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Tzipi Livni joins the 'Israel apartheid' club

Israel’s justice minister follows former prime ministers Barak and Olmert in applying the term to this occupying country.

The newest self-hating Jewish anti-Semite, according to right-wing Zionist standards, is Tzipi Livni, who on Monday suggested that one of Israel’s possible futures is that of an “apartheid state.” From The Jerusalem Post:

During her Eilat speech, Livni said she was impressed that youth in the country protested against the government decision to export natural gas.

“I appreciate the fact that they care and are thinking about the future, and obligating us to think about the future,” she said. “But the time has come for the same youth to ask, to what kind of state do they want to leave the gas reserves? To a Jewish democratic Israel? Or to a binational Arab state? Or to an apartheid state? It is impossible to deal with economic issues and to ignore the important diplomatic issues related to two states for two peoples.”

As the outraged “centrist” professor/commentator Gil Troy noted in his JPost blog, Livni, the country’s justice minister and figurehead negotiator with the Palestinians, joins two former prime ministers, Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak, in applying the A-word to Israel. Like Olmert and Barak, she was warning of what would happen in the future if Israel doesn’t relinquish control over the Palestinians – but actually she, like Olmert and Barak, was talking about the present. If maintaining the occupation will become apartheid in the future, why, after 46 years of it, isn’t the occupation apartheid now? What’s going to be different later? Will the occupation become apartheid only after the Jews lose their majority (which now stands at about 51 percent) between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea, where Israel is the only sovereign state? Will apartheid begin only when the Arabs reach 50 percent plus one of the area’s population, and so long as they’re at least one Arab shy of 50 percent, will apartheid be at bay?

Myself, I don’t use that term to characterize the occupation because, as Troy points out, apartheid was based on race, while the occupation is based on nationality and territory. Instead, I prefer terms like “military dictatorship,” “tyranny” and “colonialism.” But I think the similarities between the occupation and apartheid far outweigh the differences – they’re both based on one kind of people “legally” lording it over another kind – so while the term is imprecise, it’s not an insult, or an offense, or, to use a term right-wingers love, a “blood libel.” And with Livni now joining the club, the campaign by Israel’s propagandists to brand those who make the occupation-apartheid comparison as anti-Semites has become an embarrassment, a tactic that will backfire.

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    1. Aaron Gross

      Myself, I don’t use that term to characterize the occupation because…apartheid was based on race, while the occupation is based on nationality and territory.

      You’re right of course, and race is actually an essential part of apartheid, as the legal definition acknowledges. Most of world history is about “one people lording it over another,” and Jews’ domination of Arabs – both citizens and non-citizens – fits pretty comfortably into that historical pattern. Apartheid was (past tense) a very limited, specific phenomenon.

      The motivation behind the slur is obvious: “Apartheid” is a swear word. Therefore, if you can get people to describe your enemy that way, you win. The idea is to redefine “apartheid” to apply to Israel (or, more leniently, to Israel/Palestine), but to keep it a swear word. More generally: cast the Arab-Jewish conflict as white oppression of people of color. You can’t go wrong with that.

      Reply to Comment
    2. “National” and “people” suggest a Two State partition is possible; “apartheid” suggests segregation in law under a single jurisdiction, One State. Livni seems to be saying that a single jurisdiction would mean apartheid which I think any Israeli corporate nationalist under Greater Israel wants as well. The word is used in its original sense.

      There will come a point where “race,” “national,” “people” are identical. If you want to prevent “apartheid” as label, Superland policies must end as well as an autonomous Palestinian State begin. I see no evidence that either is really wanted.

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      • Aaron Gross

        Apartheid – the real apartheid – was supported by an ideology of white racial superiority. That was an essential part of the system.

        The primary justification for Israeli separation is security. Arabs and Jews are not distinct races, either in actuality or in Zionist ideology. Nation (or ethnie) and race are clearly different concepts. Israel is nowhere near confusing the two.

        It’s extremely useful for some polemicists to wrongly confuse nation/ethnie with race, whether innocently or deceptively. But I think the comments at this site are a small space where both left and right can speak the truth, regardless of each side’s propaganda.

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        • metta2uall

          The word “apartheid” means separation. While the situation in the Middle East certainly has many differences to that in South Africa, including the justification, the effects are similar. In both cases, group membership is hereditary and there is a large power difference between the two groups.

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        • No, Aaron, the former South African regime ultimately sported apartheid as separate growth along side one another, in an attempt to weaken opposition in the US, I suppose. To claim that there is no growing ideology of racial superiority in Israel strikes me as heightened self delusion. Apartheid means separation, and that is what polls of Israeli youth affirm. If you want to be taken seriously on this issue, I suggest you respond to Yossi’s reports on this site, such as those concerning the treatment of non-Jewish residents of East Jerusalem.

          But thanks for keeping me in the right thinking place. I wouldn’t want to become dishonest or delusioned.

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    3. aristeides

      Does this mean it’s time for the Democratic Party to apologize to Jimmy Carter?

      Reply to Comment
    4. rsgengland

      This situation will persist with whatever names are used to describe it, irrespective of whether the meaning of the terms is correct or not.
      The Palestinians will not make peace until the “refugees right of return” is granted
      Everyone keeps on calling on Israel to make concessions for peace; but without sorting the refugee issue first, any efforts toward peace will founder.
      Any Palestinian/Arab leader that dares talk of a peace without sorting the refugee issue, risks signing their own death warrant.

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    5. Leen

      The crime of apartheid however is based on racial discrimination which includes discrimination based on color, nationality, ethinity or race.

      ‘the term “racial discrimination” shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.’

      this is according to the UN, so I guess crime of apartheid is not solely based on race.

      Reply to Comment
      • Aaron Gross

        Leen, your point is well taken. I think it’s wrong and very unfortunate that discrimination between Arabs and Jews is described as “racial.” But the convention you quote is a fact, like it or not.

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