In a January 2014 New York Times op-ed that I somehow just noticed now, a South Africa-born Jew insists that Israel is not an apartheid state. Hirsh Goodman, a journalist and political commentator who immigrated to Israel in 1965, agrees that the occupation must end. Not because it’s evil to deprive a whole nation of its basic civil rights, but because it looks bad.
For Goodman, the problem is not the human rights abuses committed by Israel, but rather that anti-occupation activists, “some of whom have graduated from the best universities in the world,” are waging a campaign to “delegitimize” Israel by using the “buzzword” of apartheid. This is a false label, he asserts, which is sticking because Israel’s enemies are good at propaganda. Then, in a remarkable feat of unawareness, he goes on to make the case that Israel does preside over an apartheid-like system.
In apartheid South Africa, people disappeared in the night without the protection of any legal process and were never heard from again. There was no freedom of speech or expression and more “judicial” hangings were reportedly carried out there than in any other place on earth. There was no free press and, until January 1976, no public television. Masses of black people were forcibly moved from tribal lands to arid Bantustans in the middle of nowhere. A “pass system” stipulated where blacks could live and work, splitting families and breaking down social structures, to provide cheap labor for the mines and white-owned businesses, and a plentiful pool of domestic servants for the white minority. Those found in violation were arrested, usually lashed, and sentenced to stints of hard labor for a few shillings per prisoner per day, payable to the prison service.
None of this even remotely exists in Israel or the occupied territories.
In fact, almost all of these conditions exist in the territories controlled by Israel. Tweak this paragraph a bit, and you have a pretty accurate description of the system over which Israel has presided for 47 years —five years longer than apartheid existed in South Africa. Here’s the Israel-Palestine version:
Israel has been displacing Palestinians from their ancestral lands since the state was founded. After it conquered the West Bank in 1967, it systematically uprooted Palestinians from their homes there, starting with those who had the bad luck to occupy homes near the Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem’s Old City...Read More