Liberal Zionists on ‘Apartheid’ Report

This is the statement issued by Ameinu, The Third Narrative’s sponsoring organization, regarding Amnesty International’s report:

Amnesty International released a report entitled, “Israel’s Apartheid against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime against Humanity.” This report has received global attention and was rejected unequivocally by the governments of Israel and the United States for its use of the word “apartheid.” The Amnesty report reads as an indictment of the entire Zionist enterprise and utilizes a selective understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to delegitimize Israel’s existence. 

Ameinu President Kenneth Bob said, “I reject the conclusions of the Amnesty report but I think that Israel’s supporters in America and around the world need to take a close and unflinching look at Israel’s policies in the occupied territories that are causing this uproar in the international community. While there is a need to combat these attacks, Israel will be well-served by alleviating the hardships that its more than 50 year occupation of the West Bank are causing to the Palestinians living under its rule and commit itself to finding a just solution to the conflict over Israel-Palestine.” 

The report traces the roots of Israel’s so-called apartheid to the state’s establishment in 1948:  “This system of apartheid originated with the creation of Israel in May 1948 and has been built and maintained over decades by successive Israeli governments across all territories they have controlled, regardless of the political party in power at the time.” It cites forced expulsions, property seizures and other abuses against Arabs who were living in the region during the 1948 war, without reference to the decision of Palestinian and other Arab leaders to initiate that war rather than implement UN General Assembly Resolution 181, authorizing two sovereign states with a shared economy and other cooperative mechanisms; neither is there reference to waves of terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians that undermined promising peace initiatives in the 1990s and early 2000s.   

Michael Koplow, Policy Director for the Israel Policy Forum, entitled his column of Feb. 3rd “The Strange Case of Erasing Nationalism From a National Conflict.” A sampling follows:

. . .  Describing the entire Israeli system as apartheid and as a crime against humanity makes resolving the conflict harder to achieve, not easier. There are obvious reasons for why this is so, chief among them that it polarizes the issue even further as everyone retreats to their respective bunkers and girds for rhetorical battle. But there are two other important reasons that render the charge one that creates problems rather than paves the way to a solution.

Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and treatment of Palestinians are problematic enough in their own right. It is not a natural state of affairs to rule over a territory containing millions of people who do not have citizenship, who cannot come and go without worrying about losing their status on official population registers, who are subject to a military rather than civilian justice system, and whose ambitions for their own state have remained unfulfilled. Doing this for decades is unmanageable, unjust to the Palestinians who are the occupation’s subjects and unfair to the Israelis who are the occupation’s enforcers. This is all complicated by the fact that the Palestinians are not passive and blameless observers, and the enormous power imbalance does not erase Palestinian responsibility for terrorism, violence, or political and ideological rejectionism.  . . .

. . .  Both sides are fighting for their own nationalisms and national identities, and the tragedy is that they are doing this in the same small plot of land. The control and domination here—actual and aspirational—are literally about who will control the land, not about who will control another people or group. This is elementary stuff, and to look at the situation in Israel and Palestine and see a conflict over race is just about the most egregious possible example of missing the forest for the trees.  . . .  

Koplow went on to distinguish rights granted or denied to Palestinians depending upon where they live: those living as Israeli citizens, those who have (somewhat tenuous) residency rights in East Jerusalem, those living under complete Israeli military jurisdiction in Area C of the West Bank, those living in Areas A and B with some measure of jurisdiction under the Palestinian Authority, and those living in the Gaza Strip, where their egress and entry are severely restricted but Hamas governs their everyday lives.  

Koplow continues:

. . .  If Israel were exercising a system of domination and oppression based on racial classification, none of these distinctions would exist or make any sense. That is not to suggest that Arab citizens of Israel face no discrimination, or that Palestinian residents of Jerusalem are not subject to barriers and harassment. But that does not magically make the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a racial one rather than a national one.  . . .

Click here to read the entire column.