The Israeli Apartheid in the Context of Oslo accords: Why it is Oslo-Stan and not Bantustan, by Dr. Adel Samara, Occupied Palestine


Presented to thePanel discussion: Apartheid Israel and its misrepresentation in US, Saturday, 21 June 2003

Al-Awda International Convention: Palestinian Right of Return and Self-Determination in a New Colonial World:

Strategies and actions, 20 – 22 June 2003, Toronto, Canada

Many comparisons have been drawn between the Dutch, and later, English settler colonialism in South Africa and the Zionist Jewish settler colonization of Palestine. The content of Oslo Accords provides a good material for comparison between the two cases especially the fact that this agreement did not contain a real sovereignty for the West Bank and Gaza Strip (WBG).

There is no doubt that there are some similarities between the two cases since both are settler colonial and white racist projects. These similarities, however, do mean that each of them is similar to the other.

Those who attempt to impose the analogy between the Palestinian autonomous areas (according to Oslo Accords area A) and the Bantustan in South Africa are taking a risky adventure of ignoring the core of the Palestinian issue, the Palestinian refugees. 

Aside from few similarities between the Bantustan and Oslostan which include occupation, racism, white settlers and apartheid, there are many differences. Of these differences are:

First: While the Apartheid regime in South Africa did occupy the fertile lands, mines, and other sources of wealth, it did not evict the black people out of the boundaries of South Africa to become refugees. Those who lost there land, are still living in other areas in South Africa itself, in the Bantustans. In the Palestinian case, however, the majority of the Palestinian people live in the Shatat[1].

Second:  The question of Palestine and Palestinian refugees was caused by and should be traced back to May 1948 when the Zionist – Jewish settlers evicted the majority of the Palestinian people from their land and homes. An adequate and just solution, therefore, must start from that point of departure.  To consider that the solution starts from the 1967 occupation (i.e. the solution of the Oslo Accords), is one of a liquidationist orientation.

Third: The white setter colonialism in South Africa which did not evict the native blacks from their land, gained from the opportunity of having a large pool of cheap labor that they exploited to the maximum and generated huge surpluses that enabled the Apartheid regime to achieve primitive accumulation and to become a developed capitalist country.  On the other hand, the Zionist Ashkenazi Entity (ZAE), historically discriminated against Arab labor and farmers and insisted on employing Hebrew labor, i.e. it was more racist than the Apartheid regime in South Africa.

Fourth: While in South Africa, the Apartheid regime stopped the import of immigrants for political and ideological reasons, the ZAE continued the import of new Jewish immigrants. In other words, the ZAE remains a settler-colonial state in an ever expanding mode and continues to intensify the conflict.

Fifth: Since the South African white settlers did not evacuate the country from its black natives, a joint South African social formation emerged in spite despite of the fact that it was stratified into upper white and other lower black strata.  Of course there was a petty-bourgeois black class mediating between the two nation/classes. This class gradually expanded into the black bureaucracy and technocracythat share power with the white capitalist class.

The important point here is that the state in South Africa had a single economic system where a  new social formation dominated by a capitalist mode of production that articulated with several secondary modes of production, like petty-commodity production, patriarchal, or in general some pre or non-capitalist modes of production.

The Palestinian case is, however, more obvious. It is a case where the settlers (trained, armed and financed by British colonialism) dismantled the social fabric of the Palestinian society since 1948. Accordingly, there wasn’t a chance for the crystallization of a joint Arab-Jewish social formation. Palestinian refugees did not have the opportunity to create a socio-economic system, because they were landless.

Sixth: The case of the WBG and the ZAE is a case of two separated social formations and two separated economies. This fact is not diminished because the WBG economy subjected to the settler colonial one. In this form of relationship, the ZAE regime has created the worst living conditions in the WBG aiming at evicting as many Palestinians as possible to replacing them by extremist colonial settlers. What is interesting in this respect is that the Palestinian case is different from that of the South African Apartheid.

Seventh: The most important issue is that the Bantustan phenomenon is more applicable in the case of the 1948 Palestinians: those who continued to live inside the ZAE itself. They are part of the social formation and the same economic and political system. They obviously endure blatant Israeli discrimination. Most of those Palestinians live in their own towns and villages, while their land had been confiscated by the Jewish settlers. Some of them are employed by Jewish settlers to work as agricultural waged labor on own land or the land of their relatives. Additionally, they suffer discrimination in all spheres of life: social, health, medical and educational.

Eighth: One of the similarities between the case of Palestinians of the WBG and the Zionist settlers on the one hand, and the Bantustan of South Africa on the other, is that the Palestinians are the majority as native blacks, and the Jews are the minority as white settlers. The ZAE, however, continues to pursue its endless attempts to increase the absolute number of the Jewish settlers by accelerating the building of settlements while indirectly pushing the Palestinians to leave through several means.

Ninth: While every white settler colonial regime (the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zeeland , including the former one in South Africa), has its own metropolis, the ZAE has a larger metropolis which is the world capitalist center as a whole. This made a consensus in this center, even to criticize, the ZAE terrorism difficult.

Tenth: During the highest world campaign against the Apartheid of the former South African white regime, the ZAE and Taiwan were the only two states that maintained diplomatic relations with the Bantustans in South Africa, i.e. with Botswana.

So long as we accept the pretend that the case of the WBG is an apartheid one, we in fact fall into two dangerous sins:

  • The ignoring of the core of the Arab- Israeli conflict, the Palestinian refugees’ right of return.
  • The ignoring of the suffering of the Palestinians inside the ZAE 1948, the 1948 Zionist occupation of Palestine, who are under the real Apartheid rule.

The 1948 Palestinians faced and continue to face the terrorist policies of the ZAE regime. What is interesting that the uprising of Land day (Youm al-Ard) by the Palestinians in 1948 in March 30th 1976 took place at the same year of Soweto Uprising in the former South Africa?

The Lesson of Oslo

– The first Intifada 1987 proved to the Israeli occupation that open borders between the WBG and AZE are impossible as long as there the occupation lasts on the one hand and that the ZAE ignores the right of return on the other. What emphasizes this impossibility was the ‘war of knifes’ and later in Intifada II (2000) suicide operations.

– The ruling class in the ZAE realized that as long as the separation of borders is inevitable, then another design may be possible:  achieving political separation and separation of people through building the wall between the two parts of Palestine. The wall is not against economic relationship, although it will regulate it. In the case of economy, the wall is a gate to the WBG and the Arab countries. Here precisely lies the capitalist colonial mentality of the ZAE regime.

The wall

The idea of the wall between the ZAE and WBG is not a new one. The Zionist labor party made several proposals for people’s separation since the early beginning of the occupation. It is a large ghetto which is designed to protect the ZAE from its neighbors.

While the separation according to the 1967 borders is relatively viable for the ZAE, it is not, however, viable for the Jewish settlements which spread all through the WBG. This means that the ZAE needs in addition to the long wall (nearly 600 kilometers) around the ZAE itself other subsidiary walls around its settlements.

In 1996, Avegdor Kahlani (then Minister of Internal Security), renewed the idea of building a wall, but the idea was rejected for political reasons, because separation means a designation of borders for Israel the only state in the world with defined borders. The current separation plan, however, is based on the plan of the previous Minister of police Moshe Shahal which he introduced it to Rabin in 1995. It is summarized as follows: to design routes for ‘goods and accepted persons’, and to move patrols around the borders and to build fences and movable control spots in sensitive areas.

The current plan of building the wall as a result of a joint decision by the coalition government led by  Ariel Sharon the Prime Minister from Likud party and Ben-Eli Azar the previous defense Minister from the Labor party.

 However, one of the main aims of the wall is to instill into the minds that the Bantustan case here is that of the WBG, while its natural place is the status of the Palestinians in the occupied Palestine 1948. In other words, the attribution of the Bantustan to the WBG is a deliberate decision to ignore the refugees’ issue as a step towards ignoring of the right of return.

The Cantons are Necessary to Accomplish the Wall

While the wall is designed to maintain the integrity of the ZAE, its goal is different for the WBG. For all of the ZAE leaders, the wall never meant a total separation of the WBG. Moreover, the WBG will be broken into several cantons. The aims of imposing these cantons are at least two:

  • To destroy the internal integrity of the WBG for good.
  • To maintain, as much as possible, the Jewish settlements in the WBG (Some of them might be dismantled).

What interested us in this paper is that the mere idea of cantonizing the WBG means that the Bantustans are in the WBG, not in the occupied part of Palestine 1948. The cantonization is, at the same time, politically/ideologically a defensive as well an offensive plan… It is defensive because it indirectly contains the pretend that the occupied part of Palestine in 1948 is not for discussion and that it is according to the Jewish myth, the “land of Israel”. It is also offensive because it keeps the settlements inside the WBG with the purpose of expanding them for the long run until the eviction all the Palestinians to the Shatat is accomplished.

In fact, the cantonization is neither new nor limited to the politics of the ZAE. It is a policy of the US Empire against the Arab Homeland, as we witness now in Iraq. It is even larger. It is the capitalist center upgraded version of the classic colonial policy of “Divide and Rule” to a new one that is applicable in the era of globalization, the further “concentration of the center and the fragmentation of periphery”[2].

The Insistence of the ZAE on Indirect Eviction

The ZAE policy of evacuating the Palestinian land of its people has always been its ultimate goal although it took different forms in different stages. Briefly speaking, as long as our project is the right of return, their continuous goal is the final eviction of our people.

The ZAE policies in the WBG, i.e. land confiscation, homes destruction, assassination, mass arrest, economic siege…etc, are indirectly aimed at pushing the Palestinians of the WBG out of their land.

A modest estimate of the population of the WBG shows that it amounts to nearly two million Palestinians or more. The indirect eviction serves both of the ZAE goals of weakening the cantons and the final eviction of the Palestinians from the WBG.

[1] Shatat is an Arabic term that signifies one’s living outside of his/her homeland. In the context of this paper, shatat is used to indicate Palestinians who were forcefully expelled from their homeland – Palestine as a result of the Zionist occupation of Palestine in 1948 and the years that followed. These Palestinians reside, since 1948, in many Arab and other countries world-wide as Palestinian refugees. 

[2]  See Adel Samara in Kana’an, no 30, 1991.