Israel to deny Palestinian-Israelis preparation for university, in exact parallel to Apartheid South Africa

Juan Cole

Informed Comment  /  August 8, 2023

Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – White Power nationalism in South Africa during the Apartheid period from the 1940s until the early 1990s demanded that the 20% of the population that was white control the lives of the 68% of the population that was Black. (Actually, during this era the whites declined to only 13% by 1990, and Blacks increased to 76%).

Education was one way that Blacks were kept down. They were, or many were, offered an education, but only one that led to working class status. Maria Lizet Ocampo writes at a Stanford University page, “The Apartheid system created educational inequalities through overt racist policies. The Bantu Education Act of 1952 ensured that Blacks receive an education that would limit educational potential and remain in the working class (UCT). This policy directly affected the content of learning to further racial inequalities by preventing access to further education.”

While schooling was compulsory until age 16 for whites, it was only compulsory for Blacks until age 13.

She adds, “The policies and funding disparities in schools ensured contrasting access to higher education. Four Afrikaans speaking universities and one English speaking university admitted only Whites, while the other five had restricted admission and segregated classrooms.”

Black students received no financial aid and could not get loans for education from banks.

So many human rights organizations have by now declared that Israel’s treatment of persons of Palestinian heritage constitutes Apartheid that it is no longer a controversial assertion, at least in American academia, and including US Jewish Studies.

But here we have an exact parallel to the South African system. Extremist Bezalel Smotrich, minister of finance, has frozen $680 million in funding earmarked for the development of largely Palestinian East Jerusalem. A portion of this funding was to prepare Palestinian-Israeli students for entry into the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. So reports Gianluca Pacchiani at The Times of Israel.

Smotrich alleged that there was a problem of “Islamic radical cells” in Israeli colleges and universities. Smotrich’s office could not provide any evidence of such cells when the press asked about the issue. (That is because Smotrich made the whole thing up.)

Pacchiani writes, “Smotrich said that the sum will be earmarked for training East Jerusalem Arabs for ‘high-productivity’ professions instead of encouraging their integration into Israeli academia.”

Bingo. That is precisely the program of South African Apartheid in the second half of the twentieth century. Precisely. An exact parallel.

Smotrich has long been known to be an insufferable racist. He defended an Israeli housing developer that refused to sell homes to Israelis of Palestinian heritage. He told Palestinian-Israelis, “You are here by mistake,” because the Zionist forces should have ethnically cleansed them in 1948.

This is actually worse than Apartheid, which did not seek to uproot South African Blacks and drive them into neighboring countries.

Juan Cole is the founder and chief editor of Informed Comment ; he is Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History at the University of Michigan and the author of, among others, Muhammad: Prophet of Peace amid the Clash of Empires and The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam