Bintel Blog

Ha’aretz Uses the A-Word

By Daniel Treiman

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Last month, a British Zionist group sparked a big brouhaha when it withdrew a speaking invitation to Ha’aretz columnist Danny Rubinstein after he described Israel as an “apartheid” state at a U.N. conference. Today, however, it is a Ha’aretz editorial that is trotting out the a-word.

Lamenting the situation in the occupied territories, the editorial says:

The de facto separation 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.

(Emphasis added.)

Sure, there are similarities between the lives of Palestinians under Israeli occupation and those of black South Africans under apartheid. Indeed, in certain respects, the conditions Palestinians face are arguably even worse. But while the Palestinians’ circumstances may in some ways resemble those once faced by blacks in South Africa, the apartheid analogy ignores crucial context for why this is the case.

Unlike South African blacks, Palestinians bear no small share of the responsibility for their plight. If not for repeated Arab threats and efforts to destroy the Jewish state, there would have been no occupation in the first place. And if not for wave after wave of terrorism, there would quite possibly be an independent Palestinian state today instead of a West Bank security barrier. And, it goes without saying, constant rocket barrages from post-disengagement Gaza do little to encourage Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank.

But Israel’s foes do not deploy the “apartheid” analogy for reasons of descriptive utility. It is a term of moral opprobrium, a cudgel used to beat up and de-legitimize Israel in the court of world opinion. If Israel is like apartheid South Africa, then it is an evil regime that should be boycotted and ostracized, or so the analogy goes.

Ha’aretz, too, is using the word as a cudgel: not as a cudgel to beat up Israel before a world audience, but rather as a cudgel to beat Israelis out of their apathy about the very real pain and injustice that the occupation inflicts upon Palestinians. Ha’aretz is trying to tell Israelis that they need to do everything in their power to bring about the end of a morally corrosive occupation, that they must stop turning a blind eye to the dangers of settlement expansion and seize diplomatic opportunities to advance the cause of peace — above all, that they mustn’t be complacent. This is a message that needs to be heard.

Nevertheless, Ha’aretz is playing a dangerous game with its reckless use of the a-word. Ha’aretz may have decent aims, but Israel also has indecent enemies. And for these enemies, the a-word is a key weapon in their arsenal. Now, when Israel’s friends abroad seek to counter the campaigns of demonization and divestment, the Jewish state’s foes will have a ready retort: “Even Ha’aretz says it’s apartheid.”

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Ha'aretz, Apartheid

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Mobius Sat. Oct 6, 2007

If not for repeated Arab threats and efforts to destroy the Jewish state, there would have been no occupation in the first place. Or, were it not for repeated efforts of Palestinian Arabs to resist Zionist colonization of Palestine, today there would be an Arab-rein state on both sides of the River Jordan, as militant Zionists have to this day desired. And if not for wave after wave of terrorism, there would quite possibly be an independent Palestinian state today instead of a West Bank security barrier. Indeed -- a state that would be flanked by the Israeli military on all sides; that would have its airspace, waterways, and borders controlled by Israel; that would be broken up into cantons requiring Palestinians to pass through Israeli-controlled checkpoints in order to travel from one area to another; and that would have Abu Dis as its capital, with the remaining areas of East Jerusalem, including the entirety of the Old City, under Israeli administration. Sounds like freedom to me... And, it goes without saying, constant rocket barrages from post-disengagement Gaza do little to encourage Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank. 1. Nobody forced Israel to disengage without a negotiated settlement. 2. Had Israel not snubbed Hamas, and instead had chosen to negotiate a truce rather than launching countless reckless incursions into Gaza, who knows--maybe Hamas would have had a cause and an opportunity to curtail Fatah's rocket fire. Finally, on the "A" word -- as more and more words become off-limits because of their inflammatory potential, we will soon find ourselves without the vocabulary to call a spade a spade. Oh, what an Orwellian web we weave.

Monica Jacob Thu. Oct 4, 2007

It is truly difficult to understand what the writer is trying to convey. He agrees that perhaps the situation pertaining to the Palestinians is worse than that of Black people under apartheid. As a Jewish South African who grew up under apartheid I concur. However the writer then loses his way and blames the Palestinians for Israel's brutal behaviour. This is truly extraordinary, blaming the victims for the actions of the perpetrator, rather like rapists blame their victims for their crime. It is absolutely untrue that Israel behaves in the way she does, because of what the Palestinians have done. In fact Israel behaves with the support of America like she does, because she can and because it pays dividends. She has the fourth most powerful army in the world and is a brutal colonial power who has acted to destroy the future of the indigenous peoples of the land . I would remind you that occupied peoples have a right to resist occupation, and if Israel chooses to allow Jewish rights to trump human rights, then she has no one to blame but herself if she is now held condemned as a perpetrator of apartheid. The writer would do better to challenge Israel's behaviour than to challenge the correct description of it.

Tarshisha Sun. Oct 7, 2007

Well. This is Israel. Our government minister or MP was able to use the word [word deleted]. Another government minister said that all Russian émigré – whores and social parasites. Some our rabbis said, that only Jews created in the image of God, and goim soul more like animal, than human. Some our people said – Arafat is Hitler, some said this about the chief of Jerusalem’s police. And, you know, enemies, either indecent and won’t say us, what to be on our agenda. The same is about our friends. Let my people say whatever they want. Remember, how our overworried tribesman helped Jimmy Carter turn his book into bestseller. Jewish folk use to say ‘Purim iz nishken yontef and kush in thkhes is nishken klole’. Apartheid too.

Tarshsiha Sun. Oct 7, 2007

Ok, If K-word was deleted there, our Israeli was able to call our fellow Jew YEHUDON

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