Apartheid is an Afrikaans word meaning "separation" or literally "apartness". In English, it has come to mean any legally sanctioned system of racial segregation, such as existed in The Republic of South Africa between 1948 and 1990. The first recorded use of the word is in 1917, during a speech by Jan Smuts, then Prime Minister of South Africa.
South Africa was colonised by the Dutch and English from the 17th Century onwards. As was typically the case in the African colonies, the European settlers dominated the indigenous population through political control and the control of land and wealth. In the years following the victory of the South African National Party in the general election of 1948, a flood of laws were enacted, formally instituting the dominance of white people over other races.
The principal apartheid laws were as follows:
On 21 March 1960, 20,000 people congregated in Sharpeville[?] to demonstrate against the requirement to carry identity cards[?]. Police opened fire on the demonstrators, killing 69 and injuring 180. All the victims were black. Most of them had been shot in the back. Colonel J. Pienaar[?], the senior police officer in charge on the day, was quoted as saying
In 1974 the government issued the Afrikaans Medium Decree which forced all schools to use the Afrikaans language when teaching Mathematics, Social Studies, Geography and History at secondary school level. Punt Janson[?], The Deputy Minister of Bantu Education was quoted as saying
The policy was deeply unpopular. On 30 April 1976, Children at Orlando West Junior School in Soweto went on strike, refusing to go to school. Their rebellion spread to other schools in Soweto. The students organised a mass rally for 16 June 1976, which turned violent - police responding with bullets to stones thrown by children. The incident triggered widespread violence throughout South Africa, which claimed many hundreds of lives.
Internationally, South Africa became isolated. Numerous conferences were held and United Nations resolutions passed condemning South Africa, including the World Conference Against Racism in 1978 and 1983. An immense divestment movement started, pressuring investors to refuse to invest in South African companies or companies that do business with South Africa. South African sports teams were barred from participation in international events, and South African culture and tourism were boycotted.
These international movements, combined with internal troubles, persuaded the South African government that its hard-line policies were untenable, and in 1984 some reforms were introduced. Many of the apartheid laws were repealed, and a new constitution was introduced which gave limited representation to certain non-whites, although not to the black majority. The violence continued throughout the 1980s.
In 1989, F. W. de Klerk succeeded P. W. Botha[?] as president. On 2 February 1990, at the opening of Parliament, he declared that apartheid had failed and that the bans on political parties, including the ANC, were to be lifted. Nelson Mandela was released from prison. De Klerk went on to abolish all the remaining apartheid laws.
On April 15, 2003, President Thabo Mbeki announced that the South African government will pay 660 million rand (85 million US dollars) to about 22,000 people who were tortured, detained, or lost family members under apartheid rule. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up to investigate abuses from the apartheid era, had recommended the government to pay 3 billion rand in compensation, over the next five years.
South African apartheid was condemned internationally as unjust and racist. In 1973 the General Assembly of the United Nations agreed the text of the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. The immediate intention of the Convention was to provide a formal legal framework within which member states could apply sanctions to press the South African government to change its policies. However, the Convention was phrased in general terms, with the express intention of prohibiting any other state from adopting analogous policies. The Convention came into force in 1976.
Article II of the Convention defines apartheid as follows:
For the purpose of the present Convention, the term "the crime of apartheid", which shall include similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination as practised in southern Africa, shall apply to the following inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them:
The crime was also defined in the formation of the International Criminal Court:
The Kingdom of Jordan forbids Jews from becoming citizens, although peoples of any other group are allowed to do so. (Law No. 6, sect. 3, of April 3, 1954; restated in law no. 7, sect. 2, of April 1, 1963)
Saudi Arabia forbids non-Muslims from practising their religion in public. Christians who ask Muslims to convert to Christianity have been persecuted and arrested; Muslims who have converted to Christianity have been executed. Jews are forbidden from practising their faith.
Non-Wahhabi Muslims report apartheid-like discrimination in Saudi Arabia.
A number of organisations, including the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights (LAW) and the Islamic Human Rights Commission[?], allege that Israel is an apartheid state under the UN definition. This view has been put forward, for example, by many Arab states at the World Conference against Racism in 1978, 1983, and 2001. This led to a boycott of the conference by the United States and Israel in all three cases, and by many European countries in the first two. (In each case, the United States also had other reasons for boycotting. In the first two, they objected to language critical of apartheid in South Africa. In 2001, they objected to language calling the transatlantic slave trade a crime against humanity, which would prepare the way for reparations.) The resolutions were not adopted at any of the conferences, although in 1975, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 3379, condemning Zionism as a form of racism and condemning Israel for supporting the South African apartheid regime. The resolution was repealed in 1991.
One official Israeli position against the allegation of apartheid is that the disputed policies against Palestinians are in place because of security-related reasons, and will be removed when circumstances change. The use of harsh techniques, and even torture, which constitutes a crime against humanity, against Palestinians are supported in order to minimise the risks of terrorist attacks, and crimes against humanity against Israelis.
Several other features of life in Israel are construed by some as showing that Israel does not give full citizen rights to Arabs living within its borders, to a degree that is tantamount to apartheid. They include:
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a leading anti-apartheid campaigner in South Africa, stated, in a speech about Israel, "I've been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to us blacks in South Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about." (speech in Cape Town, April 2002  (http://www.iap.org/tutu.htm))
See also: History of South Africa, racism, discrimination, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Stephen Biko, Jim Crow laws, White Australia policy, Afrikaner Calvinism, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israeli settlements