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Israel practices apartheid, say US academics

September 23, 2021 at 1:26 pm

A participant holds up a sign reading ‘Stop Israeli Apartheid’ during a protest in solidarity with the Palestinians on 15 May 2021 [WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP/Getty Images]

Nearly two-thirds of American scholars and academics whose work focuses on the Middle East think that the current reality in Israeli and Palestine is akin to apartheid, a recent survey by the Middle East Scholar Barometer (MESB) has revealed. The project is a joint initiative of the University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll and the Project on Middle East Political Science at George Washington University.

The survey is said to be the only one of its kind. Among the academics polled were members of the American Political Science Association’s Middle East and North Africa Politics Section and the Middle East Studies Association. As many as 1,290 academics were identified to take part.

Asked to choose which of the following comes closest to describing the current reality in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, 65 per cent of the scholars elected to describe the situation as a one state reality akin to apartheid. Just one per cent said that it was a temporary occupation.

A separate question asked the scholars to describe the situation as they think it might be in ten years’ time if a two-state solution is not implemented. Eighty per cent said that the reality would be akin to apartheid. The survey offered no explanation for why 15 per cent of those polled think that Israel isn’t practicing apartheid now but believe that it would become an apartheid state in ten years.

Prominent human rights groups Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem have concluded that Israel meets the threshold for being designated as a country that practices apartheid and crimes against humanity.

Read: MEMO in conversation with Omar Shakir

MESB carried out the first round of the survey in February, before the forced evictions in Sheikh Jarrah and Israel’s most recent attack on Gaza. In that poll, 59 per cent of scholars described Israel as a “one-state reality akin to apartheid” while 52 per cent said that a two-state solution was no longer possible. In the space of a few months, a further 6 per cent concluded that Israel is practicing apartheid.

Read: Israel’s future is apartheid in a ‘solution of the three classes’

“What explains such a significant increase in less than seven months?” asked the authors of the survey, Shibley Telhami (University of Maryland) and Marc Lynch (George Washington University), in a Washington Post article outlining their findings. They cited the forced eviction of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah and the reports by Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem as contributing factors.

The scholars were also asked for their views on the impact of the so-called Abraham Accords signed in 2020 between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain; Sudan and Morocco “normalised” relations with Israel at a later date. Nearly three-quarters, 72 per cent, said that the impact was negative, and only 6 per cent said that the accords would have a positive impact. Overall, 70 per cent assessed that the accords would have a negative impact on advancing democracy and human rights in the region; less than 5 per cent said that they would have a positive impact.