John Kerry admits Israeli Apartheid; and 5 Ways he is Understating It

(By Juan Cole)

In a closed-room meeting of the Trilateral Commission last Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry warned that Israel is on the verge of becoming an Apartheid state, according to a recording obtained by The Daily Beast.

The remark will raise a firestorm of criticism from Palestine-deniers, who are if anything more blindered and fanatical than climate-change deniers. What is sad is that Kerry phrased it in the future tense. That cow was out of the barn a long time ago.

As the Daily Beast noted, the Rome Statute defined Apartheid 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.”

Former South African deputy president Baleka Mbete and African National Congress leader has said that Israel-Palestine is actually “far worse than Apartheid South Africa.”

Israeli society inside 1967 borders is not broadly characterized by Apartheid conditions, though Palestinian-Israelis do labor under legal forms of discrimination. For instance, unless their villages are “recognized,” they cannot receive water and other municipal services and are threatened with dispersal. Since no Jewish villages are unrecognized, this separate status for (indigenous!) Palestinian-Israeli villages is Apartheid-like. Still, the most thorough comparison of the Apartheid system of racial segregation with Israeli practices can only be made of the West Bank and Gaza, where Palestinians are ruled by Israel but kept stateless and without rights.

1. South Africa created Bantustans as a way of denaturalizing Blacks, ensuring that they could not vote for the national government and were assigned citizenship only in their weak Bantustan.

Gaza and the West Bank function as Bantustans, as South African Blacks have no trouble recognizing. Indeed, a former Italian prime minister maintains that former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon told him he thought the Bantustan system was the best way of dealing with the Palestinians. The Palestinians living in these occupied territories have no citizenship in any real state. They are stateless. The West Bank has been segmented into 8 units. Palestinians cannot travel between them without going through numerous checkpoints. They cannot vote for the Israeli government, but they are ultimately controlled by the Israeli military. When in 2006 they were allowed to hold elections for a toothless “parliament,” and they cheekily elected a party the Israelis find unacceptable, the election results were overturned by Israel.

2. South Africa instituted a “pass” system to control the movement of Blacks.

Israel instituted a “permit” system to control the movement of Palestinians. West Bank Palestinians cannot live outside the 8 designated areas without a permit. Desmond Tutu, who knows a bit about Apartheid South Africa, remarked of seeing, on his visit to the Occupied West Bank, “the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about”.

3. In Apartheid South Africa, 80% of the land was set aside for white settlers.

Israel itself was ethnically cleansed of 750,000 Palestinians in 1948, and was designated “Jewish,” such that the expelled Palestinians (now millions strong) were denied the right to return to their homes. Some 70% of the residents of the Gaza Strip are from southern Israel, and cannot return to their nearby homes in cities such as Sderot, where Israelis have settled Ethiopians and Thai guest workers. In the Palestinian West Bank, some 600,000 Israeli squatters have usurped significant amounts of land from Palestinians, for which they paid nothing to the original owners, and their squatter settlements are off-limits to Palestinians, who cannot live in them.

4. In Apartheid South Africa, Blacks from the Bantustans could not attend universities designated for whites.

In the Occupied Palestinian West Bank, the Israeli military governor has recognized a squatter university, Ariel, built on usurped Palestinian land. Although Palestinian-Israelis can attend, stateless West Bank Palestinians cannot get on campus because they are barred from settlements by the Apartheid pass system, as Dahlia Scheindlin wrote at 972mag:

“Member of Knesset Zahava Galon, head of the Meretz party, scoffed at that. Ariel, she told me by phone, is off limits for Palestinians very simply because it is an Israeli-controlled settlement. Just as a West Bank Palestinian can’t go to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv easily, they are equally unwelcome in Ariel. For her, the move reeked of hypocrisy. “It’s a higher education committee approved by people in uniform, so what is the substantive meaning? It’s unbelievable.” She called it a sign of the government’s true program of “creeping annexation,” and remarked that it would legitimize the global movements calling for the academic boycott of Israel.”

5. South African Apartheid forbade marriages between people of different ethnicities.

Israelis of Jewish and Palestinian heritage cannot intermarry in Israel. Two Israeli citizens of different ethnic heritage can marry abroad and return to Israel. But Israeli-Palestinians who marry Palestinians from the Occupied West Bank are not allowed to bring their spouse to Israel. The same problem is not faced by Israeli Jews who marry squatters on the Palestinian West Bank.


Related videos:

TheRealNews from a couple of weeks ago: “Where Are Israeli-Palestinian Peace Negotiations Headed? ”

Noam Chomsky “Israel: An Apartheid State”

16 Responses

  1. Remarkably, the following was written by Michael Ben-Yair, Israel’s Attorney-General from 1993-1996, in one of Israel’s leading newspapers, in 2002: “The Six-Day War was forced upon us; however, the war’s seventh day, which began on June 12, 1967 and has continued to this day, is the product of our choice. 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.”
    link to

  2. In a 1934 letter to the League of Nations, Edmond de Rothschild stated that “the struggle to put an end to the Wandering Jew, could not have as its result, the creation of the Wandering Arab.”

  3. To save Israel from being identified with Apartheid, some liberal zionists such as Peter Beinart advance an argument noting that an Apartheid situation doesn’t prevail in Israel proper, and since the West Bank and Gaza have not been annexed and are not officially part of Israel, then Israel is not really an Apartheid State. Of course, this is a just a piece of sophistry. However, it’s easily circumvented by avoiding use of the ‘Apartheid State’ label and instead stating the obvious and undeniable: that Israel is guilty of the crime of Apartheid, and has been for decades.

  4. Glad to see the word “Squatters” getting prominence but can we preface it with the word “Illegal”.

  5. Just sent my thank you to Secretary of State Kerry for going as far as he has. While we know he was hesitant to say what we know Israel is an apartheid state…amazing that he has gone as far as he has. Please take the time to thank him
    link to

  6. The main stream media and punditry always imply (but don’t get into details of) some sort of symmetry between sides the “Middle East Peace” negotiations. “Intransigent Palestinians” is a common phase, and something about the Palestinians compromising.

    But the 5 Ways Kerry is understating apartheid makes me wonder what is it that the Palestinians possess that can be offered in a give and take compromise. They have no control over the Israelis, and only constricted control over themselves. Super armed Israel’s “right/no right to exist” is not a choice the Palestinians have except as a rhetorical flourish, but the Palestinian “right to exist” as a viable political entity is certainly a flexible option for Israel.

    I think what Israel really wants is “Apartheid Light”. Knock off one or two of the “5 ways” so that Israel’s supporters can make a stronger case for denying apartheid, but barely affecting the status quo.

  7. Since becoming Obama’s S of State, Kerry has certainly been working hard to demolish any remaining stature he once had. How peculiar that he would take his slightly bold charge to a body as weird as the Trilateral Commission, while everywhere else he has put 99% of the blame for no progress on the Palestinians. He has to know that his words would be passed around, attracting a lot of buzz; so why not just stand up like a man and say it on CNN or say to the Washington Press Club? Maybe Kerry’s next comments will be made to a mistress seated next to him at a Clipper’s game, like Don Sterling.

    So far, Juan Cole is among the few commentators to not trash Kerry for slandering Israel. I think there is a real possibility that Obama could fire him given the fire storm.
    Kerry has been so bad that Hillary Clinton is looking better. By now, James Baker, by comparison, is looking like the equal of John Quincy Adams.
    How far the whole cause of peace for the Holy Land has fallen.
    Meanwhile Egypt gives 600 people the death penalty for not supporting the sun glasses wearing general, and Obama will resume sending the man attack helicopters. I think maybe President Bush senior is even looking better, in comparison.

  8. The situation in the West Bank can also be compared to the plight of native Americans who either were forced to occupy reservations with limited autonomy under ultimate control of the U.S. government or, in the alternative, assimilate into American society where they faced and continue to face discrimination.

    On a separate note, Israel’s heavy casualties it drew in the 2006 South Lebanon War (165 killed and hundreds more wounded) led to a mutual deterrence between the IDF and Hezbollah that has stood the test of time – no war for almost eight years. The decades of Israeli encroachment in south Lebanon permanently ended following 2006. The painful failures of the IDF in the Battle of Bint Jubeil and the Litani Offensive in 2006 led to public opinion in Israel souring on continued military incursions in that area.

    The Israeli opinion polls showed overwhelming support for the 2002 Operation Defensive Shield and the 2008-9 Operation Cast Lead actions by the IDF against Palestinian militants (91% and 94% approval rate, respectively).

    Likewise, until Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank create a viable paramilitary threat against Israel, the status quo of occupation and blockade may continue indefinitely. If Palestinian militants are able to inflict casualties in battle situations upon the Israel Defense Forces in numbers comparable to those the IDF sustained in the 2006 South Lebanon War, popular opinion in Israel will likely force a reasonable peace settlement.

    A promising development on the Palestinian side toward peace has been the resurgence of popularity in Gaza by the moderate Fatah Party during the last year or so. Israel has had a mild resurgence in dovish parties such as Labor and Meretz in the last year also.

  9. John Kerry has already backtracked and has said that he used the wrong words–politics.html
    President Obama has blamed both Netanyahu and Mahmud Abbas equally for the collapse of the talks link to

    On the issue of whether Israel runs an apartheid state or not, in his speech in Oxford a few years ago Desmond Tutu, one of the strongest moral voices of our time, clearly compared the treatment of Palestinians to the apartheid state in South Africa, something that he had already said during his Christmas visit to Jerusalem in 1989, when he said “if I were to change the names, a description of what is happening in Gaza and the West Bank could describe events in South Africa.”

    Some time ago, I met a South African bishop who had just returned from a visit to Israel and I asked him about his views. He said that the plight of the Palestinians, especially in Gaza, was worse than that of the blacks during the apartheid regime. He added that in South Africa the white minority wanted to keep the blacks and exploit them, but in Israel the government is working hard to get rid of the Palestinians and force them to leave Israel and the occupied territories. As a result, the Palestinians suffer greater hardships.

  10. Israel has been on the path to Apartheid since the 70’s with Meir Kahane and election of Begin , a terrorist . The immigration waves of orthodox New York Jews and Russian Jews have made it worse.

  11. And now we hear voices in Congress condemning and threatening Kerry. He’s already apologized for the A-word.

  12. How it comes that Secretary Kerry in a closed circle talks about an apartheid state (obviously his real opinion) with all this implies (a certain worldview, stubborness etc) but then tries to move Israel on basis of just friendly recommendations and suggestions like “Please, would you be so kind to consider these rational arguments of mine?” This is not a consistent bahaviour. Then what? Is it that the show calles “peace process” just must go on?

  13. Anyone see Chris Hayes get rolled by Josh Block from the Israel Project. Chris allowed Block to get away with repeating a bucket full of false claims. A mountain of lies.

    Chris Hayes knew he was getting rolled by Block and parsed his response with guilty looking restraint. link to

    Wonder if Hayes will have anyone on like Noura Erekat to counter Block’s endless list of lies?. Block even said there was democracy in the West Bank. Hayes has the knowledge base to take Block’s lies and rip them to shreds but he did not link to

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