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Siegman: the world will stop the ‘relegation of Palestinians to apartheid existence’

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Henry Siegman is angry. He’s still attached to the idea of a "democratic Jewish" state but he blames the legitimacy problem on Israel; and he understands the reality on the ground. From overseas, of course; the Financial Times:

The disappearance of the two-state solution is triggering a third transformation, which is turning Israel from a democracy into an apartheid state. The democracy Israel provides for its (mostly) Jewish citizens cannot hide its changed character. A democracy reserved for privileged citizens while all others are denied individual and national rights and kept behind checkpoints, barbed wire fences and separation walls manned by Israel’s military, is not democracy.

At first, the collapse of the assumptions on which hopes for a fair and just resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict rested triggered much despair. But that despair has begun to turn to anger, and options for resolving the conflict, previously dismissed by the international community as unrealistic, are being looked at anew. [one state solution]That anger is also spawning a new global challenge to Israel’s legitimacy.

Anti-Semitic opponents of Israel will undoubtedly celebrate this emerging challenge to Israel’s incipient apartheid regime. But Israel will have only its own misguided policies to blame for its empowerment of this racist fringe. Such participation will no more detract from the inherent legitimacy of that challenge than Israel’s collaboration (on the development of atomic nuclear weapons) with a racist South African regime in the 1970s and 1980s provided democratic sanction for South Africa’s apartheid.

Mr Netanyahu’s government has hardly been indifferent to the seriousness of this challenge. A study by one of Israel’s leading policy institutes warning of this looming global threat to the country’s legitimacy was taken up by Israel’s cabinet, and described by its members as constituting as grave a danger to the country’s existence as the nuclear threat from Iran. Unfortunately – if predictably – the government’s response has been to mount a campaign to discredit critics as anti-Semitic enemies of Israel, rather than abandoning the policies that are transforming it into an apartheid state.

No country is as obsessed with the issue of its own legitimacy as Israel; ironically, that obsession may yet be its salvation. An international community angered and frustrated by Israel’s disenfranchisement of the Palestinian people, and determined to prevent their relegation to an apartheid existence, may well decide to have the United Nations General Assembly accept a Palestinian declaration of statehood within the pre-1967 borders, without the mutually agreed border changes that a peace accord might have produced. Nothing would challenge Israel’s legitimacy more than its defiance of such an international decision.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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