Mondoweiss / July 14, 2021
AIPAC’s cancellation of its annual conference in 2022 shows that the Israel lobby is in complete disarray, with young American Jews distancing themselves from a country that 38 percent of them call an “apartheid” state. The liberal Zionist group Americans for Peace Now has repeatedly credited the “apartheid” charge against Israel, while J Street rejects the label.
There was big news inside the Israel lobby yesterday: the legendary Israel lobbying group AIPAC will not hold its annual conference next spring, citing lingering covid concerns– if you believe that, and I don’t. The air has clearly gone out of the rightwing Israel lobby. It is dependent on wealthy older Jews, and Republicans; and younger Jews want nothing to do with the brand. Look at the new poll on Jewish American attitudes, in which 38 percent of Jews under 40 say Israel is an apartheid state, and 20 percent say Israel has no right to exist!
These younger Jews are represented by Jewish Voice for Peace, which supports BDS aimed at Israeli human rights violations, and by IfNotNow, which regularly describes Palestinian conditions as “apartheid,” and supports conditioning U.S. aid to keep it from going to settlements.
“A majority of American Jews support conditioning US funding to Israel.”
This movement is putting a lot of pressure on liberal Zionists, who have always had way more solidarity for Israeli Jews than Palestinians. By default, J Street is inheriting the role of the centrist Israel lobby; because it is against “conditioning” aid, though it supports “restrictions” on aid so that it doesn’t go to “creeping annexation.” J Street seeks to maintain “robust”, bipartisan, non-politicized support for Israel, meaning Congress should continue to authorize nearly $4 billion in military aid every year. J Street does not oppose the U.S. paying for missiles that strike Gaza civilians; and it is under growing pressure from its Democratic base to seem like it is doing something about Palestinian rights.
J Street rejects the “apartheid” designation. Americans for Peace Now officially shares that view, but it has repeatedly given credit to the accusation.
Americans for Peace Now’s chairman James Klutznick said a year ago that it’s apartheid.
Regardless of how Israel or I should say Netanyahu and that faction of their government tries to cover annexation with the euphemism of extending Isael sovereignty, Occupation remains. It’s occupation, and whether or not anyone wants to say apartheid, I just said it. It’s been de facto apartheid for a long time and this could end up being official.
Two days ago Yossi Alpher echoed the charge in a dialogue at APN:
“[PM Naftali] Bennett will continue to support what can only be called an Israeli version of apartheid for the West Bank.”
In April, Human Rights Watch declared that Israel practices apartheid; and Americans for Peace publicized the charge and did not dispute it.
“[W]e know that the carefully documented facts in the HRW report on the occupation are largely indisputable. We also know too well what the occupation does to Palestinians and Israelis, and how desperately it needs to end.
Let’s talk about the facts on the ground, not what you think about the use of the term Apartheid.”
By contrast, J Street has avoided the term apartheid in its messaging, by speaking about “deepening occupation” and “creeping annexation.” “J Street does not use the term ‘apartheid’ to describe the current situation in the occupied territories,” it said after HRW released its report. Lately it has promoted a talk about the “de facto annexation” of the West Bank by Michael Sfard, but that video does not include Sfard’s own finding for the human rights group Yesh Din a year ago– it’s apartheid.
When Yesh Din made that charge, Americans for Peace Now publicized the allegations by lawyer Sfard.
More recently, Hadar Susskind, the head of Americans for Peace Now, wrote an article for the Washington Jewish Week all but agreeing with the charge of apartheid, though he prefers “occupation.”
“Almost no one in the Jewish community is addressing the question of whether current Israeli policy meets the criteria for the crime of apartheid under international law. Instead, they cry “antisemitism,” they attack the report’s author and they seek to delegitimize the world’s leading human rights organization….”
And last month when members of the Israeli parliament, Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) and Mossi Raz (Meretz) held a seminar in the Knesset to discuss the occupation— “After 54 years: From Occupation to Apartheid” — Americans for Peace Now publicized that too. Raz said:
“We didn’t say there is apartheid in the West Bank,” Raz said. “Some of the participants did. .. I don’t think Israel within ’67 [lines] is an apartheid state. .. But even mentioning that brought a lot of attention and in a way a lot of hatred. I’ve been active in political life for more than 40 years. Maybe this was one of the weeks that I got more hatred than ever.”
Avner Gvaryahu of Breaking the Silence spoke at that seminar and said, It’s apartheid. Again, Americans for Peace Now posted his remarks in full. Excerpt.
“I understand that a lot of people are bothered by the talk of apartheid. The link between our policies in the territories and the historical crime that took place in South Africa infuriates them.
Let’s talk about separation, or hafrada in Hebrew…Does anyone not think that there is a separation-based regime in the territories? …
You are not fooling anyone….Separation in Afrikaans is apartheid. It is time to face the reality we have created and bring an end to the occupation as soon as possible.”
Americans for Peace Now’s support for the apartheid charge tells me that it sees that the Jewish community is up in the air, and in disarray, and knows that liberal Zionist organizations need to catch up with the young. The Israel lobby has aged out (I say as a 65-year-old). Look at American Jewish Committee headed by a self-involved man who pulls down $737,000 a year to be completely out of touch with Jewish thought; the Conference of Presidents, which has never seen an illegal Jewish settlement it doesn’t love; and AIPAC finding lame excuses not to pay for a bunch of college students to fill the Washington convention center.
“[T]he main takeaway is that the pro-occupation establishment’s efforts to repeatedly conflate criticism of Israel with antisemitism is backfiring in a massive way,” says Ilhan Omar’s communications person, Jeremy Slevin.
Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-2006