Who’s calling it Apartheid?

At that very moment, when I walked down a street stripped of Palestinians, I decided that I would never again avoid using the word “apartheid” to describe Israel’s policies against Palestinians. I know what apartheid is, and I was seeing it in front of me.

Rabbi Brian Walt, South African-American Rabbi, co-founder of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America.

Learn which organizations and public figures are saying the word.

Leading Human Rights and International Organizations

Human Rights Watch


Amnesty International

Yesh Din


UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia

Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic

UN Special Rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territory

Al Mezan Center for Human Rights

Israeli Public Figures

The apartheid regime is in all areas controlled by Israel, between the sea & the Jordan River. The distinction… between democratic Israel & the West Bank that it controls is wrong.

Michael Benyair, former Israeli Attorney General

The state of Israel practices its own, quite violent, form of apartheid with the native Palestinian population.

Shulamit Aloni, former Israeli Education Minister

We now have a law that confirms the Arab population as second-class citizens. It therefore is a very clear form of apartheid. I don’t think the Jewish people survived for 20 centuries, mostly through persecution and enduring endless cruelties, in order to now become the oppressors, inflicting cruelty on others. This new law [on nationhood] does exactly that. That is why I am ashamed of being an Israeli today.

Daniel Barenboim, Israeli composer

What acts like apartheid, is run like apartheid and harasses like apartheid, is not a duck — it is apartheid.

Yossi Sarid, former Israeli Environment Minister

On the Palestinian matter, [then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s] policies are leading to either a binational state or an apartheid state.

Meir Dagan, former Mossad Director

I used to be one of those people who took issue with the label of apartheid as applied to Israel. I was one of those people who could be counted on to argue that, while the country’s settlement and occupation policies were anti-democratic and brutal and slow-dose suicidal, the word apartheid did not apply. I’m not one of those people any more.

Bradley Burston, Israeli author and journalist

The increasingly weighty body of scholarly, legal & public opinion that has designated Israel to be perpetrating apartheid.. [including] the African group, the Arab group & the OIC group.. must be a wakeup call.

Daniel Levy, ex Israeli diplomat & peace talks negotiator


[In South Arica] apartheid is in a museum. You have to visit a museum in order to know the history of apartheid. This means that institutionally and legally, the system is dismantled, and you are sovereign in your own country. There is one other place in the world where apartheid is still alive and kicking, and that is in Palestine.

Azmi Bishara, former Member of the Knesset, 1996-2007

The Zionist settler-state has learned all the lessons which the various discriminatory regimes of white settler-states in Asia and Africa can teach it. And it has proved itself in this endeavour an ardent and apt pupil, not incapable of surpassing its teachers. For, whereas the Afrikaner apostles of apartheid in South Africa, for example, brazenly proclaim their sin, the Zionist practitioners of apartheid in Palestine beguilingly protest their innocence.

Fayez Sayegh, Palestinian-American academic and civil servant (1965)

This is our most important message to the world: how we confront this privilege, this colonialism, this apartheid, is with a democratic vision of a state for all of its citizens.

Haneen Zoabi, first Palestinian-Israeli woman to be elected to the Knesset (2009)

South Africans

Israel is not consistent in its new anti-apartheid attitude. They took Israel away from the Arabs after the Arabs lived there for a thousand years. In that, I agree with them. Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.

Hendrik Verwoerd, first apartheid Prime Minister of South Africa (1961)

I have witnessed the systemic humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces. […] Their humiliation is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the [South African] apartheid government.

Bishop Desmond Tutu

In our short stay here [in Israel/Palestine] we have seen and heard enough to conclude that Apartheid has been reborn here. In its reborn form it is however worse than its predecessor. Even during the worst days of Apartheid we did not have walls to divide and control people.

Ahmed Kathrada, South African anti-apartheid activist

This is much worse than apartheid. The Israeli measures, the brutality, make apartheid look like a picnic. We never had jets attacking our townships. We never had sieges that lasted month after month. We never had tanks destroying houses. We had armoured vehicles and police using small arms to shoot people but not on this scale.

Ronnie Kasrils, Jewish South African activist, former member of the African National Congress

International Figures

Apartheid is a word that is an accurate description of what has been going on in the West Bank, and it’s based on the desire or avarice of a minority of Israelis for Palestinian land. It’s not based on racism. Those caveats are clearly made in the book. This is a word that’s a very accurate description of the forced separation within the West Bank of Israelis from Palestinians and the total domination and oppression of Palestinians by the dominant Israeli military.

Jimmy Carter, former US President

With the eyes of the international community wide open, Israel has imposed upon Palestine an apartheid reality in a post-apartheid world.

Michael Lynk, UN Special Rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territory

Whether Israel can legitimately be accused of carrying out apartheid in the West Bank – and I believe its actions fit within the international legal definition – it is clear that Palestinians’ rights are severely restricted as compared to their Israeli neighbours.

Jon Allen, former Canadian Ambassador to Israel (2006-2010)

It’s important to describe the situation happening in Palestine and the situation that Palestinians are currently living under for what it is, which is a system of apartheid. That’s the truth.

Leah Gazan, NDP Member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre

It’s time. Long past time. The best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa.

Naomi Klein, Canadian author and activist

I am tired of people functioning from a place of fear rather than doing what’s right because of the bullying by pro-Israel lobbyists. This is apartheid, plain and simple.

Rashida Tlaib, U.S. Congresswoman, 13th Congressional District in Michigan

Solidarity with Palestinians and all demanding an end to settler colonialism. More voices are calling out apartheid by Israel such as Amnesty International. Canada must end its complicity through action including stopping arms sales and banning illegal settlement goods.

Niki Ashton, NDP Member of Parliament for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski

We need to call a cat a cat. Israel practices apartheid against the Palestinian people. If, like me, you’re not afraid to use the word ‘apartheid’ to describe Israeli policies, then I invite you to sign the Together Against Apartheid pledge.

Ruba Ghazal, Québec Solidaire member of the Quebec National Assembly for Mercier

The Liberal government is incapable of explaining its support for Israel. It’s shameful. Honestly, there is no good justification for supporting a regime that invades mosques and practices apartheid.

Alexandre Boulerice, Deputy Leader of the NDP, Member of Parliament for Rosemont–La Petite Patrie

What about the human rights violations in Israel and Palestine as highlighted by the Human Rights Watch report, or the apartheid that is practiced by Israel on Palestinians according to the Amnesty International report, or what the former Israeli Attorney General Michael Benyair says, [that] the country is following the Apartheid system.

Chandra Arya, Liberal Member of Parliament for Nepean

“Apartheid” accurately captures the actions and policies of the Israeli government as defined under international law and as documented by organizations including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Al-Haq and B’Tselem.

Matthew Green, NDP Member of Parliment for Hamilton Center

Today, I stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people living under conditions worse than apartheid. Let Palestinians live in peace.

Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada

Israel’s system of racial domination and segregation against Palestinians meets the definition of apartheid under international law. The [BDS] movement is a Palestinian-led, anti-racist, and nonviolent grassroots campaign calling for an economic and cultural boycott of complicit Israeli companies and institutions in response to the apartheid system and other grave human rights violations…. I am responding to the call from Palestinian civil society, including all major Palestinian trade unions and writers’ unions.

Sally Rooney, international best-selling Irish author (photo: Chris Boland)

In the 1970s and ’80s, there was no question – we all focused on South Africa because it was the obvious place to focus. It was a place where it looked like all of us who took part in the Anti-Apartheid Movement, as it was called then, might have an effect, and might cause changes in policy in that small part of the world. Israel is that bit of the world now. Whether Israelis or anyone else like it or not, it just is.

Roger Waters, Pink Floyd

In the Occupied Territories, what Israel is doing is much worse than apartheid. […] To call it apartheid is a gift to Israel, at least if by ‘apartheid’ you mean South African-style apartheid. What’s happening in the Occupied Territories is much worse.

Noam Chomsky, American linguist, writer and political activist

I was shocked to see these walls, it’s a new apartheid, barbaric behavior: How can you impose such a collective punishment and separate people?

Nigel Kennedy, British classical musician

Either it ceases to be a Jewish state or you say the Arabs don’t get to vote — apartheid. That didn’t work too well the last time I saw that practiced in a country.

James Mattis, former US Secretary of Defense

The violence and atrocities we are witnessing in Sheikh Jarrah, the Al-Aqsa compound and Gaza are a continuation of decades of Israel’s brutal apartheid and violent occupation of Palestine. We stand with the Palestinian people as they resist this colonial terror in all its forms.

Rage Against The Machine

As much as I want to play Israel, I have decided not to in solidarity with Palestinians who will not have access to my show. After days of discussions with many, I’ve decided to try and visit Israel and Palestine with those who fight to end the state of apartheid rather than use my art to force the issue on those who would rather not deal with it.

American rapper Talib Kweli

Further Reading

Who said it when? A timeline of the term ‘apartheid’ in relation to Israel” – The Forward, May 2021

Who’s talking about Israeli ‘apartheid’” – Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME)