More Zionists are finally acknowledging Israeli apartheid, but what comes next ?

Jonathan Ofir

Mondoweiss  /  August 14, 2023

Retired Israeli general Amiram Levin and South African journalist Benjamin Pogrund are the latest to call out Israeli apartheid. Now the question becomes, what are they willing to do about it ?

Now that there is a consensus in the human rights community that Israel is an apartheid state many are starting to acknowledge it, even some notable Israelis and Israel apologists. But even as they state the obvious, they are also trying to contain the damage, and in the process, obfuscate their personal responsibility and attempt to limit the possible remedies. 

It began perhaps earlier this year when veteran Israeli centrist journalist Ron Ben Yishai warned of looming apartheid as a major goal of the current government’s judicial reforms. Now, retired Israeli general Amiram Levin gave an interview to Kan radio in Israel where he referred to “total apartheid” in the occupied West Bank: 

“56 years there is no democracy there. There is total apartheid there. The IDF, which is being forced to enact the governance there, is rotting from within. It is standing from the sidelines, looking at the settler hooligans, and is beginning to become an accomplice to war crimes.” 

In Israel, Levin is considered a liberal and has a history of being shockingly racist. In the past, he has threatened to “tear the Palestinians apart” and “toss them across the Jordan,” said “the Palestinians deserved the occupation,” and that most Palestinians are “born to die anyway, we just need to help them to it.” And yes, even he sees “total apartheid.”

The interview comes on the heels of a recent letter to American Jews, chiding them for ignoring apartheid, the “elephant in the room.” Many Israeli academics and public figures have signed this letter, and so far, it has garnered over 1,500 signatures. Signatories even include staunch Zionists such as Benny Morris. The letter presents points for action, including a call for the U.S. government to sanction Israel:

“Demand from elected leaders in the United States that they help end the occupation, restrict American military aid from being used in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and end Israeli impunity in the UN and other international organizations.”

A clear call for action that either intentionally or not echoes calls Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) activists have been making for close to 20 years. But not all are happy with BDS being strengthened as a natural response to this apartheid. 

Last week, Benjamin Pogrund, a man who was a journalist in apartheid South Africa, wrote a piece in Haaretz titled “For Decades, I Defended Israel From Claims of Apartheid. I No Longer Can.” Pogrund explains how he was tapped in 2001 by then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to be part of Israel’s government delegation to the World Conference Against Racism in Durban:

“The Sharon government invited me because of my expertise after a quarter-century as a journalist in South Africa; my specialty was reporting apartheid close up.” But he says he can’t defend it anymore. He mentions the racist ‘Nation-state’ law of 2018, codifying exclusive Jewish national rights. Then there’s the occupation:

“Israel can no longer claim security as the reason for our behavior in the West Bank and the siege of Gaza. After 56 years, our occupation can no longer be explained as temporary, pending a solution to the conflict with Palestinians. We are heading toward annexation, with calls to double the 500,000 Israeli settlers already in the West Bank.”

Pogrund has, alas, already “annexed” East Jerusalem, which is a part of the West Bank, which would add about 250,000 more to the number of settlers cited. But his point about it being temporary is valid – this is a main part of why it can’t be called occupation, which is supposed to be temporary. And then, surprisingly, he lashes out at the movement for Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions for what he calls “ignorance and/or malevolence”:

“In Israel, I am now witnessing the apartheid with which I grew up. Israel is giving a gift to its enemies in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and its allies, especially in South Africa, where denial of Israel’s existence is intense among many Blacks, in trade unions and communist and Muslim circles. BDS activists will continue to make their claims, out of ignorance and/or malevolence, spreading lies about Israel. They have long distorted what is already bad into grotesqueness, but will now claim vindication. Israel is giving them truth”.

Pogrund is angry. These BDS activists have been ahead of him in calling to take Israel to task, but he wants control of when to call something apartheid and when not, when to defend it, and when not to. BDS activists are using a time-tested strategy in order to isolate the apartheid state. Pogrund doesn’t want that to happen, but he knows it is bound to happen, because Israel will eventually vindicate them. 

What a confused outlook. 

Both Pogrund and Levin are angry, but it is clear their anger is not based on the crime against humanity being carried about against Palestinians but because of what is happening to them. Levin, a veteran of Israel’s security apparatus and responsible for the very system he now criticizes, is lashing out at the current government. He does not point to his own responsibility, and he goes out of his way to say that he is not speaking out of concern for Palestinians.

“I am not saying this because I care for Palestinians. I care about us. We are killing ourselves from within. We are rotting the IDF, rotting the Israeli society,” he says. And it’s all “Bibi’s” fault (Netanyahu’s nickname). “Bibi has failed.”

This is tiring—the typical Israeli narcissism. We don’t care about Palestinians. Look what this occupation is doing to us.  

It is interesting how the recognition of apartheid is spreading, but we must be wary of Zionists who attempt to take control of the narrative and limit the discussion. Israeli apartheid is not something happening “over there.”

It’s apartheid from the river to the sea; it’s everywhere. And these responses are also a good reminder of why Jewish supremacy won’t end itself from within, the only answer is from the outside.

Jonathan Ofir is an Israeli musician, conductor and blogger/writer based in Denmark