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

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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.

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