Palestinians who have Israeli citizenship (ezrahut) do not have the right to nationality (le’um), which means that they can only access inferior social services, face restrictive zoning laws, and find themselves unable freely to buy land. Palestinians in East Jerusalem are reduced to the status of permanent residents, who have to constantly prove that they live in the city and that they do not have any political ambitions. Palestinians in the West Bank live ‘in ways consistent with apartheid’, write the authors of the UN report. And those who are exiled to the refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan have absolutely no rights to their homeland. All Palestinians – whether those who live in Haifa (Israel) or in Ain al-Hilweh (Lebanon) suffer the consequences of Israeli apartheid. This indignity is punctuated with laws that humiliate the Palestinians. The latest law — the Muezzin Bill — imposes limits on the Muslim call to prayer in Israel and East Jerusalem.
Matters would be less grave if the Israeli political system allowed Palestinians rights to make their case against apartheid-like conditions. Article 7(a) of the Basic Law prohibits any political party from considering a challenge to the State’s Jewish character. Since this description of the Israeli state renders Palestinians as second-class citizens, their voting rights are reduced to merely an affirmation of their subordination. As the UN report suggests, ‘An analogy would be a system in which slaves have the right to vote but not against slavery’. Palestinians inside Israel and in the Occupied Territories, as well as in enforced exile, are forbidden to fight to change the terms of politics in Israel. This roadblock is the reason why the UN report appeals to the international community to live up to its commitments.