Monday, 4 January 2010

Haaretz, apartheid, the ZF, and antisemitism...

In his column in today's Haaretz, Akiva Eldar did what no British Jewish columnist could dare do in the Jewish Chronicle - he likened aspects of Israeli policy to those of apartheid South Africa.

Now lets be clear: Israel is not apartheid. Under apartheid a minority of whites deprived citizenship to a majority of Blacks. In Israel Jews constitute the majority and citizenship is granted to all people, Jews and Arabs alike.

But the point Eldar makes in his article is that within the occupied territories, comparing the experience of settler Jews to the Arabs living there who are not citizens - the situation may indeed be akin to that of apartheid. A minority ethnic group have power over a majority who are deprived citizenship.

Israel's usual response, Eldar notes, is to distinguish the two situations - apartheid and the setllements - by noting Israel's security concerns; it is these, so the argument goes, that necessitate Israel's policies in the territories. But as Eldar observes, the security claim was also used in the South African context, and, moreover, there have been cases in which the security argument would support Israel doing the opposite of what it in fact does. I think Eldar's argument needs to be developed further: the few examples he offers are not enough to show that Israel's policies are not, on the whole, based on security. Moreover, while never clearly stating it, the implication of Eldar's column is that Israel's policy in the territories is based on similar ideas to those of apartheid South Africa, and this too requires evidence which he fails to supply.

Meanwhile the Zionist federation in Britain maintains that any comparison between Israel and Apartheid South Africa is anti-semitic. And yet the former Prime Minster Ehud Olmert warned Israel was heading towards apartheid. Former Haaretz editor Danny Rubinstein said the same. Can it really be the case that Olmert, Eldar and Rubinstein are all anti-semitic?

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