Mondoweiss / December 7, 2021
The growing list of those who say Israel practices “apartheid” in occupied territories and west of the Green Line is joined by Michael Benyair, a former Israeli attorney general. But US advocates maintain a taboo on that word in the U.S. discourse.
As the apartheid charge against Israel proliferates, Israel’s advocates have fought back by saying that it’s antisemitic to make the charge.
Here is Jonathan Greenblatt saying so in November to the organization he heads, the Anti-Defamation League, in a speech on antisemitism:
Now don’t get me wrong, there certainly are things that the Israeli government has done that deserve rebuke. But criticizing the actions of a government is categorically different than deeming it illegitimate because of wildly inaccurate claims that it is instituting an apartheid or leading a genocide.
Here is Florida Rep. Ted Deutch in September saying on the House floor that his colleague Rashida Tlaib is antisemitic because she had quoted from human rights reports calling Israeli rule apartheid:
I cannot– cannot allow one of my colleagues to stand on the floor of the House of Representatives. … to label the Jewish Democratic state of Israel an apartheid state. I reject it…. I say to my colleague who just besmirched our ally… We can have an opportunity to debate a lot of issues on the House floor. But to falsely characterize Israel… is consistent with those who advocate for the dismantling of the one Jewish state in the world.. When there’s no place on the map for one Jewish state, that’s antisemitism.
False and wildly inaccurate? Besmirching Israel? Both Human Rights Watch and the Israeli human rights B’Tselem issued reports earlier this year saying that Israel is not a democracy, it practices apartheid on both sides of the Green Line– reports Tlaib cited in the House. Al-Haq and other Palestinian human rights groups have long said the same. The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights said so years ago.
Here are a few others who have said it’s apartheid: Chicago Episcopalians; Zaha Hassan, the human rights attorney and fellow at the Carnegie Endowment; 38 percent of Jews under 40, per a new poll; Jimmy Carter in his 2006 book that got him exiled from the U.S. establishment; James Klutznick, the chair of Americans for Peace Now (“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”); Minnesota Congresswoman Betty McCollum; and Aida Touma-Sliman, member of the Israeli Knesset.
That list now grows with the statement by a former Israeli attorney general, Michael Benyair (per Lara Friedman who translates):
Re: calling it “apartheid” in West Bank only: “It’s a mistake. The apartheid regime is in all areas controlled by Israel, between the sea & the Jordan River. The distinction… between democratic Israel & the West Bank that it controls is wrong.”
Benyair, an AG under the Labor government in the ’90s, years ago used the apartheid word for Israeli rule in the West Bank. He explains his expansion of that statement in the rest of his thread, per the twitter translation service:
After about 55 years of rule, it is no longer a temporary military occupation of a democratic state in territory not hers. This is the supremacy of the rights holders over the disenfranchised in the entire area under their control.
The solution to this is one of two things: granting equal rights to the disenfranchised in the entire controlled area and the loss of the Jewish majority, or ending the control of the disenfranchisers of the disenfranchised and granting self-determination to each community, in its own territory. The passage of years does not help to resolve the dilemma, but to exacerbate it.
Benyair is observing a reality that anyone who has gone to the occupied West Bank, or read the Jewish Nation State law that gives greater rights to Jews, can see for themselves.
Sadly, this wave of apartheid charges has largely gone uncovered by the western press, which maintains a view of dream-castle Israel that is in turn enforced by the likes of Ted Deutch and Jonathan Greenblatt. We can only hope that Benyair helps to shatter this delusion.
Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-2006