A Sept. 6th Associated Press (AP) article on comments by Tamir Pardo, the former head of Israel’s Mossad, that Israel is enforcing an “apartheid” system in the West Bank, included a rare – and telling – corrective to a common smear against Israel.
Several paragraphs down from the top, it cited one of Pardo’s few actual justifications for making that charge:
Pardo said Israeli citizens can get into a car and drive wherever they want, excluding the blockaded Gaza Strip, but that Palestinians can’t drive everywhere. He said that his views on the system in the West Bank were “not extreme. It’s a fact.”
In the next paragraph, the AP reporter provided information showing that Pardo wasn’t telling the truth:
Israelis are barred from entering Palestinian areas of the West Bank, but can drive across Israel and throughout the 60% of the West Bank that Israel controls. Palestinians need permission from Israel to enter the country and often must pass through military checkpoints to move within the West Bank.
Indeed, anyone who lives in Israel, or has spent time driving on its roads across the green line, has seen signs alerting Israelis to this reality, which points to the absurdity of imputing apartheid-style racism to what are largely security-driven restrictions on both Israelis and Palestinians in the territories
For instance, is the fact Jews are prevented from entering most of the historic Jewish city of Hebron an example of Palestinian apartheid? No, it isn’t. Just as it’s not apartheid when a few areas in the tiny area of the city where Jews are permitted to live are prohibited to Palestinians.
It’s a policy based on an agreement reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority under Oslo – a compromise of sorts to allow Jews some presence in their holy city, while taking into account the major security challenges of two hostile populations sharing a large urban area. The same is true about the rest of the West Bank, where negotiated agreements between two parties (who both claim rights to the same land) and efforts to mitigate the stubborn reality of terrorism, resulted in the current territorial arrangements.
Reasonable people can argue over the fairness of the current situation. But, neither racism nor ‘apartheid has anything to do with it.
Unsurprisingly, Chris McGreal, arguably the Guardian journalist most viscerally hostile to Israel and its supporters, which, as our readers know, is a very high bar, refuses to even implicitly acknowledge the extraordinary weakness of the apartheid allegation. In his report on Pardo’s comments (“Israel imposing apartheid on Palestinians, says former Mossad chief”, Sept. 6), McGreal fails to push back against the following charge:
Pardo told the Associated Press that Israel’s mechanisms for controlling the Palestinians, from restrictions on movement to placing them under military law while Jewish settlers in the occupied territories are governed by civilian courts, matched the old South Africa.
“There is an apartheid state here,” he said. “In a territory where two people are judged under two legal systems, that is an apartheid state.”
But, as CAMERA’s David Litman has argued, Israel’s ‘military regime’ over Palestinians is “precisely what international law requires of Israel”, which, while viewing the territory as disputed rather than occupied, “voluntarily applies the law of occupation to the West Bank pending a final peace deal”. If Israel were to apply civilian law to West Bank Palestinians, he adds, that would require annexation, a move which would widely be characterised as “illegal”. As the legal scholar Yoram Dinstein has written, “the government of an occupied territory is military per definitionem,”
In short, Litman concluded, attacks against Israel for “enforcing a military regime on Palestinians,” are literally criticising Israel for abiding by international law.
Successive Israeli governments have fought back against accusations of apartheid by characterising them as antisemitic out of concern the charge will fuel a boycott movement or open the way to prosecutions under international laws against apartheid.
First, note how McGreal casually imputes bad faith to Israeli claims that such accusations are either intrinsically antisemitic or at least motivated by anti-Jewish animus – ignoring the fact that the roots of the apartheid charge lay in Soviet antisemitic and anti-Zionist propaganda. Also, it isn’t just “Israeli governments” which have pushed back against the apartheid charge, but European democracies as well. Further, during the summer, The U.S. House of Representatives approved a resolution affirming that Israel is neither a racist nor apartheid state by a vote of 412-9.
In fact, we’re not aware of any democratic state in the world which has endorsed the apartheid charge.
McGreal argues that the apartheid charges are “harder to dismiss when they come from those within the Israeli establishment”, a point we scrutinised previously, albeit about a different allegation – the charge by a retired IDF general comparing Israeli actions in the West Bank to Nazi atrocities. In condemning the Telegraph for reporting on, and implicitly giving credibility to, his antisemitic comments, we argued that the utterings of a miniscule number of former Israeli officials don’t render ahistorical, counter-factual and/or antisemitic charges any more intellectually serious, or the legitimisation of such libels less reprehensible.