Israel, Athens, and Sparta


The tactics used by Israelis to maintain an apartheid state resembles tactics used by ancient Athenians as well as ancient Spartans:

This building has just been identified by some archaeologists as the remains of a watchtower. The living quarters surrounding the tower were not occupied by citizens, but by slaves. It seems the Athenians wanted to keep their slaves under 24-hour surveillance. And it's no surprise they were jumpy. We're talking massive numbers. As many as 1 in 3 of the people that lived in Athens were slaves. Athenians could be such vigorous democrats because they had somebody else to do their dirty work for them.1

Israelis are definitely interested in having full control over the movement of Palestinians:

Restrictions on the Palestinians’ right to freedom of movement are endemic, stemming from Israeli control of the occupied Palestinian territory border crossings, the wall in the West Bank, a matrix of checkpoints and separate roads, and obstructive and all-encompassing permit and ID systems.2

In ancient Athens, only a tiny fraction of the adult population could vote:

Participation was not open to all residents: to vote one had to be an adult, male citizen who owned land and was not a slave, and the number of these "varied between 30,000 and 50,000 out of a total population of around 250,000 to 300,000." 3

For me, that does not qualify as democracy (majority rule). One can see something similar in the Israel-Palestine situation where a minority of people decides the fate of a much larger population:

In 1948, General Assembly resolution 194(III) resolved that “the [Palestinian] refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so” and that compensation should be provided to the rest. Israel has rejected the application of that resolution on security grounds and on the basis of the “demographic threat” of a Palestinian majority: in the unlikely event that the entire Palestinian population of refugees and involuntary exiles returned to Palestine en masse, the Palestinian population under Israeli rule would total some 12 million, electorally overwhelming the 6.5 million Jews in Israel. Even if that refugee population returned in numbers sufficient only to generate a Palestinian majority (as is far more likely), Israel would be forced into either adopting an explicitly apartheid policy in order to exclude them, and abandoning democracy altogether, or enfranchising them and abandoning the vision of Israel as a Jewish State.4

Israel shares similar features with Sparta in that the oppressor pretends to live in constant fear of the group they have subjugated. Israel, despite being the aggressor, will periodically declare war against the Palestinians under the pretext of self-defence. The entire state of Israel is designed around security against the Palestinians which is no different than Sparta being designed around security against the Helots.

...Thucydides stresses that "most Spartan institutions have always been designed with a view to security against the Helots". Aristotle compares them to "an enemy constantly sitting in wait of the disaster of the Spartans". Consequently, fear seems to be an important factor governing relations between Spartans and Helots."5

According to Aristotle, the ephors annually declared war on the Helots..."6

Palestinians are subject to forced labour in the construction and services sectors of Jewish-Israeli settlements built on Palestinian land.

Article II (e) is today not significantly satisfied, as Israel has raised barriers to Palestinian employment inside Israel since the 1990s and Palestinian labour is now used extensively only in the construction and services sectors of Jewish-Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory. Otherwise, exploitation of labour has been replaced by practices that fall under article II (c), regarding the denial of the right to work.7

However, forced labour is not as characteristic of the Zionist scenario as it was of ancient Greece. Zionism also shares features with European colonialism in the Americas where the primary objective was to expel the indigenous population from their land.

Palestinians are restricted in their right to work through Israeli policies that severely curtail Palestinian agriculture and industry in the occupied Palestinian territory, restrict exports and imports, and impose pervasive obstacles to internal movement that impair access to agricultural land and travel for employment and business. Since the second intifada, access for Palestinians to work inside Israel, once significant, has been dramatically curtailed and is now negligible. The unemployment rate in the occupied Palestinian territory as a whole has reached almost 50 per cent.8

  • 1. "The Ancient Worlds with Bettany Hughes: Athens The Truth About Democracy" 18:05-18:44
  • 2. "Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid". Palestine and the Israeli Occupation, Issue No. 1. ESCWA (Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia), 2017, p. 53, Accessed 2 Apr 2017
  • 3. "Athenian democracy." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 15 Mar. 2017, Accessed 19 Mar. 2017.
  • 4. "Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid" P. 48
  • 5. "Helots." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 7 Mar. 2017, Accessed 19 Mar. 2017.
  • 6. Helots, wikipedia.
  • 7. "Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid" P. 63
  • 8. "Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid" P. 61



Thanks Panoramics. This is a very difficult topic to approach objectively and factually. You make a good attempt.

Could you clarify your footnotes? For example, your footnote 4 reads: "P. 48 Footnote 2", but obviously does not refer to the wikipedia article referred just above.


This is footnote 2:

"Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid". Palestine and the Israeli Occupation, Issue No. 1, ESCWA, 2017. p.59.


Oh, I see. I hadn't understood it. I took the liberty to edit your article and made footnotes references more explicit.