by Edward C. Corrigan / March 1st, 2010
There is a controversy raging in North America over Israeli Apartheid Week (March 1-7 2010). A resolution was passed in the Ontario Provincial Parliament which was unanimously supported (only 30 MPPs voted) and declared the comparison of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to apartheid as “odious.” To quote an article in the Toronto Star Canada’s largest circulation paper.
In a rare show of unanimity, Ontario MPPs of all political stripes have banded together to condemn “Israeli Apartheid Week.”
Progressive Conservative MPP Peter Shurman (Thornhill) tabled the motion Thursday to denounce the sixth annual provocative campus event that kicks off next week at universities and colleges in 35 cities around the world.
“Resolutions in the Ontario Legislature send a message. They are about moral suasion,” said Shurman, adding “it is close to hate speech” to liken democratic Israel to apartheid-era South Africa.
“I want the name changed. It’s just wrong,” he said, emphasizing that “respectful” debate about the Middle East is much more constructive than slinging slurs.
“Israeli Apartheid Week is not a dialogue, it’s a monologue, and it is an imposition of a view by the name itself – the name is hateful, it is odious,” he said, adding it is also offensive to the millions of black South Africans oppressed by a racist white regime until the early 1990s. Toronto Star Feburary 26,2010
Progressive Conservative MPP Peter Shurman (Thornhill) was quoted as saying that he wants “the name changed. It’s just wrong” and that his resolution is about “moral suasion”, and that the term apartheid is “close to hate speech…hateful” and “odious”. He says he wants a “respectful” debate much more “constructive” than “slinging slurs.”
New Democratic MPP Cheri DiNovo (Parkdale-High Park) also claimed that the word apartheid is “inflammatory” and ”used inappropriately in the case of Israel”. “Apartheid does not help the discussion,” she states.
Shurman also argued that the comparison “is also offensive to the millions of black South Africans oppressed by a racist white regime until the early 1990s.” Toronto Star Feburary 26,2010
It is interesting to see what South African’s who actually lived under the Apartheid system have to say about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. The natural basis of such kinship between the policies of Israel and South Africa was apparently recognized by the virulent supporter of Apartheid and prime minister of South Africa, Hendrik Verwoerd. He noted in 1961 that Jews “took Israel from the Arabs after the Arabs had lived there for a thousand years. In that I agree with them, Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.” Robert Ashmore, The Link, oct-nov 1988
The much revered leader of the struggle against racism and Apartheid in South Africa and the first President of the non-racist Republic of South Africa Nelson Mandela had the following to say on the issue of the Palestinians. To quote journalist John Pilger, “To Nelson Mandela, justice for the Palestinians is ‘the greatest moral issue of our time.’” Pilger, www.antiwar.com
Here is an excerpt from a speech Nelson Mandela gave on International day of Solidarity with the Palestinians.
The temptation in our situation is to speak in muffled tones about an issue such as the right of the people of Palestine to a state of their own. We can easily be enticed to read reconciliation and fairness as meaning parity between justice and injustice. Having achieved our own freedom, we can fall into the trap of washing our hands of difficulties that others faces.
Yet we would be less than human if we did so.
It behooves all South Africans, themselves erstwhile beneficiaries of generous international support, to stand up and be counted among those contributing actively to the cause of freedom and justice.
Even during the days of negotiations, our own experience taught us that the pursuit of human fraternity and equality — irrespective of race or religion – should stand at the centre of our peaceful endeavours. The choice is not between freedom and justice, on the one hand, and their opposite, on the other. Peace and prosperity; tranquility and security are only possible if these are enjoyed by all without discrimination.
It is in this spirit that I have come to join you today to add our own voice to the universal call for Palestinian self-determination and statehood. Address Nelson Mandela Int’l day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people 1997
In March 1985, Denis Goldberg, a Jewish South African and member of the African National Congress and sentenced in 1964 to life imprisonment for “conspiring to overthrow the apartheid regime,” was released through the intercession of his daughter, an Israeli, and top Israeli officials, including the president of Israel and allowed to go into exile to Israel.
Goldberg said after arriving in Israel that he saw “many similarities in the oppression of blacks in South Africa and of Palestinians.” He called for a total economic boycott of South Africa, singling out Israel as a major ally of the apartheid regime. Refusing to live in a country that supported Apartheid South Africa Goldberg quickly left Israel and moved to London, England. Jane Hunter, The Link , march-april 1986
Mr. Aziz Pahad, the South African Deputy Foreign Minister, and Mr. Kgalema Motlanthe, the Deputy President of the African National Congress (ANC), met with Palestinian human rights activists on 6 June 2008 in South Africa. The South Africans officials had recently returned from a visit to the 1967 Occupied Palestinian Territory. In the meeting with Arab Political Leaders and Adalah representatives Mr. Pahad and Mr. Motlanthe stressed the South African government’s support for the Palestinian people. Mr. Motlanthe stated that in his view “the current situation for Palestinians in the OPT is worse than conditions were for Blacks under the Apartheid regime.” *
*( Delegation of Arab Political Leaders and Adalah Representatives in South Africa Meet with Lawyers from the Legal Resources Center, Ministers and Government Officials to Discuss Constitution Building and Human Rights, Adalah, 9 June 2008.)
Here is an excerpt from an article describing the reactions of Veteran African Congress members after visiting the Palestinian Occupied Territories.
Veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle said last night that the restrictions endured by Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories was in some respects worse than that imposed on the black majority under white rule in South Africa.
Members of a 23-strong human-rights team of prominent South Africans cited the impact of the Israeli military’s separation barrier, checkpoints, the permit system for Palestinian travel, and the extent to which Palestinians are barred from using roads in the West Bank.
After a five-day visit to Israel and the Occupied Territories, some delegates expressed shock and dismay at conditions in the Israeli-controlled heart of Hebron. Uniquely among West Bank cities, 800 settlers now live there and segregation has seen the closure of nearly 3,000 Palestinian businesses and housing units. Palestinian cars (and in some sections pedestrians) are prohibited from using the once busy streets.
“Even with the system of permits, even with the limits of movement to South Africa, we never had as much restriction on movement as I see for the people here,” said an ANC parliamentarian, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge of the West Bank. “There are areas in which people would live their whole lifetime without visiting because it’s impossible.” D. Macintyre, The Independent, 2008
Israeli journalist Gideon Levy also wrote an article on this visit by South African dignitaries. Here are excerpts from his report:
Lunch is in a hotel in the city, and Madlala-Routledge speaks. “It is hard for me to describe what I am feeling. What I see here is worse than what we experienced. But I am encouraged to find that there are courageous people here. We want to support you in your struggle, by every possible means. There are quite a few Jews in our delegation, and we are very proud that they are the ones who brought us here. They are demonstrating their commitment to support you. In our country we were able to unite all the forces behind one struggle, and there were courageous whites, including Jews, who joined the struggle. I hope we will see more Israeli Jews joining your struggle.”
She was deputy defense minister from 1999 to 2004; in 1987 she served time in prison. Later, I asked her in what ways the situation here is worse than apartheid. “The absolute control of people’s lives, the lack of freedom of movement, the army presence everywhere, the total separation and the extensive destruction we saw.”
Madlala-Routledge thinks that the struggle against the occupation is not succeeding here because of U.S. support for Israel – not the case with apartheid, which international sanctions helped destroy. Here, the racist ideology is also reinforced by religion, which was not the case in South Africa. “Talk about the ‘promised land’ and the ‘chosen people’ adds a religious dimension to racism which we did not have.”
Equally harsh are the remarks of the editor-in-chief of the Sunday Times of South Africa, Mondli Makhanya, 38. “When you observe from afar you know that things are bad, but you do not know how bad. Nothing can prepare you for the evil we have seen here. In a certain sense, it is worse, worse, worse than everything we endured. The level of the apartheid, the racism and the brutality are worse than the worst period of apartheid.
“The apartheid regime viewed the blacks as inferior; I do not think the Israelis see the Palestinians as human beings at all. How can a human brain engineer this total separation, the separate roads, the checkpoints? What we went through was terrible, terrible, terrible – and yet there is no comparison. Here it is more terrible. We also knew that it would end one day; here there is no end in sight. The end of the tunnel is blacker than black. Gideon, Levy, Ha’aretz, 2008
- Here is what other prominent South Africans have to say about the issue of Israel and Apartheid.”
“I’ve been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to us black people 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.”
– Archbishop Desmond Tutu
- “When I hear, ‘that used to be my home’, it is painfully similar to the treatment in South Africa when coloureds had no rights.”
– Archbishop Desmond Tutu
- “… Israel came to resemble more and more apartheid South Africa at its zenith – even surpassing its brutality, house demolitions, removal of communities, targeted assassinations, massacres, imprisonment and torture of its opponents, collective punishment and the aggression against neighbouring states.”
– Former South African Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils from a speech at Israel Apartheid Week 2009.
- “But what is interesting is that every black South African that I’ve spoken to who has visited the Palestinian territory has been horrified and has said without hesitation that the system that applies in Palestine is worse.”
– Professor John Dugard, Former U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Occupied Palestine
- Apartheid Israel can be defeated, just as apartheid in South Africa was defeated.”
– Winnie Mandela
” When I come here and see the situation [in the Palestinian territories], I find that what is happening here is ten times worse than what I had experienced in South Africa. This is Apartheid.”
– Arun Ghandi
The horrendous dehumanisation of Black South Africans during the erstwhile Apartheid years is a Sunday picnic, compared with what I saw and what I know is happening to the Palestinian people.”
– Willie Madisha, former head of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU)
“ As someone who lived in apartheid South Africa and who has visited Palestine I say with confidence that Israel is an apartheid state. In fact, I believe that some of Israel’s actions make the actions of South Africa’s apartheid regime appear pale by comparison.”
- – Willie Madisha, in a letter supporting CUPE Ontario’s resolution
Former U.S President Jimmy Carter who helped bring about the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt has also have written and spoken out on Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians. In an interview in Israel Carter stated the following on the Apartheid comparison:
When Israel does occupy this territory deep within the West Bank, and connects the 200-or-so settlements with each other, with a road, and then prohibits the Palestinians from using that road, or in many cases even crossing the road, this perpetrates even worse instances of apartness, or apartheid, than we witnessed even in South Africa.
Carter said his new book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid” was meant to spark U.S. discussion of Israeli policies. “The hope is that my book will at least stimulate a debate, which has not existed in this country. There’s never been any debate on this issue, of any significance Haaretz, 11,12 2006
Carter’s book Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid resulted in him being severely criticized by the American Jewish community. Here is what Cecilie Surasky, from the Jewish Voice for Peace and Muzzle Watch, had to say about this treatment.
“Few people anywhere have endured more vicious demonization regarding the Israel issue than Nobel-prize-winning former US president Jimmy Carter. It is a sad statement that the man who did more for peace for the Israelis than any other U.S. president, is now vilified as an anti-Semite in Jewish communities across the land, most notably for titling his book Palestine: Peace, not Apartheid. In fact, Carter is one of Israel’s few true friends who remains impressively committed to doing whatever he can to bring about some kind of resolution, rather than taking the easy road by giving the self-destructive government more of what it wants- arms and money to occupy more land.“
Issues that are virtually forbidden in the North American public arena are treated much differently in Israel where such topics are part of the general political discourse and debate. Many Israelis use the term Apartheid to describe Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians. It is worth reviewing the political debate and public discussion of these questions in Israel.
Michael Ben-Yair was Israel’s attorney general from 1993 96. He wrote that after Israel won the Six Day War in June 1967:
We enthusiastically chose to become a colonial society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the occupied territories, engaging in theft and finding justification for all these activities. Passionately desiring to keep the occupied territories, we developed two judicial systems: one — progressive, liberal — in Israel; and the other — cruel, injurious — in the occupied territories. In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture. That oppressive regime exists to this day.“ (The Six Day War’s Seventh Day,” by Michael Ben Yair, Haaretz, March 3rd, 2002. This article is also reproduced in The Other Israel, Voices of Refusal and Dissent, Foreword by Tom Segev and Introduction by Anthony Lewis, edited by Roane Carey and Jonathan Shainin. (New York: New Press, 2002), p. 13-15.)
Avraham Burg was speaker of Israel’s Knesset in 1999 2003 and is a former chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel. Here is how Burg is described in an article published in The New Yorker magazine.
Short of being Prime Minister, Burg could not be higher in the Zionist establishment. His father was a Cabinet minister for nearly four decades, serving under Prime Ministers from David Ben Gurion to Shimon Peres. In addition to a decade long career in the Knesset, including four years as Speaker, Burg had also been leader of the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency for Israel. And yet he did not obey the commands of pedigree. Defeating Hitler and an earlier book, God Is Back, are in combination, a despairing look at the Israeli condition. Burg warns that an increasingly large and ardent sector of Israeli society disdains political democracy. He describes the country in its current state as Holocaust obsessed, militaristic, xenophobic, and, like Germany in the nineteen thirties, vulnerable to an extremist minority. The New Yorker, July 30 2007
In 2003, Burg wrote in an article:
Israel must shed its illusions and choose between racist oppression and democracy.
The Zionist revolution has always rested on two pillars: a just path and an ethical leadership. Neither of these is operative any longer. The Israeli nation today rests on a scaffolding of corruption, and on foundations of oppression and injustice. As such, the end of the Zionist enterprise is already on our doorstep. There is a real chance that ours will be the last Zionist generation. There may yet be a Jewish state here, but it will be a different sort, strange and ugly. A. Burg, The Guardian, sept. 15, 2003
In 2007 another article was published in Haaretz on Avraham Burg. He is quoted: “to define the State of Israel as a Jewish state is the key to its end. A Jewish state is explosive. It’s dynamite.” In the interview Burg said that he was Ain favor of abrogating the Law of Return and calls on everyone who can to obtain a foreign passport.” Shavit, Haaretz, 7 June, 2007
Here are the words of another veteran Israeli politician, Yossi Sarid, on the comparison of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians and Apartheid. Sarid served as a member of the Knesset for the Alignment, Ratz and Meretz between 1974 and 2006. A former Minister of Education and Minister of the Environment, he led Meretz between 1996 and 2003.
The white Afrikaners, too, had reasons for their segregation policy; they, too, felt threatened — a great evil was at their door, and they were frightened, out to defend themselves. Unfortunately, however, all good reasons for apartheid are bad reasons; apartheid always has a reason, and it never has a justification. And what acts like apartheid, is run like apartheid and harasses like apartheid, is not a duck – it is apartheid. Nor does it even solve the problem of fear: Today, everyone knows that all apartheid will inevitably reach its sorry end. One essential difference remains between South Africa and Israel: There a small minority dominated a large majority, and here we have almost a tie. But the tiebreaker is already darkening on the horizon. Then the Zionist project will come to an end if we don’t choose to leave the slave house before being visited by a fatal demographic plague. It is entirely clear why the word apartheid terrifies us so. What should frighten us, however, is not the description of reality, but reality itself. Even Ehud Olmert has understood at last that continuing the present situation is the end of the Jewish democratic state, as he recently said. Y. Sarid, Haaretz, April 25, 2008 Another prominent Israeli politician who served many years in the Knesset, Shulamit Aloni, has also been scathing in her criticism of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians. Aloni, is the Israeli Prize laureate who once served as Minister of Education under Yitzhak Rabin. She wrote, “Jewish self righteousness is taken for granted among ourselves to such an extent that we fail to see what’s right in front of our eyes. It’s simply inconceivable that the ultimate victims, the Jews, can carry out evil deeds. Nevertheless, the state of Israel practises its own, quite violent, form of Apartheid with the native Palestinian population.” (Indeed there is Apartheid in Israel,” by Shulamit Aloni, Yediot Acharonot, May 1, 2006. The article was published in Israel’s largest circulating newspaper in the Hebrew edition but not in the English language YNetNews. It was translated by Sol Salbe, an Israeli-Australian editor and translator, and distributed through the Australian based Middle East News Service sponsored by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society)Hebrew original
Aloni also defended former U.S. President Jimmy Carter:
The US Jewish Establishment’s onslaught on former President Jimmy Carter is based on him daring to tell the truth which is known to all: through its army, the government of Israel practises a brutal form of Apartheid in the territory it occupies. Its army has turned every Palestinian village and town into a fenced in, or blocked in, detention camp. All this is done in order to keep an eye on the population’s movements and to make its life difficult. Israel even imposes a total curfew whenever the settlers, who have illegally usurped the Palestinians’ land, celebrate their holidays or conduct their parades.(Indeed there is Apartheid in Israel,” by Shulamit Aloni, Yediot Acharonot, May 1, 2006. The article was published in Israel’s largest circulating newspaper in the Hebrew edition but not in the English language YNetNews. It was translated by Sol Salbe, an Israeli-Australian editor and translator, and distributed through the Australian based Middle East News Service sponsored by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society) Hebrew original
Here is what Yossi Paritzky, a member of the Shinui Party who served in the Israeli Knesset and also in the Israeli cabinet, had to say about racial discrimination in Israel:
One of the clearest rules that distinguishes a democratic state from a non democratic state is the principle of equality when it comes to rights and obligations. In a democratic country, all citizens regardless of race, religious, gender or origin are entitled to equality when it comes to national assets, services and resources, and all citizens regardless of race, religion, gender or origin are equally obligated by national duties.
For example, in a democratic country everyone must pay taxes (although at different rates, of course,) and everyone must obey the law. On the other hand, every citizen in a democratic state is entitled to enjoy individual freedoms. One is entitled to purchase assets in the country, marry anyone he or she wish, work wherever one wants, study whatever one wishes, and express himself or herself as they wish.
In short, equality is the basic tenet of a liberal western democracy and without it a country is not democratic in practice although possibly democratic by law.
… in a series of three decisions that are separate but connected through a stench of racism and discrimination, Israel entered the dismal pantheon of non democratic states. This past Wednesday, Israel decided to be like apartheid era South Africa, and some will say even worse countries that no longer exist. Y. Paritzky, YNET News, 24 july, 2007
The following are comments made by Yossi Beilin, a member of the Knesset, and chairman of the Israeli Meretz Yahad Party, on the uproar caused in the United States over former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.
I cannot recall when the publication of a book has generated such a debate in Israel. And even though we are talking here about a book that was published in the United States and has yet to be translated into Hebrew, the quiet way in which Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid has been received in Israel is nevertheless noteworthy, not least because it is Israel itself that is the object of Carter’s opprobrium.
Part of the explanation for why Carter’s book did not set off any public outcry in Israel lies in the difference in literary culture. For better or worse C and I, for one, certainly think that it is for worse C books just don’t matter here in the way they still do elsewhere. Yet perhaps a larger part of the explanation lies with the difference in political culture, and with local sensitivities (or perhaps insensitivities) to language and moral tone.
It is not that Israelis are indifferent to what is said about them, but the threshold of what passes as acceptable here is apparently much higher than it is with Israel’s friends in the United States. In the case of this particular book, the harsh words that Carter reserves for Israel are simply not as jarring to Israeli ears, which have grown used to such language, especially with respect to the occupation.
In other words, what Carter says in his book about the Israeli occupation and our treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories C and perhaps no less important, how he says it C is entirely harmonious with the kind of criticism that Israelis themselves voice about their own country. There is nothing in the criticism that Carter has for Israel that has not been said by Israelis themselves. Y. Beilin, The Forward, 2007
Uri Davis, author of Israel: An Apartheid State (London: Zed Books, 1987) and many other studies (See for example Uri Davis, Palestinian Arabs in Israel: Two Case Studies (co-author), (London: Ithaca Press, 1978); Citizenship and the State: A Comparative Study of Citizenship Legislation in Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon, Reading, Berkshire UK: Ithaca Press, 1997); and Apartheid Israel: Possibilities for the Struggle Within, (New York: Zed Books, 2003) on Israel and Zionism, was elected in August 2009 to serve on the Fatah Revolutionary Council. DPA, Haaretz, August 15, 2009
Following the establishment of the state of Israel, however, and the introduction of the legislation detailed below into the body of Israeli law, the legal situation governing the activities of the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency, the Jewish National Fund, the Histadrut, the Workers’ Company, and their various subsidiaries radically altered. Their respective restrictive constitutions, which were legally binding on what were, until 1948, technically voluntary organisations, are now incorporated into the legal foundations and the body of law of the state of Israel, thereby establishing a situation of radical legal apartheid of Jew versus non-Jew. (Israel — An Apartheid State, by Uri Davis, (Zed Books, London and New Jersey, 1987), p. 15.)
Davis further added the following quote from Israel’s Defense minister Moshe Dyan.
We came here to a country that was populated by Arabs, and we are building here a Hebrew, Jewish state. In a considerable portion of localities we purchased the land from the Arabs. Instead of the Arab villages Jewish villages were established. You even do not know the name of the villages and I do not blame you, because these geography books no longer exist. Not only the books, but also the villages no longer exist. Nahalal was established in the place of Mahalul, Gevat in the place of Jibta, Sarid in the place of Hanifas and Kefar Yehoshu’a in the place of Tel Shaham. There is not a single settlement that was not established in the place of a former Arab village (Dayan, 19 March 1969; as quoted in Haaretz, 4 April 1969) (Ibid., p 21.)
Another example of the type of discussion that goes on in Israel is the following statement made by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: “For sixty years there has been discrimination against Arabs in Israel. This discrimination is deep seated and intolerable.” Olmert made this statement while addressing a meeting of the Knesset committee that was investigating the lack of integration of Arab citizens in the Israeli public service. Haaretz, 15 septembre, 2008 Jerusalem Post, 12 nov, 2008 Prime Minister Olmert also made the following comment in an interview with Haaretz: “If the day comes when the two state solution collapses, and we face a South African style struggle for equal voting rights, then as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished.” BBC 29 nov. 2009
Here is a recent discussion of Apartheid which was published in the Israel press titled, “Are Israel and apartheid South Africa really different?,” by Akiva Eldar, Haaretz, January 5, 2010. The author is discussing a ruling of an Israeli judge.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which appealed against the ban on Route 443, dared suggest the word apartheid and was reprimanded for it. In her ruling, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch wrote that “the great difference between the security means adopted by the State of Israel for defense against terrorist attacks and the unacceptable practices of the policy of apartheid requires that any comparison or use of this grave term be avoided.” A similar argument was voiced during the days of Israel’s military administration over its Arab citizens, which was lifted in 1966, and which is today considered a dark period in the country’s history.
Beinisch herself is a co-author of about a dozen rulings that exposed the malicious use of the segregation regime in an effort to take over Palestinian land. In some cases, most notably one concerning the separation fence near Bil’in, she wrote that the invasive route set by the army was inferior from a security point of view to the route proposed by experts at the Council for Peace and Security. In another case the state admitted that the person in charge of planning the fence did not inform government lawyers that the route had been adjusted to the blueprint for expanding the settlement of Tzofin. Were it not for human rights organizations and conscientious lawyers, who would prevent shortsighted politicians from annexing more and more territory “for security against terrorism”? asked Beinisch.
One of the myths among whites in South Africa was that “blacks want to throw us into the sea.” Many of apartheid’s practices were formally based on security, mostly those involving restrictions on movement. Thus, for example, at a fairly early stage, black citizens needed permits to move around the country. During the final years of apartheid, when the blacks’ struggle intensified as did terrorism, its practices became more severe.
To avoid the rude word apartheid, Beinisch pulled out the well-known argument that apartheid is “a policy of segregation and discrimination based on race and ethnicity, which is based on a series of discriminatory practices designed to achieve the superiority of a certain race and oppress those of other races.” Indeed, systematic segregation (apartheid) and discrimination in South Africa were meant to preserve the supremacy of one race over others.
In Israel, on the other hand, institutional discrimination is meant to preserve the supremacy of a group of Jewish settlers over Palestinian Arabs. As far as discriminatory practices are concerned, it’s hard to find differences between white rule in South Africa and Israeli rule in the territories; for example, separate areas and separate laws for Jews and Palestinians. Haaretz,5 january 2010
Ehud Barak, Israel’s defence minister, and former Prime Minister, also has used the Apartheid analogy. At the annual national security conference in the Israeli city of Herzliya Barak “delivered an unusually blunt warning to his country that a failure to make peace with the Palestinians would leave either a state with no Jewish majority or an “apartheid” regime.” R. McCarthy, The Guardian, February 3, 2010
To quote the Guardian, “His stark language and the South African analogy might have been unthinkable for a senior Israeli figure only a few years ago and is a rare admission of the gravity of the deadlocked peace process.”
Barak, a former general and Israel’s most decorated soldier, said that a two-state solution was “the only way to secure Israel’s future as a “Zionist, Jewish, democratic state.” Barak also said:
As long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic… If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state . R. McCarthy, The Guardian, February 3, 2010
Can you ever imagine a top American or Canadian politician making statements like these, or a leading Canadian or American newspaper publishing comments like these ones? If the politicians did make statements like these what would be the reaction?
This article only reviews a portion of the critical debate in Israel from Israeli politicians. There is much more debate and critical examination of Zionism and of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians. The comparison between Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians and to Apartheid is a legitimate part of that debate and this is an analogy frequently used by Israelis.
Serious discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must include the full spectrum of opinion in keeping with democratic values, free speech and much needed critical inquiry. In Israel, there is a vibrant political debate, and while this debate and democratic discourse is coming increasingly under attack, this debate contributes to the vitality of Israeli society as it deals with the Palestinian issue, the nature of a “Jewish State” and how to govern its society.
America, which provides a great deal of financial, military and political support for Israel, needs to be aware of this debate in Israel and in Jewish circles, and to understand the ramifications of uncritical support for the policies and actions of Israel toward the Palestinians and its Arab neighbors. To stifle and censor the discussion of these important issues does no favors for the United States, Canada or for Israel or the Jewish people.