed forum, that Israel could become an apartheid state.
In other words, if he had the option, he would have described the reality of racial segregation Israel is approaching, but without irritating the Jewish lobby in the United States.
So why is apartheid so irritating in the Israeli context? First of all, because Israel, which has just celebrated 66 years of independence, is the only country in the world which can still be mentioned in the apartheid context in the 21st century.
Secondly, the connotation of the term "apartheid" focuses on a comparison which will lead to a complete overlap between the reality of life in Israel and the reality of life in South Africa in the 20th century – a regime/policy of racial segregation.
It's true that there isn't a complete overlap between Israel today and South Africa of those days, but if we examine the reality of life in Israel in accordance with the racial segregation theory, apartheid is already here, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and no green or purple line can blur it, and neither can artificial definitions of territories and populations.
There are two peoples here, and one people controls the other people. It controls its freedom of movement, its education, its social and economic development, where it lives and where it doesn't, what it will do for a living and where. The Jews control the Palestinians and decide what is right and what is wrong for them. There is no other description of the reality of our life here apart from racial segregation.
The refusal to accept this argument stems from the disregard towards the slew of examples on the ground which prove the Jewish control over the Palestinians' lives.
If there is no apartheid here, what should we call a situation in which the civil law applies to the settlers and the military law applies to the Palestinians? What is the political meaning of stripping Palestinians of their land, restricting them with a concrete fence and building multi-story buildings on that land for the Jews? And what is the explanation for the humiliation of a laborer from Hebron at Israeli checkpoints?
The Israeli control alongside the loss of any chance for the existence of a sovereign Palestinian state on the ground will officially turn into apartheid. No other name will change the content. The early stage of this process will be a bi-national state, which is the final institutionalization of the Jewish state as a state of racial segregation.
Don’t get me wrong. The exclusivity of the Jewish control, which will soon enjoy a legal status, is not only relevant to the occupied Palestinians. The "separate development" theory is alive and kicking within the State of Israel too.
The Palestinian citizens of Israel are second-class citizens. They live and "develop" separately from the Jews. It's true that we vote in the Knesset elections, but the question is whether we have any control on making decisions about our lives? The state controls all the systems of our lives, the education, the culture and the urban and economic development, and without official legislation.
One of the famous laws in South Africa, the Mine and Works Act, fixed the manning of senior positions with white people only. That sounds familiar, right? There is no such law in Israel, but that is what is actually happening.
Jews and Arabs live separately. Arabs cannot live in Jewish cities, because that will of course affect the "Jewish identity." Moshavim and kibbutzim has special legislation which blocs the entry of Arabs, and now the finance minister even wants to determine that an Arab will pay more for an apartment.
Jews cannot live n Arab villages either. There is nothing for them there – no infrastructures, no new neighborhoods, no education or sports facilities. And we have yet to mention the Prawer Plan for the eradication of the Bedouin settlement in the Negev, and the division of the Palestinians into ethnic groups. When one ethnic group controls another ethnic group and intervenes in shaping its national identity, it is exercising a de-facto apartheid regime.
Apartheid is also a matter of consciousness which creates "acceptable" patterns of behavior between the masters and the subjects and allows the Jewish public to feel like the Palestinians' master.
The Jewish public has become accustomed to not letting the facts, as harsh as they may be, confuse it. Most people have adopted ready responses like "this is the Jewish state," "without loyalty there will be no citizenship" or, for example, "Go to Gaza, and say thank you that you're not living in Syria."
Thank you, really. And really, just admit it: We are living in an apartheid after all.
Adv. Khaled Titi is the parliamentary assistant of Knesset Member Dr. Basel Ghattas.