Thursday, April 17, 2008

ISRAELIS USE THE WORD 'APARTHEID,' TOO

CECILIE SURASKY, MUZZLE WATCH We'll share some choice quotes from Haaretz's editorial thanking Jimmy Carter for all he's done, like that little peace agreement he brokered with Egypt, despite the fact that Israel is now "boycotting" him. But first, it's worth pointing out that high level Israeli officials (not to mention Haaretz reporters) were using the term "apartheid" to describe Israel's unequal and separate systems for Israelis and Palestinians long before Carter's book came out and caused a firestorm that could have destroyed a lesser figure.

Folks like former Israeli Attorney General Michael Ben-Yair who wrote in 2002, "In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture. That regime exists to this day." And there's Shulamit Aloni, former Minister of Education, who said, "Through its army, the government of Israel practices a brutal form of apartheid in the territory it occupies." Geez, even former South African prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd, considered the architect of apartheid said, "Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state."

But Carter is a former US president. And he put apartheid, a word he clearly meant to describe the Palestinian occupied territories and not Israel behind the green line, in the title of his book, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid. Haaretz writes this week, after detailing his major gifts to Israel and the cold shoulder treatment he's getting this week:

Israelis have not liked him since he wrote the book "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid." Israel is not ready for such comparisons, even though the situation begs it. It is doubtful whether it is possible to complain when an outside observer, especially a former U.S. president who is well versed in international affairs, sees in the system of separate roads for Jews and Arabs, the lack of freedom of movement, Israel's control over Palestinian lands and their confiscation, and especially the continued settlement activity, which contravenes all promises Israel made and signed, a matter that cannot be accepted. The interim political situation in the territories has crystallized into a kind of apartheid that has been ongoing for 40 years. . . In the peace agreement with Egypt, 30 years ago, Israel agreed to "full autonomy" for the occupied territories, not to settle there.

These promises have been forgotten by Israel, but Carter remembers. Thank you Carter, and Haaretz for saying, simply, the truth of what you see. Not everyone has to agree on the word. But they should argue on its merits, not by attacking the messenger, which is the ultimate cheap shot.

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