If it looks like Apartheid and sounds like Apartheid, it’s antisemitism

By Karen Haber *

The Amnesty report published on Tuesday under the heading “Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians: a cruel system of domination and a crime against humanity” can be summed up as “they call Israel an apartheid regime” But that is the populist approach, which brings forth the populist retorts of “lies” and “antisemitism”, which in turn makes it possible to ignore the real problem. The real problem is not the absence of an agreed wording for the implementation of the policy, but the policy itself.

In fact, if Israel continues with this policy, and it gives the impression of not having any other intention, then the use of the word Apartheid to describe Israeli rule in the territories by the international community, and also in the political discourse in Israel, in will increase. This is not a prophecy, this is the reality of the situation. If ten years ago the use of the term Apartheid to define Israeli control over the Palestinians was the domain of a few Palestinian and international organisations that were perceived as radical, and in relation to what is happening in the Occupied Territories, today it is becoming accepted among more diverse groups, and more than occasionally it includes Green Line Israel. This is a dramatic change and it wasn’t for nothing that Foreign Minister Lapid warned about it several weeks ago. This happens not because the concept is trendy, but because it reflects reality.

The wailing over of the use of the term “Apartheid” is not the point, nor is the mobilisation of the Zionist left to defend Israel’s position. This is how such processes work — the Jewish consensus has never been more coddled on all sides of the political spectrum. And that makes a genuine substantive discourse impossible. It confines the discourse to a unproductive demagogic babble. The minute one compares the dismantling of democracy to the processes that were taking place in Nazi Germany of the 1930s, then the Holocaust is immediately mentioned which ends the discussion without referring to those processes. If we talk about Apartheid, the issue of racism immediately rises and ends the discussion without referring to our segregation regime or the segregation practices carried out by Israel and they are the problem. There is no problem of antisemitism involved here. But there is a country here that rejects criticism on the grounds that if it looks like apartheid and sounds like Apartheid, we’ll call that antisemitism.

But contrary to popular belief in Israel, the concept of Apartheid has long stood on its own and not just as a form of a regime. It is true that its name is derived from the Afrikaans name for the racial segregation regime in South Africa, which lasted for almost the entire second half of the 20th century, but today it is a stand-alone legal concept. In fact, it is even defined as a crime against humanity and you will be surprised to hear that it is not dependent on the existence of a racist ideology. In a side note, it should be noted that Israel’s unwillingness to act materially to change this weighty accusation, which has serious consequences, indicates that Israel has no way of contradicting the allegations. In the end they are simply correct.

You can continue to play “let’s pretend” and continue to whitewash words ad infinitum, like calling the outposts “young settlements.” It does not diminish the colonial act that includes expropriation of land, illegal settlement of civilians in occupied territory, creation of two different legal systems for different types of population in the same area, construction of a control and repression apparatus to devastate the fabric of life, use of military force, denial of group rights and persecution of organisations and individuals for their to opposition to the Occupation. Lamenting about the use of the label “Apartheid” and continuing to talk about “specific cases” or “failures of units “ when issues keep on popping up, is nothing short of the kind of irony that lacks self-awareness.

It’s unpleasant to be labelled, but that’s the definition and it’s probably correct. In order not to be an Apartheid state, Israel must boldly look at its past and reality and recognise the fact that it has committed, and is committing, crimes against the civilian population and that this cannot continue.

* Translated by Sol Salbe for the Middle East News Service, Melbourne, Australia.

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