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John Kerry was right to say ‘apartheid’ — more voices chime in

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Josh Ruebner speaking at Drake in Des Moines earlier this month. Image, AFSC

Josh Ruebner speaking at Drake in Des Moines earlier this month. Image, AFSC

As the Israeli government breaks out in recriminations against Secretary of State John Kerry for saying Israel is headed toward “apartheid,” here are more voices saying that John Kerry was right or understated the case.

Josh Ruebner has a piece in The Hill, “Kerry is Wrong: Israel Already Is an Apartheid State,” that says the peace process has only cemented discrimination in the country and the occupied territories, and this discrimination meets the definition of apartheid.

More than forty years later [after the occupation began], Human Rights Watch concluded, in a report entitled “Separate and Unequal: Israel’s Discriminatory Treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” that Israel’s military occupation has resulted in policies which “harshly discriminate against Palestinian residents, depriving them of basic necessities while providing lavish amenities for Jewish settlement.”

This type of two-tiered system of law, based on factors such as race, ethnicity and nationality, was what the international community sought to end when it defined apartheid as a crime against humanity. Israel’s discrimination against Palestinians is so blatant that even the State Department grudgingly acknowledges in its latest human rights report that Palestinian citizens of Israel face “institutional and societal discrimination,” in addition to an extensive catalogue of human rights abuses suffered by Palestinians under Israeli military occupation.

Ruebner, the author of Shattered Hopes: Obama’s failure to broker Israeli-Palestinian peace, ends by calling for an end to the peace process:

But instead of ruing Kerry’s failure, the United States can finally stop trying to hammer the square peg into the round hole. Two decades of a failed “peace process” can now finally result in fresh and creative thinking about how to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue on the basis of human rights, international law and equality, rather than on the basis of Israel’s apartheid control over the Palestinian people.

A half-page ad appears in Haaretz this weekend:

Shurun: The Organization for the Prevention of Racism and Apartheid in Israel

John Kerry was right!  There is no other word!

Without a just two-state solution Israel will become an apartheid State

Among the 129 signatures are many Israelis on the lib-left:

Colette Avital, Bernard Avishai, Larry Abramson, Haim Oron, Oudeh Basharat, Akiva Eldar, Nimrod Aloni, Rachel Eliur, Steven Ascheim, Yehuda Bauer, Yoram Bilu, Michael ben Yair, Uzi Baram, Ora Basharat, Lili Galili, Yael Dayan, Ariel Hirshfeld, David Harel, Naomi Chazan, Menachem Yaari, Ran Cohen, Sami Michael, Yisha Menuhin, Joshua Sobol, Michael Sfard, Dan Ofer, Mose Tzimerman, Menachem Klein, Fraches Raday, Tzali Reshsef, David Shulman, Dmitri Shumsky, Hillel Shocken, Zev Sternhell, Yossi Sarid,

And a month ago, Haaretz ran this article by Carolina Landsmann saying it’s apartheid now. Why isn’t this stuff in the U.S. press?

Blindness enables Israelis to see themselves as living in a democracy, while it is in fact an apartheid regime…

We confess that we are unable to define the meaning of the state’s Jewishness, but are confident in our understanding of what is a democratic state.

Only this split in consciousness can enable the Israeli to see himself as a democrat who is living in the only democracy in the Middle East, despite its apartheid regime…

But if Arabs are human beings, Israel cannot call itself “democratic.” The fact that Israelis have internalized the status quo into the narrative of normalcy, and have bought the lie they sold themselves, is a crime.


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19 Responses

  1. Kay24
    May 2, 2014, 1:34 pm

    The irony of it all is, you see the articles and criticism of Israel more from within Israel, than in the zionist media of the US, where it is taboo to speak of the crimes of Israel. Josh Ruebner, and the others who called a spade a spade, is right. If only John Kerry got that support from his colleagues and American leaders.
    Apartheid should be the word, and it is right now.

    • Krauss
      May 2, 2014, 2:59 pm

      Let’s not exaggerate the amount of freedom you have in Israel.
      Sure you have freedom to express yourself, but it is only really Haaretz by now that still has any real universalists left, and even they are dwindling. And that’s basically only Gideon Levy and Amira Hass. The general direction of Haaretz has been moving right for years now, together with the rest of the country. And aside from Haaretz, you have either hard-right and far-right.

      And even if we take that ad that Phil references:

      Shurun: The Organization for the Prevention of Racism and Apartheid in Israel

      John Kerry was right! There is no other word!

      Without a just two-state solution Israel will become an apartheid State

      First, as you note, Kay24, Israel is already an apartheid state.

      Secondly, as Reubner notes, the so-called “2SS” is simply a way for Israel to lock in the West Bank the same way it has locked in Gaza. These people wouldn’t necessarily be against that. Even so-called “peaceniks” like Amos Oz defended Cast Lead and so did Grossman.

      When people say that the debate over Israel in America is very constrained they often do not say outright but they really mean the political debate. And to some extent the elite conventional wisdom debate. However, the elite conventional wisdom debate is by nature reactionary. It never innovates, it merely responds to pressure from the grassroots, where the real debate takes place.

      Given enough time and energy, the conventional wisdom will change. Which is why Reubner got his Op-Ed planted in the Hill. Or why the editor in chief of Politico talks openly about the Israel lobby on MSNBC without blinking. But we all know how that change came about.

      So while the debate in the political echelon is basically stuck in time, the debate among the grassroots left and even mainstream left is much freer.
      And that’s basically what matters.

      Remember that piece in the Nation a few years ago, describing Israel as “Apartheid on Steroids”? The New American foundation, not exactly a far-left outfit, hosted Max Blumenthal, even after a smear & pressure campaign had been initiated before his appearance.

      So the debate in the U.S. is changing and it is likely that over time, it will become much more free than it is in Israel. And in some ways it already is. Haaretz is only 5% of the newspaper market in Israel, even if many Western liberals almost act as if it is 100%(in large part, I’d guess, because they only basically read Haaretz themselves).

      • tree
        May 2, 2014, 4:27 pm


        good points as usual but I would add a caveat to this phrase of yours,

        “Sure you have freedom to express yourself…”

        In Israel, even the freedom to express oneself is dependent upon being Jewish. There are innumerable case of Palestinian citizens of Israel being denied the same right to express themselves as is given to Israeli Jews. The first 19 years of Israel’s existence is the primary example of this denial, but it has continued into today, with the Israeli government reactions to the Land Day protests in 1976 and the “October riots” in 2000 being prime examples. The have been numerous cases of Palestinian citizens of Israel being harassed and arrested for seeking the same rights that Israeli Jews have. And just in the last year at least two Palestinian citizens of Israel have been arrested for postings they made on their Facebook pages.

        Israeli Jews are allowed to say things that Israeli Palestinians can not because Israeli society for the most part accepts the idea that Jews are superior to non-Jews and thus have more leeway to speak their minds.

        As for why things can be said in Israel that would never be said here, I think it has to do with the tribal aspects of Jewish Zionist culture. Criticism in Israel is within the tribe, but voicing that criticism in the US, with an overwhelming majority of non-Jews, is seen as allowing outsiders to become aware of the “dirty laundry”, which is a taboo.

      • Citizen
        May 2, 2014, 8:24 pm

        Seems to me, though a Palestinian citizen of Israel may pay a higher price for speaking out against his/her government in Israel, what’s it mean where there they are 20% of the population, while in USA, home of the First Amendment, nobody can speak out against Israel regime without negative impact on their career or job–and the non-Jewish population of over 98%? The thing about Kerry’s speech, even though it was only leaked to the public, is he was still in office when he said the apartheid word. I know I don’t need to trot out the list of US government folks who’s careers were stifled because they spoke out while still in office. And we all know about Hagel’s donkey blow job. Haven’t heard a stray word form him since he’s been SOD.

      • bilal a
        bilal a
        May 3, 2014, 12:08 am

        Tribal loyalty does not explain the silence of non-tribal members. How do they keep them , the nations, silent?


        How do you preserve a democracy inside a gangster-like ad hominem patrol, zionist or anti-zionist, organized upon one dollar, one vote.

        [ Try arguing the Jewish orthodox position on SSM to Max Blumenthal:
        (~6:40) Ann Coulter

        Still, his Michelle Malkin moment , brilliant.(start) ]

      • Kay24
        May 2, 2014, 4:33 pm

        I agree with what you say. Sure Haaretz is the only publication that even mildly criticizes the government. I however also meant that the latest news regarding Israel, including US policies affecting Israel, peace talks etc., are reported in pro zionist websites like Ynet News and others, which I have copied on occasion. It is hardly mentioned in the US.

      • Hostage
        May 2, 2014, 9:16 pm

        the so-called “2SS” is simply a way for Israel to lock in the West Bank the same way it has locked in Gaza. These people wouldn’t necessarily be against that. Even so-called “peaceniks” like Amos Oz defended Cast Lead and so did Grossman.

        “These people” include folks like Michael Sfard, who represents Yesh Din, The Association for Human Rights in Israel, and a host of other groups that subscribe to the idea of the sanctity of human life and the promotion of the recognition of the existence of innate basic rights which everyone has by virtue of being human. He has actually explained that Israeli actions in the “Passengers” case satisfied the legal definition of the crime of apartheid and that the Judges themselves would be responsible if they didn’t do something. He did that in petitions and oral arguments presented to the Israeli Supreme Court. He’s also noted that the Israel government responsible for the apartheid in the West Bank is located on the other side of the Green Line and that it can’t escape being called an apartheid government by using technicalities and the dry letter of the law. So I wouldn’t be too quick to put words in his mouth and say what he would, or wouldn’t find acceptable.

  2. James Canning
    James Canning
    May 2, 2014, 2:07 pm

    Bravo. John Kerry should be praised for saying openly (to some degree) that Israel is becoming an “apartheid” state. Already is, in the West Bank thnaks to insane illegal colonisation programme – – promoted by foolish US Congress.

  3. NickJOCW
    May 2, 2014, 2:26 pm

    The meaning of a word is not determined it’s interpretation. How Israel treats the non-Jewish populace is what we are talking about, and the word ‘apartheid’ expresses it perfectly adequately for Kerry and the rest of us. Perhaps those who object to the word would like to propose another that would express the same thing while not offending their so delicate sensibilities.

  4. lysias
    May 2, 2014, 2:45 pm

    Most whites in apartheid South Africa thought they were living in a democracy, just like most whites in the Jim Crow South (and even the antebellum South).

  5. Les
    May 2, 2014, 7:12 pm

    The US fails to comprehend that what it thinks “peace process” but Israel thinks “piece process.”

  6. traintosiberia
    May 2, 2014, 7:59 pm

    Unfortunately the Zionists would blame US and would focus on the zeal of evangelicals and general misgivings about Arab / Muslim/ Palestinians as the root causes of the absence of this kind of discussion from US press.
    And it yet it would be difficult to understand or support the alternative . How is it possible for the Zionist working for the Jewish land achieve power to block the awareness in US press but not in Israrli press? Without understanding American elitistic control of the news ,lack pf curiositu by Americans and not appreciating the robust but fragmented public involvement by Israelis in politics ,this would sound internally inconsistent and self contradicting.

  7. DICKERSON3870
    May 2, 2014, 8:41 pm

    RE: “And a month ago, Haaretz ran this article by Carolina Landsmann saying it’s apartheid now. Why isn’t this stuff in the U.S. press?” ~ Weiss

    ANSWER: Using the ‘A’ word (much like proclaiming that the two-state solution is dead) is definitely a bright red line with the “two-state fakers” at AIPAC*, CUFI, ADL, etc., and most people not having a virtual death wish are deathly afraid of vexing those organizations.

    * SEE – “The AIPAC Politics of Smear: The Secret Section in Israel’s U.S. Lobby That Stifles American Debate”, By Gregory D. Slabodkin, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 1992, pages 7-8, 89-91

    [EXCERPTS] During the reign of terror that Senator Joseph McCarthy unleashed in the 1950s, when the reputations and lives of many loyal Americans were ruined by false charges of “communism” and “treason,” American Jewry was overwhelmingly opposed to the Wisconsin senator and his blackmail by blacklists. According to the Gallup polls of the time, the percentage of U.S. Jews who opposed McCarthy’s smear tactics was twice that of the rest of the population. Many Jewish organizations passed resolutions condemning McCarthy’s ruthless character assassination.
    Today, however, such national Jewish organizations as the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith (ADL) and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) are using the same tactics to stifle open debate of U.S. policy in the Middle East.
    • Secretly Circulated Lists
    To conduct this “neo-McCarthyism,” AIPAC operates a covert section within its research department that monitors and keeps files on politicians, journalists, academics, Arab-American activists, Jewish liberals, and others it labels “anti-Israel.” AIPAC selects information from these files and secretly circulates lists of the “guilty,” together with their alleged political misdeeds, buttressed by their statements, often totally out of context.
    Just as McCarthy’s permanent investigations subcommittee labeled criticism of specific policies of the U.S. government as “anti-American,” or “pro-Soviet,” AIPAC labels criticism of Israeli government policies “anti-Israel,” “pro-Arab” or “pro-PLO.” Still worse is the pro-Israel lobby’s redefinition of “anti-Semitism” to include any such criticism of Israel or its actions. . .
    . . . AIPAC’s “opposition research” department traces its roots to I.L. (Sy) Kenen, who founded AIPAC in 1954. As editor of AIPAC’s weekly Near East Report, he often attacked critics of Israel in his aptly titled column, “The Monitor.” Besides monitoring, analyzing, and responding to “anti-Israel” comment and activities in the United States, Kenen also kept files on AIPAC’s “enemies.” In his final year AIPAC began to expand its intelligence-gathering operations.
    Kenen’s memoirs, “Israel’s Defense Line: Her Friends and Foes in Washington”, record how AIPAC pooled resources in 1974 with the American Jewish Committee and other national Jewish organizations to create a “truth squad.” Its purpose was to combat “pro-Arab propaganda” and the emerging “Arab lobby,” which Kenen believed to be a growing threat to the U.S.-Israel relationship.
    “While vigorously defending Israel’s perceived interests, the organizations that created the truth squad turned into a kind of Jewish thought police,” journalist Robert I. Friedman explains. “Investigators—sometimes overzealous Jewish college students, sometimes sources with access to U.S. intelligence agencies—were used to ferret out critics of Israel, Jew or gentile, wherever they might be. At ADL and AIPAC, files were opened on journalists, politicians, scholars and community activists. Their speeches and writings were monitored, as were, in some cases, their other professional activities. And they were often smeared with charges of anti-Semitism or with the pernicious label of self-hating Jew. The intention was to stifle debate on the Middle East within the Jewish community, the media and academia, for fear that criticism of any kind would weaken the Jewish state.”
    When Kenen stepped down as executive director of AIPAC in December 1974, the task of monitoring Israel’s “enemies” was left to the department of research and information at AIPAC, where it has remained ever since. . .


    • DICKERSON3870
      May 2, 2014, 9:01 pm

      P.S. FROM BELOW THE ABOVE-EXCERPTED ARTICLE: Gregory D. Slabodkin, a free-lance writer in Washington, DC, was an opposition researcher for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in 1990 and 1991.

    • DICKERSON3870
      May 2, 2014, 9:07 pm

      P.P.S. ALSO SEE AND/OR LISTEN TO: “Why the U.S. Media Barely Covered Brutal Right-Wing Race Riots in Tel Aviv”, By Joshua Holland, AlterNet, 6/17/12

      [EXCERPTS] Several weeks back, Israel was rocked by a night of right-wing race-riots targeting African refugees. . .
      . . . The story received very little coverage in the. . . States. . .
      . . . Recently, Middle East analyst MJ Rosenberg appeared on the AlterNet Radio Hour to discuss the Tel Aviv riots, the stand-off over Iran’s nuclear program and how the Israel lobby helps narrow the discourse around Israel in the United States. Below is a lightly edited transcript of the discussion (you can listen to the whole interview here.)

      • JOSHUA HOLLAND: From your inside perspective on that organization [AIPAC], what did you see as far as their tendency to call out criticism that they think is illegitimate or beyond the pale?
      • MJ ROSENBERG: They [AIPAC] consider all criticism of Israel illegitimate. It’s all beyond the pale. I suppose their definition would be if by some miracle someone like Joseph Lieberman made a statement critical of Israel it would be legitimate. When I worked there in the ’80s, back before everyone had computers, they had a big war room where all they did was assemble every bit of data on members of Congress, on candidates, but also on writers, celebrities – anyone in the public eye.
      In those days they would just put them in these folders. They always had at hand all this negative information — what they considered negative information — to tar people as being anti-Israel or even anti-Semitic. That stuff would be given to reporters if something came up. They were either initiated on their own to give to reporters or some reporter called them because they had a treasure trove of information.
      They still operate that way. In those days they did it directly; now they have former staffers and people who are close to the organization in the blogging world and political world who do it for them. They do it so much. When you read that someone is anti-Israel they’re the ones putting it out there. They’ve got the data. . .
      • JOSHUA HOLLAND: . . .Speaking of our discourse, I want to talk about an issue that came up recently that’s gotten very little coverage in the United States. There were a series of violent race riots by right-wing Israelis against African immigrants in Tel Aviv. This was a big deal. I was looking at the US coverage and it was amazing at how little attention these riots received. . .
      • MJ ROSENBERG: . . .This is a common thing. When there are bad things going on inside Israel — the way they treat the Palestinians and in this case the way they’re treating these poor African refugees from loathsome regimes who wind up in Israel — these stories are … I don’t want to say suppressed in the United States, but it’s striking how much coverage they get in Israel itself and how a paper like the New York Times is too scared to touch it.
      I have to say they’re afraid to touch it. The reason is when an American outlet talks about Israel in any way that’s negative, or reports on anything negative about Israel, they will be inundated with complaints from powerful people who will tell them, “why are you picking on Israel?” They always say, “why is it that China is doing all these things and you’re not writing about that?” Of course, they do. You even see it in the blogosphere too, the intimidation. If you aren’t utterly secure in your position in the media then you don’t mess with Israel. More to the point, you don’t mess with the people here who are Israel’s enforcers. . .


  8. RoHa
    May 2, 2014, 11:18 pm

    ‘But if Arabs are human beings, Israel cannot call itself “democratic.” ‘

    I thought the whole point of Zionism was that Arabs aren’t.

  9. Dan From Away
    Dan From Away
    May 3, 2014, 12:10 am

    Palestinians were making references to the parallels between life under Zionist Occupation and life under white South African Apartheid long ago:

  10. Kathleen
    May 3, 2014, 11:52 am

    Yes…go Josh. Stating out loud what many have been protesting against for decades….apartheid state of Israel.

  11. DICKERSON3870
    May 3, 2014, 12:18 pm

    RE: “John Kerry was right to say ‘apartheid’ — more voices chime in”

    MY COMMENT: As to question of whether the term apartheid is appropriately used in regard to Israel, I highly recommend the chapter titled “The Big Quiet” (pages 351-358) in Max Blmenthal’s Goliath. When you understand Dan Shueftan’s concept of separation, or hafrada, that was the real impetus for the Separation Wall and other less recognizable policies, it becomes quite difficult to see the strategy as anything other than the purposeful (but somewhat camouflaged) imposition of apartheid both as to the West Bank, and (to a slightly lesser degree) as to pre-1967 Israel (and for pretty much the same reasons South Africa devised its system of apartheid).



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