Home > Israel/Palestine > Is Israel an Apartheid regime?

Is Israel an Apartheid regime?

Yet another excellent op-ed from Tony Karon for Abu Dhabi’s The National appeared in my reader feed this morning.  Accusations of apartheid politics have been thrown at Israel for some time now from members of the Left and Palestinian solidarity groups but Mr. Karon seems to be suggesting that these accusations are soon going to hit the mainstream. Moreover, it seems these suggestions are prompted by comments made by Ehud Olmert himself.

In a remarkable interview last November, the Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert cautioned that unless it could achieve a two-state solution quickly, Israel would “face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, and as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished”. The reason, he said, was that Israel would be internationally isolated. “The Jewish organisations, which are our power base in America, will be the first to come out against us because they will say they cannot support a state that does not support democracy and equal voting rights for all its residents.”

I myself must have missed this interview last November but it certainly does sound remarkable – especially for Olmert to make such an admission which, it should be noted, was made even before the Gaza offensive began. That offensive, as Karon also points out, has seen a bit of a seismic shift in global perceptions of Israel.

Jewish communities in western countries have long been Israel’s trump card against international pressure, because they mobilise support for Israel and restrain critics by painting opposition to Israel’s policies as motivated by hostility to Jews – a toxic accusation in a world still sensitive to the horrors of the Holocaust. But what was palpable during the Gaza conflict was the diminished enthusiasm of young Jewish people abroad for Israeli militarism, and the increasing willingness of many to openly challenge Israel.

Karon invokes Jon Stewart, one of the left’s favourite political commentators and satirists. I also had no idea that Stewart was Jewish, which hardly matters I guess as opinions on Israel’s regime need not (and should not) be formed on a basis of religious or ethnic camaraderie. In the past, Jewish critics of Israel’s regime have been labelled “self-hating Jews” as carelessly as the accusations of “anti-semitism” have been thrown at gentile opponents. I have not heard such accusations thrown at Stewart, and hopefully they haven’t been and they won’t be. Hopefully we’re seeing a shift away from careless labelling and equating opposition to Israel to denying the Holocaust. Whatever your opinions on the matter, a discourse tainted with hysterics is never a positive thing.

Even as Israeli officials admitted last week that they were hoping to “rebrand” Israel’s image abroad, the Israeli media were reporting that six Israeli soldiers who had fought in Gaza were alleging that men in their units had indiscriminately killed Palestinian civilians because of what they said were permissive rules of engagement. There is only so much that “rebranding” can achieve when it is the product, rather than its packaging, that is at the root of the problem.

This is a fairly serious accusation. I have long said that the civillian casualties in Gaza were unacceptable and that the old defenses about fighting in densely-packed urban areas and Hamas using civillians as human shields, to me, just don’t seem to stack up to the numbers reported. 1,417 Palestinians died in a 3-week conflict, most of them civillians including many many women and children. I’m fairly sure the Israeli military command was not instructing its soldiers to fire at civillians but I’ve always suspected that the culture within the IDF has always been one of nonchalance towards civillian Palestinian casualties, I’ve always had a hunch that the motto seems to be “destroy Hamas at any cost, apart from Israeli lives”… Palestinian lives just never seemed to equate to the lives of Israelis.

In addition to what Tony Karon has wisely said, Israel will not be able to continue on the same track unless it starts to value the lives of Palestinians as equal to those of Israelis. Children are the same everywhere, and other innocent non-combatants should be too.

[Update]: Just seen some new articles from Haaretz and The Guardian about fresh allegations of massive disregard within the IDF for Palestinian civillian casualties and a disgustingly gung-ho culture. We’re talking about:

“Shoot and don’t worry about the consequences” was the message from commanders [Guardian]

Dead babies, mothers weeping on their children’s graves, a gun aimed at a child and bombed-out mosques – these are a few examples of the images Israel Defense Forces soldiers design these days to print on shirts they order to mark the end of training, or of field duty. The slogans accompanying the drawings are not exactly anemic either: A T-shirt for infantry snipers bears the inscription “Better use Durex,” next to a picture of a dead Palestinian baby, with his weeping mother and a teddy bear beside him. A sharpshooter’s T-shirt from the Givati Brigade’s Shaked battalion shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull’s-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, in English, “1 shot, 2 kills.” [Haaretz]

It’s really really sickening.

  1. March 23, 2009 at 1:42 am

    some of us (jews) have know for a long time that israel has been doing to the indigenous people of the holy land what was done to them by the nazis and what has been done to countless indigenous peoples all over the world by imperial invasions and the overlord settlers occupying stolen land.

    indigenous people are vilified as savages intent on murdering the invaders so targeted killing of children and pregnant women is not an aberration but a policy.

    it is the genius of israel propaganda to have been able to prevent the truth of ethnic cleansing (aka genocide) from reaching any but a small, voiceless minority in the imperial nations, even though they have relentlessly driven palestinians from their ancestral lands for over 60 years, bulldozed their villages, imprisoned and tortured thousands, murdered millions.

    as you say, the veil has fallen, the monster has been exposed and we have the internet to counter the msm propaganda.

  2. alexlobov
    March 23, 2009 at 3:32 am

    Thanks for the comment, ernie. You’re right, this has been going on for a long long time. To think that Sabra & Shatila was 27 years ago and that’s just the tip of the iceburg anyway. But let’s hope the veil has truly fallen and this isn’t another false dawn…

  3. sabaimtiaz
  4. alexlobov
    March 24, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    Thanks Saba,

    Seamas’ article is excellent in particular.

  5. Edwin
    June 2, 2009 at 12:47 am

    You all agree with each other and reinforce each others’ point of view. You create the anti-Israel narrative, then reinforce it in a thousand ways with incredible new insights about israel’s wrongdoing, Jews who use the chrage of antisemitism, and on and on. The truth remains that the Arab world still wants the destruction of Israel and works toward that end daily. Israel put up the wall reluctantly when the bombers came in time after time to kill civilians in Israel. The left, for reasons too complex for a comment here, is ultimately self-destructive. People like Tony Karon have made it their job to chip away at Israel from insde the Jewish community, while giving comfort and ammunition to those outside who want to see Israel destroyed. I have a sense that Israel will not succumb to all your assiduous undermining intentions and endless calumnies and theories. There are many intelligent and aware Jews who know the score. We know what’s going on is partly an attempt to marginalize us, the vast majority of Jews who do very strongly support Israel for the very best of reasons.

  6. alexlobov
    June 2, 2009 at 2:06 am


    I always welcome dissenting comments on my blog, however if the comments should be assenting then I’m not going to disagree for the sake of it. I dislike heated agreement as much as the next person interested in debate but when people want to agree with me I’m happy to accept that agreement.

    Now to the rest of what you said. The politically active among us and those who have studied international relations may well disagree with most of it. What you term “The Arab World” is a myth. The Arab World is far from unified, the leaders of the Arab nations can hardly agree on anything apart form rhetoric on which they rarely act, and most of them are too preoccupied with maintaining their despotic dictatorships than bothering about Israel. The same Egyptian and Jordanian pragmatism that brought about those two peace accords prevails in most of the other Arab nations. This is why Israel has not been in a conflict with another nation-state since Lebanon ’82. The idea that Iran actually presents a threat to Israel is, in my opinion, laughable but even if it were a real threat, it is one nation-state that is not even part of “the arab world”. The principal threat now comes from radicalised non-state actors (terrorist groups).

    While the terrorist threat is real and ongoing, Israel has no legitimacy to carry out its actions and harm millions of innocent civilians in the process. The old war-cry of “The Arabs want to kills us” is looking more and more flawed. In the age of Web 2.0 and al-Jazeera international the world knows disproportionality when it sees it and it knows oppression when it sees it. Give the Palestinians a state with all the rights of other nation-states and if they still pose a security threat Israel will have a legitimate right to defend itself.

    And finally, people like Tony Karon and whatnot, well we shall see what the results of their actions will be. If you would like to be a staunch defender of Israeli Foreign Policy then so be it, good luck to you. Obviously neither of us is going to change each other’s minds. I am happy with what I see as progress in the international community since the last Gaza offensive. I don’t think Israel is used to the sort of criticism it received, and while we are far from Israel-Palestine being enough of a domestic issue to make a difference in democratic politics outside of the region, I believe we are on the path to change, even if it is going to take some time.

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