Saturday, April 20, 2013

This Writer's Concern About Israeli Apartheid Week

This is going to require a more thorough response later on, but I would like to provide something of a start to the discussion. We've been asked on a number of occasions why this blog has never published anything supporting Israeli Apartheid Week events in Canada. While I can't speak for the other members of the Collective, I will provide, briefly, why I have significant concerns about this movement.

Criticism, and often strident criticism, of the Israeli government with regard to the treatment of Palestinians is warranted and justified, though I do differentiating the Israeli government from Israeli citizens, many of whom are also interested in achieving a lasting peace with the Palestinians and are willing to make some hard concessions to do so. Legitimate criticism of Israeli government policies in the county itself as well as the policies in the West Bank and Gaza however sometime becomes caricatures of the reality in the country and region. Israeli Apartheid Week, in this writer's view, attempts to oversimplify profoundly complex problems which ultimately assist neither Israelis not Palestinians in overcoming the void between the two peoples. While I believe that Israeli government policies both in Israel and the Occupied Territories need to be addressed, I also think that the Palestinian leadership, particularly Hamas, warrant severe criticism as well. And the Arab states (as well as Iran) who have used the Palestinians as pawns for more than 65 years in their own byzantine and self-serving political manoeuvrings shouldn’t be given a pass either.

Though I don’t think that it is accurate to refer to Israel as an apartheid state, neither do I agree with those who would suggest that any criticism of Israeli policies is tantamount to anti-Semitism. There are individuals in the media such as Ezra Levant as well as many in the current Conservative government who are too quick to accuse critics of Israeli policies of harbouring disdain for and hatred of Jews. These accusations seem to me to be a way of stifling any discussion about the situation and, again, ultimately does not serve the interests of people in Israel, the Occupied Territories, or any nation with an interest in achieving peace and stability in the Middle East.

We’re going to discuss this issue in greater detail later, and I’m sure what I have written  is a rambling mess as it is. But I did want to address those who have sent us messages asking for our position on Israeli Apartheid Week.

To know the position this writer takes, I will repost what I wrote in January 2009:

We're under no illusions that providing our views on the situation in Gaza is going to change the world or even change any minds. Positions become so intractable that it seems impossible to consider the views of those deemed to be the enemy. We also know that we're bit players at best and that our articles appeal to a tiny segment of the population. That being said, we feel that we need to state our position on the current Middle East crisis so that people will understand our purpose when we discuss the Aryan Guard's apparent participation in the pro-Gaza rally in Calgary this past weekend.

We believe that ultimately the actions of the IDF in Gaza will have a long term detrimental effect on Israeli security. We understand the desire of Israelis near the border with Gaza to defend themselves against Hamas rockets and we condemn targeting Israeli civilians, however the reaction by the Israeli government and the IDF is so disproportional that rather than ensuring the safety of Israel, it will instead breed extremism and hatred. As a result of Israeli policies, the people of Gaza have been suffering tremendously. The recent violence has only exasperated the crisis further. Hamas is now using the crisis to become more entrenched and he Likud Party, which looks to form the next government of Israel, is likely to take an even more hardline position on Palestine. Caught in the middle are civilians.

In the end the only way to achieve real peace is for a comprehensive peace treaty and the establishment of two viable states. It's also going to require real and, in some cases, hard sacrifices on the parts of the Israelis and the Palestinian authority. We truly believe that, if left to their own devices, Israelis and Palestinians would seek peaceful means to address their territorial and sovereignty issues.

More to come.


Anonymous said...


Harry Abrams said...

Good luck with this topic.

Many of us see this whole hate Israel cult thing as a racist and socially destabilizing phenomenon, no less dangerous than white supremacists and other radical hate groups.

It's a very complicated topic, but
People really should try and put aside some of their differences to work towards a common good, and one helpful starting point would be some kind of mutual recognition and acceptance.

I think This little video is helpful for trying to dispel some of the more common misconceptions.

Anonymous said...

oh god.. i'm embarassed that this debate is even still happening in canada. even israeli newspapers are calling israel an apartheid state.

a military superpower with ever expanding borders that recieves unprecedented support from canada and the united states, while violently oppressing a civillian population warrants speaial attention, no?

this isnt some "conflict" with two relativly equal sides that needs a negotiated settlement. it's oppressor and oppressed.

how many more renouned south africans have to call israel an apartheid state before western liberals stop cringing at the word?

this post is really sad.

Cowan Tenants said...

Nobody really cares what the authors of this blog think about Israeli Apartheid Week, but it seems like a really strange time to take a position on it. IAW was in March.

This is an issue that requires taking sides. There is no “neutral” position. Drawing false equivalences about "two sides," and parroting the lines of western diplomats like you have in your comments above means you've taken the side of the status quo, and are by default supporting the oppressor, Israel.

Apartheid is an awful word. It makes me cringe. Not because it's inflammatory, but because I've taken the time to educate myself about the legally entrenched violence and systematic discrimination that Palestinians face every day under apartheid. I'd say living in a country like Canada that fanatically supports everything Israel does puts some responsibility on Canadians when it comes to justice for Palestinians. Let's not forget Canada's stalwart support for apartheid South Africa until public pressure made it completely untenable. Well, IAW is creating a similar kind of public pressure.

How condescending and “white” of ARC to take such an ignorant and potentially racist position, when Apartheid and BDS are pretty much unanimously accepted by the foremost authorities on apartheid and any relevant and credible human rights activists in South Africa, Canada, or even Israel.

Cowan Tenants said...

Anonymous said...

I agree with the above posted comment, as it is correct. I recommend watching the documentary 'roadmap to apartheid', for a more comprehensive look at the parallels between South Africa in the 70's and Isreal pretty much since its inception. If one is unwilling to call a colonial empire dividing a formerly stateless society inhabited by both Jewish and Arab peoples and turning it into a pseudo-white supremacist empire largely comprised of bantustans and 'Jewish' only neighbourhoods with running water directly inside internationally recognized Palestinian territory in the West Bank where the Palestinians have not a drop of clean water or barely have running electricity, if any at all, an apartheid state, than one cannot call what happened in South Africa apartheid....Cause it's the same shit.

Anonymous said...

I am an anti-racist anti-fascist. Israel is clearly an apartheid state.

Harry Abrams said...

The BDS'ers have landed.
Israel, with all it's faults and problems is nothing like an apartheid state. That is an outright lie and distortion. APARTHEID means "separate," and Arabs, as fully 20% of the population of the country do not live in separate 'townships" like happened to black under under apartheid in South Africa.

No. The real issue is that instead of working towards defining and building a separate, peaceful independent Palestine alongside Israel...there are interests there, and obviously here, that seek to destroy Israel as a country plus exterminate its non Muslim inhabitants.And this has been exported around the world in lieu of actual state-building. There's been a lot of fraud and a lot of malevolent propaganda. It's a complicated situation, not least also because the Palestinian Arabs themselves are divided both geographically as well as culturally in the west bank, gaza, and in their diaspora communities. Well wishers should be developing trade and professional associations to help develop infrastructure and critical industries for an eventual Palestinian state. Banking, agriculture, manufacturing, surveying, civil engineering..all these skills are needed. That's what people should be doing instead of scheming boycotts and protests and hate mongering.

Anonymous said...

Harry, since Israel is not at all an apartheid state can you explain why Jewish schools in Israel get much more funding than "Israeli Arab" schools? Or why more public money is spent per capita on Jewish neighbourhoods and towns than on "Israeli Arab" villages? Or why Israeli Jews receive more social spending per capita than "Israeli Arabs"?

Cowan Tenants said...


tha apartheid analysis applies to the legally entrenched systematic discrimination against palestinians living in israel proper, against palestinians living under israeli control under occupation, and to palestinian refugees who are denied their rights by israel.

it seems that you're not really clear on what apartheid is. it's defined by the UN convention, and the rome statute. the un convention defines apartheid as: “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them” .. it doesn't have to be exactly the same as in south africa. in some cases it's different, and in other cases it's much worse than the s. african apartheid was.

now have a look at what the US state department (certainly no friend of the palestinians) has to say about israel:

whatever words you use to describe it, there is no hasbara or obfuscation that will change the reality. israel is violently and systematically dispossessing an entire people. i have great respect for the very real history of jewish suffering, but that doesn’t justify apartheid, ethnic cleansing, etc.


your last post is very telling. your belief that people who oppose apartheid "seek to destroy Israel as a country plus exterminate its non Muslim inhabitants" is delusional. basic human rights for palestinians in their historic homeland does not mean the destruction of israel, or the extermination of jews. what a convenient way to maintain a regime of oppression.. "if we end apartheid, we will all be exterminated!!" they said the same in south africa, and guess what.. political apartheid ended (although economic apartheid certainly still exists today), and SOUTH AFRICA STILL EXISTS!

israel has been very clear that it will not change on its own accord. and why would it with all the support it's getting from neo-con governments like canada's? oppression has never ended because the perpetrators were morally persuaded and saw the error of their ways. freedom and justice have always been won, by popular struggle, against the will of those in power.


whether you agree with the lexicon or not, changes are happening. and at this point, the debate around apartheid in israel/palestine is basically palestinians, south africans, anti-racists, and the broader activist and human rights community VS government officials, right wing religious zealots, and liberal zionists who try to mask their racism and support for apartheid in “democratic” sounding language.

it's pretty hard to "develop trade and professional associations to help develop infrastructure and critical industries .. Banking, agriculture, manufacturing, surveying, civil engineering" while palestinians are subject to military checkpoints, random killings, curfews, movement restrictions, resource limits, home demolitions, expulsions, walls, harassment, false imprisonment, and general psychological torture.

your apologia is bankrupt. we are winning.

Anonymous said...

My family come from both south africa and israel. We fought against apartheid in south africa and we continue the fight against apartheid in israel. We recognize the similarities and the injustice common to both states. we also recognize the "liberal" apologists who were very much present during the fight against apartheid and who made very similar arguments as yourself. We take inspiration from the heros of the warsaw ghetto uprising.

Anonymous said...

Did you stop posting responses to Harry Abrams? Dioes he get the last word?

Anonymous said...

Check out Harry's response to this article:

Basically if you challenge anything to do with Israel even the horrible racist settler movement you are an anti-semite. Even if you are jewish yourself. Nice friend you have made ARC.

Nosferatu200 said...

"Did you stop posting responses to Harry Abrams? Dioes he get the last word?"

Obviously not, though I wouldn't be surprised if Harry does respond to what I've passed through moderation.

If people behave and are respectful, I don't have a problem with the discussion that is taking place.

Harry and I have had a lot of disagreements regarding Israeli policies, but I am quite happy that he is a friend of the blog.

Richard said...

"since Israel is not at all an apartheid state can you explain why Jewish schools in Israel get much more funding than "Israeli Arab" schools? Or why more public money is spent per capita on Jewish neighbourhoods and towns than on "Israeli Arab" villages? Or why Israeli Jews receive more social spending per capita than "Israeli Arabs"?

Here's a thought - go to a dictionary look up the word "apartheid" then look up the word "discrimination" the latter happens all over the world.

If you can't figure out the difference between the two, or why discrimination in some instances does not translate to the same thing as apartheid, which is a crime against humanity, then find someone smarter than you (which shouldn't be difficult) to explain it to you.

And furthermore, people who find the "Israeli Apartheid" hate fest to be anti-Semitic do not generally claim "all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic." That's an absurd straw man argument. There is much to criticize about Israel and its means of dealing with the Palestinians in many cases. But the double standards, hypocrisy, hate and demonization that characterizes IAW is both anti-Semitic and anti-Intellectual.