Israel and Apartheid: Is It a Fair Comparison?

There is a controversy raging in North America over Israeli Apartheid Week (March 1-7 2010). ((Israeli Apartheid Week: Solidarity in action: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions, 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. (( “MPPs decry linking Israel to `apartheid’: In rare show of political unity, legislators join in denouncing ‘odious’ name of campus event,” Toronto Star, February 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.” (( “MPPs decry linking Israel to `apartheid’: In rare show of political unity, legislators join in denouncing ‘odious’ name of campus event,” Toronto Star, February 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.” (( “Israel and South Africa: A Natural Alliance,” by Robert B. Ashmore, The Link, October-November 1988, Volume 21, Issue 4.))

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.'” (( “For Israel, a Reckoning,” by John Pilger,, January 14, 2010.))

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 by President Nelson Mandela at the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Pretoria, 4 December 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. (( “The Israeli-South African-U.S. Alliance,” by Jane Hunter, The Link, March-April 1986,Volume 19, Issue 1, p. 1.))

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.” (( “‘This is like apartheid’: ANC veterans visit West Bank,” By Donald Macintyre, The Independent, July 11, 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. (( “Worse than apartheid,” by Gideon Levy, Haaretz, 10/07/2008.))

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 (( “Apartheid in the Holy Land,” by Desmond Tutu, The Guardian, April 29, 2002.))

“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 (( “Desmond Tutu Likens Israeli Actions to Apartheid,” by Adrianne Appel October 29, 2007 by Inter Press Service.))

“… the fundamental cause of the conflict — lest anyone remains unclear. It stems from the Zionist world view — its belief in a perpetual anti-Semitism that requires that Jewish people around the world — a faith group — should have a national home of their own. The biblical narrative was evoked to proclaim Palestine as the promised land reserved exclusively for God’s ‘chosen people’ and their civilizing mission. It sounds all too familiar as a vision the Voortrekkers had in this country. It gives rise to racism, apartheid and a total onslaught on those who stand in your way, whether blacks or Arabs or red Indians. Many Jews do not agree with this Zionist world view, and declare that being anti-Zionism and critical of Israel does not equate with anti-semitism.”
— Speech given to the South African Parliament by Government Minister Ronnie Kasrils ((Kasrils Ronnie Speech given to the South African Parliament by Government Minister Ronnie Kasrils, MP on 6 June 2007 to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the Six Day War.))

“… 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. (( “Israeli Apartheid: We Learn From History That We Learn Nothing From History,” Tuesday 21 April 2009 by Ronnie Kasrils.))

“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. ((Hisham B. Sharabi Memorial Lecture: Apartheid and Occupation under International Law with John Dugard Monday, March 30, 2009 Edited Transcript of Remarks by Professor John Dugard, Transcript No. 311 (30 March 2009).))

“Apartheid Israel can be defeated, just as apartheid in South Africa was defeated.”
— Winnie Mandela (( “Winnie Mandela on apartheid Israel,” Independent Online, March 26, 2004. Retrieved November 3, 2006.))

“”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 (( “Gandhi’s Grandson Visits Gaza Through Video-Conference, Describes Occupation as ‘Ten Times Worse than Apartheid,” International Press Center (IPC), August 29,2004.))

“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) (( “The Boycott Israel Meeting,” held April 08 2009 Bristol Indymedia, Sunday April 12, 2009.))

“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. (( “South African unions support CUPE Ontario resolution on Israel,” July 4, 2006, “On behalf of 1.2 million South African workers, Willie Madisha, president of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), writes: “… with great pride, I congratulate CUPE Ontario for their historic resolution on May 27th in support of the Palestinian people — those living under occupation and those millions of Palestinian refugees living in the Diaspora. We fully support your resolution.”))

“I say with confidence that Israel is an Apartheid state. The trade union movement must move beyond resolutions, otherwise history will look back on us and spit on our graves.”
— Willie Madisha, at a trade union conference held in London, England. ((PGFTU Account of Recent Events in Nabalus.))

“Indeed, for those of us who lived under South African Apartheid and fought for liberation from it and everything that it represented, Palestine reflects in many ways the unfinished business of our own struggle.”
— Farid Esack, Writer, Visiting Professor at Harvard and Anti-apartheid Spokesperson. (( “I come from Apartheid South Africa. Arriving in your land, the land of Palestine, the sense of deja vu is inescapable,” by Adam Horowitz, Mondoweiss, April 22, 2009.))

“They support Zionism, a version of global racist domination and apartheid based on the doctrine that Jews are superior to Arabs and therefore have a right to oppress them and occupy their country.”
— Current COSATU President, Sidumo Dlamini. (( “Address By Sidumo Dlamini, To The International Strategy Workshop Towards The International Solidarity Conference Of COSATU,” 26 March, 2009.))

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. (( “Jimmy Carter: Israel’s ‘apartheid’ policies worse than South Africa’s,” 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. ((“Jimmy Carter’s apology to the Jewish people,” by Cecil Surasky, Muzzle Watch, December 28, 2009. ))

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 Apostate: A Zionist politician loses faith in the future,” by David Remnick, 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. (( “The end of Zionism,” by Avraham Burg, The Guardian, September 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.” (( “Burg Defining Israel as a Jewish state is the key to its end,” by Ari Shavit, Haaretz, June 7, 2007. See also “Leaving the Zionist ghetto: Interview with Avraham Burg,” by Ari Shavit, Haaretz, June 8, 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. (( “Yes it is apartheid,” by Yossi 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. (( “You can continue with the Liquidations,” by Shluamit Aloni, January 18, 2002 published 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. 85-87.)) 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. The 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. The 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. (( “Our apartheid state: Three racist, discriminatory decisions undermine Israel’s democratic character,” by Yossi Paritzky, YNet News, July 24, 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. (( “Carter Is No More Critical of Israel Than Israelis Themselves,” by Yossi Beilin, The Forward, January 19, 2007 republished in Occupation Magazine, February 2, 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. ((See “A Jerusalem-born Jew elected to Fatah Revolutionary Council,” by DPA, Haaretz, August 15, 2009.)) He wrote:

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. ((See “PM slams ‘discrimination’ against Arabs,” by Elie Leshem and Staff, Jerusalem Post, November 12, 2008. See also “Olmert voices sorrow for plight of Palestinian, Jewish refugees,” by Shahar Ilan, Haaretz, September 15, 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.” ((See “Olmert warns of end of Israel,” BBC, November 29, 2007.))

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. (( “Are Israel and apartheid South Africa really different?,” by Akiva Eldar, Haaretz, January 5, 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.” (( “Barak: make peace with Palestinians or face apartheid,” by Rory 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. (( “Barak: make peace with Palestinians or face apartheid,” by Rory 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.

Edward C. Corrigan is a Barrister and Solicitor and has been active in political matters for more than 40 years. He has a degree in History and a Master’s degree in Political Science. He has published extensively on legal and political matters. In 2000-2003 he served as an elected member of London, Ontario, Canada’s City Council. Read other articles by Edward, or visit Edward's website.

16 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. MichaelKenny said on March 1st, 2010 at 11:08am #

    What all these quotes show is that the Israeli elite has largely written off Israel and, from that point of view, it hardly matters whether or not the comparisons to South Africa are accurate or fair. The idea of “selling” the sacred cow that was Israel was once unthinkable. Then, the argument was about whether or not to sell it. Now, they are arguing about how much the beast is worth on the market!

  2. bozh said on March 1st, 2010 at 1:21pm #

    Yes, i agree with MK’s observation. As i have seen it for yrs now, shemites of the three faiths are just being [ab]used and it is just a matter of time before world plutos give up on this artifice w.o. borders.
    It seems to me that world plutos need unrest, ‘terrorism’, occupations, raids very badly.
    And i don’t think i need to give DV readers the “Why” of it.
    Surely we can see that the non-shemitic peoples of the cult; composed of all kinds of ethnicities save hebraic hate and shun the descendants of ancient shemites; be they ammonites, amorites, jebusitite, phoenicians, arameans, moabites, edomitites, hebrews, assyrians. tnx

  3. Ismail Zayid said on March 1st, 2010 at 3:10pm #

    Ed. Corrigan illustrates, in this accurate and thorough account, the characteristics of the true racist practices that Israel carries out against the Palestinian people. That these practices conform with and evidently exceed the manifestations of the Apartheid regime in South Sfrica, is confirmed by distinguished representatives from South Africa who lived under Apartheid and knew what they were talking about.

    The encouraging sign is that more Israelis are slowly beginning to see the facts as they are and are willing to speak out. This is the only hope that these racist apartheid practices will wither away as they did in South Africa, and thus reason and humanity will triumph and bring about peace and security for all those who live in this tortured land.

  4. Rehmat said on March 1st, 2010 at 6:32pm #

    Calling Zionist regime as an “Apartheid regime” is like calling a murderer a thief. In fact, in the past, South African White colonialist got a very lucrative deal by being called “Apartheid regime”. They still hold-on to agricultural land, high positions in the military, trade and are the only visible Opposition Party in the Parliament.

    Achmad Cassiem, nicknamed “Muslim Mandela” advised Palestinians resistance groups fighting against the Zionist entity: “Don’t make maximum sacrifies for minimum gains – if you’re going to make maximum sacrifices demand maximum gains”.

  5. Gary Zatzman said on March 2nd, 2010 at 3:49am #

    The AIM of an apartheid policy or apartheid-like policy is an issue as well, and it merits being addressed.

    Of course, there are apartheid-like features built into many specific policies of the State of Israel towards both its own 1-million-plus Palestinian citizens as well as regarding the additional approximately 3-million Palestinians residing in the Occupied Territories [OPT] under a Zionist jackboot [time to call a spade a shovel here, don’t you think?]. They are measures that, one way or another, strip the Palestinians of meaningful rights, de jure or de facto. They take this rights-stripping to the extreme point of plunging the Palestinians into a condition that amounts to what is known as “civil death.” That is, the victims are left without any legal or political recourse within either the order maintained by the ordinary organs of the Jewish-Zionist state at home or within the order maintained by its military occupation apparatuses in the OPT. This much thus far is pretty similar to the white South African minority’s designs for encaging the Black and Coloured majority between 1948 and 1990.

    The aim in South Africa was very clear. This majority was plunged into a condition of civil death so that their numerical advantage vis-a-vis the Afrikaner ruling order would be nullified. This would render them without meaningful legal recourses or remedies against the impacts and effects of discriminatory policies. Where could you appeal within such a system? How could you counter its operation short of open rebellion against it? And once an individual begins such a course of resisting apartheid, it turned out to be no simple matter to sustain it, or to unify ‘on the same page’ the very different forces compelled to resist it. Eventually it became clear that apartheid was about disrespecting any social rights or role for the vast majority having nothing but their labour-power to sell, so that the vast wealth of the country’s mineral resources and agricultural resources could continue to be looted for the benefit for a tiny minority with minimal disruption.

    One thing apartheid was not about however, was expelling the working population. The whole idea was to keep the working population utterly enslaved and without means to assert any rights — “civil death,” in other words.

    The Zionist AIM in Palestine from the moment of the movement’s modern re-founding at its Basel Congress of 1897 was to destroy the people-hood of the indigenous Palestinian population and disperse them beyond the lands coveted by the Zionists. Theodor Herzl in his Diaries famously recorded the Zionist intention to “spirit the penniless…discreetly and circumspectly” across the borders of a future Zionist state into the neighbouring Arab territories. The AIM of the JNF program was to leave the indigenous Palestinian without a leg to stand on or continue to anchor themselves in any piece of Palestinian territory.

    The modern definition under international humanitarian law of such dispossession, for example in the Fourth Geneva Conventions of 1949, is GENOCIDE. Every one of the same tricks developed in South Africa under National Party rule for rendering its working people in a state of civil death, plus many of their own were unfolded by the Zionist rulers of Israel against the Palestinians TOWARDS THIS AIM OF GENOCIDING THE PALESTINIANS. The aim was not to keep them around forever as an infinitely cheap labour force, but to drive them out for good.

    The simplest appeal of the call to oppose Israeli ‘apartheid’ is the appeal to get into the struggle against racial discrimination, and all apartheid-like systems are lousy with such racially discriminatory rules. But the origins of this approach to targeting an entire segment of people for civil death lie with imperial policies, whose aim was to boost the interests of imperial power. The tips and tricks applied by the National Party against Black and Coloured South Africans had already been developed by the British and some of the other “white Dominions” to genocide the indigenous native peoples so that grand imperial schemes like transcontinental railways and associated resource extraction schemes could carve up indigenous native land. What the CPR and the RCMP had done to the indigenous peoples of wetern Canada was re-done many times over again by the National Party to the Black and Coloured najority, biut with the aim of keeping their labour power available and unable to resist.

    So yes, there are many apartheid-like features in how the Zionists treat the Palestinians; there are also genocidal consequences that flowed from how white Australian governments treated the Aborigines, how Canadian governments and transport and resource monopolies treated the First Nations. The National Party wasn’t picky: there was gold and diamonds to be plundered in them thar hills. But the specific aim in Palestine of the Zionist program was to GENOCIDE the Palestinians from the get-go and that remains the aim to this day and this hour.

  6. bozh said on March 2nd, 2010 at 8:53am #

    The fact is ‘jews’ have no state of their own nor an israel. These appear as bad omens for all shemites with mosheic cult.
    The fact that white ‘jews’ look dwn on all s[h]emites; i.e.,descendants of shem, according to genesis, further bodes unwell for them.

    I do not know how many white ‘jews’ speak or want to speak hebrew? I also don’t know how many of them want to be known as hebrews? Hebrews were not white; in add’n, a vast number of them had been either slain or taken to captivity.
    Israelites probably entirely melted away in mesopotamia, caucasus, iran. Judeans were also slain or fled for life to arab lands; mostly, because they spoke a shemitic language; which included arameic.
    Arameans wer arabs who settled canaan ca 4k yrs ago. At that time, many canaanites were leaving canaan for assyria. Canaanites were leaving their habitat even earlier, ca 4.8k yrs ago and settling among sumerians and akkadians and eventually shemitizing all mesopotamians.

    It was not at all the land of milk and honey as depicted by mad priests. A god cld have given hebrews that region only as punishment.
    The mad priests just wanted to have their dominance over the serfs. And having nowhere to settle, the priests chose for them a wrecth of a land; too small; sans lakes, rivers, minerals, forest, games, etc.
    So, there is not much prospect for these near-total dependencies on white ‘jews’ and world plutos. When will the axe fall? tnx

  7. brianct said on March 2nd, 2010 at 11:49pm #

    israeli apartheid?

    just try tp ask for citizenship of the israeli nation…there isnt one,.just the jewish nation…THATS apartheid!

  8. kalidas said on March 3rd, 2010 at 10:05am #

    israeli apartheid?

    How about beyond apartheid.. (ponerology)

    “There is no such thing as a Palestinian people… It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn’t exist.”
    — Golda Meir

    “This country exists as the fulfillment of a promise made by God Himself. It would be ridiculous to ask it to account for its legitimacy.”
    — Golda Meir

    And of course, spoken like a true psychopath, last but not least..

    “Israel may have the right to put others on trial, but certainly no one has the right to put the Jewish people and the State of Israel on trial.”
    –Ariel Sharon

  9. deceschi said on March 3rd, 2010 at 2:49pm #

    Israeli apartheid?

    Little ponerology of Palestinian “anti-apartheid”:

    “Since we cannot defeat Israel in war; we do this in stages. We take any and every territory that we can of Palestine, and establish sovereignty there, and we use it as a springboard to take more. When the time comes, we can get the Arab nations to join us for the final blow against Israel.” – Yasser Arafat, Sept. 14, 1993, Jordan TV.

    The Oslo accords are comparable to “when the Prophet Mohammed made the Khudaibiya agreement…we must learn from his steps…We respect agreements the way that the Prophet Mohammed respected the agreements which he signed.”
    Yasser Arafat – Palestinian ‘President’, Egyptian Orbit TV, April 18, 1998

    “We may lose or win [tactically] but our eyes will continue to aspire to the strategic goal, namely, to Palestine from the river (i.e. Jordan) to the sea (i.e. the Mediterranean). Whatever we get now cannot make us forget this supreme truth.
    – Faisal Husseini – PA Minister of Jerusalem Affairs
    Al-Safir (Lebanon), March 21, 2001

    “There is not a single stone in Palestine that proves the [historical] Jewish existence [in the land].” Sheikh Ikrama Sabri – PA-appointed Mufti of Jerusalem

    “We won’t allow any Wailing Walls on our blessed land”- Ismail Haniyeh about the destruction of the synagogues in Gaza after Israel’s pull-out.

    “ Israel can define itself however it sees fit; and if it wishes to call itself a Jewish state, so be it. But the Palestinians will never acknowledge Israel ‘s Jewish identity….” – Salam Fayyad Palestinian Prime Minister, from an interview with satellite station al-Arabiya.

  10. Marx said on March 3rd, 2010 at 7:34pm #

    As Rhoda Kadalie and Julia Bertelsmann, two black South African women whose families were active in the anti-apartheid movement, wrote:

    Israel is not an apartheid state … Arab citizens of Israel can vote and serve in the Knesset; black South Africans could not vote until 1994. There are no laws in Israel that discriminate against Arab citizens or separate them from Jews. …South Africa had a job reservation policy for white people; Israel has adopted pro-Arab affirmative action measures in some sectors. Israeli schools, universities and hospitals make no distinction between Jews and Arabs. An Arab citizen who brings a case before an Israeli court will have that case decided on the basis of merit, not ethnicity. This was never the case for blacks under apartheid.”

    Kadalie and Bertelsmann are critical of Israel’s policies in the occupied territories, but add:

    “Racism and discrimination do not form the rationale for Israel’s policies and actions … In the West Bank, measures such as the ugly security barrier have been used to prevent suicide bombings and attacks on civilians, not to enforce any racist ideology. Without the ongoing conflict and the tendency of Palestinian leaders to resort to violence, these would not exist.”

  11. Kim Petersen said on March 3rd, 2010 at 7:57pm #


    What an inane comment. Who are Kadalie and Bertelsmann? And how is it that two White people know better than Black people, such as Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, who suffered first hand under apartheid? Tutu and Mandela are unequivocal that Israel is apartheid. Nevertheless, it is worse because it is creeping genocide.

    Do you think that merely because you quote two people from the oppressing class that their words invalidate the words of the oppressed?

  12. Marx said on March 3rd, 2010 at 8:40pm #

    Apparently reading is not your strength. Both Kadalie and Bertelsmann are described as two black South African women.

  13. mary said on March 3rd, 2010 at 11:00pm #

    This Kadalie and Bertelsmann duo appear to shill for Israhell.

    They have certainly been taken to the heart of Z Word.

    Ha! Z Word is an editorially independent creation of the American Jewish Committee (AJC).

    Founded in 1906, AJC is the USA’s oldest human relations organization, with over 175,000 members and supporters.


  14. mary said on March 3rd, 2010 at 11:07pm #

    And Dershowitz approves too. Enough said.

  15. Don Hawkins said on March 4th, 2010 at 3:53am #

    I think it’s starting to happen.

  16. Kim Petersen said on March 4th, 2010 at 10:59am #


    Apparently viewing is not your strength. See: