Ethnocratic regimes are neither authoritarian nor democratic; but rather are states that maintain a relatively open government, while facilitating a non-democratic seizure of the country and polity by one ethnic group. Despite exhibiting several democratic features, they lack a democratic structure, tending to breach key democratic tenets, such as equal citizenship, the existence of a territorial political community (demos), universal suffrage, and protection against the tyranny of the majority.
This paper traces the making of the Israeli ethnocracy, focussing on the major Zionist project of Judaizing Israel/Palestine…
5. Yes, Zionism is Settler Colonialism
Rabbi Brant Rosen, Shalom Rav, 2 April 2016
Rosen argues that Jewish attachment to the land of Israel was traditionally expressed as an inherently religious connection and that Zionism as a modern political movement, arising in the 19th century, was an explicit rejection of this Jewish tradition. Cultural Zionism, which wished to see Palestine as the centre of a Jewish cultural renaissance lost out to those who wanted to create a sovereign Jewish state in historic Palestine. And the ony way to do that was by getting rid of (most of) the indigenous population i.e. by means of settler colonialism.
The literature on this topic is now enormous. A selection of articles are given here, in four more-or-less arbitrary categories: historical (but still extremely relevant), more recent contributions; some more substantial analyses and debates; and finally, without comment, a further selection of noteworthy articles on the topic, generally posted on the JfJfP website when they appeared.
Apartheid I: Early contributions to the debate
1. Apartheid in the Holy Land
Desmond Tutu, Guardian, 29 Apr, 2002
2. The situation in the oPt, including East Jerusalem
John Dugard, Special Rapporteur, UN Commission on Human Rights, United Nations African Meeting in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Cape Town, 29 and 30 June 2004
An early comparison of the situation under occupation and in South Africa, by a South African Professor of international law.
Susie Jacobs, Engage, 20 May 2005
Susie Jacobs, a sociology lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, argues in this scholarly, rigorous and informed piece, that any comparison must be systematic and in context, not used as an easy ‘way out’ of thinking about the real difficulties and uncertainties that exist in the current situation in Israel and Palestine.
4. In February 2006 Chris McGreal of The Guardian set the cat among the pigeons with two extremely interesting pieces on South Africa, apartheid and Israel.
(a) Worlds apart, Guardian, 6 Feb 2006
“Israelis have always been horrified at the idea of parallels between their country, a democracy risen from the ashes of genocide, and the racist system that ruled the old South Africa. Yet even within Israel itself, accusations persist that the web of controls affecting every aspect of Palestinian life bears a disturbing resemblance to apartheid.”
(b) Brothers in arms – Israel’s secret pact with Pretoria, Guardian, 7 Feb 2006
“During the second world war the future South African prime minister John Vorster was interned as a Nazi sympathiser. Three decades later he was being feted in Jerusalem…”
For a series of often highly emotional responses see Benjamin Pogrund’s Why depict Israel as a chamber of horrors like no other in the world? Wednesday, 8 Feb 2006; plus Letters, Tuesday, 7 Feb 2006 and Reactions from other experts and from readers 8 Feb 2006.
See also Israel’s collaboration with South African apartheid where Benjamin Pogrund reviews Polakow-Suransky’s book, The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s Secret Relationship With Apartheid South Africa (May 2010)
5. Jimmy Carter’s book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (2006)
Accusations of antisemitism fell thick and fast around former-President Jimmy Carter, mainly but not exclusively by any means, because of the provocative title of his book, published late in 2006. There are also number of interesting – and sympathetic – discussions of the book, often from unlikely sources including:
a) Henry Siegman, Hurricane Carter The Nation, posted online 4 Jan 2007 (22 Jan 2007 issue). Siegman is a former executive head of the American Jewish Congress and the Synagogue Council of America.
b) Yossi Beilin The Case for Carter The Jewish Daily Forward, 16 Jan 2007
“[W]hat Carter says in his book about the Israeli occupation and our treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories … is entirely harmonious with the kind of criticism that Israelis themselves voice about their own country.
c) Tony Karom Israel and Apartheid: In Defense of Jimmy Carter, 22 Dec 2006
“The point being that Jimmy Carter had to write this book precisely because Palestinian life and history is not accorded equal value in American discourse, far from it. And his use of the word apartheid is not only morally valid; it is essential, because it shakes the moral stupor that allows many liberals to rationalize away the daily, grinding horror being inflicted Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.”
d) Kenneth W. Stein, My Problem with Jimmy Carter’s Book Middle East Forum, Spring 2007, Vol XIV/2
Stein was one of the people who resigned from the Carter Foundation over the book. This is his critique (called “mostly disingenuous” by Jeffrey Stein of Jewish Voice for Peace). Judge for yourself.
e) Norman Finkelstein Carter’s Real Sin is Cutting to the Heart of the Problem: The Ludicrous Attacks on Jimmy Carter’s Book Counterpunch, 28 Dec 2006. A swashbuckling tour of Carter’s critics.
Apartheid II: More recent contributions
1. “Introduction” to Ben White, Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide
Ben White, on JfJfP website, with permission of Pluto Press, 2009
“It is important to realise […] that to compare the situation in Palestine/Israel to apartheid South Africa is not to try and force a ‘one size fits all’ political analysis where there are clear differences, as well as similarities. Rather, any such comparison is useful in so far as it helps sheds light – in Israel’s case – on a political system that is based on structural racism, separation and dominance… even leaving aside the specific comparison with South Africa, Israel’s past and present policies towards the indigenous Palestinians fully meet the aforementioned definition of apartheid laid out in international law…”
2. We say apartheid, you say hafrada
Jeff Halper/ICAHD submission to the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, Nov 2011
The Cape Town sitting of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine concluded that “Israel subjects Palestinians to an institutionalised regime of domination”. Jeff Halper provided the tribunal with a sober account of the buildings pulled down and put up by the Israeli state, enacting its official policy of hafrada, or separation or apartheid.
3. Call it ‘occupation’ – it annihilates more than apartheid did
Thomas Mitchell and Ran Greenstein, +972, 5 & 8 May 2014
Greenstein and Mitchell take up the debate on whether ‘apartheid’ is the correct name for Israel’s form of rule over non-Jews. In Israel, the separation is less absolute than it was in S.Africa; in the oPt the Palestinians are wholly alien, never to have their national political identity put into effect. Even colonialism – in which the ruled were thought to be in training for nationhood – is too kind a word. And occupation, as has been ruled, is assumed to be temporary…
4. New Basic Law makes apartheid the foundation of Israel
Composite posting, JfJfP 2 Dec 2014
The bill declaring Israel to be the nation-state of ALL Jews betrays Israel’s founding principles and prepares for one state in which non-Jews would be constitutionally subjects not citizens – two of the views expressed in this compendium of articles.
5. Apartheid of a special type?
Ran Greenstein, The Johannesburg Salon, JfJfP 13 Feb 2011
A nuanced analysis of the Israel/Palestine reality which Greenstein characterises as “apartheid of a special type” – a unique system that combines democratic norms, military occupation, and exclusion/inclusion of extra-territorial populations. On the baisis of this, he argues that one approach to challenging this system would be to foster a bi-nationalism that would accommodate members of both national groups as equals, and facilitate negotiation underpinned by the discourse and values of democracy, justice, equality and human rights, rather than those of diplomacy and statehood.
6. Time to call it what it is: Israeli apartheid
Bradley Burston, Ha’aretz, 17 Aug 2015
An anguished Bradley Burston, who immigrated from LA to Israel in 1976, argues that he has finally had to recognise that the mesh of laws which the Israeli state has amassed to restrict every possible form of independent Palestinian life can only be called apartheid.
7. The Two Apartheids
Fawwaz Traboulsi & Assaf Kfoury, Jacobin, 27 May 2015
Explores the similarities and differences between South African apartheid and the Israeli system, and looks for lessons from the struggle against South African apartheid. “A major gap in these comparisons [usually] made between the South African case and the Palestinian case is their neglect of what it will take to change conditions in the neighboring Arab ‘front-line states’ and make them provide the necessary means to buttress the long effort to contain and ultimately reverse the Zionist project.”
Apartheid III: Some longer analyses
1. Apartheid and Occupation under International Law
John Dugard, Hisham B. Sharabi Memorial Lecture, 29 Mar 2009
“While international law tolerates military occupation, it does not approve it, specifically one that has continued for over 40 years as in the case of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory. Furthermore, during that time, Israel has introduced two other elements—colonialism and apartheid. Although there are many similarities between apartheid as it was applied in South Africa and Israel’s policies and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the systems are not identical. There are features of the Israeli regime in the occupied territory that were unknown to South Africans. This year’s Hisham B. Sharabi Memorial Lecture was delivered by Professor John Dugard.”
2. How to combat apartheid Israeli-style
Ran Greenstein, +972, JfJfP 6 Oct 2013
For some time, South Africans resented the use of their word, apartheid (Afrikaans for separation), as a description of any other system. The oppression and exploitation of black Africans by a white minority seemed exceptional in its brutal, lethal, total oppression. In two articles, Ran Greenstein, Israeli Jewish South African, looks at what makes the Israeli and S. African systems of ethnic segregation different – and alike.
3. Israel and apartheid revisited – part 1 and part 2
Ran Greenstein, Israel Occupation Archive, JfJfP 29 Aug 2010
In this long, two-part analysis Ran Greenstein casts a refreshing eye over the whole debate, arguing that “The notion of apartheid may be applicable in different ways to different components of the system. While Israel clearly is different from South African historical apartheid, in crucial respects it has affinities with apartheid in its generic sense.”
4. A racism outside of language: Israel’s apartheid
Saree Makdisi, Pambazuka News, JfJfP 11 Mar 2010
Palestinian writer Saree Makdisi freely acknowledges the differences between Israel and South Africa but finds many analogies. He shows in detail how the High Court ruling in the 1970s that “There is no Israeli nation separate from the Jewish people” feeds through into widespread discrimination against Palestinians within Israel who are notionally equal citizens. Palestinians are stripped of their national identity which is not only degrading in itself, but has material consequences in terms of housing and land rights for instance, which are attendant on national identity not mere citizenship. He finds in Israel a racism expressed in practice, not in language, and denied by Israel’s supporters: “where does it say ‘Jews only’?”
Apartheid IV: yet more…
(all except the last reposted on JfJfP website)
Falk’s final report, on the terms ‘hafrada’/apartheid, UN Human Rights Council, Jan 13, 2014
Israel, boycott, apartheid – the argument, Ha’aretz debate, Nov 2013
Enforcing Jewish separateness Eva Illouz on how it’s done, Ha’aretz, 23 Nov 2013
How will Israel govern its majority of non-Jews in Israel and oPt?, Jewish Forward on the numbers, Sep 2013
‘We have created this monster, a dual legal system’, interview with lawyer Michael Sfard, +972, 28 Jul 2013
Apartheid through the minds and bodies of children, UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Jun 2013
Thanks be to Superland for showing us what we are, Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz, 4 Jun 2013
Annexation or Apartheid: (some) Israelis search for a word for their reality, Oren Yiftachel, 28 Feb 2013
Top analyst from CIA compares apartheid in Israel and South Africa, Paul R. Pillar, The National Interest, 17 Dec 2012
Defiance of law, case for one state, proof of apartheid: responses to Levy, composite posting JfJfP 11 Jul 2012
Russell Tribunal to consider whether Israel an apartheid state, MEMO, 1 Nov 2011
Degrees of separation: judging apartheid, Lev Luis Grinberg deplores Richard Goldstone’s attack on the “apartheid slander”, Tikkun, 17 Nov 2011
Israeli apartheid given a firm legal foundation, +972 and Open Democracy, JfJfP 27 Mar 2011
Are Israel and apartheid South Africa really different?, Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz, 4 Dec 2010
SA academic study finds that Israel is practicing apartheid and colonialism in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, The Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC), JfJfP 31 May 2009
Citizenship and political integration: can we draw lessons from the rise and demise of apartheid?, Ran Greenstein, Nov 2006, originally in Hebrew
Contents of this section
4. ISRAELI SOCIETY AND POLITICS
a) What kind of society?
Jewish and democratic?
b) Divisions among Israeli citizens
Ashkenazi and Mizrachi
Palestinian citizens of Israel
c) The Israeli Supreme Court – champion of rights?