Israel’s apartheid regime

You can be sure that when Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the United Nations General Assembly today, he will ramp up the rhetoric against Iran. With all this saber rattling, the plight of the Palestinians in the occupied territories has taken a back seat.

Now a new documentary called Roadmap to Apartheid by Ana Nogueira (a white South African) and Eron Davidson (a Jewish Israeli) returns that issue to the forefront as it explores the striking parallels between the former apartheid regime in South Africa and what is currently taking place in Israel and the occupied territories.

The film’s website is here and you can see the trailer.

The use of the word apartheid to describe the state that currently exists in the occupied territories was controversial when first uttered but is now routinely used because the parallels are so obvious and cannot be denied. Back in 1997, Nelson Mandela himself linked the two issues:

When in 1977, the United Nations passed the resolution inaugurating the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, it was asserting the recognition that injustice and gross human rights violations were being perpetrated in Palestine. In the same period, the UN took a strong stand against apartheid; and over the years, an international consensus was built, which helped to bring an end to this iniquitous system.

But we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians; without the resolution of conflicts in East Timor, the Sudan and other parts of the world.

One has to only look at a map of Israel and the occupied territories over time to see the steady encroachment of Israel into Palestinian lands.

If you take away the land that is now controlled by Israel, this is what you get.

The Palestinians have become squeezed into an archipelago of landlocked islands that require them to endure harsh Israeli security checkpoints to go from one region to another. The parallels with the Bantustan enclaves in apartheid–era South Africa are striking.

Back in July, Stephen M. Walt wrote about the fact that part of the blame for this appalling state of affairs has been the bogus narrative that we in the west have been fed.

One of the more enduring myths in the perennial debate on the Israel-Palestine conflict is the claim that Israel has always been interested in a fair and just peace, and that the only thing standing in the way of a deal is the Palestinians’ commitment to Israel’s destruction. This notion has been endlessly recycled by Israeli diplomats and by Israel’s defenders in the United States and elsewhere.

Of course, fair-minded analysts of the conflict have long known that this pernicious narrative was bogus. They knew that former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (who signed the Oslo Accords) never favored creating a viable Palestinian state (indeed, he explicitly said that a future Palestinian entity would be “less than a state.”) The Palestinians’ errors notwithstanding, they also understood that Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s offers at Camp David in 2000 — though more generous than his predecessors’ — still fell well short of a genuine two-state deal. But the idea that Israel sought peace above all else but lacked a genuine “partner for peace” has remained an enduring “explanation” for Oslo’s failure.

Over the past several weeks, however, the veil has fallen off almost completely. If you want to understand what’s really going on, here are a few things you need to read.

Read Walt’s full article to see why the two-state solution, long favored by many as the only way to resolve the issue, in now being seen as increasingly hopeless.

You cannot have what is an increasingly theocratic state that discriminates on the basis of race and religion and still maintain the institutions of democracy. Former Israeli speaker Avraham Burg warns of all the ominous signs that Israel’s democracy is fading

Israel arose as a secular, social democratic country inspired by Western European democracies. With time, however, its core values have become entirely different. Israel today is a religious, capitalist state. Its religiosity is defined by the most extreme Orthodox interpretations.

The winds of isolation and narrowness are blowing through Israel. Rude and arrogant power brokers, some of whom hold senior positions in government, exclude non-Jews from Israeli public spaces. Graffiti in the streets demonstrates their hidden dreams: a pure Israel with “no Arabs” and “no gentiles.” They do not notice what their exclusionary ideas are doing to Israel, to Judaism and to Jews in the diaspora. In the absence of a binding constitution, Israel has no real protection for its minorities or for their freedom of worship and expression.

If this trend continues, all vestiges of democracy will one day disappear, and Israel will become just another Middle Eastern theocracy. It will not be possible to define Israel as a democracy when a Jewish minority rules over a Palestinian majority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea — controlling millions of people without political rights or basic legal standing.

Christopher Hitchens said that religion poisons everything, and the situation in the Middle East provides incontrovertible evidence in support of that.


  1. mnb0 says

    Anyone who doubts that Israel is an apartheid state should look up the fate of the Negev Bedouins, a (formerly) very loyal group of Arabs who delivered several war heroes for Israel. I regret to write it, because I dislike especially Hamas and Hezbollah, but Israel clearly is not a civilized country according to western standards.

  2. kraut says

    It is very simple indeed: any criticism of any action by any Israeli government is automatically antisemitic.
    Discussion closed.
    No matter if they torture Palestinian prisoners, blockade economic development in the Gaza strip or intentionally kill unarmed citizens in conflict.
    No Israeli ever can do wrong.
    But they learned valuable lessons of how to treat human vermin, i.e. anybody of non jewish origin with utter contempt..especially if those vermin live in a region they claim as their own.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    Are you discussing the post’s format, or its content?

    Good news from “the Holy Land”™ would be a nice change.

  4. sunny says

    They do not notice what their exclusionary ideas are doing to Israel, to Judaism and to Jews in the diaspora.


    The chosen will be the saved; everyone else be damned. Yay, religion! The poison is the same, only the flavours are different.

    Wasn’t Carter heavily criticized for using the word “Apartheid” in his book?

  5. nardo says

    Without defending the actions of the current Jewish extremists controlling Israel, it’s wrong to ignore the fact that the Palestinian/Arab parties actively contributed to the “apartheid” situation through a century long cycle of tit-for-tat violence. The black communities in South Africa also didn’t have well-funded external influences goading them into violence at the worst possible times. (see the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza)

    I understand the impulse of freethinkers to “speak truth to power” and primarily criticize Israel, but without recognizing the differences in the situation, we’re not helping the either Israeli or Palestinian moderates who have a hell of a time convincing their religious peers that the whole world isn’t against them.

  6. F says

    I dunno. What would you do (or, say, what would Texas do) if someone decided to suddenly carve a new nation state out of your home? For pretty much religious reasons? And which attracted immigration skewed heavily toward religious conservatives and extremists? (Yeah, I’m not buying the “Israel arose as a secular…country” bit at all.)

  7. left0ver1under says

    Israel’s goal is to make the lives of Palestinians so miserable that they leave whether by desperation or as refugees.

    It could be called ethnic cleansing, but it would be more accurate to call it petty, childish revenge. The goal is to do to the Palestinians what was done to jews, to leave them without a homeland for 2000 years. Israel’s policy is not that of a mature state, it is the act of a two year old child.

    Israel has absolutely no intention of allowing the Palestinians to remain, never mind a “two state solution”. The abominable and genocidal mentality of David Ben Gurion still persists.

    “We walked outside, Ben-Gurion accompanying us. Allon repeated his question, What is to be done with the Palestinian population?’ Ben-Gurion waved his hand in a gesture which said ‘Drive them out!”

    – Yitzhak Rabin, leaked censored version of Rabin memoirs, published in the New York Times, 23 October 1979.

  8. Jared A says

    Rather off topic, but your quote just reminded me:

    I’m not sure what the agreed upon definition of homeland is, but there has been at least one Jewish state in the last two millenia. See the Khazar kingdom:

    I don’t know how historically important it is, but I just learned about it and thought it was kind of a cool detail to share. There was a 9th century Turko-Jewish kingdom up by the Black Sea? I never would have thought.

    What’s really telling is how little interreligious dynamics have changed in the last 1200 years. Persecution of and reprisals against the little people on both sides based on events occurring hundreds or thousands of miles away.

  9. nrdo says

    The desire to carve out a hostile theocracy is also how many Israelis see the Palestinian project. The fact is, both Israel and Palestine have religious and secular factions. You’re poo-pooing the secular side of Israel because you want to cast it as the villain, just as some Israelis cast every Palestinian as a potential suicide bomber.

    The hard facts (vastly improved literacy, life expectancy etc.) show that Israelis and Palestinians can and do cooperate in the secular sphere and that it’s quite possible for us to support the secular organizations on both sides that oppose the extremists.

  10. Uri says

    i have to disagree with your placing the blame on religion. long before the religious people ascended, israel was founded as a colonialist, racial supremacist state. burg’s version is the liberal zionist’s fantasy. israel was born in a massive act of ethnic cleansing, kicking out some 750,000 palestinians from their homes, then legislating away their rights, including even their right to property. the palestinians that avoided expulsion lived under what was essentially a military dictatorship until 1966, and still live as second class citizens under regulations that jews are not subjected to (that’s “jews” as an ethnic/national designation, not as a religion). all of this happened while the secularist social democrats were in charge.

  11. nrdo says

    1) The founding of Israel was characterized by the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries as well. The Cold War drove a lot of the ‘secular’ violence back through the 1970s and arguing about who suffered more is a ridiculous waste of time.

    2) *Today*, The most influential groups that stand in the way of a peace agreement (Hamas, Settlers) are predominantly religious and/or use religion as a tool. I agree with Christopher Hitchens’ assessment of the situation; religion is definitely a poison here.

    3) This will disappoint many, but Israel is not going away and neither are the Palestinians. The only question is how many lives and years will be wasted before the religious extremists are defeated. It would be nice if some sort of secular bill of rights (based on the EU) could be developed to cover both Israel and the future Palestinian state, but it will probably take a generational change for that to happen.

  12. Uri says

    the groups standing in the way of peace are the government of israel and the government of the united states. both are secular. the settlers are largely religious nuts but they’re there at the sufferance of the israeli government, which put them there, armed them and provided them with infrastructure. dogs wag tails, not the other way around. hamas are religious nuts but they’re not against peace with israel. secular systems and dynamics, like colonialism and capitalism, drive a lot of conflict. religion will often make an appearance, and might look like the cause of all the irrationality because religion is so saliently irrational, but it is often an epiphenomenon. in the case of israel and palestine, the conflict is mostly due to colonial rule, whose ideological basis is in european notions of cultural and racial supremacy, being imposed on the palestinians at gunpoint. this is no more religious in basis than was the enslavement of africans. the conflict is what caused the crazies to be able emerge as a public voice, not the other way around.

  13. says

    arguing about who suffered more is a ridiculous waste of time.

    Arguing about who suffered more is a waste of time, but we cannot ignore the question of who is suffering, and why. It’s not reasonable to argue “the nazis made the jews suffer, therefore it is appropriate for the jews to make the palestinians suffer.” So looking at the suffering involved is either a deliberate false comparison, or a serious mistake. Perhaps one could argue that punishment for the actions of the nazis would have been to carve out a jewish state from the remains of Germany following their defeat. If you’re the kind of moral monster who advocates collective punishment, that is. Arguing that today’s palestinians deserve what they’re getting because they descended from the people who displaced the jews 2,000+ years ago would be monstrous.

    The situation is more analogous to my being mistreated in America and returning to the part of Norway where my ancestors came from, and asserting a right to displace the people who have been living there for the last hundred years or so. Only we’re not talking a hundred years.


  1. […] Israel’s apartheid regime You can be sure that when Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the United Nations General Assembly today, he will ramp up the rhetoric against Iran. With all this saber rattling, the plight of the Palestinians in the occupied territories has taken a back seat. Now a new documentary called Roadmap to Apartheid by Ana Nogueira (a white South African) and Eron Davidson (a Jewish Israeli) returns that issue to the forefront as it explo… […]

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