MSM stirs– Wilkerson tells Olbermann Israel can’t be ‘democratic and Jewish’

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Last night Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson gently set a naive Keith Olbermann partly straight. Olbermann noticed (at 2:45 or so) that a 2007 cable in the WikiLeaks communiques gives “a reason other than the obvious for Israel’s opposition to Iranian nukes”: that they pose a ‘demographic” threat to “Israel’s long-term survival as a Jewish and democratic state.” Olbermann mentioned that “surveys find that one-third of Israelis would leave [Israel if Iran had the bomb] and Palestinian Israelis already make up twenty percent,” so if Palestinians “become a majority, Israel would have to figure out how it could remain both Jewish and democratic at the same time.” 

Wilkerson, formerly Colin Powell’s chief of staff, countered:

Israel’s problem is more profound, I think, than you just stated it.  The profoundness of it is that Israel will find it increasingly difficult to be democratic and Jewish, even with the current demographic situation–no outside [Iranian] forces impacting.  Israel will be an apartheid state probably within a couple of decades if it tries to maintain the current policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians’ growing population.  And that’s not very good for the future. South Africa proved that.

Wilkerson didn’t discuss Israeli-government apartheid now–suffered by Palestinian citizens of Israel, as well as the stateless people in the illegally Occupied Territories.   Instead, Wilkerson affirms that “Israel’s got a problem….That’s why we need a two-state solution….two states that are viable, economically, politically, security-wise.”

Perhaps Wilkerson wants to ease Olbermann and his “Countdown” audience into the full facts. Wilkerson tells Keith that “Anyone who’s studied the situation–and I will admit that that’s few” knows about Israel’s “demographic” “problem.”  Olbermann himself started by proving his ignorance that Iran is Persian rather than “Arab”– announcing that “the biggest cheerleaders for war with Iran, are–[pause]–other Arab leaders.”  (KO corrected himself later, substituting “Middle Eastern” for “Arab.”)

Wilkerson, to his credit, pointed out–as one who’s composed and read many such cables–that “the information being reported back to Washington isn’t necessarily the truth,” but is “designed to obfuscate, and to lie, and to twist, and to turn–anything but the complete truth….and if they are the truth as seen by the observers, the observers are often fooled.”

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{ 20 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Citizen says:

    So Wilkerson is allowed to present to the (generally leftist) MSNBC audience that even without Iran or any other outside interference, the demographics reveal that Israel will be a fully de facto apartheid state in ten or fifteen years. He tells that audience that therefore a two-state solution is the only solution if Israel wants to remain “a Jewish and democratic” state. Will Olbermann follow up on this public interview? Will he apply its logic to the current peace process? Demand that Obama do more than shower Israel with new free jets, military security insurance, and diplomatic cover at the UN? For 90 days of settlement pause excepting Jerusalem?

    • Kathleen says:

      Olbermann, Maddow, I think Ed, maybe Matthews Pep’s (progressives except for Palestine) Dylan Ratigan the only person on MSNBC who has stepped out of this line. Maddow goes as far as repeating the unsubstantiated claims about Iran. Have heard her repeat the Israeli and Israeli lobbies claims many times

  2. David Samel says:

    I’m not sure what event Wilkerson is waiting for when he says things like “Israel will find it increasingly difficult to be democratic and Jewish” and “Israel will be an apartheid state probably within a couple of decades.” The inherent inconsistency between being “Jewish and democratic” has always been as apparent as it would be if a state were self-described as “white and democratic.” As the Palestinian population share increases, both within the Israeli citizenry and in the entire region, the injustice of the discrimination might become more stark, but it already is plainly apparent. Perhaps Phil is right, and Wilkerson is easing people into the truth, or perhaps he feels more comfortable taking the line many others have taken before him.

    On the other hand, it is very nice to see Wilkerson being as forthright as he is on a widely watched program. Maybe KO learned a little something.

    • sherbrsi says:

      Wilkerson is not alone in asserting that an apartheid Israel is a forthcoming, rather than a current, historic and embedded feature of Israeli government. Others making the same argument seem to be basing their understanding of apartheid narrowly and in purely demographic terms, namely believing that there will be apartheid should a minority Israel rule over a majority Palestine. Olmert has alluded to the same reality, which is why if “liberal” Zionist are taking a stand against anything, it is the settlements which threaten to break Israel’s mythical democracy apart.

      Wilkerson was probably just playing it safe, seeing as how he had the gumption to bring up this very issue on mainstream media, it couldn’t have escaped him that the defining feature of South African apartheid was not its majority or minority rule, but the racism intact in its creation of a white privileged class ruling over oppressed and dispossessed black natives.

      Interestingly enough, by both measures Israel will find comparisons to apartheid inevitable and inescapable as long as the status quo is prolonged.

      • Sumud says:

        David, sherbrsi & Susie Kneedler ~ I did a little digging to see what might be Wilkerson’s “real” opinion on Israel and apartheid. He’s appeared on Scott Horton’s Anti-War Radio three times now and spoke about Palestine/Israel in March 2009 (I/P discussion starting at 24:50):

        link to

        In fact, what he had to say then about Israel and apartheid is pretty much what he said on Olberman; that Israel will be an apartheid regime in the future. Wilkerson seems to think the designation “apartheid” is only appropriate if Israel transitions to a single state, which would mean I suppose attempting to annex all the West Bank, which I can’t ever see happening. [Wilkerson seems fairly forthright, in the same interview he says he's testify against Cheney in a war crimes trial, so I presume what he says in interviews in his "real" opinion]

        After 43 years of occupation, and with no end in sight – I think one state exists now by de facto.

        • Kathleen says:

          And as Mearsheimer has said the greater Israel de facto solution will expose the all ready apartheid situation that exist more clearly.

          But as long as Israel can string out pretend negotiations while confiscating more Palestinian land , Nothing has changed

        • Chu says:

          Wilkerson can be seen in The Israel Lobby also. And, the Prince of Darkness also makes his presence in the video. And, Tony Judt!

    • Kathleen says:

      “The inherent inconsistency between being “Jewish and democratic” has always been as apparent as it would be if a state were self-described as “white and democratic.”


  3. Les says:

    On today’s Democracy Now, Chomsky pointed out that calls to bomb Iran come from Arab dictators, who are widely hated by their subjects, subjects who actually consider Israel and the US to be the problem and who believe it would be a good thing for Middle East peace for Iran to have a bomb.

  4. Kathleen says:

    “Perhaps Wilkerson wants to ease Olbermann and his “Countdown” audience into the full facts. Wilkerson tells Keith that “Anyone who’s studied the situation–and I will admit that that’s few” knows about Israel’s “demographic” “problem.”

    Think you hit this nail on the head. For Wilkerson to even use the term “apartheid” and connect it to Israel is a tiny break through on Olbermann’s.

    Olbermann was far too chicken shit to even whisper about the Goldstone Report or the UN report about the executions on the Mavi Marmara. Not a whisper.

    Wilkerson seems fed up with Israel. So are millions of other Americans

  5. chet says:

    Is the Wilkerson interview the thin edge of the wedge re I/P matters on MSNBC or is it a momentary blip brought on by the Wikileaks contoversy?

    As the “progressives” at MSNBC virtually ignored commenting on the 2006 incursion in Lebanon, Cast Lead and the flotilla controversy, one can only hope that this signals a change in MSNBC policy.

    As to Olberman – was he really so uniformed and confused as to I/P matters or was he just playing dumb to seemingly allow Wilkerson to “educate” him?

    • Kathleen says:

      Dylan Ratigan the only one who has really stepped out of line. Rachel repeats the Israeli lobbies lines about Iran, Olbermann had Ambassador Peck on after the execution on the Mavi Marmara, has never touched the story since. Chris Matthews does not seem willing to dip his toes in at all. He showed the same Israeli released clip of the Israeli soldiers getting on the Mavi Maramara and being attacked 9 times in seven minutes. Ed barely mentions it.

      None of them even whispered about the Goldstone Report. Not even a whisper. Pathetic. Not a whisper about the Un report about the executions on the Mavi Marmara. Shhhh

      Dylan Ratigan went out on a limb with Glenn Greenwald here. Really worth the watch. I have been wondering if Dylan got slapped down for going where no other MSNBCer had gone towards the truth on these issues
      link to

      • Sumud says:

        MSNBC hosted an excellent exchange between Ed Koch and Jermey Scahill after the killings on the Free Gaza Flotilla:

      • chet says:


        I just had the opportunity to see yr linked Dylan Ratigan video – an amazing discussion about warmongering re Iran and the US hypocrisy re Israeli nuclear weapons.

        Imagine if this kind of discussion found its way into the more mainstream media – the Sunday morning shows, for example.

  6. Kathleen says:

    Of course Jon Stewart jumps on the Wikilinks dump was all about Arab countries telling the U.S. to bomb bomb Iran. Stewart has often repeated the unsubstantiated claims about Iran while never ever going after Israel or Netanyahu. Nope nope nope
    link to

  7. MHughes976 says:

    The very phrase ‘demographic problem’ is misleading in that it makes you think of something developing, like an ageing population who will need too much medicine, rather than something already here.
    Very many people seem to have fallen for the idea that the claim to be democratic fails only when a majority is disfranchised, as if there was much, much less difficulty with disfranchising (only!) a quarter or a tenth of those subject to your power.
    I suppose that a state could be democratic and overwhelmingly white as a matter of fact, like the UK when I was born into it. The problem arises if it sets itself to maintain racial predominance as a matter of principle by disfranchising the existing members of the Wrong Sort.

  8. lysias says:

    Wilkerson is a frequent guest on RT television.

  9. MRW says:

    C’mon. If you think Olbermann did not know what Wilkerson was going to say, that’s naïve. I did not see the show as it happened. I watched a clip on Pulse Media earlier. It was entirely appropriate that Olbermann have a former State dept official on about the Wikileaks issue.

    Their conversation was entirely rehearsed. What was unusual was that Wilkerson put himself on the line. It’s one thing to be on a blog radio show, but this was cable, and he was obviously enjoying breaking a taboo with his coded language.