From Israeli citizens to Catalan progressives - Israel is an apartheid state and ending its impunity is the necessary response


February 2023


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From Israeli citizens to Catalan progressives - Israel is an apartheid state and ending its impunity is the necessary response


Dear members of progressive parties in Catalunya,


We are a group of progressive Jewish-Israeli citizens, active against our government's policies of occupation, colonization and apartheid against the Palestinian people. Some of us are the descendants of Holocaust survivors. We are committed to the universal principle of equality in human rights and to the struggle against all forms of racism. Most of us live in Tel Aviv or the surrounding areas.


We fully share your general worldview, which places human rights and solidarity over any form of racism and oppression.


Firstly, we would like to thank all Catalan activists who helped to pass the motion in the Catalan Parliament designating Israel as an apartheid state. We believe that the apartheid framework, for its moral, political and legal implications, is highly relevant to the human rights catastrophe in Palestine-Israel. And we appreciate that your political parties helped approve this motion.


We note that the apartheid paradigm applies not just to nominal right-wing Israeli governments but to all successive Israeli governments in recent decades, including the so-called "center" or "liberal Zionist" parties. In fact, the very definition of Israel as a "Jewish and democratic" state, often touted by liberal Israelis. legitimizes racism and discrimination against Palestinians in Israel in a way that would be inconceivable in Catalunya. 


Could the notion of a "Christian and Democratic" or "White and Democratic" Catalunya be endorsed by anyone who claims to stand for human rights and solidarity? 


For an example of how entrenched racism is in so-called liberal parts of Israeli society, in 2017 the liberal community of Kfar-Vradim halted sale of new home plots as more than 50% of buyers were Arab citizens of Israel.(1)


Does all this mean that all Jewish Israelis should be labeled 'bad' or irredeemable? 

Not at all. Individual people may change their ways. And indeed, maintaining some communication channels could facilitate such change. However, a crucial distinction must be made here between individuals and institutions. The underlying apartheid problem here is a structural one. It is not enough to be a "nice progressive" and denounce the typical blatantly racist right-wing rhetoric against Palestinians. Each and every one of us, privileged Jewish Israeli citizens, must face the ways in which we profit from the apartheid status quo. Each of us must seek to dismantle the apartheid structures. 


Israel's apartheid, as noted by prominent Israeli human rights group B'tselem, is a "regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea".(2) This applies to the municipality of Tel Aviv too. 


Tel Aviv, as we explain in our previous letter to the community of Barcelona (3), is the financial and cultural hub of Israel's apartheid regime. Furthermore, while Tel Aviv mayor, Ron Huldai, has criticized the Netanyahu government's anti-democratic judicial reforms, he has not accepted the designation of Israel as an apartheid state.


We believe that anti-apartheid action must follow from the designation of Israeli policies as 'apartheid'. Institutional sanctions must be imposed on all complicit Israeli institutions. Such measures should go beyond an arms embargo (4), which is merely the most basic step in countering Israel’s apartheid. 


The anti-apartheid campaign should certainly include municipalities such as Tel Aviv. Any talk of Israeli apartheid that ignores (5) Palestinian civil society’s just, modest and democratic call for non-violent institutional boycott against Israel, lacks real solidarity with the oppressed!


We note that very extensive sanctions have been imposed by parliaments and municipalities throughout Europe on Russia, following the illegal Russian invasion and occupation of Ukrainian territories. The sanctions called for by Palestinian civil society are, in fact, more modest. Comprehensive sanctions, in both cases, are the right way to address occupation and war crimes.


While there is plenty to talk about with individuals in Tel Aviv, or with Tel Avivian groups which are committed to the struggle against apartheid, the municipality of Tel Aviv is a major component of the apartheid status quo. 


We believe that ending Barcelona’s twinning agreement with Tel Aviv, and more generally expanding campaigns to end Israeli impunity towards Palestinian crimes, are justifiable as well as necessary.


We are very concerned that the PSC (Socialist) party is opposing the Mayor of Barcelona’s decision to suspend ties with Israeli institutions, and that ERC (the Republican Left) isn’t taking sides on this urgent moral issue. 


Progressive parties must stand with Palestinian rights and must take action against apartheid in all its forms! 


We ask you to support the Citizens’ Initiative in the next Plenary Council of the 24th of February calling to suspend ties with Israel, including the twinning agreement with Tel-Aviv! 


We will gladly address any question you may have 


Boycott from Within (Israeli citizens for BDS)