Former Mossad chief says his country is enforcing apartheid in the West Bank

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  September 6, 2023

Tamir Pardo told the media that Israel’s heavy restrictions on Palestinians amount to apartheid.

The former head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency has said that Israel is enforcing an apartheid system against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

Tamir Pardo, who was in charge of Mossad from 2011 to 2016, gave an interview to Associated Press on Wednesday in which he said the treatment of Palestinians is similar to the racial separation implemented in South Africa in a system that ended in the early 1990s.

“There is an apartheid state here,” Pardo said in the interview. “In a territory where two people are judged under two legal systems, that is an apartheid state.”

Pardo also told the media that Israeli citizens are free to get into a car and drive wherever they choose, apart from the blockaded Gaza Strip, in comparison to Palestinians, who are forbidden from entering certain areas and have to pass heavily armed checkpoints.

Reaffirming his remarks, he concluded that his statements were “not extreme” but rather “fact”.

Rights groups have long argued that Israel’s policies discriminate against Palestinians.

In April 2021 Human Rights Watch found that Israeli authorities were committing crimes against humanity, apartheid and persecution, based on government policies which maintained the domination of Jewish Israelis over Palestinians. 

The rights group has also documented grave abuses committed against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem.

Latest eminent figure to speak out

Pardo is one of the latest in a growing number of figures to call out Israel for apartheid. 

Last month, a former top general in the Israeli military said that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank resembled Nazi Germany and is “total apartheid”.

Amiram Levin, former head of the army’s northern command, made the comments on Kan, the Israeli public broadcaster. 

“There hasn’t been a democracy there in 57 years. There is total apartheid,” Levin said, referring to the situation in the West Bank.

He said the Israeli army was “forced to exert sovereignty there” and is “rotting from the inside. 

“It’s standing by, looking at the settler rioters and is beginning to be a partner to war crimes. These are deep processes.”

Two former Israeli ambassadors to South Africa have also said that Israel was maintaining a “two-tiered legal system” which is of “inherent inequality” and that “Israel has worked to change both the geography and the demography of the West Bank through the construction of settlements, which are illegal under international law.”

Members of the Knesset have also referenced apartheid being implemented by Israel, along with the former UN secretary general. 

Several human rights groups, including B’Tselem, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have in recent years determined that the term “apartheid” applies to the situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

The territory is home to around 2.9 million Palestinians. Around 475,000 Jewish settlers also live there in Israeli state-approved settlements, which are illegal under international law.

Pardo’s comments come amid his recent condemnation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government’s reshaping of the judicial system, with Pardo claiming that it is becoming a dictatorship.