April 29, 2014


Is Israel an Apartheid State? (Jeffrey Goldberg, 4/29/14, Bloomberg View)

 I myself have used the word "apartheid" not only to describe a possible terrible future for Israel, but also as a way of depicting some current and most unfortunate facts on the ground.

In a 2004 New Yorker article I described how the settlement movement was slowly destroying the idea of a Jewish democratic state of Israel:

[Ariel] Sharon seems to have recognized -- belatedly -- Israel's stark demographic future: the number of Jews and Arabs between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea will be roughly equal by the end of the decade. By 2020, the Israeli demographer Sergio Della Pergola has predicted, Jews will make up less than forty-seven per cent of the population. If a self-sustaining Palestinian state -- one that is territorially contiguous within the West Bank -- does not emerge, the Jews of Israel will be faced with two choices: a binational state with an Arab majority, which would be the end of the idea of Zionism, or an apartheid state, in which the Arab majority would be ruled by a Jewish minority.

A de-facto apartheid already exists in the West Bank. Inside the borders of Israel proper, Arabs and Jews are judged by the same set of laws in the same courtrooms; across the Green Line, Jews live under Israeli civil law as well, but their Arab neighbors -- people who live, in some cases, just yards away -- fall under a different, and substantially undemocratic, set of laws, administered by the Israeli Army. The system is neither as elaborate nor as pervasive as South African apartheid, and it is, officially, temporary. It is nevertheless a form of apartheid, because two different ethnic groups living in the same territory are judged by two separate sets of laws.

I suppose this passage makes me an enemy of Israel, in the same way Kerry is an enemy of Israel, and in the same way that the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (who is also Israel's most decorated soldier) is an enemy of Israel, because Barak has also warned about the dangers of the status quo: "As long as in this territory west of the Jordan River there is only one political entity called Israel," he said in 2010, "it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic. If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state."

Few of the conditions I described in that 2004 article have changed, but I have decided, for a number of reasons, to try to avoid using the term apartheid to describe the situation in the West Bank. 

They define Judaism racially and insist on being recognized as a "Jewish state."  How's that different than insisting on being recognized as a white state?

Posted by at April 29, 2014 2:41 PM

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