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It’s apartheid, says Jeffrey Goldberg

Israel/Palestine
on 46 Comments

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.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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46 Responses

  1. lysias
    August 24, 2012, 10:41 am

    Will it shut down conversation completely, or will it shock people into rethinking their position?

    If it’s just a few people using the word, I suppose it’s easy to ignore them. But the more people use the word, the harder it is to do that.

    • Krauss
      August 24, 2012, 11:16 am

      Goldberg uses the word in strategic terms, as a way to relate and then to shut down. He uses the term in the most meaningless way possible, essentially saying the Occupation is Apartheid. Well, duh.

      We know that. But ‘liberal’ Zionists have called the settlers facists for years, or worse.
      Yet it hasn’t stopped them supporting the Occupation fullstop, just like Goldberg. It’s just a way to relate and distract.

      Question: If Great Britain never conqured a quarter of the world and settled for Northern Ireland and then subjugated the people of Northern Ireland to the same thing that Israel does to the Palestinians, taking their water, building Apartheid walls, letting religious Evangalical Christians(in this hypothetical scenario) run wild and kill innocent Irish.

      Now imagine that under this brutal Occupation, Great Britain would have introduced full equality much earlier, given women the right to vote 100 years earlier, stopped discrimination of gays and so on.

      Would this have made it enlightened? Since whatever happened within the borders of GB, it’s nonetheless a fact of life that they would control a large part of another people’s land, settle it, and brutalize the population, as well as beating them up, killing them randomly etc.

      Would that make GB enlightened? Of course not. It would make it an Apartheid country, no matter what happens within GB as it stretches it’s tentacles outside it’s natural boundaries.

      The same is true with Israel, yet Goldberg defends the country doing the Apartheid, he tries to surgically cut it off from it’s responsibility, and pretend that what’s happening in the West Bank is somehow a diluted form of Zionism, an extremist offshoot.

      Even if Ben-Gurion stated to his son in a letter in the 1930s that ‘we will take their land’ and even admitting that ‘if I were an Arab, I would resist’.

      Or the fact that Labor increased the settlements the most, that Rabin never wanted a full state but promised only disconfigured bantustans. He even said clearly in his last speech that he sought something for the Palestinians “that was less than a state”.

      But wait, it gets worse. Goldberg, when J Street’s Daniel Levy wrote a scatching piece on the Occupation and gave tepid support to Beinart’s proposal to boycott only the West Bank settlement products what did this great liberal do?
      Well Goldberg drew an analogue to the Holocuast.

      Yes, he went there.

      So spare us this crap about Goldberg’s bravery Phil. Whenever someone actually wants to do something he waves the Holocaust card. He tries to pretend the Occupation isn’t under the jurisdiction of Israel; he refuses to call Israel what it is, and instead branding only the consequence of it’s action ‘Apartheid’, ignoring the root cause.

      He does all this not because he cares about justice, but because he cares about influence. He needs to influence the left, that’s his role. And if the left moves towards a truly liberal position, he can’t get away with as much and needs to drop the rhetorical concession once in a while.

      Yet as I’ve shown above, he refuses to call Israel what it is and uses the Holocaust card to protect the settlers from boycott.

      Phil, ever heard of ‘actions speak louder than words’?
      Why you keep getting hoodwinked time after time is beyond me, but it’s embarrasing to watch.

      Addendum:

      Note that he even tries to minimize Apartheid. Claims the Israeli variant isn’t as ‘pervasive’. Bullshit and he knows it.
      You know it.

      Or just ask all the major anti-Apartheid activists, black or white, who have all said the same thing in unison: what happens in the West Bank is worse than Apartheid.

      So not only does he fall over himself to protect the settlers from boycott by invoking the Holocaust, he’s also an Apartheid-minimizer.

      Again, Phil, what are you doing? Even giving a scintilla of credibility to this man. He isn’t hard to follow or to expose if one actually take the time.

      • Mooser
        August 24, 2012, 1:46 pm

        “Why you keep getting hoodwinked time after time is beyond me, but it’s embarrasing to watch.”

        Maybe it’s because he’s grateful for getting in and out of Israel in one piece. I’ve always wondered what he thinks Israelis, or indeed, Israel won’t do to him, and why. And what purpose it would serve if they did do it. Finally prove that Israel is unjust and cruel?

      • marc b.
        August 24, 2012, 4:07 pm

        Why you keep getting hoodwinked time after time is beyond me, but it’s embarrasing to watch.

        krauss, it’s not embarrassing when you cut to the heart of weiss’s program. this palestine apartheid thing-y is an existential threat to the jewish soul. he may not be able to save the whole squishy collective mass at once, but if he can resurrect just one jewish soul a day, he’s done his share.

      • Miura
        August 24, 2012, 4:43 pm

        Reminds me of something from the opening chapter of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States:

        One can lie outright about the past. Or one can omit facts which might lead to unacceptable conclusions. Morison does neither. He refuses to lie about Columbus. He does not omit the story of mass murder; indeed he describes it with the harshest word one can use: genocide.

        But he does something else–he mentions the truth quickly and goes on to other things more important to him. Outright lying or quiet omission takes the risk of discovery which, when made, might arouse the reader to rebel against the writer. To state the facts, however, and then to bury them in a mass of other information is to say to the reader with a certain infectious calm: yes, mass murder took place, but it’s not that important–it should weigh very little in our final judgments; it should affect very little what we do in the world.

  2. Woody Tanaka
    August 24, 2012, 10:51 am

    “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. ”

    Absolutely.

    • Hostage
      August 24, 2012, 10:05 pm

      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.

      Oh please! If you’re still peddling this line of crap, then you’re part of the problem. The UN Treaty Monitoring Body charged by the signatories with monitoring the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination has been pointing out that Israeli society as a whole raises continuing concerns under Article 3, on apartheid and illegal racial segregation. Israel’s laws, policies and practices are designed to prevent non-Jews from participating in the political, economic, and social life of the country on a non-discriminatory basis. http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=CERD/C/ISR/CO/14-16

      The claim that the legal system in the Occupied Territories is the source of concern belies the fact that it is based on the municipal laws that apply on the Israeli side of the Green Line. Listen to the UN Fact Finding Mission report on that particular point:

      Despite prohibitions under international humanitarian law (IHL), Israel has applied its domestic laws throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 1967. . . . .[T]he application of Israeli domestic laws has resulted in institutionalized discrimination against Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory to the benefit of Jewish settlers, both Israeli citizens and others. Exclusive benefits reserved for Jews derive from the two-tiered civil status under Israel’s domestic legal regime based on a “Jewish nationality,” which entitles “persons of Jewish race or descendency” to superior rights and privileges, particularly in land use, housing, development, immigration and access to natural resources, as affirmed in key legislation. Administrative procedures qualify indigenous inhabitants of the Occupied Palestinian Territory as “alien persons” and, thus, prohibited from building on, or renting, large portions of land designated by the Government of Israel as “State land” (para 206). . . . . From the facts available to it, the Mission believes that in the movement and access policy there has been a violation of the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of race or national origin (para 1548).

      * http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/12session/A-HRC-12-48.pdf

      • Mooser
        August 27, 2012, 1:55 am

        Thanks, Hostage.

  3. eGuard
    August 24, 2012, 10:57 am

    And Goldberg is very careful to limit his Apartheid label to the West Bank.

    • eljay
      August 24, 2012, 11:05 am

      Goldberg advocates for Israel as a supremacist “Jewish State”. His apologetics are not surprising.

    • Kathleen
      August 24, 2012, 11:31 am

      That is what Former President Jimmy Carter says. And let’s get real..Goldberg part of the folks jumping on better late than never bandwagon. Useful for him

    • Woody Tanaka
      August 24, 2012, 11:36 am

      I don’t think that that decision is indefensible. While there is no doubt that israel-inside-the-green-line is a bigoted, Judeo-supremacist society which was clearly an Apartheid state for the first couple of decades after the start of the Nakba, it would appear to me somewhere in a de-facto “Jim Crow-lite” situation. Really bad. Disgusting and horrible.

      • Hostage
        August 24, 2012, 10:14 pm

        it would appear to me somewhere in a de-facto “Jim Crow-lite” situation.

        It’s a mistaken view to think that the Jim Crow South didn’t satisfy the de jure definition contained in Article II of the international convention on the suppression of the crime of apartheid.
        http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/instree/apartheid-supp.html

        That’s the main reason the US refused to become a state party or recognize aggravated forms of government-sanctioned racial segregation as a crime against humanity. Talk about compensation for blacks and native Americans is what really keeps the US and other colonial powers away from the UN Durbin Conferences. It’s not really about their undying respect for Zionism or the State of Israel.

      • ColinWright
        August 25, 2012, 1:48 am

        Woody says: “While there is no doubt that israel-inside-the-green-line is a bigoted, Judeo-supremacist society which was clearly an Apartheid state for the first couple of decades after the start of the Nakba, it would appear to me somewhere in a de-facto “Jim Crow-lite” situation. “

        A society in which you can be killed with no or negligible consequences for your killer, where you are barred as a matter of course from living in most of the homes in the country, where you are not permitted to serve in the armed forces — and hence cannot bear arms and then subsequently have access to political power — where you cannot recover property that you can prove once belonged to your family, where people get upset if you are permitted to move within a kilometer of them, where mobs chase you through the streets and beat you for who you are, and where it is forbidden to even teach what happened to your people is NOT ‘Jim-Crow Lite.’

        It is arguably no worse than the Jim Crow South at its most extreme. It is certainly not better. It is also happening now, not in 1910.

      • ColinWright
        August 25, 2012, 1:57 am

        More on ‘Jim Crow-Lite.’

        I was going to point out that there were no Palestinians on Israel’s Olympic Team — and that got me to wondering. When did we start having Black athletes on our Olympic teams?

        1908 — right at the peak of Jim Crow.

        http://www.afro.com/sections/sports/story.htm?storyid=75767

        So whatever term you want to use for the systemic racism that prevails in Israel, ‘Jim Crow Lite’ would appear to be understating it. I think what goes on in Israel now is demonstrably the same or worse than Jim Crow was then.

        …and the key words there are ‘now’ and ‘then.’ It’s questionable to apply the moral standards of 2012 to 1910. It’s pretty reasonable to apply the moral standards of 2012 to 2012.

      • Mooser
        August 27, 2012, 2:01 am

        “It is arguably no worse than the Jim Crow South at its most extreme.”
        You’ve probably already read it, but this book might give you an idea of just what that “most extreme” was.

      • Woody Tanaka
        August 28, 2012, 9:05 am

        To follow up, in response to the great comments in response to mine: I guess what I’m saying is that there is a distinction between how the Palestinians are treated in the West Bank and Gaza and how they are within the green line. I think I should have left it at that, because I really didn’t explain myself properly otherwise, and should not have made the admittedly bad Jim Crow reference.

      • Woody Tanaka
        August 28, 2012, 9:05 am

        To follow up, in response to the great comments in response to mine: I guess what I’m saying is that there is a distinction between how the Palestinians are treated in the West Bank and Gaza and how they are within the green line. I think I should have left it at that, because I really didn’t explain myself properly otherwise, and should not have made the admittedly bad Jim Crow reference.

  4. seafoid
    August 24, 2012, 11:06 am

    What we really need is for some former attack dog of hasbara to come out and say that Israel is a mess and that the rot is systemic.

    • Mooser
      August 24, 2012, 1:04 pm

      “What we really need is for some former attack dog of hasbara to come out and say that Israel is a mess and that the rot is systemic.”

      Don’t do that! Every goddam un-reconstructed pre-civil rights American will breath a sigh of relief and say: ‘See, you can go home again! Quick, Google up those on-line Hebrew lessons’. So will corporations, the ones that haven’t already recognised the promised land when they see it.

  5. Shmuel
    August 24, 2012, 11:17 am

    So when can we expect Goldberg to endorse BDS (de-facto and officially temporary BDS, of course, and neither as elaborate nor as pervasive as the South African anti-apartheid divestment campaign)? If he finds the acronym too “highly-charged” he can call it BITS (Boycott Israel to Safety) or SIGN (Save Israel’s Good Name), although he probably did that already, 20 years ago, when he was working for the Jerusalem Post.

    • tree
      August 24, 2012, 12:46 pm

      Shmuel,

      LOL! I love it when you get all snarky.

      • Danaa
        August 24, 2012, 2:38 pm

        Me too. Shmuel’s snark is better than many a bulldog’s bite. Trademark both as innovative campaign slogans quick, Shmuel!

      • Shmuel
        August 24, 2012, 4:27 pm

        Thanks, Danaa. I was thinking along the lines of “Love Israel to BITS” and “O Lord, give me a SIGN”, respectively. I’ll leave the paperwork to you :-)

      • Annie Robbins
        August 24, 2012, 2:41 pm

        SIGN (Save Israel’s Good Name)

        how we love our shmuel-snark, let us count the ways!

    • MRW
      August 24, 2012, 3:14 pm

      Or, BITS n’ PIECES (Palestine Is Extra Close for Easy Slaughter)

      • Shmuel
        August 24, 2012, 4:21 pm

        Or, BITS n’ PIECES (Palestine Is Extra Close for Easy Slaughter)

        Needless to say, your services will not be required at Friendly Acronyms Consulting Enterprises.

      • MRW
        August 28, 2012, 7:11 am

        Needless to say, your services will not be required

        Damn. And here I thought I passed the interview. FACEpalm that.

    • chinese box
      August 24, 2012, 7:21 pm

      I vote for BITS…

      You know, the sad part is that I can actually envision the Zionists showing up in the eleventh hour and acting like they invented BDS and making it all about themselves (and to “save Israel’s soul”, of course). But if that’s what it takes to get justice I’m not going to complain if it happens.

      • RoHa
        August 25, 2012, 12:01 am

        “But if that’s what it takes to get justice I’m not going to complain if it happens.”

        I will complain. But no-one will take any notice.

  6. Kathleen
    August 24, 2012, 11:32 am

    So great that you have moved to this position Phil. Sometimes people need to see the facts on the ground. Unable to believe UN reports etc International rulings that have come out for decades

    • Mooser
      August 24, 2012, 12:57 pm

      “Unable to believe UN reports etc International rulings that have come out for decades”

      Phil will tell them! Why, he could be the next Goldstone!

  7. Kathleen
    August 24, 2012, 11:59 am

    Not a whisper on the Diane Rehm show about the pay to play naked in Israel story. No surprise

    Not a whisper on the Diane Rehm international hour about ever expanding illegal settlements in Israel. Did talk about how Obama has essentially bent over on the illegal settlements.

    Rehm did a one hour show on Hezbollah recently. Long time since they have spent an hour on Israel’s ever expanding illegal settlements

    • Mooser
      August 24, 2012, 12:29 pm

      Kathleen, didn’t you read Winnica’s comments? Don’t you know that between 12:00 midnite and 5:00 am this morning (Israel time) Israel built no new illegal settlements? So what’s your problem?

  8. Annie Robbins
    August 24, 2012, 12:13 pm

    surprise surprise, whoda thunk?

  9. Mooser
    August 24, 2012, 12:22 pm

    “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.”

    Another words, you’ve found a clever way to minimise the situation, by using a word which describes a less dire situation than the one in Palestine and, of course drawing a nice red line at “non-violent”. I guess that’ll be your signal to scurry back home where you belong. Remember, “apartheid” was a way (in its proponents minds) of ensuring a stability in the country. Do you think stability, of any kind, is what Israel desires? It looks more like “elimination”.
    If Americans decide (or simply start blathering) that some kind of violent resolution is needed to stop Israel, or to deal with Israelis and their supporters in the US are you going to insist that Israel must be handled differently from every other issue, foreign and domestic in our lives? Why does Zionism and Israel rate that privilege? A privilege not deserved by any other issue; in my entire life, I have never heard an issue discussed, right down to fashion choices, that didn’t rate an “I’d like to kill those…” or other violent threats. And why are you insisting we must confine ourselves to techniques you know damn well are ineffective?
    Well, there’s “12 gates to the city, Hallelujah” I’m glad you’re guarding yours.

    • Mooser
      August 24, 2012, 12:27 pm

      On the other hand, after reading so many of your posts, I guess I shouldn’t discount the possibility that you could talk Israel to a stand-still, if not defeat.

  10. Mooser
    August 24, 2012, 1:09 pm

    Thinking back about 230 years ago, remember how America was shocked into action when writers dropped all the pretty little euphemisms and started calling it “slavery”?

    • Elisabeth
      August 24, 2012, 2:38 pm

      They did?!
      (I still call it the Peculiar Institution.)

      • Mooser
        August 24, 2012, 4:04 pm

        “They did?!”

        Well, you tell me.

  11. Patrick
    August 24, 2012, 2:00 pm

    “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.”

    Phil,
    Some like Jimmy Carter maintain this label applies only to the Occupied Territories. Would you say it’s apartheid also in Israel proper? I’ve tended to accept Carter’s point of view and to regard the situation in Israel as closer to the Deep South during the Jim Crow era. I don’t, however, have a firm opinion on this and was wondering about your view. – Patrick

  12. evets
    August 24, 2012, 2:31 pm

    Goldberg should make it easier on everyone and publish a lexicon of acceptable usage for I/P discussion purposes. He could update it regularly as conditions change, include a section on unacceptable terms, and indicate the correct context for use of the many iffy or borderline phrases. It’s a tricky business, but he certainly seems up to the task. I especially look forward to a section on acronyms where Shmuel could render some valuable help.

    • Mooser
      August 24, 2012, 4:05 pm

      “Goldberg should make it easier on everyone and publish a lexicon of acceptable usage for I/P discussion purposes.”

      You trying to put Phil out of a job?

  13. dimadok
    August 24, 2012, 8:36 pm

    What a sad joke.
    After more than 100,000 Palestinians have visited Israel ( mainly Tel Aviv beaches) during the last Ramadan- here the same thing. Apartheid my a…
    http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/up-to-300-000-palestinians-visit-israel-for-ramadan.premium-1.459810
    News flash for the concerned parties here- you are a frindge of the frindge. Just try to stay there and not cause any troubles.

    • Dan Crowther
      August 24, 2012, 10:54 pm

      dimster you are right, you’re the mainstream

    • straightline
      August 25, 2012, 3:22 am

      And let the Palestinians from the West Bank just try and stay in Israel after visiting the beaches – right Dimadok? But the settlers can stay in the West Bank.

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