One of my resolutions after my last trip to Israel and Palestine was that I would not prevaricate on the use of the word apartheid. There is apartheid in Palestine, plain and simple. I will defend the use of this term anywhere and any time and think it is important to do so as a journalist and someone bearing witness (by the way, the US Campaign to End the Occupation came to this realization years ago). Denying this reality — that it’s apartheid — is simply an effort to shield Americans from the truth, to try to be polite to (powerful) Zionists, and actually to foster a violent resolution of matters in Palestine, because you are denying a reality that Americans have a right to act upon NOW with non-violent means. I confess that The Nation’s bold stroke, Stephen Robert’s courageous piece, calling it “Apartheid on Steroids” last year, supplied me courage I lacked.
Well Jeffrey Goldberg now says that he’s been calling it apartheid for years. And that he said as much 20 years ago at the Jerusalem Post. Yes Goldberg is problematic, and you will see his own prevarication, about not offending “careful” readers. But let’s hail Goldberg for his honesty.
Here’s something I wrote several years ago, part of a long piece on the settlers for The New Yorker (titled, by the way, “Among the Settlers: Will They Destroy Israel?”:
“…A de-facto apartheid already exists in the West Bank. Inside the borders of Israel proper, Arabs and Jews are judged by the same set of laws in the same courtrooms; across the Green Line, Jews live under Israeli civil law as well, but their Arab neighbors–people who live, in some cases, just yards away–fall under a different, and substantially undemocratic, set of laws, administered by the Israeli Army. The system is neither as elaborate nor as pervasive as South African apartheid, and it is, officially, temporary. It is nevertheless a form of apartheid, because two different ethnic groups living in the same territory are judged by two separate sets of laws.”
Careful readers know that I’ve tried to stop using the word “apartheid” to describe any aspect of the conflict, in good part because it so highly-charged a word that it shuts down conversation completely. But the description of a two-tiered justice system on the West Bank is still relevant today, and the threat to Israel’s democracy, and good name, posed by settlement ideology is more real than ever. I realized this a long time ago — twenty years or more, back to the time when I was writing a column for The Jerusalem Post, and before.
Myself I am sick of this “careful” prevarication. Careful means self-deceiving casuistry. Careful means being polite to powerful people. Let’s call this thing exactly what it is, that is the journalist’s duty.