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Pot decriminalization could be the best explanation of apartheid yet

Illustrative photo by Kobi Gideon/Flash90

Illustrative photo by Kobi Gideon/Flash90

An Israeli and a Palestinian are hanging out somewhere in the West Bank. Maybe they’re activists decompressing after a particularly stressful protest. Maybe they’re old friends, an employer and an employee, catching up over a cup of coffee outside one of their homes. One of them pulls out a joint and shares it with the other.

Out of nowhere, an Israeli police officer shows up. He or she arrests the Palestinian. The Israeli walks free with a citation — a measly fine.

That is the situation that will be created if a bill to decriminalize marijuana, currently making its way through Israel’s parliament, becomes law.

That is the situation because there are dual legal systems in the West Bank: one set of laws and courts for Israeli nationals, one set of laws for Palestinians — in the exact same space.

Israel rules the West Bank as a military occupation, which means that for nearly 50 years the Israeli military has been the acting sovereign there and the law of the land is Israeli military law. That was good and fine, in theory, until Israeli settlers started moving into the West Bank.

You wouldn’t want Israeli civilians being brought before military courts created with the “enemy population” in mind, would you? Of course not.

So the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, did what any logical occupier who decided to transfer its civilian population into an occupied territory would do: it passed an “emergency regulation,” valid as long as Israel is in a declared state of emergency (which it always has been), that gives Israeli courts jurisdiction over crimes committed by Israeli nationals in the occupied West Bank — outside the State of Israel.

(For a great explanation of Israel’s dual legal systems in the West Bank, see this article in the Israel-Palestine Journal.)

So again, imagine this: an Israeli and a Palestinian are sharing the exact same joint. They are standing in the exact same place. They are caught by the exact same police officer. One becomes a criminal, brought to a military court with a 99 percent conviction rate, and faces time in military prison. The other goes free.

Is that apartheid? If not, what the hell is it? (Seriously. If you have a better term, let’s hear it in the comments section. Extra points for creativity and marijuana-related puns.)

Of course, the dual legal systems exist with or without marijuana decriminalization. Pot just makes for an easy explanation of how ridiculous and unjust such a system is.

(Just to confuse things a little more: The example of the legality of marijuana in this article is only valid in vast majority of the West Bank where the Israeli army exercises full security control, which also happen to be the most common places where Israelis and Palestinians interact. An entirely different dual legal system applies in the 18 percent of the West Bank known as Area A, where the Palestinian Authority has jurisdiction over Palestinians but not Israelis. Palestinian police are generally forbidden from operating in the rest of the 72 percent of the West Bank, definitely not without the Israeli army’s explicit permission.)

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    1. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      Drink like me single malt whisky. It has a good taste and it is good forthe health.

      Reply to Comment
    2. RH

      But if there was only one set of laws you’d be all complaining of annexation.

      Reply to Comment
      • Tommy Goldberg

        Actually, no.

        Annexing ALL of the West Bank == the one-state solution.

        Fatah’s deputy head just went on the record in support of it. It’s Balad’s platform. (Balad is widely considered the most “radical” part of the Joint List.) Oh, and President Rivlin is a fan. President Trump (perhaps unwittingly) hinted the U.S. would be okay with it.

        So go right ahead, annex away. Just no half-measures, please. Take it all, as “Hashem commands.”

        Reply to Comment
    3. Sari

      18 percent of the West Bank is not Area A, I believe it’s 3%, Area B consists of 15% (Israeli military control, Palestinian civil control)

      Reply to Comment
    4. Lewis from Afula

      They were opposed to us before 1967.
      They are opposed us to after 1967.
      They were opposed us before 2005 (left Gaza)
      They are opposed us to after 2005.

      Conclusion of Sane Individual – the Arabs hate the EXISTENCE of the State of Israel, not its position of its borders.

      Reply to Comment
    5. derek

      When people change the subject you know you’ve won the argument. Israel is an apartheid state.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Israa

      The Palestinian in this situation is a holder of which ID card? blue or green? If the Israeli and Palestinian are both holders of blue ID then they should both go with just a fine, correct? Can you please clarify this for me? Thank you.

      Reply to Comment
      • Tommy Goldberg

        “Should” being the operative term.

        In practice, Palestinians holders of blue ID cards are subject to all sorts of discriminatory practices never applied to Jewish Israelis.

        Just think of the East Jerusalem neighborhoods walled off behind the “barrier”. They no longer receive most government services and are subject to a checkpoint regime with frequent blanket closings. Isn’t anything similar even conceivable for Jews?

        So if a police officer caught a pot-smoking Palestinian in the West Bank, I’m sure he’d be able to conjure up plenty of reasons to throw him in jail despite his blue ID card.

        Reply to Comment
    7. StCuthbert

      Apartheid is, by definition, “inhumane acts of a character similar to other crimes against humanity committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”

      In the situation you described, an Israeli Arab would go free and a Palestinian Arab would be arrested, even though they are the same race and ethnicity.

      By definition, then, such a situation cannot be considered apartheid.

      Reply to Comment
      • Thomas Mitchell

        This, I assume, was taken from the UN definition of apartheid. Statutory apartheid is to real apartheid–the policy that was practiced in South Africa from 1948 to 1994 and in Namibia from 1948 to 1989–as statutory rape is to real rape. And when that judgement comes from the UN and is applied to Israel even more distortion occurs.

        Reply to Comment
      • Tommy Goldberg

        Not to worry, StCuthbert, Defense Minister Lieberman is hard at work to correct the anomaly of Arab Israelis theoretically having rights equal to Jewish Israelis.

        Reply to Comment
      • years

        StCuthbert, every “Israeli Arab” is also a “Palestinian Arab”.

        Reply to Comment