Ehud Barak has now joined an illustrious throng of Israelis who are coming to terms with the fact that unless there are dramatic changes in the status quo, Israel will become an apartheid state. When I read about that, I wondered how many demonstrators would have stalked him had he done a book tour and used the A-word three years ago, like Jimmy Carter. Not many, I’d venture to guess.
It seems that the estimable MJ Rosenberg also thought about the peanut farmer:
It’s been three years since Jimmy Carter was demonized as anti-Semitic for writing that if Israel maintained the occupation without giving Palestinians full rights, it would become an apartheid state.
And now Israel’s hawkish Defense Minister — and most highly decorated soldier — agrees.
Speaking at a conference outside Tel Aviv, Barak said, if “millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.”
Currently, Israel’s democracy applies only within the pre-’67 lines. The millions of Palestinians in the occupied territories have no democratic rights. Barak is saying that Israel must either get out of the territories or be another apartheid South Africa.
Exactly what President Carter said.
Except when Israel’s Defense Minister says it, he is also saying that Israel cannot defend itself unless it ends the occupation.
That is why supporters of a secure Israel must oppose the occupation. Thanks, Minister Barak. But then it is easier to speak the truth about the occupation in Israel than here in Washington. You don’t have the lobby to deal with.
Commenting on Barak’s remarks, Philip Weiss, on the other hand, says that apartheid “is already here,” joining the even larger throng that makes facile, simplistic analogies when comparing Israel and South Africa.
The Palestinian citizens of Israel confront a society that is closer to the American South in the 1960s, when African Americans did have the same rights as white Americans but had to fight to get those rights enforced. (Of course there are profound differences between the two societies, but I’m trying to find an approximate location for Israeli Arabs on the continuum of oppression.) Moreover, as I’ve noted here before, it is true that the EXPERIENCE of Palestinians under occupation is as bad as anything experienced by South African blacks during the apartheid era. But they are not citizens of the state of Israel (nor do they want to be); they are residents of a territory whose juridical status has yet to be determined. That is an important distinction.
We may soon reach a point when it becomes impossible to change the status of that territory, and then those residents really will be de facto second class citizens. But that hasn’t happened yet. At least I won’t allow myself to believe that it has happened yet.