Saturday, August 25, 2012

Editor vs. Editor:
New York Times' Rosenthal Ignores Ombudsman's Advice on Responsible Journalism Regarding Iranian Nuclear Program

(Alexander Torrenegra, Flickr)

In response to the recent announcement that Ban Ki-moon will attend the upcoming Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran, New York Times Editorial Page Editor Andrew Rosenthal wrote this week:
I was appalled that the U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, has decided to attend an international gathering in Iran, despite the vociferous objections of the United States. Mr. Ban can accomplish nothing with this trip beyond hindering efforts to pressure Iran into giving up its nuclear weapons program.
Never mind Mr. Rosenthal's imperial, we-own-the-world mentality that expects senior officials of international bodies to dutifully adhere to American commands.

Leave aside the clear fact that the United States intelligence community and its allies have long assessed that Iran has no active nuclear weapons program and that the IAEA has stated it has "no concrete proof" Iran "has ever had" such a program.

Andrew Rosenthal
And ignore that U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Brigadier General Martin Dempsey, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Ronald Burgess, President Barack Obama and his National Security Council have all agreed Iran isn't building nuclear weapons.  And that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, and Military Intelligence Director Aviv Kochavi have said the same thing.

What is most surprising is that Rosenthal, who has held his post since 2007 and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, apparently doesn't read his own paper.

Back in January, New York Times Public Editor Arthur Brisbane responded to reader complaints that the paper's reporting on Iran's nuclear program was misleading and that "The Times should avoid closing the gap with a shorthand phrase that says the IAEA thinks Iran’s program 'has a military objective.'"

Brisbane agreed:
I think the readers are correct on this. The Times hasn't corrected the story but it should because this is a case of when a shorthand phrase doesn't do justice to a nuanced set of facts. In this case, the distinction between the two [a nuclear energy program and a nuclear weapons program] is important because the Iranian program has emerged as a possible casus belli.
Just days later, National Public Radio's ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos concurred with this assessment.  "Shorthand references are often dangerous in journalism, and listeners are correct to be on the alert for them," he wrote. "Repeated enough as fact - "Iran's nuclear weapons program"- they take on a life of their own."  He added that, at the behest of NPR's Senior Editor for National Security Bruce Auster, "NPR's policy is to refer in shorthand to Iran's 'nuclear program' and not 'nuclear weapons program'" and concluded, "This is a correct formula."

Perhaps Rosenthal could have read the statement by Brisbane and Schumacher-Matos' counterpart at The Washington Post, ombudsman Patrick B. Pexton, who challenged his own paper's irresponsible reporting in December 2011, writing that the IAEA "does not say Iran has a bomb, nor does it say it is building one," and warned that such misleading characterizations of such an important issue "can also play into the hands of those who are seeking further confrontation with Iran."

Clearly, by expressly ignoring the advice of his own public editor, Andrew Rosenthal - and presumably the editorial page of the most influential newspaper in the country which he runs - has no problem playing into the hands of warmongers.  Regrettably, it appears quite clear that he is, in fact, one of them. 

*****

Friday, August 24, 2012

Iranian Rhetoric and the History of the Cancer Analogy

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

- Martin Luther King, Jr., April 16, 1963

"If we become just and moral, I do not know where we will end up."

- Shmuel Dayan, Member of the Knesset, 1950

The rhetoric used in recent speeches by top Iranian officials has garnered much attention in the mainstream media.  In addition to the outrage expressed over the statement that the Israeli governmental system and guiding Zionist ideology is an "insult to humanity," comments that the "Zionist regime" is a "cancerous tumor" have also met fierce condemnation.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has compiled a list of recent reported statements made by Iranian officials.  National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told the press that the United States government "strongly condemn[s] the latest series of offensive and reprehensible comments by senior Iranian officials that are aimed at Israel," adding, "The entire international community should condemn this hateful and divisive rhetoric."

Rabbi David Wolpe took to the pages of The Los Angeles Times to specifically condemn the cancer analogy.  Wolpe incidentally did so by presenting a litany of outrageous statements of his own.  He writes that the "state of Israel" is 3000 years old, thus absurdly conflating an ancient Biblical minority community with a modern, settler-colonial nation-state.  He insists Israel is not expansionist, a claim that doesn't stand up to even the most cursory awareness of basic facts, the historical record and current aggressive Israeli policy.

Wolpe also states that the cancer analogy "leads inevitably, inexorably, to the prospect of genocide," which he obviously follows up by invoking the Holocaust and asserting that "Iran eagerly pursues nuclear weapons," thereby ignoring the consistent conclusions of U.S. intelligence and IAEA inspections.  He concludes by suggesting that, were Israel not to maintain such a destructive military capability, segregationist occupation infrastructure, rampant legal discrimination, and a two-tiered justice system, the result would be the "wholesale slaughter" of Jewish Israelis, presumably by vengeful Arab hordes.

Such a characterization recalls the ludicrous fears that beset the vast majority of white South Africans just years before Apartheid ended, many of whom were consumed by "physical dread" at the prospect of equality and their loss of racial dominance and superiority and foresaw a future full of "violence, total collapse, expulsion and flight."  Even in 1987, as Apartheid was becoming increasingly untenable, about 75% of white South Africans feared that their "physical safety...would be threatened" as a result of "black rule."  Nearly 73%, including over 85% of Afrikaners, believed "white women would be molested by blacks."  Incidentally, as recently pointed out in Ha'aretz, in 1987, "Israel was the only Western nation that upheld diplomatic ties with South Africa" and was one of the last countries to join the international boycott campaign.

Southern whites in the antebellum United States nurtured the same irrational apprehension, fearful that the violent and successful 1791 slave rebellion in Haiti would be replicated across the Gulf of Mexico, especially in states like South Carolina where slaves outnumbered whites two to one.  Following emancipation, and in reaction to the Civil Rights Act of 1866, southern states enacted "black codes" restricting the voting, land ownership, and speech of former slaves.  Whites feared that their loss of racial dominance and an enslaved labor force would not only ruin the southern economy, but also that the newly-freed black population would seek revenge on their masters and rape white women; this led to numerous race riots and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan that same year.

In April 1868, Alabama newspaper editor Ryland Randolph praised the Klan for opposing what he called the "galling despotism" of the federal government over the southern states, which he "deemed a fungus growth of military tyranny" with the goal of "degrad[ing] the white man by the establishment of negro supremacy."

Forrest G. Wood writes in Black Scare: The Racist Response to Emancipation and Reconstruction:
Although white men certainly feared for their jobs and income, they were more alarmed by the threat to their physical safety that the "savage African" presented...Pointing to the absence of an advanced (by Western standards) African civilization, extremists described the Negroes as primitive, barbaric, and cruel...Freedom, the white supremacist now asserted, would stimulate the black man's worst passions, leading him to crimes of arson, murder, and rape.
Newspapers often deliberately published grossly exaggerated or wholly fictitious stories of criminal acts and violence committed by blacks, stoking even more fear in the racist white population.  For these white supremacists, rape was "the most frightful crime which negroes commit against white people" and the accusation of sexual assault (or even consensual interracial relationships) was a surefire way to spark a lynch mob.

Just this past Spring, Israel's Interior Minister Eli Yishai said that many Israeli women have been raped by African migrants and refugees, "but do not complain out of fear of being stigmatized as having contracted AIDS," insisting that "most of the African infiltrators are criminals."   At an anti-African rally, Tel Aviv resident Carmela Rosner held a sign that read: "They rape girls and elderly women, murder, steal, stab, burglarize. We're afraid to leave home."

Yishai said that Africans, "along with the Palestinians, will bring a quick end to the Zionist dream," since "[m]ost of those people arriving here are Muslims who think the country doesn't belong to us, the white man."  He told the press, "The infiltrator threat is just as severe as the Iranian threat," and is eager to deport all African immigrants for, in his words, "the benefit of the Zionist dream."

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that the growing population of African immigrants "threatens our existence as a Jewish and democratic state," as well as "the social fabric of society, our national security and our national identity."  Palestinians in Israel along with their actual and potential offspring are regularly referred to as a "demographic threat" and a "demographic bomb," a racist construction that exposes the discriminatory and supremacist nature of Zionism itself.

In a recent open letter to African migrant workers in Israel, Rabbi Moshe Shafir explained why segregation is vital to Israeli society.  "A society personifying a social time bomb of robbery, violence, sodomy as well as assimilation alongside the destruction of the institute of marriage and the proper family unit – such a society must be separate and distant, and the sooner the better," he wrote.  Shafir went on to state that Africans are "ruining our dream," because they have proven that "fulfill[ing] the positive potential of the human race...is not 'your thing.'"

Shafir added, "This is not about racism or any racial doctrine but a question of leadership, and social principles of decent human beings," before concluding with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.

Due to such incitement against minority communities, pogroms, race riots, and violence against non-Jews have become commonplace. The racist nature of these demonstrations is indisputable.

Yishai, for his part, is taking matters into his own hands when it comes to Africans in Israel. "I plan to lock them up. This I can do without anyone's authorization," he said recently. "I am doing it for the good of the State of Israel."  He is also calling for "a budget increase to build more detention facilities," so that "until I can deport them, I'll lock them up to make their lives miserable."

The Israeli Education Ministry is currently attempting to overturn a district court ruling that "migrant children...be fully integrated in the municipal school system and not be taught in a separate school."  The state appeal in favor of segregation claims that the education of Israeli children will suffer if done alongside the children of African immigrants.  Meanwhile, extremist Jewish groups continue to try to "rescue" Jewish Israeli girls who date Palestinian men and threaten Palestinians with violence if they flirt with Jews.

In 2008, a Jewish Israeli woman filed a police report after discovering that a man she had just had consensual sex with was Palestinian and not Jewish, as she had assumed.  After spending two years under house arrest, an Israeli court convicted the man of "rape by deception" and sentenced him to 18 months in prison.  A former senior Justice Ministry official was quoted as saying, "In the context of Israeli society, you can see that some women would feel very strongly that they had been violated by someone who says he is Jewish but is not."

This is to be expected, as The Palestine Center's Yousef Munayyer explains: "An ideology that seeks to build a society around a certain type of people defined by ethnicity or religion is inevitably going to feature racism, supremacy and oppression—especially when the vast majority of native inhabitants where such an ideology is implemented are unwelcomed."

Unsurprisingly, commentators who routinely denounce cancer analogies when they come from Iranian officials blatantly avoid addressing the use of the identical rhetoric by Israelis themselves when referring to the growing presence of non-Jewish communities within areas controlled by Israel.  When IDF chief Moshe Ya'alon referred to Palestinian babies as "cancerous manifestations" and Likud Knesset member Miri Regev called African migrants and refugees "a cancer in our body," (a description 52% of Jewish Israelis agreed with) they were silent.

While calling the government and founding ideology of a state a "cancerous tumor" is certainly not a nice thing to say and supporters of that state's policies have every reason to take offense to such a description, it is quite obviously a political statement.  Iranian rhetoric attacks a political entity, namely the "Zionist regime", which systematically discriminates against and oppresses people based solely on their ancestry and religious affiliation.  In contrast, Ya'alon and Regev's statements employ the cancer analogy to defend the concept of ethnic-religious exclusivity and have everything to do with people, whether Palestinian or African, who somehow - just by being born - threaten the continued dominance of a deliberately demographically engineered and maintained state.

To be sure, regardless of its intended target, this kind of rhetoric is purposefully harsh and often gratuitous.  Yet, like Ahmadinejad's "insult to humanity" line, the cancer analogy is neither new nor original.

Last year, in a speech lamenting the Nakba and the attendant creation of the State of Israel, Ahmadinejad himself declared, "Like a cancer cell that spreads through the body, this [Israeli] regime infects any region. It must be removed from the body." Earlier this year, in an address commemorating Land Day in Palestine and condemning "the criminal occupation of Palestinian territories," he said that "the Zionist regime is like a malignant cancerous cell, and even one or two cells are enough to infect the whole body."

A month before that, in February 2012, Khamenei anticipated his most recent remarks, saying, "The Zionist regime is a true cancer tumor on this region that should be cut off and it definitely will be cut off."
Nevertheless, while Iranian officials have been employing this particular descriptor for decades, it has long been wielded for the express purpose of condemning a political system or ideology one vehemently opposes.

For instance, in his 1993 manifesto, "A Place Among Nations," Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu himself warned of the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran, writing that the "deep cultural and psychological distortion" of fundamentalist Islam makes Iran a "cancerous tumor that threatens modern civilization."

Years later, during his address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 23, 2011, Netanyahu again warned of "a malignancy...growing between East and West that threatens the peace of all. It seeks not to liberate, but to enslave, not to build, but to destroy. That malignancy is militant Islam."

In September 2008, senior Israeli Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad referred to Hamas as "more powerful than the Palestinian Authority. It's like cancer."
In early 2010, Israeli Knesset Minister Talab al-Sana of the Ta'al party described Israel's colonial settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories "a malignant tumor," a comment that drew the ire of another parliamentarian, David Rotem of the right-wing extremist party Yisrael Beiteinu, who responded: "If the settlers are a malignant tumor in the Palestinian nation's body, I hope the tumor spreads and the nation dies."

These are just recent examples.  The phraseology has an even longer history.

In the 1820s, former president John Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson that "slavery is a cancer to be isolated."  On October 16, 1854, in an stridently abolitionist speech in Peoria, Illinois, Abraham Lincoln likened the Constitution's vague references to slavery to a "cancer," hidden away, which an "afflicted man...dares not cut out at once, lest he bleed to death; with the promise, nevertheless, that the cutting may begin at the end of a given time."

In an anti-slavery lecture delivered in 1855, Ralph Waldo Emerson declared, "A high state of general health cannot coexist with a mortal disease in any part," explaining, "Slavery is an evil, as cholera or typhus is, that will be purged out by the health of the system."

A New York Times article from September 8, 1863 quoted then-Tennessee Governor Andrew Johnson as telling a Nashville crowd in late August, "Slavery is a cancer on our society, and the scalpel of the statesman should be used not simply to pare away the exterior and leave the roots to propagate the disease anew, but to remove it altogether."  Johnson endorsed the "total eradication" of slavery from Tennessee.

In the final chapter of the first volume of Das Kapital (1867), entitled "The Modern Theory of Colonization," Karl Marx excoriated British politician Edward Gibbon Wakefield for his efforts "to heal the anti-capitalistic cancer of the colonies."

The 1968 platform of Bermuda's first political party, the Progressive Labor Party, proclaimed, "No government can be either responsible or democratic while under the rule of another country, " adding, "Colonialism is a cancer."

A February 23, 1962 article in Time Magazine profiled U.S. General Paul Donal Harkins, the commander of a newly created U.S. Military Assistance Command in South Vietnam, which is described as "the first step in a more broadly based anti-Communist campaign."  Harkins is quoted early in the piece as defining his mission as "doing all we can to support the South Vietnamese efforts to eradicate the cancer of Communism."

In early June 1983, just a few months after Ronald Reagan delivered his "Evil Empire" speech in which he declared his belief that "Communism is another sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages even now are being written," Illinois Representative Henry Hyde told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that, because "Communism is a cancer," Congress should support covert action and assistance to Contras and anti-Sandinista forces in Latin America in an effort to "fight for freedom."

In testimony before the Senate Foreign Committee on February 27, 1986, Reagan's Secretary of State George P. Shultz declared that the Sandinista government of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua was "a cancer, right here on our land mass," which "has tried to spread itself around in a fundamentally evil way" and needed to be "cut out."  Advocating for arming the Contras, he insisted, "We're on the right side in this issue. I know who the good guys and the bad guys are."

Hamas reportedly used "Communism is a cancer inside the nation's body and we will cut it out" as a political slogan in opposition to Fatah soon after its establishment in the late 1980s.

In the 1990s, right-wing Evangelical Christian political operative Ralph Reed repeatedly referred to "the scourge of legalized gambling" as "one of the greatest cancers growing on the American body politic."

Perhaps most applicable, however, are the comments made by South African Reverend Allan Boesak who, in 1983, formed the United Democratic Front, a legal umbrella organization for hundreds of anti-Apartheid groups.  In his opening address to the UDF, Boesak stated:
Apartheid is a cancer on the body politic of the world. A scourge on our society and on all human kind. Apartheid exists only because of economic greed and political oppression maintained by both systemic and physical violence and a false sense of racial superiority. So many have been forced into exile. So many have been thrown into jail. Too many of our children have been shot down mercilessly on the streets of our nation.
In the same speech, Boesak called Apartheid "a thoroughly evil system" that "can never be modernized or modified, it must be totally eradicated" and, in 1985, denounced the white South Africans who continued to support Apartheid as the "spiritual children of Adolf Hitler."

In 1988, Jim Murray echoed Boesak in the Los Angeles Times, writing that "apartheid is a cancer on the world body politic--to say nothing of its soul. You combat it the best way you can."

Just as many others, including numerous Israelis, have described the state of Israel as practicing Apartheid, Boesak himself has endorsed such a comparison, and has gone even further.

In a November 2011 interview, Boesak reaffirmed his statement that the oppression of and discrimination against Palestinians by Israel is "in its practical manifestation even worse than South African apartheid," adding, "It is worse, not in the sense that apartheid was not an absolutely terrifying system in South Africa, but in the ways in which the Israelis have taken the apartheid system and perfected it, so to speak; sharpened it."

He cited the physical barriers, travel and employment restrictions, and the "two separate justice systems" for Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank as examples of why "in many ways the Israeli system is worse."  He offered his wholehearted support for the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions to impel Israel to comply with international law.

When asked whether Palestinians could ever be expected to recognize Israel as a "Jewish State," Boesak replied:
They can't. There is no such thing as a specifically Jewish state. You can't proclaim a Jewish state over the heads and the bodies and the memories of the people who are the ancient people who live there. That is Palestinian land we are talking about. Most of the Jews who are there come from Europe and elsewhere and have no claim on that land and we mustn't allow it to happen to the Palestinians what happened to my ancestors who were the original people in this land (South Africa) but now there are hardly enough of them to be counted in the census. That is Palestinian land and that should be the point of departure in every political discussion.
Similarly, official Iranian state policy maintains that the international community must "allow the Palestinian nation to decide its own future, to have the right to self-determination for itself" and that in "the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations and the fundamental principles enshrined in it...Jewish Palestinians, Muslim Palestinians and Christian Palestinians [must] determine their own fate themselves through a free referendum.  Whatever they choose as a nation, everybody should accept and respect."

Hysteria over Iranian phraseology (rhetoric with a long political history) relies solely on the presumption - repeated ad nauseum by politicians and the press - that the nation's leadership has threatened to attack Israel militarily and wipe it off the map.  But Iran has never made such threats.  Quite the contrary.

In February 2006, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told a press conference, "Nobody can remove a country from the map. This is a misunderstanding in Europe of what our president mentioned. How is it possible to remove a country from the map?," explaining that, in the often repeated statement by President Ahmadinejad, "He is talking about the regime. We do not legally recognize this regime."

Speaking to Wolf Blitzer in April 2006, Iran's representative to the IAEA, Ali Ashgar Soltanieh directly addressed claims that Iran seeks the physical destruction of Israel (whatever that means).  Blitzer asked, "Should there be a state of Israel?," to which Soltanieh replied, "If Israel is a synonym and will give the indication of Zionist mentality, no.  But if you are going to conclude that we have said the people there have to be removed or they have to be massacred, this is a fabricated, unfortunate selective approach to what the mentality and policy of Islamic Republic of Iran is."

In a June 2006 letter to The Washington Post, a spokesman for the Iranian Mission to the United Nations wrote, "Iran's position is very clear: We have not threatened to use force nor have we used force against any country or government in the past 250 years. We've never done that in the past, and we'll never do it in the future," adding, "We wonder whether Israel or the United States can make the same statement."

The letter also noted that, the same month, Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared that "We have no problem with the world. We are not a threat whatsoever to the world, and the world knows it. We will never start a war. We have no intention of going to war with any state."

In October 2006, President Ahmadinejad stated, "Nuclear weapons have no place in Iran's defense doctrine and Iran is not a threat to any country...We are not a threat to anybody; even our solution to the Zionist regime is a referendum."  The following year, Ahmadinejad was asked by the Associated Press whether Iran "would ever make a first strike against Israel." He replied, "Iran will not attack any country," and insisted Iran has "always maintained a defensive policy, not an offensive one" and has no interest in territorial expansion, something Israel could never seriously claim.

In a 2008 CNN interview with Larry King, Ahmadinejad stated bluntly that "we don't have a problem with the Jewish people," and added, with specific reference to Israel, "We are opposed to the idea that the people who live there should be thrown into the sea or be burnt."

The same year, at a news conference during the D8 Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Ahmadinejad told reporters that because he believes the Zionist enterprise of ethnic cleansing and colonization is "inherently doomed" to failure, "there is no need for Iranians to take action" to hasten the inevitable political outcome in Palestine.  He also assured the press, "You should not be concerned about a new war."

He also made his position clear in a September 2008 NPR interview, saying, "Let me create an analogy here — where exactly is the Soviet Union today? It did disappear — but exactly how? It was through the vote of its own people. So therefore in Palestine too we must allow the people, the Palestinians, to determine their own future."

During an October 2011 interview, Ahmadinejad told Al Jazeera that Iran "will never enter any war against the U.S. or against any other country. This is our policy...We have never attacked anybody. Why should we do that? Why should we start a war?"

This past July, Mohammad Khazaee, Iran's ambassador to the United Nations said, "We will react if there is any provocative act from the other side.  We will not initiate any provocative steps."

Official assessments by both Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess, Director of Defense Intelligence Agency have affirmed that "Iran is unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict or launch a preemptive attack."

The alarmism that inevitably follows boilerplate speeches by Iranian officials serves an agenda of decontextualized demonization that paints the Islamic Republic as a genocidal, eliminationist aggressor and Israel as a victim, just one spinning centrifuge away from eradication.  In fact, it is Israel that consistently threatens Iran with an illegal military assault, not the other way around. 

But it is not a military attack that actually threatens the future of Israel, it is exactly the kind of struggle undertaken by those like Allen Boesak, who courageously stood against an unjust system of ethnocentrism and supremacy and prevailed.

Were Israel to finally respect international law, put an end to decades of racism, occupation and Apartheid, and begin to consider each and every human being as equal and worthy of the same human rights and dignity, freedom of movement and opportunity, it would no longer be subject to the harsh analogies that have for so long been directed at the most oppressive and inhumane ideologies the world has ever known.

*****

UPDATE:

October 11, 2012 - Capitol Hill's Roll Call newspaper has reported that leading Congressional warmonger Lindsay Graham is among a group of legislators who are "eyeing new resolutions that would back Israel if it attacks and, potentially next year, authorize the use of U.S. military force."

Graham told the paper, "The 30,000-foot view of Iran is very bipartisan: This regime is crazy, they're up to no good, they are a cancer spreading in the Mideast."

While the South Carolina Senator is using identical rhetoric as the Iranian leaders who are so roundly condemned for it (while Graham surely will not be), he is also - and quite explicitly - calling for military action, something Iranian leaders (as seen above) don't do. Graham boasted of his efforts "to do what is necessary to support military intervention" in Iran in the future, if the Islamic Republic refuses to kowtow to illegal Western demands. "I think there would be an overwhelming vote to authorize force," he added.

So wait, who's the bellicose eliminationist here?

*****

UPDATE II:

March 7, 2014 - In Ha'aretz, Holocaust researcher and Hebrew University professor Daniel Blatman writes that Israel has turned into "the South Africa of the 21st century" and that "racist cancer, after 47 years of occupation and domination of another people, has spread deep into Israeli society."

Last month, during a speech in Tunis, Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani called Israel a "cancer" in the region.

*****

UPDATE III:

August 13, 2014 - Renowned Israeli historian Zeev Sternhell, in an extensive interview with Ha'aretz discusses the growing trend toward Fascism in Israel and insists:
The settlements are a cancer. If our society is unable to muster sufficient strength, political power and mental fortitude to remove some of the settlements, that will signal that the Israeli story is finished, that the story of Zionism as we understand it, as I understand it, is over.
*****

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Some Notes on Ahmadinejad's "Insult to Humanity" Comment


As tends to happen whenever Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivers a speech, especially one in commemoration of Al-Quds Day that explicitly rejects the ideology of Zionism and condemns the Israeli government for its inherently discriminatory, exclusivist, and ethnocentric policies and actions, all hell broke lose after the Iranian President addressed a large crowd at Tehran University on Friday.

"The existence of the Zionist regime is an insult to all humanity," Ahmadinejad said, adding that "confronting the existence of the fabricated Zionist regime is in fact protecting the rights and dignity of all human beings."

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon referred to the remarks as "offensive and inflammatory." The European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is leading nuclear negotiations with Iran, also denounced Ahmadinejad's speech as "outrageous and hateful."

Naturally, Ahmadinejad's words also sparked the usual shock and horror from the usual people, the same people who still insist that (1) Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be "wiped off the map" and (2) believe that such a comment constituted a direct threat of military action against the superpower-backed, nuclear-armed state of Israel.

Without delving into the persistent myths and deliberate falsehoods surrounding that particular talking point (one that has been sufficiently debunked countless times though obviously never seems to cut through the hasbara) or seeking to justify anything said by Ahmadinejad, a few things should be noted:

First: While Associated Press described Ahmadinejad's comment as "one of his sharpest attacks yet against the Jewish state," which seemed to indicate that this is the first time such language has been used, they failed to point out that Ahmadinejad has used this exact same phrase before.

After Ahmadinejad delivered a speech at a "National and Islamic Solidarity for the Future of Palestine" conference in February 2010, Ha'aretz reported he had said that "the existence of 'the Zionist regime' is an insult to humanity, according to Iranian news agency IRNA."

Later that year, he said the very same thing.

Second (and more important): The "insult to humanity" phrase was not coined by the Iranian President to describe a political power structure defined by demographic engineering, colonialism, racism, and violence.

For example, a December 11, 1979 editorial in California's Lodi News-Sentinel stated clearly, "Apartheid is an insult to humanity" and "must be ended."

But the phrase has far deeper roots - roots with which the UN Secretary-General himself should be well acquainted.

A joint declaration by 20 Asian and African countries issued to the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on October 1, 1963 called upon the agency to reject the membership of South Africa due to its racist and discriminatory regime of Apartheid. It noted "with grave concern that the South African Government continues stubbornly to disregard all United Nations and Security Council resolutions and to maintain its apartheid policies in defiance of the United Nations General Assembly, of the Security, and consequently of the IAEA Statute."

The declaration stated:
1. We condemn categorically the apartheid policies of the Government of South Africa, based on racial superiority, as immoral and inhuman;

2. We deprecate most strongly the South African Government's irresponsible flouting of world opinion by its persistent refusal to put an end to its racial policies;

3. The apartheid policies of the Government of South Africa are a flagrant violation of the principles of the United Nations Charter, as well as being an insult to humanity.
The very first International Conference on Human Rights, held by the UN in (get this) Tehran from April 22 to May 13, 1968, "condemned the brutal and inhuman practice of apartheid," "deplore[d] the Government of South Africa's continuous insult to humanity," and "declare[d] that the policy of apartheid or other similar evils are a crime against humanity."

On February 15, 1995, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights adopted a resolution praising the end of "the era of apartheid in South Africa" which also reaffirmed that "apartheid and apartheid-like practices are an insult to humanity..."

The UN General Assembly has repeatedly reaffirmed "that the conclusion of an internal convention on the suppression and punishment of the crime of apartheid would be an important contribution to the struggle against apartheid, racism, economic exploitation, colonial domination and foreign occupation" and, more specifically, the UN has affirmed time and again "the inalienable rights of all peoples, and in particular...the Palestinian people, to freedom, equality and self-determination, and the legitimacy of their struggles to restore those rights."

A clearer connection between Israeli policies toward non-Jewish communities under Israeli control and the system of Apartheid has also been made by the United Nations. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination released a report in February 2012 which repeatedly notes the institutional discrimination and systemic "segregation between Jewish and non-Jewish communities" in Israel and the "difficulties faced by members of these [non-Jewish] communities in gaining access on a basis of equality with Jewish inhabitants to land, housing, education, employment and public health."

More specifically, the Committee draws direct attention to Israel "concerning the prevention, prohibition and eradication of all policies and practices of racial segregation and apartheid, and urges the State party to take immediate measures to prohibit and eradicate any such policies or practices which severely and disproportionately affect the Palestinian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territory."

No one can accuse Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of having any affinity whatsoever for Zionism or the government of Israel. Clearly he believes that Israel practices its own form of Apartheid against the Palestinian people. And he is not alone.

Back in 1961, Hendrik Verwoerd, South Africa's notoriously racist Prime Minister said, "The Jews took Israel from the Arabs after the Arabs had lived there for a thousand years. Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state."

In late November 1974, after visiting the leadership in Pretoria, then-Defense Minister Shimon Peres emphasized the "vitally important" economic, political and military ties between the Apartheid state in South Africa and the Zionist state in Israel, writing that "this cooperation is based not only on common interests and on the determination to resist equally our enemies, but also on the unshakeable foundations of our common hatred of injustice and out refusal to submit to it." The following year, in "top secret" correspondence with South Africa's Defense Minister (and later Prime Minister) PW Botha, Peres offered to sell Israeli nuclear warheads to the Apartheid regime.

In April 1976, just two months before the Soweto Uprising, South African Prime Minister (and known former Nazi sympathizer) John Vorster took an official state visit to Israel, where he was hosted by Israeli Prime Minster Yitzhak Rabin. A number of friendship pacts and bilateral economic, military and nuclear agreements were signed. At a banquet held in Vorster's honor, Rabin hailed "the ideals shared by Israel and South Africa: the hopes for justice and peaceful coexistence" and praised Vorster as a champion of freedom. Both Israel and South Africa, Rabin said, faced "foreign-inspired instability and recklessness."

Vorster lamented that both South Africa and Israel were victims of the enemies of Western civilization. Only a few months later, an official South African Government's document reinforced this shared predicament: "Israel and South Africa have one thing above all else in common: they are both situated in a predominantly hostile world inhabited by dark peoples."

Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, along with many other South Africa anti-Apartheid activists and religious leaders have consistently called Israel an Apartheid state. Earlier this year, Tutu wrote, "Not only is this group of people [Palestinians] being oppressed more than the apartheid ideologues could ever dream about in South Africa, their very identity and history are being denied and obfuscated," and lamented that many supporters of Israel refuse to "grapple with the reality that Israel becoming an apartheid state or like South Africa in its denial of equal rights is not a future danger... but a present-day reality."

South Africans are far from alone in seeing the similarities.

In 1999, the newly-inaugurated Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Barak, argued against the Zionist imperative to control all of historic Palestine, warning, "Every attempt to keep hold of this area as one political entity leads, necessarily, to either a nondemocratic or a non-Jewish state. Because if the Palestinians vote, then it is a binational state, and if they don't vote it is an apartheid state..."

Michael Ben-Yair, Israel’s attorney general from 1993 to 1996, has written that following the Six Day War in June 1967,
We enthusiastically chose to become a colonial society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the occupied territories, engaging in theft and finding justification for all these activities. Passionately desiring to keep the occupied territories, we developed two judicial systems: one ‑ progressive, liberal ‑ in Israel; and the other ‑ cruel, injurious ‑ in the occupied territories. In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture.

That oppressive regime exists to this day.
In 2002, Yigal Bronner, then a professor at Tel Aviv University, wrote in Ha'aretz of the true purpose of the Israeli separation wall: "Ours will be a brutal land of pens stretching between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean that will make South African apartheid pale. The outcome is too terrible to even imagine."

The same year, the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem released a report entitled, "Land Grab: Israel's Settlement Policy in the West Bank," which concluded, "Israel has created in the Occupied Territories a regime of separation based on discrimination, applying two separate systems of law in the same area and basing the rights of individuals on their nationality. This regime is the only one of its kind in the world, and is reminiscent of distasteful regimes from the past, such as the Apartheid regime in South Africa."

Previously, B'Tselem executive director Eitan Felner had written in Le Monde Diplomatique that, by "granting the same rights given to Israeli citizens living In Israel to the residents of... settlements, Israel has established a system of segregation and discrimination, in which two populations living in the same area are subject to different systems of law." While Jewish settlers living in colonies built upon illegally occupied, annexed and stolen land "enjoy all the rights of Jews in Israel, including complete freedom of movement, speech and organisation, participation in local and national (Israeli) elections, social security and health benefits, etc.," Palestinians are subject to military law and enjoy no such freedoms, benefits or enfranchisement. "In Africaans they call it apartheid," writes Felner.

Avraham Burg, Israel's Knesset Speaker from 1999 to 2003 and former chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, has long determined that "Israel must shed its illusions and choose between racist oppression and democracy," insisting the only way to maintain total Jewish control over all of historic Palestine would be to "abandon democracy" and "institute an efficient system of racial separation here, with prison camps and detention villages." He has also called Israel "the last colonial occupier in the Western world."

In a 2004 article for The New Yorker, Jeffrey Goldberg, a mainstream journalist who served in as a colonel corporal in the Israeli Occupation Forces, wrote that unless a contiguous, "self-sustaining Palestinian state" emerges, "the Jews of Israel will be faced with two choices: a binational state with an Arab majority, which would be the end of the idea of Zionism, or an apartheid state, in which the Arab majority would be ruled by a Jewish minority." He continued: "A de-facto apartheid already exists in the West Bank" considering the fact that "two different ethnic groups living in the same territory are judged by two separate sets of laws." Jewish colonists "live under Israeli civil law" while indigenous Palestinians "fall under a different, and substantially undemocratic, set of laws, administered by the Israeli Army," he explained.

In 2007, Yossi Beilin, Knesset minister and chairman of the Meretz Party, warned, "Somewhere down the line — and symbolically speaking, that line may be crossed the day that a minority of Jews will rule a majority of Palestinians west of the Jordan River — the destructive nature of occupation will turn Israel into a pariah state, not unlike South Africa under apartheid."

Yossi Sarid, who served as a member of the Knesset between 1974 and 2006, has written of Israel's "segregation policy" that "what acts like apartheid, is run like apartheid and harasses like apartheid, is not a duck – it is apartheid." He added, "It is entirely clear why the word apartheid terrifies us so. What should frighten us, however, is not the description of reality, but reality itself...The Palestinians are unfortunate because they have not produced a Nelson Mandela; the Israelis are unfortunate because they have not produced an F.W. de Klerk."

A Ha'artez editorial from October 2007 states, "The de facto separation [in the West Bank] is today more similar to political apartheid than an occupation regime because of its constancy. One side - determined by national, not geographic association - includes people who have the right to choose and the freedom to move, and a growing economy. On the other side are people closed behind the walls surrounding their community, who have no right to vote, lack freedom of movement, and have no chance to plan their future."

Yossi Paritzky, former Knesset and Cabinet minister, writing about the systematic institutionalization and legalization of racial and religious discrimination in Israel, stated that Israel does not act like a democracy in which "all citizens regardless of race, religious, gender or origin are entitled to equality." Rather, by implementing more and more discriminatory laws that treat Palestinians as second-class citizens, "Israel decided to be like apartheid‑era South Africa, and some will say even worse countries that no longer exist."

Shulamit Aloni, another former Knesset and Cabinet member, has written that "the state of Israel practices its own, quite violent, form of Apartheid with the native Palestinian population."

In 2008, the Association of Civil Rights in Israel released its annual human rights report which found that the dynamic between settlers, soldiers and native Palestinians in the occupied West Bank was "reminiscent, in many and increasing ways, of the apartheid regime in South Africa."

Ehud Olmert, when he was Prime Minister, told a Knesset committee meeting, "For sixty years there has been discrimination against Arabs in Israel. This discrimination is deep‑seated and intolerable" and repeatedly warned that if "we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories), then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished."

Writing in Ha'aretz in October 2009, journalist and author Ari Shavit predicted to his fellow Israelis, "If we do not quickly find the right way to deal with the occupation, the occupation will bury us... If we do not seriously deal with the settlements, we will become South Africa."

In 2009, Oren Yiftachel, public policy professor at Ben-Gurion University, wrote that the meteoric rise of the Israeli right and the growing popularity of its discriminatory and transferist ideology signaled "the return of openly declared Jewish colonialist goals and the intensification of apartheid-like measures as popular political agendas." He continues, "[T]he Israeli/Palestinian space increasingly resembles the South African apartheid state - one group, identified by its ethnic/racial origins, controls multi-group territories," under which "a series of thickening practices, regulations, laws, and acts of violence [are] used for separating Jews from Arabs and for preserving Jewish superiority."

Billionaire Edgar M. Bronfman, former president of the World Jewish Congress, wrote in 2009, "At a certain point, there will be more Arabs than Jews living between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, thereby leading to one de facto apartheid state if no resolution to the conflict is reached via a two-state solution."

Former Prime Minister and current Defense Minister Ehud Barak has admitted that "[a]s long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic. If this bloc of millions of ­Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state."

Ha'aretz columnist Akiva Eldar extensively addressed the similarities of the Israeli regime to Apartheid South Africa in early 2010, writing, "In Israel, on the other hand, institutional discrimination is meant to preserve the supremacy of a group of Jewish settlers over Palestinian Arabs. As far as discriminatory practices are concerned, it's hard to find differences between white rule in South Africa and Israeli rule in the territories; for example, separate areas and separate laws for Jews and Palestinians."

Charney Bromberg, an American human rights activist, former Congress of Racial Equality member and executive director of Meretz USA for Israeli Civil Rights and Peace, said in 2010 that, past the Green Line and in the occupied territories, "you will see so many of the accoutrements that the South Africans placed to control their -- what they believed to be their hostile population. Roads for whites only. Roads controlled at every pass. Roads controlled by fences and guards."

Poet and author Yitzhak Laor has written that Israel is already a "binational state" that maintains "a rigid apartheid legal system, as the High Court of Justice fades away," continuing, "The system preserving this apartheid is more ruthless than that seen in South Africa, where the black were a labor force and could therefore also make a living. It is equipped with the lie of being 'temporary.'"

Zvi Bar'el, history professor and columnist for Ha'aretz, has written that the discriminatory legislation proposed and passed by the "racists in the Knesset" prove that "Israel's apartheid movement is coming out of the woodwork and is taking on a formal, legal shape." In an article entitled "South Africa is already here," Bar'el explained, "It is moving from voluntary apartheid, which hides its ugliness through justifications of 'cultural differences' and 'historic neglect' which only requires a little funding and a couple of more sewage pipes to make everything right - to a purposeful, open, obligatory apartheid, which no longer requires any justification."

In April 2011, Professor Daniel Blatman, a Holocaust researcher and head of the Institute for Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, wrote that the purpose of the recent "tsunami of racist laws passed by the Knesset" was "the gradual establishment of an apartheid state in Israel, and the future separation on a racial basis of Jews and non-Jews." Tracing the "Israeli apartheid state-in-the-making," back to 1967, Blatman explained:
"What started as rule over another people has gradually ripened - especially since the latter part of the 1970s - into a colonialism that is nurturing a regime of oppression and discrimination with regard to the Palestinian population. It is robbing that population of its land and of its basic civil rights, and is encouraging a minority group (the settlers) to develop a crude, violent attitude toward the Arabs in the territories. This was exactly the reality that, after many years, led to the establishment of the apartheid state in South Africa."
Former Shin Bet chief and Labor MK Ami Ayalon said in May 2011 that, if Palestinians abandon negotiations toward a segregationist two-state solution and "ask for citizenship and equality in Israel, and if we don't give it to them, it would be apartheid." Such a scenario, Ayalon lamented, would mark "the end of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state."

Shlomo Gazit, former member of Palmach, an elite unit of the Haganah, wrote in Ha'aretz that "in the present situation, unfortunately, there is no equal treatment for Jews and Arabs when it comes to law enforcement. The legal system that enforces the law in a discriminatory way on the basis of national identity, is actually maintaining an apartheid regime."

Last summer, Knesset minister Ahmed Tibi told the Jerusalem Post that "keeping the status quo will deepen apartheid in Israel as it did in South Africa," while Gabriela Shalev, former Israeli ambassador to the UN, told The Los Angeles Times last year that, in terms of public opinion of Israel, "I have the feeling that we are seen more like South Africa once was."

Council on Foreign Relations member Stephen Roberts, after returning from a trip to Israel and the West Bank, wrote in The Nation that "Israel has created a system of apartheid on steroids, a horrifying prison with concrete walls as high as twenty-six feet, topped with body-ravaging coils of razor wire."

Writing in late 2011, Ha'aretz publisher Amos Schocken described Israel's actions in the occupied West Bank as the implementation of "a strategy of territorial seizure and apartheid" that "ignores judicial aspects of territorial ownership and shuns human rights."

In April 2012, Benjamin Netanyahu's own nephew, Jonathan Ben Artzi wrote that Israel's "policies of segregation and discrimination that ravaged (and still ravage) my country and the occupied Palestinian territories" undoubtedly fit the definition of Apartheid.

On May 1, 2012, Henry Siegman, Holocaust survivor and former head of the American Jewish Congress, wrote, "In the 1980s many in the American Jewish establishment (myself included) participated in demonstrations against South Africa's apartheid regime. The struggle against apartheid was considered by the Jewish community (not only by liberals) to be a Jewish cause. But that was in the 1980s, and the apartheid was in South Africa. Today it is in Israel -- and not as a future possibility, as many have been warning, but a current reality." Siegman added:
Netanyahu and his government have sought to disguise their de facto apartheid regime by pretending the status quo in the occupied West Bank is temporary, and that it would lead to a two-state agreement if only Palestinians would return to negotiations in a peace process that has been a farce, having served no purpose other than to disguise the enlargement of the settlement project that created the apartheid to begin with.
Linguist, cultural anthropologist, and Hebrew University professor David Shulman wrote in May 2012 in The New York Review of Books that there already exists "a single state between the Jordan River and the sea" controlled by Israel and which fits the definition of an "ethnocracy." He continues,
Those who recoil at the term "apartheid" are invited to offer a better one; but note that one of the main architects of this system, Ariel Sharon, himself reportedly adopted South African terminology, referring to the noncontiguous Palestinian enclaves he envisaged for the West Bank as "Bantustans."

These Palestinian Bantustans now exist, and no one should pretend that they're anything remotely like a "solution" to Israel's Palestinian problem. Someday, as happened in South Africa, this system will inevitably break down.
In his 2005 memoir, Hirsh Goodman, an Israeli author and intellectual who grew up in Apartheid South Africa, recalls a 1967 radio address by David Ben-Gurion. "Israel, he said, better rid itself of the territories and their Arab population as soon as possible. If it did not Israel would soon become an Apartheid State," writes Hirsh, adding that the statement "resonated" with him because "I understood what he was saying."

Whether those who get hysterical over Ahmadinejad's rhetoric agree with the above assessments - many of which were made by prominent Israeli and Jewish politicians, officials, and academics - is irrelevant. It's clear that Ahmadinejad himself would agree.

In fact, that the Islamic Republic has long officially recognized a distinct correlation between Apartheid South Africa and Israel is evident in its actions following the successful Iranian Revolution in 1979. The new Iranian government immediately cut diplomatic and economic ties with Israel, which had received upwards of 60% of its oil from the Shah's Iran before the revolution.

Only one other country suffered a similar fate.

Though the Shah had, according to the South Africa Foreign Ministry, "good relations in the fields of trade, science and technology, defence, medicine, energy and mining" with the Apartheid regime, the nascent revolutionary government "severed relations with South Africa in February 1979 and imposed a total trade boycott." Up until that point, Iran supplied South Africa with 90% of its oil. The new Iranian government also openly supported indigenous South African liberation organizations.

Only after Apartheid ended did Iran lift the embargo and reestablish diplomatic relations with South Africa on May 10, 1994.

Ahmadinejad himself pointed out these facts during his 2007 speech at Columbia University. He explained that, following the revolution, "We [Iran] announced our readiness that besides two countries, we are ready to have friendly relations and talks with all countries of the world. One of those two was the apartheid regime of South Africa, which has been eliminated. And the second was the Zionist regime. For everybody else around the world, we announced that we want to have friendly, brotherly ties."

Consequently, Ahmadinejad's reference to Israel (which he sees as an Apartheid state) as an "insult to humanity" (which repeats the same verbiage used repeatedly by the United Nations itself) appears to be far less inflammatory than the outrage that followed would suggest.

*****

UPDATE:

During a CNN interview with Wolf Blitzer on April 2, 2006 and speaking in an official capacity as Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh stated:
I want to very briefly remind you that the policy of Islamic Republic of Iran and according to spirit and letter of our constitution is against any sort of school of thought or regime such as apartheid, Zionism, racism, and this is a matter of principle.

Therefore, what you are talking about as apartheid was disappeared and it could not be accepted by civilized world, this Zionism and aggression of racism is also condemned.

That is the message, and I'm sure that we are -- this message is shared with all the international community and peace-loving people of the whole world.
As this is presented by Soltanieh as the "policy" of Iran, there is no reason to doubt that Ahmadinejad would concur with such a statement.

*****

UPDATE II:

August 24, 2012 - Jeffrey Goldberg has doubled-down on his use of apartheid terminology, writing that "the description of a two-tiered justice system on the West Bank is still relevant today, and the threat to Israel's democracy, and good name, posed by settlement ideology is more real than ever."

*****

UPDATE III:

October 16, 2012 - Akiva Elder, the prominent Israeli journalist and current chief political columnist and editorial writer for Ha'aretz, writes today:
Amid a dry economic report published yesterday in TheMarker lies an official announcement/acknowledgment of unparalleled importance: The government of Israel confirms that between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River there is no longer a Jewish majority. In other words, in the territory under Israel's jurisdiction a situation of apartheid exists. A Jewish minority rules over an Arab majority.
The subtitle on the article summarizes Eldar's point this way: "The government's acknowledgement that Jews are a minority in this land means one thing only: Apartheid is here."

Eldar's inescapable conclusion is just the latest in a string of commendable (albeit imperfect and, at times, seemingly begrudging) truths articulated by the journalist. This past September, Eldar wrote in Ha'aretz,
For 64 years the Jewish community realized the Zionist vision using discriminatory immigration and residential laws, unequal division of resources and hegemony over religious and national symbols. For 45 years a Jewish minority has deprived the Palestinian collective in the occupied territories of political rights and violated the dignity, property rights and freedom of movement of millions of human beings.
And last December, Eldar condemned the racism of the Israeli government and its eager colonists, admitting, "Jewish ethnocentrism - and the desire to erase the collective identity of the Palestinians and take control of their land - have been a thread linking religious and secular over the past 44 years."

*****

UPDATE IV:

February 21, 2013 - In the wake of recently resurfaced comments allegedly made by Chuck Hagel during a 2010 speech at Rutgers University regarding the risk Israel run of "becoming an apartheid state if it didn't allow the Palestinians to form a state," The Times of Israel has reported even more damning statements made by a former Israeli official.

Alon Liel, a former Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General and ex-Ambassador to South Africa, said on February 20, "In the situation that exists today, until a Palestinian state is created, we are actually one state. This joint state — in the hope that the status quo is temporary — is an apartheid state."

Liel, speaking at Jerusalem conference dedicated to discussing this very topic, was forthright and unflinching in his assessment of Israel's current policies and predicament regarding the continuing occupation of Palestine:
"As someone who knows the original apartheid well, and also knows the State of Israel quite well – I was born here, grew up here, served and fought for it for 30 years — someone like me knows that Zionism isn't apartheid and the State of Israel that I grew up in wasn't an apartheid state," Liel emphasized.
"I'm here today because I came to the conclusion that the occupation of the West Bank as it exists today is a sort of Israeli apartheid," said Liel. "The occupation became a hump on the back of Zionism; it has now become the hump of the State of Israel."
There is a real danger of Israel's occupation of the West Bank becoming an integral part of the state, he said. "When that happens, when the West Bank and [Israel in the pre-1967 lines] become one, and the Palestinian residents of the West Bank will not have citizenship — we're apartheid," he said
Liel also had a message for U.S. President Barack Obama, who is slated to visit to Israel in March:
"If you, President Obama, intend to come here for a courtesy visit — don't come. Don't come! We don't need you here for a courtesy visit," Liel said. "You cannot come to an area that exhibits signs of apartheid and ignore them. That would simply be an unethical visit. You yourself know full well that Israel is standing at the apartheid cliff. If you don't deal with this topic during your visit, the responsibility will at the end of the process also lie with you."
The event at which Liel was speaking was entitled, "Is there Israeli Apartheid?" He was joined by Peace Now board member Amiram Goldblum, journalist Danny Rubinstein, Ha'aretz reporter Gideon Levy, Hebrew University professors emeritus Frances Raday and Gideon Shimoni, Ben-Gurion University professor Oren Yiftachel, Bar-Ilan University political science lecturer and B’Tselem board member Menachem Klein, and human rights lawyer Michael Sfard.

After noting the "systematic discrimination" of Palestinians by Israel, Levy stated his agreement with Apartheid terminology. "What else could we call what's happening here?," he asked. He also pointed out that, while military occupation is not unique to Israel/Palestine, "I don't know any other occupation where the occupier thinks he's the victim, where he thinks he's the only victim," adding, "as long as Israel doesn't pay a price for the occupation, nothing is going to change."

Klein concentrated his comments on East Jerusalem, where he said Israel practices a form of "ethno-apartheid."

Only professor Shimoni challenged the application of the term Apartheid with regard to Israeli policies which he said was "rather unfair and lacks intellectual honesty." He argued that "from land theft to various draconic [sic] restrictions, as much they are worthy of condemnation — they are not apartheid," which he called a "rhetorical weapon...to demonize and excoriate the State of Israel."

The Times of Israel too claimed that the Apartheid analogy is "highly contentious" and "usually employed only by radical anti-Israel activists." However, anyone familiar with the statements of myriad Israeli politicians and commentators (as compiled here) know this is a falsehood.

*****

UPDATE V:

February 28, 2013 - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, speaking February 27, 2013 at the official opening of the fifth United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Global Forum in Vienna, explicitly referenced Zionism as an inherently discriminatory ideology akin to Fascism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

"We should be striving to better understand the culture and beliefs of others, but instead we see that people act based on prejudice and exclude others and despise them." Erdogan said. "And that is why it is necessary that we must consider — just like Zionism or anti-Semitism or fascism — Islamophobia as a crime against humanity."

*****

UPDATE VI:

March 14, 2013 - Today at the Herzliya security conference, Israeli journalist and Ha'aretz correspondent Barak Ravid opened a panel discussion he was moderating about the so-called Two-State Solution by referring to "the de facto apartheid reality in the West Bank" that is "neither Jewish nor democratic."

*****

UPDATE VII:

April 12, 2013 - Israeli columnist Akiva Eldar reported today on the increased awareness and acknowledgment that Israel is indeed a state that practices the crime of Apartheid. Writing in Al Monitor, Eldar points out that this is really nothing new.

He reminds us, "Almost 10 years ago, Dr. Yossi Beilin, who served as minister of justice, deputy foreign minister, the leader of the left-wing Zionist Meretz Party and one of the architects of the Oslo Accord, warned that 'if a border is not drawn between us and the Palestinians within several years, the state of Israel could deteriorate to using apartheid methods in order to rule the Palestinians who will form a majority west of the Jordan River.'"

Eldar also notes that "a poll conducted by the Dialog Institute and published in the Haaretz newspaper in October 2012" found that "69% of respondents (a representative sampling of 500 Jewish Israelis) said that if Israel decides to annex the West Bank, they would oppose granting voting rights to the Palestinian inhabitants."

He goes on to explain that a new group, called "The Organization against Apartheid in Israel," has been established - "the first Zionist organization to dare to include the dirty word “apartheid” in its name." Eldar continues:
Among the founding team are Dr. Moraleh (Mordechai) Bar-On, a former Knesset member (Meretz) who was the chief education officer of the IDF; Dr. Alon Liel, who was director general of the foreign ministry and Israeli ambassador to South Africa; Ilan Baruch, also a former ambassador to South Africa; former Knesset member Mossi Raz (Meretz); Professor Menachem Klein (Bar-Ilan University) and Professors Amiram Goldblum, Peter Hillman and David Harel (of Hebrew University) and the lawyer and human rights activist Michael Sfard. All of the above mentioned people are active in various organizations dedicated to ensuring the existence of Israel as a democratic and Jewish state.

The new organization’s founding document says that within the state of Israel there is no rule of separation along racial or national divides, but Israel’s control of the Palestinians living across the Green Line causes legal, physical and infrastructural separation and discrimination, and separation of civil and human rights on the basis of nationality. It notes that the Israeli regime in the West Bank maintains separate legal systems for Palestinians and settlers living in the same area and that in certain places, especially Hebron, the apartheid is clear and evident.
*****

UPDATE VIII:

June 19, 2013 - In a letter to pro-Palestinian rights activists, the former South African Ambassador to Israel, Ismail Coovadia, explained his recent "decision to reject a symbolic gift from the Israeli government — planting trees in his honor in a national park named after South Africa."

Why? Because of Israel's treatment of Palestinians, which Coovadia referred to as a "replication of apartheid."

*****

UPDATE IX:

July 2, 2013 - Israeli Justice Minister, war criminal and population transfer enthusiast Tzipi Livni is the latest Israeli official to use the dreaded A-word when describing the ongoing occupation of Palestine.

Speaking at an accountants' conference in Eilat, Livni warned that much of Europe already sees Israel as "a colonialist country" and, as a result, the BDS movement is advancing. Addressing recent youth-organized protests against Israel's decision to export natural gas, Livni told the crowd:
I appreciate the fact that they care and are thinking about the future, and obligating us to think about the future. 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.
Of course, Livni's statement is rhetorically speculative. Yet, as +972 Magazine's Larry Derfner deftly notes, the potential future Livni proposes is already the reality of the present. He writes,
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?
Meanwhile, speaking with the Huffington Post at the Aspen Ideas conference, Jeffrey Goldberg said that the current situation in the West Bank is "provisionally apartheid," in which Palestinians (but he doesn't call them that) "live under military occupation."

Goldberg, who wrote in The New Yorker in 2004 that a "de-facto apartheid already exists in the West Bank" due to a two-tired justice system and military occupation, still holds out hope that the situation is not everlasting.

"This is the choice obviously facing Israel...If you decide that this is the permanent arrangement and these Arabs are always going to be under your control, that they're not going to have the vote, then you gotta call it what it is. I mean, Jim Crow, you call it Apartheid, whatever..."

Yeah, whatever.

*****

UPDATE X:

July 21, 2013 - Speaking July 20, 2013, at the Aspen Institute's annual Security Forum, retired U.S. Central Commander and four-plus decade Marine Corps veteran General James Mattis said that, unless a two-state solution is reached, Israel will effectively become an apartheid state.

"The current situation is unsustainable," he said, and added:
We have got to find a way to make the two state solution that Democrat and Republican administrations have supported, we've got to get there, and the chances for it are starting to ebb because of the settlements and where they're at, are going to make it impossible to maintain the two state option. For example, if I'm Jerusalem and I put 500 Jewish settlers out here to the east and there's ten thousand Arab settlers in here, if we draw the border to include ‘em, either it ceases to be a Jewish state or you say the Arabs don't get to vote -- apartheid. That didn't work too well the last time I saw that practiced in a country.
(h/t Max Blumenthal/Mondoweiss)

*****

UPDATE XI:

July 26, 2013 - Writing on the momentum, mainstreaming and growing success of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which promotes international law and the civil and human rights of Palestinians, former Ha'aretz senior columnist and editorial writer Akiva Eldar notes the similarity of the expanding awareness, advocacy and legitimacy of the movement with those that brought an end to South African Apartheid.

The recent decision by the EU to ban all trade with Israeli companies and projects that operate in the internationally-recognized Palestinian territories occupied by the Israeli military has garnered the support of a number of notable Israeli academics and intellectuals, including "six Israel Prize laureates (Dani Karavan, David Tartakover, Shimon Sandbank, Zeev Sternhell, Yehoshua Kolodny and David Harel), as well as playwright Yehoshua Sobol, former Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Liel, former Attorney General Michael Ben-Yair and former Israeli Ambassador to South Africa Ilan Baruch."

In addition, "The list of countries joining the sanctions against Israel is getting longer by the day," as are the number of international artists who are respecting the academic and cultural boycott.

Eldar concludes, "This is what the beginning of the end of the apartheid regime in South Africa looked like. And who knows, the American determination coupled with European firmness may yet herald the end of the Israeli occupation and our conflict."

*****

UPDATE XII:

September 23, 2013 - The always-astute Noam Sheizaf of 972+ Magazine reveals a new take on the Apartheid analogy today:
Apartheid is great, let's go on with it

Rafael Castro, winner of the “Worst Defense of Zionism” award for 2012, managed to top his own standards, by comparing the occupation to Apartheid in a positive way:
The Zionist Left insists that unless Israel acquiesces to a Palestinian state in the whole of the West Bank and east Jerusalem, Israel is set on the path of South Africa. Namely, on the path of apartheid [...] This argument has its cogency, except that this cogency is based on a mistaken assessment of South African history.

It would be simplistic to believe that South Africa's Caucasian minority repealed apartheid simply to please the international community or to appease its conscience. Indeed, most whites knew long before 1994 that minority rule was immoral. What earned their support for a policy that was so unethical was their sincere conviction that apartheid was the lesser evil [...] it is not implausible to believe that – had South Africans been granted universal voting rights in the 1960s or 1970s – South Africa today would resemble contemporary Tanzania and Zimbabwe rather than the vibrant multiracial democracy we know nowadays...
What follows is a call for Israel to continue its own version of Apartheid until the natives are ready for their own state. The decision as to when this moment shall arrive remains, as always, in Israeli hands.

Personally, I suggest appointing Castro as our UN ambassador; the occupation would end in a week.
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UPDATE XIII:

September 24, 2013 - Speaking before the United Nations General Assembly, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was explicit in his condemnation of Israeli occupation and oppression of Palestinians as a form of - if not worse than - Apartheid.

He said:
What has been - and continues to be - practiced against the innocent people of Palestine is nothing less than structural violence. Palestine is under occupation; the basic rights of the Palestinians are tragically violated, and they are deprived of the right of return and access to their homes, birthplace and homeland. Apartheid as a concept can hardly describe the crimes and the institutionalized aggression against the innocent Palestinian people.
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UPDATE XIV:

November 19, 2013 - In an interview at Harvard University, Israeli politician Dan Meridor, a stalwart and respected member of Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud Party, likened his own party's policies to those of Apartheid South Africa.

Frustrated that members of Likud seem only to care about continuing to build colonies in the West Bank and not at all about equal rights and the rule of law, Meridor said, "They have just one thing – the territories. But the human rights part of it, the democratic part of it, the equality part of it is not part of their way of thinking. I heard [a Likud member] saying he is for human rights, but not civil rights [for the Palestinians]," adding, "What’s the difference? No voting. It's like South Africa."

Regarding the past comments of parliamentarian Miri Regev - a fellow Likudnik - who last year referred to African migrants and refugees in Israel as "a cancer in our body," Meridor called it "awful language," unbecoming of a Likud politician, and said it "was disconcerting to hear Jews speak in such a way," according to report by the Times of Israel.

In the past, Meridor criticized the passing of an amendment to Israel's Citizenship Law that mandated a loyalty oath to a "Jewish, democratic state" as inherently discriminatory to non-Jews.

"Lately there has been suggestion, after suggestion, after suggestion meant to send messages to the Arab public - 'this is not yours, this is not your country,' and there are even those who say 'we will soon transfer you to a Palestinian state,'" Meridor said in October 2010. "The Arab citizens are constantly reminded that they do not belong, and yet we demand loyalty from them."

Meridor was first elected to the Israeli Knesset in 1984 and has held numerous ministerial posts including Justice Minister, Finance Minister, and Deputy Prime Minster. For the past four years, he was Netanyahu's Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy, until he was unseated earlier this year. He is now a lecturer at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

He also made headlines in April 2012, when he admitted during an interview with Al Jazeera that Iran has never in fact threatened to "wipe Israel off the map," though he still erroneously claimed that "Iran is going after nuclear weapons," referred to "the standoff between America and Iran, and the Muslim world" as "a sort of Kulturkampf, a clash of civilizations," and hilariously declared that Israel's refusal to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was "sound and good" policy, which "does not bother anyone seriously."

Apparently, for Meridor, that's the correct way for a member of Likud to act.

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UPDATE XV:

December 7, 2013 - Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, a consistent critic of his successor Benjamin Netanyahu's bellicose obsession with Iran and refusal to halt colonization of occupied Palestine, is quoted in the New Yorker as telling Bernard Avishai, "When the Administration finally puts on the table internationally accepted principles for a settlement — principles I offered and America and Europe implicitly endorse — Netanyahu will face an impossible dilemma. If he resists, he turns Israel into the new South Africa."

Olmert added, "The Iranian threat is serious. But the way to deal with Iran is by settling with the Palestinians — stop immediately the settlement policy and offer a serious peace plan... Only a peace deal with the Palestinians can end the regional conflict."

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UPDATE XVI:

December 8, 2013 - Following the death of Nelson Mandela, Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani compared Israel to Apartheid South Africa, and likened the resistance of the African National Congress to that of Palestinians.

"The Zionist regime represents the modern face of Fascist racism, and we see again how the West and the U.S. see themselves indebted to this regime and have pioneered in all-out support for Israel," Larijani said. "And this ridiculous comedy has repeated behind the same ridiculous face of supporting the human rights at the international level and massacring the Palestinian nation in their homes."

He added, "The West won't respect the Palestinians' rights except through resistance."

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UPDATE XVII:

March 7, 2014 - Professor Daniel Blatman, a Holocaust researcher and head of the Institute for Contemporary Jewry at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, lamented today in Ha'aretz that "Israel no longer has a place in the family of enlightened nations. It has become the South Africa of the 21st century," adding, "Amid the awareness that Israel is sliding toward an apartheid regime, the silence of Jews worldwide is deafening."

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UPDATE XVIII:

March 10, 2014 - South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu has issued a statement in support of "Israeli Apartheid Week," the annual international initiative to educate and raise awareness of Israel's ongoing discriminatory and violent policies against Palestinians and galvanize the growing BDS campaign.

"I associate myself with the objectives of the 10th international Israeli Apartheid Week," he said, and explained, " I have witnessed the systemic humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces. Their humiliation is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the Apartheid government."

"The same issues of inequality and injustice today," which Tutu experienced decades ago under South Africa's Apartheid regime, "motivate the divestment movement trying to end Israel’s decades long occupation of Palestinian territory and the unfair and prejudicial treatment of the Palestinian people by the Israeli government ruling over them," he declared.

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UPDATE XIX:

April 18, 2014 - In Ha'aretz, prominent Israeli historian and academic Zeev Sternhell writes today:
Therefore the occupation will continue, land will be confiscated from its owners to expand the settlements, the Jordan Valley will be cleansed of Arabs, Arab Jerusalem will be strangled by Jewish neighborhoods, and any act of robbery and foolishness that serves Jewish expansion in the city will be welcomed by the High Court of Justice.

The road to South Africa has been paved and will not be blocked until the Western world presents Israel with an unequivocal choice: Stop the annexation and dismantle most of the colonies and the settler state, or be an outcast.
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UPDATE XX:

April 27, 2014 - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in remarks to the Trilateral Commission on Friday April 25, warned that, unless a two-state solution is imposed upon Israel and Palestine, Israel could risk becoming an Apartheid state, according to an exclusive report by Josh Rogin of The Daily Beast.

During the closed-door meeting with the influential group of political officials and economic experts from the United States, Western Europe, Russia, and Japan, Kerry said:
A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second class citizens—or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state. 
Once you put that frame in your mind, that reality, which is the bottom line, you understand how imperative it is to get to the two state solution, which both leaders, even yesterday, said they remain deeply committed to.
For reference, Rogin further noted:
According to the 1998 Rome Statute, the “crime of apartheid” is defined as “inhumane acts… committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” The term is most often used in reference to the system of racial segregation and oppression that governed South Africa from 1948 until 1994.
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UPDATE XXI:

August 8, 2014 - Speaking with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, professor Noam Chomsky had some comments about the Apartheid analogy (which he also wrote about recently in The Nation). He argues that the term is too generous for the situation in the West Bank and Gaza and yet doesn't quite apply to Green Line Israel:
In the Occupied Territories, what Israel is doing is much worse than apartheid. To call it apartheid is a gift to Israel, at least if by "apartheid" you mean South African-style apartheid. What’s happening in the Occupied Territories is much worse. There’s a crucial difference. The South African Nationalists needed the black population. That was their workforce. It was 85 percent of the workforce of the population, and that was basically their workforce. They needed them. They had to sustain them. The bantustans were horrifying, but South Africa did try to sustain them. They didn’t put them on a diet. They tried to keep them strong enough to do the work that they needed for the country. They tried to get international support for the bantustans. 
The Israeli relationship to the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories is totally different. They just don’t want them. They want them out, or at least in prison. And they’re acting that way. That’s a very striking difference, which means that the apartheid analogy, South African apartheid, to the Occupied Territories is just a gift to Israeli violence. It’s much worse than that. If you look inside Israel, there’s plenty of repression and discrimination. I’ve written about it extensively for decades. But it’s not apartheid. It’s bad, but it’s not apartheid. So the term, I just don’t think is applicable.

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