Forward Thinking

No, Kerry, 'Apartheid' Isn't On Israel's Agenda

By Jonathan Tobin

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Palestinian supporters of Hamas attend a rally in the West Bank / Getty Images

Employing the term “apartheid” — a word that conjures up the evils of both colonialism and racism in South Africa — to describe Israel’s future if peace with the Palestinians isn’t reached is nothing but a canard.

Within the 1967 lines, Israel is a working democracy in which minorities have equal rights. But even when applied to the West Bank, it is a complete misnomer. So long as Gaza remains an independent Palestinian state in all but name, Jews will remain the majority between the Jordan and the Mediterranean for the foreseeable future. And that’s not even taking into account that the assumption that the Arab birthrate will always overwhelm that of the Jews is probably a mistake.

More to the point, the standoff over the West Bank that leaves most Arabs living under Israeli security but administered by the Palestinian Authority has nothing to do with an apartheid-style desire by a minority to rule a majority. After torpedoing the peace talks by making a deal with Hamas, Fatah has effectively turned down a fourth chance for independence to go along with its previous rejections in 2000, 2001 and 2008.

The continued Palestinian refusal to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn is a product of a political culture that still links national identity to the war on Zionism. That creates an unfortunate stalemate that isn’t satisfactory to either side.

But the notion that Israel must repeat its 2005 Gaza mistake in the West Bank in order to avoid being smeared as a new South Africa is unpersuasive. Any use of the apartheid canard to describe Israel, whether employed by Secretary of State John Kerry or by the BDS anti-Zionists, only serves to make a Palestinian decision to make peace less, rather than more, likely.

Jonathan S. Tobin is the senior online editor and chief political blogger of Commentary magazine. Follow him on Twitter, @TobinCommentary.


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