Former Israeli Amb to Obama on his visit: ‘You cannot come to an area that exhibits signs of apartheid and ignore them’

Israel/Palestine
on 35 Comments

In the wake of recently resurfaced comments allegedly made by Chuck Hagel during a 2010 speech at Rutgers University regarding the risk Israel runs of “becoming an apartheid state if it didn’t allow the Palestinians to form a state,” The Times of Israel has reported even more damning statements made by a former Israeli official.

Alon Liel, a former Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General and ex-Ambassador to South Africa, said on February 20, “In the situation that exists today, until a Palestinian state is created, we are actually one state. This joint state — in the hope that the status quo is temporary — is an apartheid state.”

Liel, speaking at Jerusalem conference dedicated to discussing this very topic, was forthright and unflinching in his assessment of Israel’s current policies and predicament regarding the continuing occupation of Palestine:

“As someone who knows the original apartheid well, and also knows the State of Israel quite well – I was born here, grew up here, served and fought for it for 30 years — someone like me knows that Zionism isn’t apartheid and the State of Israel that I grew up in wasn’t an apartheid state,” Liel emphasized.

“I’m here today because I came to the conclusion that the occupation of the West Bank as it exists today is a sort of Israeli apartheid,” said Liel. “The occupation became a hump on the back of Zionism; it has now become the hump of the State of Israel.”

There is a real danger of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank becoming an integral part of the state, he said. “When that happens, when the West Bank and [Israel in the pre-1967 lines] become one, and the Palestinian residents of the West Bank will not have citizenship — we’re apartheid,” he said

Liel also had a message for U.S. President Barack Obama, who is slated to visit to Israel in March:

“If you, President Obama, intend to come here for a courtesy visit — don’t come. Don’t come! We don’t need you here for a courtesy visit,” Liel said. “You cannot come to an area that exhibits signs of apartheid and ignore them. That would simply be an unethical visit. You yourself know full well thatIsrael is standing at the apartheid cliff. If you don’t deal with this topic during your visit, the responsibility will at the end of the process also lie with you.”

The event at which Liel was speaking was entitled, “Is there Israeli Apartheid?” He was joined by Peace Now board member Amiram Goldblum, journalist Danny Rubinstein, Ha’aretz reporter Gideon Levy, Hebrew University professors emeritus Frances Raday and Gideon Shimoni, Ben-Gurion University professor Oren Yiftachel, Bar-Ilan University political science lecturer and B’Tselem board member Menachem Klein, and human rights lawyer Michael Sfard.

After noting the “systematic discrimination” of Palestinians by Israel, Levy stated his agreement with Apartheid terminology. “What else could we call what’s happening here?,” he asked. He also pointed out that, while military occupation is not unique to Israel/Palestine, “I don’t know any other occupation where the occupier thinks he’s the victim, where he thinks he’s the only victim,” adding, “as long as Israel doesn’t pay a price for the occupation, nothing is going to change.”

Klein concentrated his comments on East Jerusalem, where he said Israel practices a form of “ethno-apartheid.”

Only professor Shimoni challenged the application of the term Apartheid with regard to Israeli policies which he said was “rather unfair and lacks intellectual honesty.” He argued that “from land theft to various draconic [sic] restrictions, as much they are worthy of condemnation — they are not apartheid,” which he called a “rhetorical weapon…to demonize and excoriate the State of Israel.”

The Times of Israel too claimed that the Apartheid analogy is “highly contentious” and “usually employed only by radical anti-Israel activists.” However, anyone familiar with the statements of myriad Israeli politicians and commentators (as compiled here) know this is a falsehood.

This is an excerpt of a longer post from Nima Shirazi’s website Wide Asleep in America.

35 Responses

  1. David Doppler
    February 22, 2013, 4:51 pm

    Great reporting Nima!

  2. Sin Nombre
    February 22, 2013, 5:10 pm

    “Only professor Shimoni challenged the application of the term Apartheid with regard to Israeli policies which he said was ‘rather unfair and lacks intellectual honesty.'”

    Rather funny for a group who so promiscuously applies the term “anti-semite” to a entire and indeed ever-expanding cosmos of different words and statements and actions to take such outrage over some perceived lack of existentially perfect terminological precision when it comes to terms applied to *them.*

    • American
      February 22, 2013, 6:25 pm

      Did you know that Chevrolet was anti semitic and made anti semite cars?..lol

      Chevrolet SS model criticized in Israel for evoking name of Nazi organization
      Fox News ‎- 6 hours ago
      GM’s latest halo car not welcomed in The Holy Land? … Albano tells FoxNews.com that “Chevrolet has no plans to export the SS to Israel.”

    • pabelmont
      February 22, 2013, 7:24 pm

      Sin Nombre: Wonderful point on the use of opprobrious language. Such a different standard for use of terms by those who are the users and by those who are the targets.

  3. James Canning
    February 22, 2013, 5:22 pm

    Netanyahu’s game plan is to annex unofficially the parts of the West Bank that do not have too many non-Jews. To conceal what may effectively be an Apartheid programme.

  4. edwardm
    February 22, 2013, 5:54 pm

    “rather unfair and lacks intellectual honesty.” “rhetorical weapon” Obama said once – “I tend to reject that characterization because it isn’t accurate”. A bit of rhetorical slight if hand – right? because it isn’t about skin color.
    link to en.wikipedia.org
    Aside from the fact that meaning and definition are two different things, look here-
    Origin:
    1945–50; < Afrikaans, equivalent to apart apart + -heid -hood
    link to dictionary.reference.com
    No reference to race. It simply means "apartness" or "segregation".
    So it's accurate, both in meaning (the way Israel treats the Palestinians) and by definition.
    But the scary thing for the Zionists about using the moniker is that apartheid is no more.

    • edwardm
      February 22, 2013, 6:11 pm

      PS I cant find a link to Obamas’ statement. Did I mishear? It was early on – 1st term.

  5. American
    February 22, 2013, 6:21 pm

    “”I don’t know any other occupation where the occupier thinks he’s the victim, where he thinks he’s the only victim,” adding, “as long as Israel doesn’t pay a price for the occupation, nothing is going to change.”

    Amen. But who will hold them to account? Will we some day hear some weaselly little apology or excuse like Clinton gave for the Rwanda genocide offered by a US President to whatever is left of the Palestines?

  6. Hostage
    February 22, 2013, 6:53 pm

    You yourself know full well that Israel is standing at the apartheid cliff. If you don’t deal with this topic during your visit, the responsibility will at the end of the process also lie with you.”

    The notion that there will only be apartheid, or responsibility for it, some day in the future is just an expression of popular conceit. Israel has built hundreds of Jewish-only communal settlements within its own borders, while pursuing a national planning policy of Bantustanization against the rural Bedouin and Palestinian population.

    The United States has officially been facilitating every constituent act of apartheid listed in Article II of the of the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid ever since the day the Anglo-American Palestine Mandate Convention, 44 Stat.2184; Treaty Series 728 was signed into law back in 1925.

    The ICJ established in the Namibia case that foreign occupation, denial of self-determination, and denial of nationality are the ultimate constituent acts of domination and apartheid.

    The United States has adopted its own policies, practices, and legislation aimed at denying Palestinians self-determination, statehood, their own nationality, and standing to pursue remedies in national and international courts, while entrenching a foreign military regime of occupation and colonialism. At the same time, the US has facilitated Israel’s acts of aggression against Palestinians wherever they live. The US has promoted their domination and oppression by Jewish and Zionist groups, based in the United States and elsewhere, who work in concert with the State of Israel in a joint criminal conspiracy.

  7. pabelmont
    February 22, 2013, 7:26 pm

    Yes, Obama must not be passive and nor must he be pro-occupation. BUT HE NEEDS HELP. The JVP petition should become a full-page NYT ad. Indeed, its text should beconme a NYT editorial. (Next year in Jerusalem?)

  8. Dagon
    February 22, 2013, 9:19 pm

    Well,BHO is going to receive israel’s highest award.I’m sure he earned this one.He will give his “where is your donkey”speech at the keneset.

  9. ritzl
    February 22, 2013, 9:23 pm

    Summits are generally only undertaken when the underlying issues have been moved forward to a milestone by advance staff. A milestone conducive to mutual agreements/pronouncements of “progress.” That’s the bizarre part (leaving aside all the other bizarre parts) of O’s trip to Israel. What has progressed? What’s going to be announced?

    Will Obama visit Gaza? Or even tour the WB, all of it? Go through Qalandia (to bring the media spotlight right up close to what actually goes on in the WB)? Is he giving the Israelis the glad-hand and planning some surprise announcement?

    In general terms, if this isn’t a summit/visit with real and mutually-affirmable “progress,” OR, some planned, surprise “spotlight” on Israeli (the “balanced” forces would of course insist that it’s also Palestinian) intransigence, wtf is Obama going there for? Status quo preserving PR? Is it possible that he’s that much of a tool?

    Is this visit tied to Hagel? Chess?

    Strange.

    Thanks for the analysis.

    • Annie Robbins
      February 22, 2013, 11:11 pm

      Is this visit tied to Hagel? Chess?

      it occurred to me it was some kind of trade off.

      • ritzl
        February 23, 2013, 12:42 am

        I don’t know Annie, but in the explicit, enforced, transactional nature of politics, Obama has to be getting something from this visit. Something that he deems to be in his particular interest. Whether his particular interest reflects America’s interests is an open question, FP-wise. Whether any of us will ever know what we got, or whether it was worth the transactional price, may likely never be known.

        If he’s not getting anything, he’s an irredeemable sell-out and/or fool (sad as it may be to have a fool as a President).

        So “Hagel/Chess” is an open question… Still, I hope he’s that effective.

      • James Canning
        February 23, 2013, 2:26 pm

        Linkage of some sort is likely.

    • sardelapasti
      February 22, 2013, 11:16 pm

      “Is it possible that he’s that much of a tool?”
      Is it possible that this is a question?

    • James Canning
      February 23, 2013, 1:11 pm

      Ritzl – – Obama likely will spend several hours in the occupied West Bank.

  10. Inanna
    February 22, 2013, 10:01 pm

    The land theft started in 1947. There’s nothing different to what is happening now in the West Bank to what happened within the Green Line prior to 1967. It’s disturbing to hear the subtext of Israeli innocence as if the bad stuff only started after 1967.

    • seafoid
      February 23, 2013, 1:16 pm

      Bizzabt.

      The whole Zionist project was rotten from the start.
      And look what they did to their so called holy city.

  11. Blownaway
    February 22, 2013, 10:52 pm

    Shhhh don’t let anyone in the UC educational system know. They think it’s anti Semitic to call the apartheid state of Israel …apartheid

  12. ToivoS
    February 23, 2013, 12:35 am

    I remain totally puzzled about what Obama hopes to accomplish in Israel. There are two likely outcomes.

    1) He says nothing other than repeating US support for Israel and all of the boilerplate platitudes that define US policy towards Israel. That will of course tell the rest of the world that the US is firmly backing the WB annexation movement inside Palestine.

    2) He insists that Israel negotiates in good faith with the Palestinians. That means a major confrontation with the Lobby. Not going to happen.

    I remain puzzled: What the F* does he think he can accomplish?

    • James Canning
      February 23, 2013, 1:55 pm

      ToivoS – – Is it nor fair to say the Israel lobby want to make it mandatory for all US presidents to visit Israel during their terms of office?

    • MRW
      February 23, 2013, 3:51 pm

      ToivoS,

      I have the same question.

      Apart from whether this is a state or a political visit, is this something where Obama takes some action as head of state once he’s outside of the country and away from congressional pressure? As Head of State, he has powers/rights/responsibility in our system that the government does not, even though you could never tell that from our Congress, which spends more legislative time ruling about foreign issues than it does correcting domestic ills.

  13. W.Jones
    February 23, 2013, 1:23 am

    Off the Apartheid cliff? Whose going to stop it? OK, the car is at the bottom of the canyon. Who will care when the crazy driver of the car does everything in his power to stay down there and the cops are on his side? OK, there’s a Pal. kid in the car, but the cops are on driver’s “side” as well as the camera crew, and the freier Xian allies and the corporation that used eminent domain to confiscate the land.

    • Kathleen
      February 23, 2013, 2:59 pm

      Israel has all ready gone off the apartheid cliff. ONE STATE ONE PERSON ONE VOTE.

  14. dbroncos
    February 23, 2013, 1:26 am

    “You cannot come to an area that exhibits signs of apartheid and ignore them. That would simply be an unethical visit. You yourself know full well that Israel is standing at the apartheid cliff. If you don’t deal with this topic during your visit, the responsibility will at the end of the process also lie with you.”

    Brilliant!

    Obama is a living symbol of triumph over oppression. Yet he seems perfectly at ease with Israeli fascism and the gulf between his enthusiasm for the “war on terror” and his peace prize trophy.

  15. seafoid
    February 23, 2013, 4:35 am

    “from land theft to various draconic [sic] restrictions , as much they are worthy of condemnation — they are not apartheid,” which he called a “rhetorical weapon… to demonize and excoriate the State of Israel.”

    Yeah. These are Jews in Erez Israel and they do whatever the hell they want and don’t go calling it apartheid- it’s just er systematic dispossession and er institutional nihilism.

    “The Times of Israel too claimed that the Apartheid analogy is “highly contentious” and “usually employed only by radical

    Israel- the only country in the OECD where “left” is synonymous with “sedition”.
    “Radical” in Israel is equivalent to the term “corporate accountant” everywhere else.

    • James Canning
      February 23, 2013, 1:16 pm

      “Apartheid” is sensitive terminology for Democratic politicians in the US, who often depend upon the “black” vote for electoral success.

    • piotr
      February 23, 2013, 3:23 pm

      Right wing in many countries, including USA, uses “left” as synonymous with “sedition”.

      The fine distinction between apartheid and “various draconic restrictions” reminds me spirited defense of USA against accusation of torture while according to our officials we only engaged in “inhumane and degrading treatment”. Which was false but as a line of defense, quite priceless.

      • seafoid
        February 23, 2013, 5:59 pm

        There is no Zionist left in Israel. There is no Jewish party that values everyone equally regardless of religion or profession. No party that stands up for the poor. Or the oppressed. They are all guardians of Jewish privilege. Even Meretz.

    • Bumblebye
      February 23, 2013, 4:15 pm

      Hey, seafoid, this is good news (just up a couple hours ago):
      link to guardian.co.uk

      “Students at Oxford University will this week vote on a controversial motion to boycott Israel, after a tumultuous week that has seen hate mail, accusations of racism and a furious exit from a debate by MP George Galloway .

      The Oxford University Students’ Union (OUSU) meets on Wednesday to decide finally on a motion backing the boycott of Israel, its companies and institutions. The motion, which would be tabled at the National Union of Students conference in Sheffield in April, calls on the student body to join the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, in protest at Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and its hindrance of attempts to create a Palestinian state.

      Both the proposer and the seconder of the motion have received threatening emails: the seconder has withdrawn his support and the proposer has requested that her name not be publicised.”

      Typical zio-intimidation of proposer & seconder.

  16. Ecru
    February 23, 2013, 1:00 pm

    “You cannot come to an area that exhibits signs of apartheid and ignore them…”

    I think Mr Liel is underestimating President Obama.

  17. Kathleen
    February 23, 2013, 2:57 pm

    wow “He also pointed out that, while military occupation is not unique to Israel/Palestine, “I don’t know any other occupation where the occupier thinks he’s the victim, where he thinks he’s the only victim,” adding, “as long as Israel doesn’t pay a price for the occupation, nothing is going to change.”

  18. Les
    February 23, 2013, 6:56 pm

    The essence of Zionism is that the Jews are a nation, which is different from both being a race or a religion

    link to commondreams.org

  19. James Canning
    February 24, 2013, 7:43 pm

    But being an “Israeli” of course does not mean a person is a “Jew”.

Leave a Reply