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Judy Rebick is one of Canada's most celebrated and well-known feminist thinkers, critics and writers. She is the founder of rabble.ca.

Israel is an apartheid state and that is why they are losing legitimacy

| March 2, 2010
Israel is an apartheid state and that is why they are losing legitimacy

Before Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) even began members of the Ontario Legislature and the Canadian Parliament are falling all over each other to denounce it. I can't remember another time when elected legislators formally denounced a student activity like this.  Perhaps during the 1950's when McCarthyism was rampant but that was before my time.

Last week the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed a resolution denouncing Israel Apartheid Week submitted by PC Peter Shure who said calling Israel an apartheid state was "close to hate speech."  While there were only 30 MPP's in the Legislature at the time, NDP MPP Cheri di Novo was one of them and spoke in favour of the resolution.  This week a Conservative MP is introducing a resolution calling IAW anti-Semitic.

Before I deal with why these unprecedented attacks are taking place, I'd like to share with you a great talk I heard last night at Ryerson from Na'eem Jeena: , a leading activist and academic from South Africa who works for Palestinian solidarity.  He told us that South African apartheid had three pillars of apartheid and Israel shares all three.

1. Different rights for different races  In the case of Israel, it is different rights for Jews and for non-Jews.  For example the law of return of 1950 says Jews can return to Israel and be given citizenship even if they have no links to the country other than mythical biblical ones; whereas Palestinians cannot return even if their parents or grandparents lived there.

2.  Separation of so-called racial groups into different geographical areas.  Even within the borders of Israel, 93 percent of land is reserved as a national land trust or Jewish National Fund land is for the exclusive use of Jews.  The 20 percent of the population that is Palestinians living in Israel have to share access to the 7 percent of private land that is left.   The Israeli Supreme Court has made a number of decisions that Palestinians cannot live on Jewish lands.  There are not only residential areas that are banned to Palestinians but there are separate roads for Jews and Palestinians.  That was never true in South Africa even in times of crisis.  Moreover Palestinians have less access to water than Jews living nearby

Finally the movement of Palestinians is severely restricted much more so than were blacks in South Africa.  The famous pass laws in South Africa meant that Blacks had to show government issued passes to move around but Palestinians are even more restricted by walls and checkpoints  and if they live in the Gaza Strip can't leave at all.

3. Security and Repression Matrix of Laws and Security. There was serious repression in the Black townships but there were never tanks or planes buzzing overhead like there is in West Bank.  Israeli military violence against Palestinian communities.  says Jena,  is far worse than anything suffered by Blacks in South Africa during apartheid.

If Israel is becoming a pariah in the world it is not because of anti-Semitism, it is because they are practicing a form of apartheid even more egregious than that practiced in South Africa.  Others have compiled comments from some of the most respected leaders of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa who see what Israel is doing as apartheid.  There is a reason why the BDS is strongest in South African.  People there recognize apartheid when they see it.

Finally the UN Convention on Apartheid condemns the crime of apartheid that refers to a series of inhuman acts—including murder, torture, arbitrary arrest, illegal imprisonment, exploitation, marginalization, and persecution—committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining the domination of one racial group by another.  If the shoe fits.

So why are politicians including some from the NDP setting a student activity like IAW in their sites?  An all party coalition of parliamentarians has been holding hearings on what they call the "new anti-semitism," by which they mean criticism of Israel.  They heard from every University President who appeared before them that there is no rise of anti-semitism on their campuses and yet the false rumours of such a rise persist because of the equation of criticism of Israel with anti-semitism. ">Israel is beginning to see that the non-violent anti-apartheid and BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement is a greater threat to their power than the any military threat. In Israel and Palestine, they are moving to arrest non-violent activists who are leading the movement there. And they are using all their economic and political power to push friendly governments to move against these protests. But there is a problem. It's called democracy and freedom of speech.  However much you might disagree that Israel practices apartheid, you cannot shut down a discussion of the issue or a demonstration or disinvestment campaign  against Israel because freedom of speech is a fundamental democratic right in most Western countries. In Canada,  the only way to shut down the movement is to vilify it as hateful or anti-semitic. That is what our parliamentarians are now trying to do. 

I am Jewish and have been working one and off for Palestinian rights for many years, as have many other Jews who feel a special responsibility to speak out against injustices committed by Israel.   During that time, I have rarely experienced any anti-semitism.  In the IAW organizing, I have experienced none. If Israel is losing legitimacy in the world, it is because of what their government is doing to the Palestinians, not because of anti-semitism. >This attempt to shut down criticism of Israel is the most frightening assault on freedom of speech I have ever seen in this country.  Whether or not you think Israel Apartheid Week is the best name for this week of discussion supporting Palestinian rights, please write your MP and your MPP and tell them you think it is wrong for Parliamentarians to denounce this kind of educational activity.




Oh, I came back for a look and it was interesting. Since I can only imagine your disappointment, Spector, I'll help you out.

I actually have read everything you've cited but you don't seem able to recognize that someone could read them and reach different conclusions than you.  For one thing, your notion of apartheid is inaccurate because it doesn't distinguish between racially-based separations and national divisions.

The Wall you claim is a racial division isn't doing a very good job as a racial separation, because it's walled over a million Israeli Arabs inside Israel proper. It has, however, been very successful as a security measure in preventing suicide attacks which have been reduced by over 90% since the wall was completed.

It's an infringement of what is Palestinian land, but that of itself is a contentious issue since there never was a Palestinian state, but a border based on 1948 Armistice lines. In any case, it makes it a border dispute between two nations, not "apartheid".

And you don't seem willing to put the Palestinian/Israeli issues in the context of an armed conflict, which it clearly is.

As to my ignorance, you might want to familiarize yourself with Saudi Arabian laws regarding the rights of non-Muslims, or women. Jews aren't allowed to live there at all. You might want to look into the 73 professions which Palestinians are legally barred from in Lebanon. I could go on, and on and on, but I think you, in reality, are aware of the discrimination minorities face in these and other Arab countries.  

The alleged theft is what? Israel existing? Is it the Occupied territories? Were you outraged that Egypt occupied Gaza and Jordan occupied the West Bank until 1967?

They were never interested in creating Palestinian states there, Israel is willing to recognize a Palestinian state once a negotiated settlement can be reached with mutual recognition. And I suppose you'll have some interesting things to say about Arafat's refusal to accept a Palestinian state when Clinton and Barak tried to get him to, as it only was 94% of what he wanted.

You ask "Is the military violence against the Gazans, for example, not greater than that of apartheid South Africa against the blacks, or that of any Arab country against racial minorities?" As it happens it isn't if you look at the numbers of Gazans killed vs. South African Blacks or Kurds under Saddam or Baha'is in Iran, but that's not the point, it's a digression, because whether it is or isn't, it still doesn't make Israel an apartheid country. You fail to consider the motivation as not being racial but as part of an armed conflict and self defensive on Israel's part. I don't expect you to agree or acknowledge the possibility of that, but others do.

And I've never said Israel is above criticism. There's a lot to criticize about Israel's treatment of Palestinians. But that doesn't make it an apartheid country. This is enough for now. Reading that lengthy response and having been accused of, let's see.. being "ignorant", not having read the article I commented on, "having the nerve to accuse others of wanting to shut down debate" (I had to re-read my post to try to figure where you got that from, you might be projecting there..all I said was that people have their prejudices and aren't listening to each other. Your language and ad hominem attacks are good proof of that) it appears I was right in my earlier view that this isn't worth much more time here.

But I have to say, what's really great about you is you try to rationalize the disproportionate, unfair, and irrational accusations of Israel with:"Mainly because there are powerful forces, including governments around the world and here in Canada, that are on a mission to rationalize Israel's racist laws and practices'

Nice to see that, when all else fails, you can always revert to a suggestion of the sinister old "International Jewish Conspiracy" theory right out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. And you think it's unfair for Canadian legislators to criticize the approach of you and the other "apartheid" people. I can see why you would.





LimeJello wrote:
...there are rather clear definfinitions of South African apartheid which Israel has demostrably not met. At least not in a way that Canada, Australia and the US haven't met in large measure too.

This is very wrong, and if you'd bother to actually read about what is going on in Israel and the occupied territories, you wouldn't make ignorant statements like that. I don't even think you have read Judy Rebick's article, above, before posting here, because you certainly haven't bothered to address anything she has said - all of which is verifiably true. And yet you have the nerve to suggest that it is your opponents who are shutting down debate and not wanting to discuss!

First of all, "definitions of South African apartheid" is not the issue. A country doesn't have to be exactly like South Africa to be characterized as an apartheid state, any more than a fascist state has to be exactly like 1930's Italy. There are certain characteristics that define apartheid, and Israel meets the vast majority of them. The United Nations General Assembly passed the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, which provides a useful definition that includes the phrase, "an institutionalised regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group". Do please try to read it.

It is no defence to the crime of apartheid to say that others are guilty, too.

Arabs in Israel face some level of discrimination. Is it any worse than minorities face in other parts of the mid-east? No. Not only no, but minorities in Israel have far greater rights in Israel than any other mid-east country.

Can you back that up with specific examples of institutionalized (i.e. set in law) racism in other "mid-east" countries? We're not talking about mere "discrimination" based on personal prejudices - we're talking about laws, edicts, and institutions that systematically give preference to one race over another.

When you talk about "in Israel", what exactly does that mean? Israel seems to be a country that recognizes no defined borders for itself. Does "in Israel" include the occupied territories, which Israel treats as its own land? Is it OK for Israel to dispossess thousands of Arabs and settle on their land, deny them the right to make a living, shoot them, starve them, impoverish them, and expel them, so long as it's done outside what you consider to be the borders of Israel?

Take a look at Rebick's article above. Do you dispute her assertion that Israel has "different rights for different races"? Are her facts wrong when she describes how Palestinians are restricted to certain geographical areas, are not allowed to travel on Jewish roads, have less access to water, and are restricted in their movements by checkpoints and de facto pass laws? Is the military violence against the Gazans, for example, not greater than that of apartheid South Africa against the blacks, or that of any Arab country against racial minorities?

Do you want to go into the issue of Jewish rights in Arab countries and compare them?

Please. Educate me.

Tell me about the Arab countries that steal land from other races; build giant walls to separate themselves from those other races and shoot any member of the other race who approaches within 200 metres of the walls; form military and economic blockades around enclaves of other racial groups, keeping medical supplies, water, food, fuel, and other necessaries of life from entering the blockaded territory; use population registry laws to require all residents to register their ethnic group and religion with the government, carry ID cards marked with their race, and use racially colour-coded licence plates on vehicles, so that racial minorities can be more easily discriminated against, harassed, and brutalized by authorities; practice ethnic cleansing; use municipal planning laws to restrict growth and improvements in minority neighbourhoods; or create hundreds of thousands of refugees.    

I don't see much in this forum about when we're going to get our white European, colonialist, racist asses out of here and give Canada back to the people it was stolen from. That doesn't justify anything unfair that Israel has done to the Palestinians, but it does make any Canadian-based criticism of Israel coming from anyone who isn't First Nations hypocritical.

Ah, so if I'm not First Nations, I have to shut up! What if I'm Palestinian? I'm sure you have a good reason why Palestinians should shut up, too.

What makes you think that I don't criticize Canada's treatment of native populations?

Are criticisms only valid if they come from people with the right credentials? Is Israel any less an apartheid state because the rest of the world is not perfect?

And what about you? Do you dismiss the concerns of First Nations as hate speech? as an attempt to delegitimize Canada? Is their real agenda to wipe Canada off the map? And yet you and your Zionist co-thinkers routinely accuse Palestinian rights advocates of all those things.  

So why do we single out Israel for criticism? Mainly because there are powerful forces, including governments around the world and here in Canada, that are on a mission to rationalize Israel's racist laws and practices, to provide diplomatic and military support for them, to make excuses for them, to lie about them, and to prevent any criticism of them by means of intimidation, denunciation, defunding, and legal threats. There are no such powerful worldwide forces that are overtly dedicated to military, diplomatic, and propagandistic efforts to preserve and justify the oppression of Canada's native people, Australia's aboriginals, the USA's blacks and Hispanics, the Tutsis of Rwanda, the Kurds of Turkey, the Uighurs of China, etc. etc. Israeli apartheid is unique in that it has the backing of the most powerful military forces on earth, virtually unlimited funding from abroad, and a powerful propaganda machine (including virtually the entire mass media of the western imperialist countries). In fact, South African apartheid never enjoyed such massive support around the world.

In this circumstance it's difficult to see why anybody who considers themselves left of Michael Ignatieff would have the slightest hesitation in supporting the struggle against Israeli apartheid - unless they simply choose to remain ignorant of the facts.   

I'm actually not going to waste too much more time on rabble about this subject.

Try to imagine my disappointment.

The whole "he said/she said" is useless and doesn't establish anything about whether Israel is or is not apartheid.  Both sides can line up quotes from their partisans. I don't believe it is and there are rather clear definfinitions of South African apartheid which Israel has demostrably not met. At least not in a way that Canada, Australia and the US haven't met in large measure too. 

Arabs in Israel face some level of discrimination. Is it any worse than minorities face in other parts of the mid-east? No. Not only no, but minorities in Israel have far greater rights in Israel than any other mid-east country.  Arabs in Israel have more democratic rights than Arabs in most other Arab countries, to say nothing of women's rights and gay rights which make the Arab world look barbaric in comparison to Israel. Do you want to go into the issue of Jewish rights in Arab countries and compare them? I don't think an IAW advocate would like how that conversation would go, it would demonstrate a lot of hypocrisy by the IAW movement.

I don't see much in this forum about when we're going to get our white European, colonialist, racist asses out of here and give Canada back to the people it was stolen from. That doesn't justify anything unfair that Israel has done to the Palestinians, but it does make any Canadian-based criticism of Israel coming from anyone who isn't First Nations hypocritical. I'm actually not going to waste too much more time on rabble about this subject. People have their prejudices on this matter and neither side seems interested in hearing what the other has to say, which is a lot of what the problem with IAW is to begin with.

Yes, British Daily newspapers and sources with a decidedly anti-Israel bias. You can't handle the fact that two black South African women (not a white British man) with direct experience and exposure to South African apartheid don't agree with the apartheid label for Israel. Since you apparently prefer to spew phrases like "Zionist oppression and terror" I'll simply respond with reference to Palestinian oppression (in this case its own people i.e. women and gays) and terror.

Yes, British Daily newspapers and sources with a decidedly anti-Israel bias. You can't handle the fact that two black South African women (not a white British man) with direct experience and exposure to South African apartheid don't agree with the apartheid label for Israel. Since you apparently prefer to spew phrases like "Zionist oppression and terror" I'll simply respond with reference to Palestinian oppression (in this case its own people i.e. women and gays) and terror.

The article you quoted from was originally published on an openly Zionist website, z-word.com. Citing the opinions of your fellow Zionists is hardly a persuasive debating tactic.

The articles I have quoted from here come from British daily newspapers. To call them anti-Zionist websites is an example of the casual lies and smears that are so easily tossed about by the defenders of Zionist oppression and terror.


The fact that a Zionist website picked up this quotation is irrelevant, just as your ideas come from anti-Zionist websites and should not be dismissed for that reason - or should they?

You expect that quoting an opinion article from a Zionist website is going to prove anything to IAW activists?

"There are no laws in Israel that discriminate against Arab citizens or separate them from Jews," say Kadalie and Bertelsmann. They are either ignorant, or deliberate liars. The facts are quite different.

Israeli governments reserved 93% of the land - often expropriated from Arabs without compensation - for Jews through state ownership, the Jewish National Fund and the Israeli Lands Authority. In colonial and then apartheid South Africa, 87% of the land was reserved for whites. The Population Registration Act categorised South Africans according to an array of racial definitions, which, among other things, determined who would be permitted to live on the reserved land.

Israel's Population Registry Act serves a similar purpose by distinguishing between nationality and citizenship. Arabs and Jews alike can be citizens, but each is assigned a separate "nationality" marked on identity cards (either spelled out or, more recently, in a numeric code), in effect determining where they are permitted to live, access to some government welfare programmes, and how they are likely to be treated by civil servants and policemen.

Ask Israelis why it is necessary to identify a citizen as a Jew or Arab on the card and the question is generally met with incomprehension: how can it be a Jewish state if we don't know who the Jews are? The justification often follows that everyone in Israel is equal, so it does no harm. Arab Israelis will tell you differently.

Generations of Israeli schoolchildren were imbued with the idea that Arabs did not belong on the land of Israel, that they were somehow in the way. In the mid-1980s, the military was so concerned at the overt expressions of racism and anti-Arab hatred from within its ranks, sometimes cast within the context of the Holocaust, that it thought to re-emphasise "moral values".

In 1965, the government declared some lands on which Arab villages had stood for decades, or even centuries, as "non-residential". These "unrecognised" villages still exist but they are denied basic services, and subject to periodic demolitions and land confiscations.

The US state department's annual human rights report - not a document known for being hostile to Israel - concluded that there is "institutionalised legal and societal discrimination against Israel's Christian, Muslim and Druze citizens". "The government," it says, "does not provide Israeli Arabs, who constitute 20% of the population, with the same quality of education, housing, employment and social services as Jews."

- Chris McGreal, The Guardian, February 2006

According to two black South African women (Rhoda Kadalie and Julia Bertelsmann) whose families were active in the anti-apartheid movement, Israel is not an apartheid state. They write:

Arab citizens of Israel can vote and serve in the Knesset; black South Africans could not vote until 1994. There are no laws in Israel that discriminate against Arab citizens or separate them from Jews. …South Africa had a job reservation policy for white people; Israel has adopted pro-Arab affirmative action measures in some sectors. Israeli schools, universities and hospitals make no distinction between Jews and Arabs. An Arab citizen who brings a case before an Israeli court will have that case decided on the basis of merit, not ethnicity. This was never the case for blacks under apartheid.”

Kadalie and Bertelsmann are critical of Israel’s policies in the occupied territories, but add:

“Racism and discrimination do not form the rationale for Israel’s policies and actions … In the West Bank, measures such as the ugly security barrier have been used to prevent suicide bombings and attacks on civilians, not to enforce any racist ideology. Without the ongoing conflict and the tendency of Palestinian leaders to resort to violence, these would not exist.”

As far as IAW or Rebick or Naomi Klein or Diana Ralph or ....... being called antisemitic, why should this cause any greater offence than calling Israel an apartheid state. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle said last night that the restrictions endured by Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories was in some respects worse than that imposed on the black majority under white rule in South Africa.

Members of a 23-strong human-rights team of prominent South Africans cited the impact of the Israeli military's separation barrier, checkpoints, the permit system for Palestinian travel, and the extent to which Palestinians are barred from using roads in the West Bank.

After a five-day visit to Israel and the Occupied Territories, some delegates expressed shock and dismay at conditions in the Israeli-controlled heart of Hebron. Uniquely among West Bank cities, 800 settlers now live there and segregation has seen the closure of nearly 3,000 Palestinian businesses and housing units. Palestinian cars (and in some sections pedestrians) are prohibited from using the once busy streets.

"Even with the system of permits, even with the limits of movement to South Africa, we never had as much restriction on movement as I see for the people here," said an ANC parliamentarian, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge of the West Bank. "There are areas in which people would live their whole lifetime without visiting because it's impossible."

Mrs Madlala-Routledge, a former deputy health minister in President Thabo Mbeki's government, added: "While I want to be careful not to characterise everything that I see here as apartheid, I just do find comparisons in a number of places. I also find differences."


Fatima Hassan, a leading South African human rights lawyer, said: "The issue of separate roads, [different registration] of cars driven by different nationalities, the indignity of producing a permit any time a soldier asks for it, and of waiting in long queues in the boiling sun at checkpoints just to enter your own city, I think is worse than what we experienced during apartheid."


One prominent member of the delegation, who declined to be named, said South Africa had been "much poorer" both during and after apartheid than the Palestinian territories. But he added: "The daily indignity to which the Palestinian population is subjected far outstrips the apartheid regime. And the effectiveness with which the bureaucracy implements the repressive measures far exceed that of the apartheid regime."

- The Independent, July 11, 2008

@Pensive:"This isn't about hating Jews or debating how democratic Israel is. This is about the Palestinian people."

While I couldn't substantiate that the deranged Left is being motivated by antisemitism here, it wouldn't be difficult to point to an undercurrent of antisemitism in society that may or may not be weaving its way into this discourse. Regardless, and I am partly ashamed to have to admit this, as Lorrie Goldstein (when I find myself in closer agreement with Lorrie Goldstein than with the folks on Rabble, either I or they have gone off the rails) argues, intentionally or not, an incendiary and confrontational attack on Israel will become a lightning rod for antisemitism; for one thing all antisemites hold in common is a shared hatred of Israel.

Secondly, of course this is about debating how democratic Israel is. I hope that the derangement that followed around here after Shurman's motion was not all due to having the use of the term apartheid called into question; rather, and I think justifiably, I hope the furor was due mostly to the part of his motion that may be seen as attempting to exonerate Israel of its human rights abuses by appealing to its respect for the rule of Law and human rights. This also is why I came out in defence of DiNovo who was being pilloried while unequivocally condemning the occupation, the wall and calling for a two state solution. She has stood many times with Palestinians, Tibetans, the marginalized in our midst. Her commitment to social justice is pretty unmistakable.

Thirdly, if this were all about the Palestinian people, why not begin from a compassionate place of promoting the Palestinian people and raising awareness of their plight (e.g. Palestinian Liberation Week) rather than an adversarial Anti-Israel position using the Palestinian cause as a pawn in the war against sites of neoLiberal capitalist expansion? I don't have to be convinced that economics is at the root of grave injustices, I just subscribe to a position in which I believe means are inextricable from ends rather than ends justifying the means. I subscribe to the ethical, hospitable, open, democratic, electoral path to socialism not the revolutionary one. My Marx includes Christ, Gandhi, Levinas, Derrida, and even a splash of Zizek.

Great article, Judy. And I must say I appreciated Andrea Horwath's rather courageous statement, made necessary by Cheri DiNovo's shameful speech. I can only hope that Jack Layton will take a similar stand when the same resolution is proposed in the House of Commons.


There's a good conversation going on here and at the end of the day, what can be said about IAW is that it's bringing attention to this very serious world issue.  And I think that's what the point is. No one that I've talked to in support of IAW is preaching hate or anger.  They are human beings, identifying with other human beings who are living in terrible conditions and have been for over 40 years, trying to overcome an intense media campaign to deny the truth. 

For me, I very much agree with Scott123.  Get over the word choice. The debate of whether or not we can call it this, call it that is a distraction from what is really going on here. This isn't about hating Jews or debating how democratic Israel is.  This is about the Palestinian people.  This is about their homes being torn down.  It's about human rights violations.  It's about children dieing because they can't make it through check points on their way to the hospital.  It's about locking people in their homes for days, weeks and even months at a time under "curfew". It's about a wall, twice the height of the Berlin wall, being built taking up more land and destroying more homes. 

There are too many people afraid to speak up for this issue and I hear more and more often stuff like.. " oh well it's been going on so long that who can say who started what" or " well, i don't really understand it but it's not for us to say who's right", etc etc  and when people do try to stand up and say, "NO, this isn't right!", they get labled as supporting a Hate movement?

This is about human beings abusing other human beings. Whatever we call it, we know what's right and what's wrong. And I'll support any movement that spreads awareness to people about what is really going on here.

@synthome: Maybe you could explain for me, with specific references to her speech in the legislature, exactly where DiNovo disagreed in any way with either the text of the resolution put forward by Shurman or with any of Shurman's remarks.

You're the disingenuous one when you suggest that nobody is trying to shut down IAW. When resolutions are passed and speeches made in legislatures condemning the very existence of Israeli Apartheid Week, and suggesting that it is a criminal activity, it's abundantly clear what the intention is.

Look at Shurman's words, for example:

The use of the phrase "Israeli Apartheid Week" is about as close to hate speech as one can get without being arrested, and I'm not certain it doesn't actually cross over that line....

That is precisely what Israeli Apartheid Week does not do, and in our free environment, in our hate-free public forum, it has no place....

Tell the people behind this odious distortion of facts and language that we don't do what they're trying to do in Ontario, that there is no Israeli apartheid, and that there should be no Israeli Apartheid Week suggesting anything to the contrary.

Andrea Horvath got it right when she wrote:

On Thursday, MPP Peter Shurman (Thornhill) introduced a private member's motion that was divisive by nature. Singling out activists or shutting down debate, on this or any other matter, is not constructive and is entirely unhelpful.

And of course a year ago, as Judy Rebick and Alan Sears reminded us here on Rabble, there have been several past attempts to shut down IAW:

The Equity Office at Carleton University banned the Israeli Apartheid Week poster and the Provost issued a statement that threatened students with expulsion. B'nai Brith took out newspaper ads calling on University Presidents to "prevent Israeli apartheid week" in order to "take a stand against anti-Semitism on campus." This builds on a pattern established last year, when McMaster University banned the use of the term "Israeli apartheid" (eventually rescinding the ban) and the University of Toronto cancelled room bookings for a Palestine solidarity student conference.

@ Judes: I do appreciate your comments and really respect your measured reasonable tone. But to be clear. I don't advocate hiding or denying the truth, especially speaking the truth to power. But I believe, and I think Gandhi would also, that truth must be spoken with love, for that is the only way to reach the hidden compassion buried even in the unjust. Also, even though I disagree with Peter Shurman's implicit attempt to portray Israel as blameless, I hardly see his motion as a threat to free speech, since there is no suasion other than moral girding the motion. It's a completely toothless threat. Now if the Left responds NOT with measured intelligence (e.g. as some have done by attempting reasonably to defend the use of the term apartheid) but with deranged histrionics and, thereby, steps right into Shurman's trap, then that's another story...


I'm with synthome on this one.

One of the issues for me is that a lot of people on both sides are coming into this with prejudices and aren't bothering to determine the truth of other people's assertions, they're merely accepting or rejecting them on the basis of their prejudices. And I would add that if you either agree or disagree with something I've written, do some research and find out whether it is or isn't accurate.

In the case of some assertions made by Judy's response, i would have to challenge them. A major componenet of Apartheid, in fact THE major component of apartheid is disenfranchisement. Judy asserts,

"Isreal is more democratic within its own borders than other states in the Middle East, especially if you are Jewish.  For non-Jews, and especially for Palestinians in Israel, it is another story. By the same means one could have argued that apartheid South Africa was more democratic than many African countries, if you were white."

Her statement is spurious in suggesting that the situation of Israeli Arabs is comperable to South African Blacks under apartheid and doesn't help the credibility of a movement that is claiming Israel is an apartheid country. South African Blacks did not get to vote in general elections, they did not have the right to sit in the South African legislature. That is disenfranchisement and apartheid.

In Israel, Israeli Muslim Arabs have the right to vote, they are represented in the legislature, they are represented in the judiciary. There are no laws that say Israeli Arabs can not be employed in any professions, there are no civil laws preventing intermarriage. In short, despite what Judy has written above, Israel, in the eyes of the majority of the democratic world, is not apartheid.

And quite simply put, anecdoltal testimony from some individual South Africans who may say that their observations of treatment of Palestinians is , "even worse than what they faced" is not credible support.

What's making this worse for the cause of those who support Palestinian rights, who think Israel needs to make compromises and remove settlements, is that by making claims that people can see are untrue and seem bigoted because they are both untrue and single out Israel, the homeland of a people who have faced intollerance and persecution for centuries, the IAW is actually harming the credibility of the Palestinain Rights movement.

One of the big concerns is not whether freedom of speech is being inhibited, and I don't believe it is, but my belief on that matter isn't important. What's important is that the IAW is moving from being demonized to being ridiculed, and looking hateful or foolish is not helpful when you're trying to make a point about human suffering.

synthome is absolutely right as far as I'm concerned in saying,"I don't believe hatred is the best means towards transforming the world and achieving justice for all." IAW is coming across as hatred and hatred helps no one.





Gandhi was not afraid to speak the truth.  I agree that there is often an atmosphere around the debate on Israel/Palestine where people are afraid to express dissent on both sides.  That is an atmosphere that people involved in IAW have tried very hard to avoid and in previous years I have heard very respectful answers to questions and discussion.  But there is no comparision between students using a term to describe a state and members of the legislature using their powerful perch to denounce a student-led activity.  Shure by the way said that IAW was close to being illegal.  If that's not a threat, I don't know what is.

@Judes: "That does create a chill where alot of people are afraid to raise questions or say what they think."

Are you kidding me? Do you not think circumscribing a purported debate by the massively loaded and unmistakable term "apartheid" intimates and forecloses debate. As I've said, if the goal is to intimidate while inciting the anger of single minded converts, it's a great choice. We the Left should be able to make our case without incendiary discourse and without recourse to intimidation. I don't deny the atrocities of the occupation, the wretchedness of the wall. I just don't agree that hatred is the best means towards transforming the world and achieving justice for all.

BTW I'm reminded of the CUPE 3903 strike at York that I fully supported some 10 years back. I recall attending feeding frenzies which we called AGM's. First, most people with a dissenting opinion would not even be able to muster the courage to attend such meeting, and whenever some courageous soul would not speak in lock step, he or she would be roundly discarded faster than a New York minute. Without hospitality, without compassion, without love though you may gain the world you have nothing. I'm with Saul/Paul and Gandhi on this one.

@ M. Spector: Your comment illustrates precisely the type of intellectual dishonesty that prevails when people obstinately and blindly adhere to their ideological moorings without risk, compassion, nor ethicality. Your brief statement makes two patently false statements. First, if you can't distinguish between DiNovo's and Shurman's position, you're simply being wilfully disingenuous. Second, no one, not even Shurman (at least that I'm aware) has called for IAW to be shut down, censored, etc. Other than moral suasion (as if Shurman would have any such thing over the deranged Left), there is no power being exercised over IAW. Go crazy, continue foreclosing real debate by using a needlessly inflammatory and restrictive term while claiming to do so in the name of free speech.

What's worse, as someone who identifies with Marxist thought and upholds the noble goal of democratic socialism, this experience with the deranged Left has made me realize that sometimes the only difference between Babble and Small Dead Animals is the number of visitors per day. And I don't say this lightly, as Rabble has for years been a point of pride and reference for me.

This is the best discussion on the issue I have seen.  I have no problem with people arguing that calling Israel an apartheid state is not useful or that it is wrong.  The problem is when members of parliament or university presidents state it is unacceptable, hateful or anti-semitic. That does create a chill where alot of people are afraid to raise questions or say what they think.

A few years ago I shared the view that Israel Apartheid Week was unnecessarily provocative but I have changed my mind.  I always saw Israel as practicising apartheid even before the wall, even before the checkpoints, Palestinians in Israel were treated as second class citizens even when I first visited in 1970.  But nevertheless I can understand why people, like Cheri di Novo think it is unnecessarily provocative.  However, I have changed my mind.  The meetings during IAW have been very educational, example is the talk i have reported from Na'eem Jenna.  Also it is indisputable that IAW has helped to build a broad Palestinian rights movement on campus that has grown tremendously over the last few years and created a cadre of students organizing around this and other issues.  Finally it is has managed to force the discussion because before the discrediting started, the tactic was to ignore critics of Israel.  IAW has made us difficult to ignore.

Isreal is more democratic within its own borders than other states in the Middle East, especially if you are Jewish.  For non-Jews, and especially for Palestinians in Israel, it is another story. By the same means one could have argued that apartheid South Africa was more democratic than many African countries, if you were white.  By virtue of their ethnicity Palestinians who live in Israel are all under suspicion and subject to different laws or different application of laws as I have described above.  More significantly however, is that Israel is responsible for the West Bank and Gaza through their occupation and here the oppression faced by the Palestinians is terrible and by the opinion of many South African blacks who have been there even worse than what they faced.  I for one do not just focus on Israel.  I have been active in supporting the Tamil against the Sri Lankan government, for example but Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories and treatment of the Palestinians is a central issue in the global poliics. 

Thanks everyone for the tone of the debate.  This is just the kind of discussion we need to have.

"Hafrada" the Hebrew word for "separation" is the general policy of racial separation and discrimination the Jewish state has adopted over the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza. "Apartheid" is the Afrikaner word for "separation". "Segregation" was the American term for the same thing.

So what's the big deal - South African apartheid was bad, American segregation was bad -- but Hafrada to support Jewish domination over Palestinians is supposed to be OK? It's the same racist garbage, except that the Afrikaners and the white Americans were forced to end their immoral and cruel system decades ago, while the Israeli Jews and their sycophants here are slamming the Palestinian civil rights movement for trying to end Israeli "hafrada /apartheid/ segregation".

Somehow, we are supposed to swallow the tripe that calling Israel an "apartheid" state is antisemitic, but labeling it "hafrada" is not. Israel is a racist state, and defending Jewish racism there is not only immoral, but also gives concrete reasons for people to be antisemitic.

Yep, it's a wedge issue all right. And you and your pal Di Novo are on the wrong side of the wedge - the side of Shurman, Shure, Uppal, Ignatieff, Harper, and all the other politicians who want to shut down IAW because they fundamentally support Israeli aggression and genocide.

This is by far the weakest of the hysterical Left's response to having IAW called into question.

There is no analysis (other than imputing this to part of a new-anti-semitism conspiracy). I understand that a zealous Left might feel outraged by a perceived betrayal by one of their long standing allies in the struggle for social justice, but to conflate the positions of Peter Shurman with that of NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo on the basis of a shared problematization of the use of the term apartheid is simply ludicrous. One need only to read Hansard to see how far apart their positions are. The irony of course that everyone missed is that DiNovo was putting into practice what she was calling us to do. The ethical starting point for dialogue, even, perhaps especially, in the face of your enemy must be compassion, grace, forgiveness, openness and honesty. A starting point in a dialogue is to acknowledge a common ground and work towards disagreement, controversy, pain, restitution. In her remarks, she unmistakably acknowledges the need to speak the truth about the occupation, about the need to have a two state solution. etc. This was not a denial of the atrocities in Gaza.

Calling into question whether the use of the term apartheid is the best way to work toward constructive dialogue is not censorship, this is not McCarthyism. It is disagreement. It is using free speech to attempt to keep speech open. 

There may well be good reasons to use the term apartheid, but I would argue the term is problematic for reasons beyond the charge that it is needlessly incendiary. I believe the term is monologic.  Speech remains free only as long as it remains circumscribed within the narrow semantic field of the term apartheid, which has a legal and geopolitical specificity. The term, in effect, intimidates the speaker and forecloses debate. And by erasing dialogue, one is left with only with monologue. The term alienates many, but I guess has the advantage to boosting morale amongst the converts.

So by all means use the term, but being challenged (from a position of never having any power to stop you from doing so) on your use of the term is not repression; it's debate. Defensive disproportionate derangement as a response to being challenged to defend your use of such an inflammatory term is the true assault on reasonable debate.

Lastly, this analysis begs the question as to why the Conservatives/ Liberals are pushing so hard on this. As others have pointed out, this is a perfect wedge with which to split the Left. And it worked swimmingly. Babble immediately launched a baseless feeding frenzy on one of its few allies at Queens Park. ONDP leadership capitulated to the outrage by throwing one of its MPP's under the bus. And for what, to appease a handful of privileged deranged Lefties who are most likely too pure in their politics to ever support the NDP in the first place.

Way to go Andrea. You threw one of your fellow caucus members (a sister in struggle with real social justice cred and one of the ONDP's safest seats) to the wolves and failed to grow your voter base at the same time. Not having DiNovo's back was an ethical failure; not projecting a coherent position as a party and capitulating to intimidation by rabid Leftists and a handful of Islamists was a political failure, especially for someone brought in to broaden the party base. In terms of politicking the move could be worth a handful of votes from the deranged Lefties who ordinarily either are too cool to vote or just go and spoil their ballot. However, mainstream swing voters will turn to the Liberals.

Moreover, I know if I were treated this way by my "Party" I would not run for them again. And the ONDP can forget about taking Parkdale High Park without DiNovo, with the possible exception of getting Peggy Nash (who doesn't seem remotely interested) to run. Thereby further consolidating McGuinty Liberal hegemony. Interesting to me that Liberal Michael Colle's totally over the top condemnation was passed over in complete silence around here.


I'm not sure what protocol is around editing comments, so I should add that my original comments were edited to correct some minor typos and to add the last couple of paragraphs.


I never heard anyone say someone can't speak. They have a right to say that what you're saying is reprehesible, just as you have a right to say that what they're saying is reprehensible.

Part of what's at issue is whether calling Israel an "apartheid" state is a lie or not. I actually believe it is false to characterize Israel as "apartheid." The dispute, as others have observed, is a land/national and not a racial one. If you look at the rights of Muslims in Israel, they in no way face the discrimination faced by blacks in South Africa.

One could also look at countries like Canada, the US, Mexico, Australia and others where there is an indiginous population that had their land taken and that were treated far worse than the Palestinians and yet no one is trying to de-legitimize these countries.

I don't think any fair-minded person would disagree with the assertion that Israel is by no means the worst violator of Human Rights in that region. In fact, by most standards, it's got the best Human Rights record in the mideast, considering the other countries there are Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and so on.

So, for the sake of discussion, let's  assume I'm correct in what I said in the last 3 paragraphs, and I think one would acknowledge, even if you disagree with their being correct, that a great many people believe them to be correct. So such being the case, it begs the question why a democratic country, Israel, is singled out for unfair criticism when so many other countries that have outrageously worse human rights records are not. And it also begs the question of why Israel's opponents among the Palestinians that use brutal, violent tactics directed specifically at civillians are completely absolved of criticism by the IAW proponents.

I believe racism and bigotry are not the prime motivators for the criticism of Israel among the majotity of the IAW advocates, but it is very easy to see how it would look like it is to most people. What is sad, is that a lot of it is based on an anti-capitalist, anti-colonialist viewpoint that is being unfairly applied to Israel while other countries, Canada included, are not being held to the same standard. So in the case where IAW isn't motivated by racism, it most certainly is open to the charge of hypocrisy. In either case, not only is its legitimacy in serious question but it's become counter-productive and you only have to open any mainstream newspaper to see that.




South Africa had one of the worst censorship laws during the apartheid era.  Newspapers had to get permission from government agents to print articles and columns.  Portions of some articles were censored.  What made this censorship vile was that the newspapers were not allowed to show that their articles had been censored.  They were not allowed to show any black bars or white spaces where words, sentences, and photographs had been censored.

The legitimate speech discussion in Canada is a vile form of censorship as it expects people not to say anything critical of Israel in the first place.  Without any critical thought, there is no visible sign of censorship in Canada.

Certainly, Judy Rebick and the four writers for the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail are strong enough not to be fearful of being called anti-Semitic.  They can take the critcisms thrown at them.  The supporters of the existing state of Israel and its apartheid structure seek to stop those who may potentially offer criticisms of Israel.

Michael Ignatieff recently commented that criticsm of the government of Israel is legitimate; criticism of the Jewish people and the state of Israel itself is not legitimate.  He implies that through legitimacy, one must obtain permission before one can criticize a part of Israeli society--the government.  This is approaching McCarthyism where there is legitimate speech which is permitted and illegitimate speech which should not be permitted.  Perhaps Ignatieff would like illegitimate speech to become illegal.

I would not be offended if opponents of IAW presented counter-arguments that may be in favour of the current state of Israel.  I invite discussions about Israel  I know that I would be offended if I were told that I cannot express my own opinions in support of IAW or BDS.

I would prefer to speak my mind and be called "anti-Semitic" than be told not to say anything at all.  My throat hurts when I cannot speak freely.  I do not need anyone's permission to speak with legitimacy.  I can do that on my own.

Um..so apartheid is when you build a wall between you and people trying to blow you up so they have a harder time doing it? OK, good to know. I don't think that's what South African apartheid was, but live and learn.

Personally, I think Israel is doing some terrible things to the Palestinians and a constructive dialogue where both sides had their heads banged together and were made to compromise would be a good idea.

Israel has to do a lot towards giving liberty to the Palestinians in the West Bank. It should not be humiliating and denying rights to those average Palestinians who want nothing more than to live their lives in peace.

But on the other side, when you have a group like Hamas, that explicity calls for Israel's destruction in its founding Charter and doesn't recognize Israel's right to exist and continues to use indescrimiate violence whenever it gets the opportunity, there is plenty of blame to go around.

If you read the newspapers and follow the media and listen to what politicians of all stripes in our country are saying, or talk to people who aren't politicized on this issue, it's hard not to reach the conclusion that it's this "Israeli Apartheid" movement, and not Israel, that is losing its legitimacy.

What this movement is doing is counter-productive to a peace effort. It makes it easy to characterize those who want an independent Palestinian state to be seen as wanting the destruction and villification of Israel and this movement actually sounds self-agrandizing and in some cases even bigoted on the part of its proponents.

Villifying Israel while seeming to ignore the wrongdoings on the Palestinian side is as hypocritical as villifying the Palestinians and claiming that Israel hasn't denied rights to Palestinians in the Occupied territories for the last 43 years.

There are plenty of venues and people who are critical of Israel - try reading the Star where James Travers, Haroon Siddiqui, Antonia Zerbisias, Linda McQuaig or Rick Salutin's column in the Globe that's also here on Rabble shows there's no repression of criticism for Israel and support for the Israeli Apartheid movement in the media. So it doesn't come off as too credible screaming that there's some new "McCarthyism" happening when it clearly isn't.

How about trying to come up with some constructive ideas for making both sides feel secure enough to start trusting each other and work towards compromise, rather than find a self-defeating rallying point for the New Left.




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