The Israel Apartheid Question

Benjamin Pogrund, the director of Yakar’s Center for Social Concern (a department of the yeshiva in which I am studying here in Jerusalem), and a former South African journalist, ran an op-ed in various newspapers recently entitled “Israel and The Apartheid Lie,” which aims to demonstrate why Israel is, by no means, an apartheid state. Being a heavily abridged version of the article, I asked Mr. Pogrund for the extended text which I offer here.

The anti-Zionist (and some may argue antisemitic) Media Monitors Network responds to the abridged version here.

18 thoughts on “The Israel Apartheid Question

  1. I like this line best:
    ” His analysis of the legal jargon underpinning a devious Zionist political framework of the core question of citizenship, reveals an extensive network of laws which determine that Jewish citizens are more equal than non-Jewish citizens.”
    Devious Zionist political framework.
    That’s HOT.
    I mean… it’s such an objective statement, right? So egalitarian… it makes me weep for the quality of non-biased ‘Media Monitoring’.

  2. How silly.
    In Israel, there is ethnic discrimination. That is not apartheid — and it’s a real injustice that exists in many countries. It’s important that both state machinery and civil society work to eliminate it. Many NGOs and other groups are advocating exactly that. (in contrast, obviously, to certain “anti-Zionist” groups.)
    In Palestine, there is military occupation. It’s time for it to end, so that the Palestinian Authority — which the Palestinians, the U.N., and all other relevant players have recognised as the Palestinians’ legitimate representative — can exercise its sovereignty.
    Apartheid? There sure is. It’s not hard to find: go to israel, then go north. Once you enter Lebanon, you’re there. But Iqbal Jassat isn’t intereted in actually-existing apartheid; he’s interested in delegitimising the existence of Israel.
    Nothing new here, in other words.

  3. He leaves out other very important differences between Israel and Apartheid.
    1. There are more Jewish refugees from Arab countries than Palestinian refugees from Israel. Read Edwin Black’s new book on the history of Iraq.
    2, Jews are indigenous people of the region, even Jews with blue eyes.
    3. What exactly is Israel exploting by holding on to the West Bank and Gaza? Unlike South Africa, there are no gold or diamonds.
    4. Most Israelis do not want to occupy the West Bank and Gaza. They just want to be safe.
    5. A better analogy would be to compare Jews to the Cherokees returning to the Southeat from Oklahoma.
    6. Anti-Semitism permeates the entire Middle East.

  4. 8opus, I’m confused–what do you mean by “apartheid” in Lebanon? I was just in Lebanon and I didn’t witness anything that would justify that statement.

  5. the idea of “indigenous people” with respect to a piece of land is just a political construct – in the end, it all boils down to who has the larger guns to enforce their construct of choice.

  6. 8opus, I’m confused–what do you mean by “apartheid” in Lebanon? I was just in Lebanon and I didn’t witness anything that would justify that statement.
    About 400,000 persons of Palestinian origin are interned in refugee camps scattered around Lebanon. The Lebanese government applies a rather extensive set of restrictions to these persons.

  7. The Israelis on the West Bank, who can vote in Israel, are exploiting Palestinians on the West Bank who can’t, basically for no reason other than religious wackjobness. As long as Israel does this it will be Apartheid. Futhermore there is legal discrimination and segregation in Israel. It isn’t just personal discrimination. It is enshrined into laws that bar Jews from selling property to nonjews in Jewish neighborhoods and that bar non jews from recieving welfare entitlements and health care. Laws that refuse to recognize pre-existing Arab communities, so for instance bedoins have no garbage collection services, no sewage treatment, and no schools. Even if it were just personal discrimination, it is being tolerated at such high levels that Israel deserves censure. How do you account for the fact that the same dipheads in hebron that attacked the Children going to school, even with Christian peace makers protecting them, are still doing so, and no-one has arrested them? The government isn’t doing anything whatsoever to discourage bigots in their society. Nothing.

  8. Jenifer, that is just not true. There have been many arrests of Jewish fanatics who have tried to attack Arabs.
    Those laws were put into place before Israel existed. Their purpose was to help create a Jewish state. However, I do agree that they no longre serve a purpose now that a Jewish state exists. They are being challenged in the Israeli Supreme Court. This is what happens in a genuine democracy.
    It is interesting to compare Israel and the US. How long after Pearl Harbor did our government start putting Japanese Americans in detention camps? Given that Israel has fought wars, two intifadahs and endless suicide bombings. Israel has don amazingly well. Would Americans do as well under similar circumstances? We have not in the past.
    There is another distinction between Jews and country of South Africa. The whites in South Africa were all had home countries and came to South Africa to exploit the resources. Jews were stateless and vulnerable. No country was willing to take the survivors in. Jews just wanted one lousy tiny peice of land to call their own, but for some that is to much to ask for.
    I repeat that most Israelis do not want to be in the West Bank and Gaza. They are perfectly willing to give it up. They just want to live peacefully without being attacked.
    Also, everyone is ignoring the aboslute hatred and classic anti-Semitism that is coming from the Palestinian side.

  9. Ah–thanks, 8opus. That is true. However, you could also choose to call that a refugee immigration problem. Not classic, culturally and legally entrenched apartheid a la S. Africa in Benjamin Pogrund’s argument.

  10. To my knowledge, the laws restricting the sale of land in Israel apply to Arabs and Jews equally. In fact, I believe part of Netanyahu’s over-arching objective of privatization involves releasing for public sale some of the 93% of Israeli land under the govt’s jurisdiction.

  11. Susan, if Israel didn’t want to be on the West Bank it wouldn’t be there. Israel had years of relative peace and still failed to get out of the West Bank. The individuals that attacked those children and still are to this day have not been arrested. When they are maybe you’ll have a point.

  12. However, you could also choose to call that a refugee immigration problem. Not classic, culturally and legally entrenched apartheid a la S. Africa in Benjamin Pogrund’s argument.
    Yes: I agree with you that apartheid describes a particular regime in a particular place in history, and that those who use it to describe other situations seek to obscure more than enlighten. (As in: propaganda.)
    But I figure that if people want to throw the word around, they might as well use it to describe the situations that most resemble it. Like Lebanon’s illegal apartheid regime. I mean, um…

  13. Jenifer,
    There were a FEW years of relative peace and Israelis elected Rabin and Barak during those years so clearly they voted for peace.
    Have your read Dennis Ross’s book, The Missing Peace? The Israelis and the Palestinians had reached an agreement, but Arafat alone rejected it.
    The Palestinians then responded with unremitting violence and hatred. No one did more to elect Sharon than Arafat.

  14. This account was pretty much debunked by Clinton’s account, which shows clearly that Barak made no offer at all. Dennis wasn’t an objective participant in the process, anyway. He works for AIPAC and a group that promotes immigration to Israel.

  15. Good observations on Barak and Ross by Avi Shlaim
    O n the seventh day of the summit, Clinton’s patience was exhausted and he flipped his lid. Barak gave Clinton a paper that he wanted him to present to the Palestinians as his own. Not only did the paper pose questions as if the Palestinians had a test they must pass, but it walked back some of the key moves that Shlomo Ben-Ami, Barak’s foreign minister, had made earlier. Clinton exploded: “You want to present these ideas directly to Arafat, to the Palestinians, you go ahead and see if you can sell it. There is no way I can. This is not real. This is not serious. I went to Shepherdstown and was told nothing by you for four days. I went to Geneva and felt like a wooden Indian doing your bidding.” His voice rising and his face red, Clinton shouted, “I will not let it happen here. I will simply not do it.” This outburst evidently had a sobering effect, for the next day Barak finally presented his bottom lines. Clinton duly conveyed the new ideas to Arafat, underlining their historic significance. Were they a basis for concluding an agreement, yes or no? The answer came back: No. Nor did Arafat make any counterproposal. This sealed the fate of the summit. Clinton promptly laid all the blame for the failure of the summit at Arafat’s door, breaking his promise that there would be no finger-pointing in the event of failure.
    With Clinton’s support, Barak’s version of events rapidly gained ground, particularly in Israel and the United States. According to this version, Israel made the most generous offer imaginable at Camp David, but Arafat rejected it flatly and made a deliberate decision to return to violence. This allegedly demonstrated that there is no Palestinian partner for peace. In The Missing Peace Dennis Ross supports this version, sometimes implicitly and sometimes explicitly. During the crisis at Camp David, he muses that Arafat may simply not be up to making a deal: “He is a revolutionary; he has made being a victim an art form; he can’t redefine himself into someone who must end all claims and truly end the conflict.”
    The Barak-Ross version of the collapse of the Camp David summit is simplistic, selective and self-serving. It is also contradicted by Ross’s own account. If he and Barak didn’t think that Arafat was up to doing a deal, why did they convene the summit and pressure Arafat to attend it? Didn’t the intimate relationship with the Israelis cast some doubt on America’s claim to be acting as an honest broker? Was there no basis for Arafat’s suspicion of an Israeli-American conspiracy to corner him at Camp David? Arafat has many faults, but he has demonstrated his ability to make historic choices, notably by opting for a two-state solution in 1988 and by signing the Oslo Accord in 1993. By contrast, Barak had been unhappy about the accord with the PLO; he abstained in the cabinet vote on the 1995 Oslo II agreement; and he had never been a member of what Yossi Beilin calls “the peace mafia” in Israel. The most fundamental cause of the failure of the Camp David summit lies not in Arafat’s psychological makeup but in Barak’s package. On the one hand, he offered only limited concessions on Jerusalem and the refugees, and on the other hand he insisted on an absolute end to the conflict. He insisted that the Palestinians sign on the dotted line that they had no further claims against the State of Israel. This remorseless insistence on finality was in fact part of the problem, not the solution. Peace by ultimatum did not work.
    Barak’s package was a reasonable basis for an interim agreement, not for the final end of the conflict, which he wanted so badly. Israelis like to demonize Arafat, but no Palestinian leader, however moderate, could accept the package on offer at Camp David. Arafat, in fact, represents the broadest consensus within the Palestinian community. That is the source of his legitimacy and the secret of his strength. Arafat’s real mistake was not to reject the much-vaunted “generous offer” but to encourage, or at least to tolerate, the resort to violence from his side following the collapse of the Oslo peace process. The Palestinian resort to violence in the al-Aqsa intifada had disastrous consequences. It came close to destroying the peace camp in Israel, convinced the public that there is no partner for peace and brought to power the most aggressively right-wing government in Israel’s history. ……….

  16. Dennis Ross does not work for AIPAC. He works for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
    You have a very bizarre interpretation of Clinton’s book. You obviously read a different edtion then I did. It said no such thing. Clinton himself agrees with me. It is simply inaccurate and ridiculous to say that Dennis Ross had not part in the negotiations. It’s your version that is selective and simplistic. I suggest that you read Ross’s entire book and reread Clinton’s book.
    Ross and Clinton did have serious disagreements with Netanyahu, but not with Barak. Indeed Clinton blamed Arafat, not Barak.
    You are distorting history for political purposes. I thin that there should be a two state solution, but your views only make the problems worse.

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