The UN-commissioned report on Israeli Apartheid that was shelved last week (two days after it appeared), is no doubt explosive. The very idea that Israel is guilty of the crime of Apartheid, one of the two gravest crimes against humanity (second only to Genocide), is, in itself, one that should give everyone pause.
But there is another explosion in the report.
Israel and its patrons have desperately sought to shelve a discussion about Zionism as a racist ideology. The Apartheid report brings it back to the front.
The report renders invalid all those apologetic ‘warnings’ of Apartheid that have been part of mainstream Israeli and American leadership rhetoric for years now (for instance, John Kerry, 2014). The report’s implication is that Apartheid is not something that is soon to arrive or has just arrived; it is something that has been there all along, from the very birth of the state — in the “State’s essentially racist character.”
The report is bound to open up a debate about the foundation of the State of Israel, as well as the ideology that has informed it all along – Zionism. The discussion is bound to roll back to another shelved document – the UN Resolution 3379 (1975), which equates Zionism with racism.
The report states that Apartheid exists not only in the West Bank right now, but implies that it exists elsewhere, and has from the start. In fact, the Israeli Left’s notions of ‘separation from the Palestinians’–whether titled ‘Peace plan’ (as in Isaac Herzog’s 10-point and 10-year plan) or conveyed by slightly more overtly racist scare campaigns for ‘separation’ by ‘liberal’ Generals– arguably falls squarely into the exact language of Apartheid. For Apartheid is Afrikaans for ‘separateness’, as racial segregation and institutionalized racial discrimination.
The 1967 occupation and the ‘demographic threat’ of all the Palestinians in that occupied territory do not pose the imminence of Apartheid – no, it already exists. What the occupation does threaten to do, is endanger Israel’s PR: It will becomes more difficult for Israel to veil the Apartheid as a mere ‘temporary’ exigency, if the occupation is not ‘temporary’.
Veiling Israeli Apartheid as ‘democracy’ was one the very first of the acts of Israel, as noted in the report, in the chapter titled ‘Demographic engineering’ (p. 31):
“The first general policy of Israel has been one of demographic engineering, in order to establish and maintain an overwhelming Jewish majority in Israel. As in any racial democracy, such a majority allows the trappings of democracy — democratic elections, a strong legislature — without threatening any loss of hegemony by the dominant racial group. In Israeli discourse, this mission is expressed in terms of the so-called “demographic threat”, an openly racist reference to Palestinian population growth or the return of Palestinian refugees.”
And what ideology has informed and rationalized these practices? Zionism.
The report does not treat Zionism as its primary subject – rather Israel. But it does take care to note Zionism as the central ideology informing “Jewish nationalism” in its discussion of ‘Israel as a racial State’. That part, “Israel Jewish-National institutions,” deserves extensive quoting:
“Israel has designed its domestic governance in such a way as to ensure that the State upholds and promotes Jewish nationalism. The term “Jewish people” in political Zionist thought is used to claim the right to self-determination. The quest of an ethnic or racial group for its own State amounts to a national project, and so Israeli institutions designed to preserve Israel as a Jewish State are referred to in this report as “Jewish-national” institutions.
In Israel, an interplay of laws consolidates Jewish-national supremacy. For example, regarding the central question of land use, Basic Law: Israel Lands provides that real property held by the State of Israel, the Development Authority or the Keren Kayemet Le-Israel (JNF-Jewish National Fund) must serve “national” (that is, Jewish-national) interests and cannot be transferred to any other hands. It further establishes the Israeli Lands Authority (ILA) as administrator of such lands. The ILA (as successor of the Israeli Lands Administration) is charged with administering land in accordance with the JNF Covenant, which requires that land held by the JNF be held in perpetuity for the exclusive benefit of the Jewish people. The ILA also operates in accordance with the World Zionist Organization-Jewish Agency Status Law (1952), which sets forth the responsibility of those conjoined organizations for serving Jewish settlement and development. Thus, State land, which accounts for 93 per cent of land within the country’s internationally recognized borders, is managed through laws prohibiting its use by non-Jews.” [….]
“The Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organisation (hereafter JA-WZO) deserve special attention for their role in establishing the racial character of the Israeli regime. According to Israeli law, they remain the “authorised agencies” of the State regarding Jewish-national affairs in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. [….]
A principle task of the JA-WZO is to work actively to build and maintain Israel as a Jewish State, particularly through immigration policy:
… 5. The mission of gathering in the [Jewish] exiles, which is the central task of the State of Israel and the Zionist Movement in our days, requires constant efforts by the Jewish people in the Diaspora; the State of Israel, therefore, expects the cooperation of all Jews, as individuals and groups, in building up the State and assisting the immigration to it of the masses of the [Jewish] people, and regards the unity of all sections of Jewry as necessary for this purpose (emphasis added).
Such explicit language by the State’s authorized agencies conclusively underlines the State’s essentially racist character.”
Now let’s pause there, and emphasize, in the last part (JA-WZO mission), that which Falk and Tilley do not emphasize:
“The mission of gathering in the [Jewish] exiles, which is the central task of the State of Israel and the Zionist Movement in our days, requires constant efforts by the Jewish people in the Diaspora” [my emphasis].
The Zionist movement is not some archaic notion that disappeared for any practical purpose in the early days of the state. Zionism is alive and kicking. There is a reason why the left-center block led by Labor Zionist Herzog is called ‘The Zionist Union’. The ‘World Zionist Organization’ has not changed its name. Neither did ‘Zionist Organization of America’ We are in this respect not in any ‘post-Zionist’ era. These are not just names.
It is important to remember that last October a British Parliamentary Committee recommended that the UK outlaw the word “Zionist” when used “in an accusatory context”. So if one is harshly critical of Zionism, one’s critique may be conflated with anti-Semitism. That position is maintained in the UK’s recently adopted definition of anti-Semitism. These efforts at censorship are eerily similar to the recent shelving of the UN report – an attempt to shut down a critical debate about Israel’s policies and actions.
UN Resolution 3379 (1975), equating Zionism with racism
The typical motto of the attempts at stifling critique of Israel’s policy and actions is ‘anti-Semitism’, as we have seen. This was also the claim of Israel’s Ambassador to UN Chaim Herzog, when he famously ripped apart the UN Resolution 3379, regarding it as “another manifestation of the bitter anti-Semitic, anti-Jewish hatred which animates Arab society”.
The Resolution, titled “Elimination of all forms of racial discrimination,” unequivocally concluded that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination”.
Ben Norton notes:
“still today, supporters of Israel argue UN GA Res. 3379 was an anomalous product of anti-Semitism. In reality, however, the resolution was the result of international condemnation of the illegal military occupation to which Palestinians had been subjected since 1967 and the apartheid-like conditions the indigenous Arab population had lived under as second-class citizens of an ethnocratic state since 1948”.
He adds that
“In 1991, resolution 3379 was repealed for two primary reasons: One, the Soviet bloc, which helped pass the resolution, had collapsed; and two, Israel and the US demanded that it be revoked or they refused to participate in the Madrid Peace Conference.”
Indeed – Israel, under PM Itzhak Shamir, was given a prize so that it could engage in the budding ‘peace process’, where Shamir could practice his ‘teaspoon policy’: endless negotiating sessions at which countless teaspoons amounting to mountains of sugar would be stirred into oceans of tea and coffee, but no agreement would ever be reached. (For Israel, with or without a ‘peace process’, this continues to be policy).
The Resolution continues to draw condemnation in our times, as when US Secretary of State John Kerry called it “anti-Semitic” and “absurd”, referring to Zionism as “the expression of a national liberation movement.” US Ambassador to UN Samantha Power strengthened the argument by referring to Nazi attacks on Jews at Kristallnacht, 1938.
One sentence by Kerry merits special attention:
“Times may change, but one thing we do know: America’s support for Israel’s dreaming and Israel’s security, that will never change”.
Stop there. “Israel’s dreaming”. Really. That’s what USA is going to eternally support, unequivocally. Israeli dreams mean more than all Palestinian nightmares.
Coming back to the current report on Israeli Apartheid, this report rests on the same general body of international law which informed the mentioned UN 3379. As noted in the report executive summary:
“The analysis in this report rests on the same body of international human rights law and principles that reject anti-Semitism and other racially discriminatory ideologies, including: the Charter of the United Nations (1945), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965). The report relies for its definition of apartheid primarily on article II of the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (1973, hereinafter the Apartheid Convention)”.
The UN report does not have a main prerogative to investigate or relate to Zionism as such. It’s mission is, as stated, to investigate “whether Israel has established an apartheid regime that oppresses and dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.” (My emphasis). This is why the noting of Zionism is more in passing. But this will have to open up the discussion in another forum, where the question is more specifically, whether Zionism can be separated from Israel.
Some argue that Zionism cannot even be separated from Judaism – as did Chief UK Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who wrote in the Guardian that “one can no more separate [Zionism] from Judaism than separate the City of London from Great Britain”. But we need to separate Judaism from Zionism. We have to separate religion from state, even if Israel and Zionist rabbis won’t. Zionism and Judaism are not one and the same. But then the question must be asked: Are Zionism and Israel’s Apartheid regime one and the same? The report seems to suggest that the two are inextricably connected.