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Blunt references to Israeli apartheid are published by ‘Peace Now’ and ‘The New Yorker’

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Eleven years ago Jimmy Carter had the temerity to put the word “apartheid” in the subtitle of his book Palestine: Peace not Apartheid, and he paid the price. The former president was drubbed out of the Democratic Party, and Wolf Blitzer and Terry Gross questioned him harshly for the word choice on major media.

But the grass roots and human-rights community worked hard to counter that resistance: the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation (now renamed the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights) made a commitment ten years ago to use the word apartheid because it described the dual system of law they had witnessed. “Our goal is to delegitimize Israel’s right to commit apartheid,” Phyllis Bennis said then.

Today we see the word cropping up more and more in mainstream coverage of the legal arrangements inside Israel and Palestine.

Peace Now used the a-word today, in a report on a new administrative order issued by the Israeli military to govern the Jewish settlers in Hebron. The Israeli human rights group refers to the “apartheid system” in the city:

Today, August 31st, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit announced that the Head of the Central Command, Major General Roni Numa, signed a military order establishing a municipal services administration for the Jewish settlers in Hebron….

Peace Now: “By granting an official status to the Hebron settlers, the Israeli government is formalizing the apartheid system in the city. This step, which happened immediately following the announcement on the evacuation of the settlers who took over a house in Hebron, is another illustration of the policy of compensating the most extreme settlers for their illegal actions.” 

Also this week, Avi Issacharoff, an Israeli journalist and screenwriter, was quoted by David Remnick in The New Yorker, and he was blunt about apartheid:

“The Israeli public just wants to bury the Palestinians beyond the wall, to be on defense and to live their lives on their own. But how long can that last? I don’t know. But I know that we are heading toward a catastrophe. Either we’re ending the Zionist dream—ending our status as a Jewish democratic state—or we will become one state for two peoples. Sooner or later, the status quo will explode. It won’t hold. Either the Palestinians will explode or the international community will explode and say ‘No more apartheid’ and they will sit on our necks.”

This follows on the use of the apartheid label by Jodi Rudoren, the former Jerusalem bureau chief of the New York Times, in an interview with Australian journalist John Lyons for a book. She said the term apartheid was appropriate to describe Palestinian status in Israel. Not that she ever said so in the New York Times. That is verboten.

Of course these voices are Israeli/Jewish voices, operating under the old Jimmy Carter rule, It’s fine for me to talk trash about my family, but it’s not OK for you to do so. Charney Bromberg called it apartheid seven years ago under those rules. Jewish leader Stephen Robert called it “apartheid on steroids” under those rules six years ago in the Nation.

They in turn were licensed by the several Israeli leaders who have warned that apartheid is just around the corner. Though I’m still waiting on J Street to tell us the truth about what it’s seen over there.

Of course when non-Jews, say a United Nations body, dare to call it apartheid, all hell breaks loose. The U.N. was forced to retract its report. A year ago Black Lives Matter used the word “apartheid” and they were savaged in the Jewish press for doing so; though BLM didn’t budge.

And how long is it before Palestinians themselves are granted the right by the mainstream to call apartheid apartheid? You would think that we should grant the highest authority in such matters to the persecuted; as the world did in the pogrom era.

P.S. This isn’t mainstream, but it’s consciousness raising. A “Birthright” bus of young Jews, likely from North America, is interrupted by a justice-loving Israeli who tells them not to believe the Israeli propaganda, they should go visit Hebron and see “the apartheid state.” Some of those kids are listening.

Thanks to Allison Deger and Ofer Neiman. 

Philip Weiss

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

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24 Responses

  1. eljay on August 31, 2017, 1:34 pm

    Either we’re ending the Zionist dream—ending our status as a Jewish democratic state

    The Zionist dream was – and remains – Jewish supremacism in/and a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine under the guise of Zionist re-defined “self-determination”.

    It has never had anything to do with justice, equality, human rights or real self-determination*.
    (*The indigenous population of a geographic region has a right to establish an independent state of and for its inhabitants and people up to n-generations removed from it. Zionists seem to think that the religion-based identity of Jewish comprises a right to a religion-supremacist state of and for all people who choose to hold that identity.)

    • Misterioso on September 1, 2017, 10:36 am


      Well said.

      For the record:
      Hendrik Verwoerd, then prime minister of South Africa and the architect of South Africa’s apartheid policies, 1961: “Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.” (Rand Daily Mail, November 23, 1961)

      “Former Foreign Ministry director-general invokes South Africa comparisons. ‘Joint Israel-West Bank’ reality is an apartheid state”
      EXCERPT: “Similarities between the ‘original apartheid’ as it was practiced in South Africa and the situation in ISRAEL [my emphasis] and the West Bank today ‘scream to the heavens,’ added [Alon] Liel, who was Israel’s ambassador in Pretoria from 1992 to 1994. There can be little doubt that the suffering of Palestinians is not less intense than that of blacks during apartheid-era South Africa, he asserted.” (Times of Israel, February 21, 2013)

      Video: Israeli TV Host Implores Israelis: Wake Up and Smell the Apartheid

      In its 2015 Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, the U.S. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor acknowledges the “institutional and societal discrimination against Arab citizens of Israel.” (U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor)

      Ronnie Kasrils, a key player in the struggle against the former South African apartheid regime, minister for intelligence and a devout Jew: “The Palestinian minority in Israel has for decades been denied basic equality in health, education, housing and land possession, solely because it is not Jewish. The fact that this minority is allowed to vote hardly redresses the rampant injustice in all other basic human rights. They are excluded from the very definition of the ‘Jewish state’, and have virtually no influence on the laws, or political, social and economic policies. Hence, their similarity to the black South Africans [under apartheid].” (The Guardian, 25 May 2005)

      To the best of my knowledge, Israel is the only country in the world that differentiates between citizenship and nationality, i.e., “Israeli” nationality does not exist, only Jews and non-Jews, and each citizen carries an appropriate identity card. While the implications of this absurdity for discrimination and racism against non-Jews are obvious, it has been upheld by Israel’s Supreme Court.

      The effect of Israel’s blatantly racist “Citizenship Law” and more than fifty other restrictions Arab citizens have to endure is well expressed by writer and Knesset member, Ahmed Tibi, “…dutifully defining the state [of Israel] as ‘Jewish and democratic,’ ignores the fact that in practice ‘democratic’ refers to Jews, and the Arabs are nothing more than citizens without citizenship.” (Ma’ariv, 1.6.2005)

  2. rhkroell on August 31, 2017, 6:24 pm

    “Today we see the word [apartheid] cropping up more and more in mainstream coverage of the legal arrangements inside Israel and Palestine.”

    True. Today we have Norman Finkelstein, Noam Chomsky, the editors/journalists of Mondoweiss, the USCPR, Anna Baltzer, Josh Ruebner , BLM and a few other intellectuals/groups willing to risk major career advancement challenges and/or widespread social rejection by the mainstream Jewish community for using the a-word in their writing. But people my age remember the Joan Peters’ fiasco.

    “There was this best-seller a few years ago [in 1984], it went through about ten printings, by a woman named Joan Peters . . . called FROM TIME IMMEMORIAL. It was a big scholarly-looking book with lots of footnotes, which purported to show that the Palestinians were all recent immigrants [i.e. to the Jewish-settled areas of the former Palestine, during the British mandate years of 1920 to 1948]. And it was very popular — it got literally hundreds of rave reviews, and no negative reviews: the Washington Post, the New York Times, everybody was just raving about it.”

    “Saul Bellow, Barbara Tuchman, everybody was talking about it as the greatest thing since chocolate cake. Well, one graduate student at Princeton, a guy named Norman Finkelstein, started reading through the book . . . . He’s a very careful student, and he started checking the references — and it turned out that the whole thing [i.e. the book] was a hoax, it was completely faked: probably it had been put together by some intelligence agency or something like that” (“The Fate on an Honest Intellectual,” UNDERSTANDING POWER: THE INDISPENSABLE CHOMSKY, Chomsky, Noam, The New Press, 2002, pp. 244-248).

    • JosephA on August 31, 2017, 11:30 pm

      It’s really amazing, what has transpired here in America. George Orwell was right.

    • Misterioso on September 1, 2017, 10:26 am



      Professor Porath, one of Israel’s leading demographic historians, called Peters’ book a “forgery… [that] was almost universally dismissed [in Israel] as sheer rubbish except maybe as a propaganda weapon.”(New York Times, Nov.28, 1985)

      Rabbi Arthur Herzberg, vice-president of the World Jewish Congress, agreed: “I think that she’s cooked the statistics…. The scholarship is phony and tendentious. I do not believe that she has read the Arabic sources that she quotes.”(ibid)

      Professor Porath: “The precise demographic history of modern Palestine cannot be summed up briefly, but its main features are clear enough and they are very different from the fanciful description Mrs. Peters gives….
      [S]he has apparently searched through documents for any statement to the effect that Arabs entered Palestine. But even if we put together all the cases she cites, one cannot escape the conclusion that most of the growth of the Palestinian Arab community resulted from a process of natural increase.” (“Mrs. Peters’ Palestine” New York Review of Books, 16 January 1986.)

      • rhkroell on September 1, 2017, 12:34 pm

        True. After the editors of major periodicals in Great Britain finally decided to print one early version of Norman’s critique of Peters’ book, FROM TIME IMMEMORIAL — in which he revealed the many cases of spurious source documentation — many prominent Israeli and American intellectuals joined Norman in condemning Peters’ book. But Norman could not get his critique of Peters’ book published anywhere in the U.S. He shopped it around. That is an important part of the story.

        The MSM in the U.S. refused to publish Norman’s review of Peters’ book. In fact, Norman was blacklisted in the U.S. when editors got word of Norman’s critique. Only after Norman finally got some brave editors in Great Britain to publish his broadside, was Peters’ book finally exposed as a fraud, scam, hoax . That’s another important part of the story: mess with Israel and your name may be placed on a blacklist. You may be faced with abundant rejections, evasive answers to all your questions, stonewalling and — yes — maybe even intimidation. Major periodicals may not seriously consider anything you submit for publication. You probably will not be able to find work in the U.S. academy (regardless of your intellectual credentials). You’ve been forewarned.

      • rosross on September 1, 2017, 7:49 pm

        Ah the irony…. Jewish Israelis play the story, but the Palestinians have no rights because they came from somewhere else?

        Yes, and you definitely came from somewhere else not very long ago, so you also have no rights.

        Strange is it not how many Palestinians can trace their families back centuries in Palestine, and yet, are accused of being newcomers? Lies, lies and damned Zionism.

  3. German Lefty on September 1, 2017, 6:46 am

    Eleven years ago Jimmy Carter had the temerity to put the word “apartheid” in the subtitle of his book Palestine: Peace not Apartheid, and he paid the price.

    Did Jimmy Carter actually choose the title himself? Also, I started reading the book and it’s written from a (“liberal”) Zionist perspective, i.e. that Israel must be protected from itself and that both sides need to make compromises for peace. I think it’s telling that the book title merely wishes for peace, not for justice.

  4. German Lefty on September 1, 2017, 7:31 am

    Not sure if someone has posted this before, but here’s an interview with Abby Martin about what she experienced in Palestine:

  5. nelle on September 1, 2017, 8:38 am

    I began covering Israel’s occupation of what American journalists called “the West Bank” in 1979. At that time, Gush Emunim, the spearhead of the settler movement, was twelve years old and early into its establishment of settlements. It was immediately clear to me that the settlers were getting away with, sometimes literally, murder, and that their Palestinian victims were getting harmed with nary a response by the world save for reports like Chomsky’s, Alex Cockburn’s, Christopher Hitchens, or mine. Nearly forty years later things are far, far worse, and Palestinian society being bludgeoned to death. The United States looms in its responsibility for decades of ethnic cleansing, with billions of dollars in aid to Israel every year.

    • wondering jew on September 1, 2017, 10:45 am

      Settler movement was born in 67, but gush Emunim as a specific name and organization was born in 74.

      • rosross on September 1, 2017, 7:46 pm

        The human rights disaster began, not in 1947 but in the late 19th century when European Zionists plotted to colonise Palestine on the sly.

        As I recall even the Nazis played a part in sending a shipload of Jewish colonists to Palestine.

        Like any colonisation, particularly one in the 20th century, the wrongs inherent are a given and the only way out of that injustice is to say sorry, make compensation, create one state with equal rights for all and allow Palestinians holding keys to their homes in UN Mandated Israel, to return.

        Then justice can be seen to be done.

    • rosross on September 1, 2017, 7:47 pm

      The term West Bank is a Zionist euphemism for Occupied Palestine so the ‘P ‘word does not have to be mentioned., and deluded Israeli Jews can play their fantasy that the indigenous people of the land they have stolen did not and do not exist.

  6. wondering jew on September 1, 2017, 10:43 am

    Phil cites remnick’s article as a landmark, while Donald johnson whined about remnick’s article.

    BLM was savaged for using the word “genocide”. Shoddy journalism by Phil Weiss.

    • Donald on September 1, 2017, 12:38 pm

      Nuance, Yonah. If you didn’t spend so much time whining you would be able to spot it. I acknowledged the Nakba part, for instance, but thought the article then veered into the standard format where liberal Zionists complaining about Gaza rockets set the framework.

      Phil is a glass half full type of guy. He sees positive trends and they are there, while I pointed out what looks like a sort of ideological rearguard action. Israel is an apartheid state which began with ethnic cleansing, but Remnick still allowed Israelis complaining about Gaza rockets to dominate the article.

      I get the impression you realize what a train wreck Israel is from a human rights pov and more and more people are starting to see through the mythology surrounding it and no longer feel compelled to pay respects to liberal Zionist shibboleths and it both worries and angers you. It should. Israel has frittered away decades and its supporters have been its enablers. There are two types of liberal Zionists. The smart ones like Beinart understand what is happening. The other kind constantly look for excuses to justify why, in theory, it might be nice to treat Palestinians like human beings, but gosh, there is no one to talk to and the antiZionists are just so mean. You seem to be both types simultaneously, a walking breathing quantum superposition of smart and dumb.

      • wondering jew on September 1, 2017, 1:37 pm

        Donald, recently i realized that the distance between the yom kippur war and the rabin assassination is now matched by the passage of time between the assassination and today. (1973-1995-2017), although such arithmetic might be considered silly, i find it useful for measuring the perspectives of time and history.

        most of those who “believed” in rabin (interesting term to use) are sorely disappointed by the netanyahu-bennet current reality. the interlude of the 2nd intifada is not irrelevant in terms of understanding the stance of fellow israelis/zionists, but for the true believers in rabin there is severe disappointment in the current israeli leadership.

        my reaction to your reaction to remnick’s reaction to the tv series reflects a reaction rather than a long term strategy. for me there is currently no long term strategy. i understand “if not now”, (I have called myself a fellow traveler, but currently that is not my stance), I admire beinart, but my primary interaction with the facts on the ground is through the headlines and the month or so every year that i spend in Jerusalem and in a very substantial way i realize that i cannot overcome the current facts and the probability that the right wingers (which include 95% of the people i know in israel) are going to rule the day for the foreseeable future. when i interact with right wing people, if i engage on the issue, I am far from their point of view. when i read mondoweiss and encounter various points of view, i react in a different fashion.

        I will admit that the content of my reaction to your reaction to the remnick reaction to the tv show was primarily emotional rather than engaging on the issues. i will try to improve the content of my interactions with you.

    • Donald on September 1, 2017, 1:20 pm

      Gonna be offline for a couple days, so whatever response you make I won’t see for a bit.

  7. genesto on September 1, 2017, 12:13 pm

    Now, THAT’S one brave man! I’d like to know what happened to him in the aftermath of this incident. Nothing good, I’m sure.

  8. ignasi orobitg gene on September 1, 2017, 1:09 pm

    The Israeli government treats the Palestinian People
    as nazi Germany dealt with their ancestors.
    Apartheid shames Human Dignity

    • Misterioso on September 1, 2017, 2:42 pm

      @ignasi orobitg gene

      “The Israeli government treats the Palestinian People as Nazi Germany dealt with their ancestors.”

      And it always has.

      In December 1947, a Jewish official with the Palestine government was asked by Glubb Pasha, the British commander of Jordan’s Arab Legion, if he was concerned about the fact that the Jewish state would have so many Arab inhabitants. The official replied: “Oh no! That will be fixed. A few calculated massacres will soon get rid of them.” (Sir Bagot Glubb, A Soldier with the Arabs, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1957, p. 81; cited by Sami Hadawi, Bitter Harvest, p. 85)

    • rosross on September 1, 2017, 7:43 pm

      ‘Religions don’t have ancestors. Many Israeli Jews have no connection at all with European Jews who experienced discrimination at the hands of the Nazis.

      If the term ancestors is used it needs to be qualified with the word religious…. since there is no racial or even familial ancestry as often as not.

      Nazism and Zionism appear cut from the same cloth.

  9. rhkroell on September 1, 2017, 3:24 pm

    @ Yonah: This may sound a little wacky (or weird), but there are a few people in Trump’s and Bibi’s Idiocracies (or Idiarchies) who actually spend most of their lives doing historical research. I would recommend that you do your best to identify these types — and read them — before debating complex historical problems like the Palestinian/Israeli conflict on social media. It may help you avoid stepping on your Balfour in future debates.

    For example, the journalist Abby Martin in an interview posted above discusses her 30-day trip to Palestine/Israel and the “horrors” with which she was compelled to grapple. She reports on that experience. But when she veers off into discussions of the Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916), she stumbles. She should not, in my view, bring up the Sykes-Picot Agreement if she cannot even situate it in its precise historical context. Instead, she should report on/discuss only those things with which she is familiar (like her experiences in Palestine/Israel).

    One important historical fact, in my view, which is often overlooked when discussing the ideology of Zionism: Zionism was conceived, in my view, by Theodor Herzl (1860-1904), Max Nordau (born Simon Maximilian Südfeld, 1849-1923), and a few other prominent European intellectuals as a direct response/answer to a World-System which was increasingly becoming dominated/plagued by the ideologies of Pan-Germanicism and Pan-Slavism. You probably already know this. However, I would suggest that you not bring up Herzl and Nordau when debating the Palestinian/Israeli conflict unless you can situate these historical figures accurately in their specific historical context. You maybe even should avoid referring to them in a debate without having first read some of their published work.

  10. rosross on September 1, 2017, 7:40 pm

    Why does no-one question the arrogant and egregious racism of a system whereby followers of the Jewish religion can criticise human rights atrocities and abuses done by Israeli Jews, but others cannot?

    The message in that little scenario is that members of the Jewish religion are somehow superior to, above and beyond mere mortals, i.e. goys, those of inferior status because they don’t happen to follow Judaism.

    In other words, if you belong to the elite group, you may say any truth you wish, but if you do not, like serfs of old, you cannot speak ill of your ‘betters.

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