International Israel Juan Cole

Juan Cole: Biden’s Wrong About Israel—It’s Absolutely an Apartheid State

How can the U.S. president reject the "Apartheid" characterization of Israel when 60% of Israeli Jews support segregation of Palestinian-Israelis?
[Screen shot / YouTube]

By Juan Cole | Informed Comment

When President Biden met with caretaker Israeli prime minister Yair Lapid, the two issued a joint statement that rejected ‘Apartheid’ as a descriptor for Israel. In contrast, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, and the UN Rapporteur for human rights in the Palestinian territories, Michael Lynk, have all concluded in the past year or so, despite a previous reluctance, that the situation in Israel and Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories fits the definition of Apartheid in international law (such as the Rome Statute that underpins the International Criminal Court). The allegation is not that the situation precisely resembles that in Apartheid South Africa in all particulars. The word is now a term of art in international law and refers to the systematic disadvantaging of one ethnic group, on the basis of their ethnicity, by another.

One of the hallmarks of regimes of Apartheid (including Jim Crow in the United States) is coercive residential segregation.

So it is ominous that according to Or Kashti at Haaretz, a poll by the Israeli Institute for Democracy this spring found that 60% of Israeli Jews believe that Jews and “Arabs” (i.e. Israelis of Palestinian heritage, what I call Palestinian-Israelis) should “live apart.”

This attitude is not about the stateless Palestinians under Israeli military Occupation in the West Bank. We are talking about the 20 percent of Israeli citizens who are of Palestinian heritage.

The figure rose from 45% in spring of 2021, before the 11-day Israeli military campaign in the West Bank and Gaza of that year, which provoked widespread Palestinian-Israeli sympathy protests and strikes.

Only a minority, 20%, of Palestinian-Israelis believe that they should live apart from Israeli Jews, a figure which has not changed in many years.

Moreover, most Palestinian-Israelis are now saying they want more of a voice in Israeli social and political affairs. The outgoing Naftali Bennett government was the first in Israeli history to include a Palestinian-Israeli party as part of its coalition. It is not an experiment that will likely soon be repeated, since the government fell over the unwillingness of some Palestinian-Israeli members of the government to renew a law giving Israeli squatters on Palestinian-owned land in the West Bank the full privileges of Israeli citizens residing in Israel.

Kashti quotes the leader of the study, Dr. Tamar Herman, as saying that just as Palestinian-Israelis are beginning to want more participation in Israeli politics, there is a rising unwillingness of Israeli Jews to give it to them, or even to let them live outside municipal areas where they predominate. Many Palestinian-Israeli villages in the Galilee are not recognized by the Israeli government and labor under many disadvantages including lack of permission to make repairs to local buildings. The villages that have been recognized often only gained that status by aligning with a Jewish Israeli political party.

Among right wing Israelis, who predominate in the parliament or Knesset, 70% favor segregation from Palestinian-israelis. Israeli youth, ominously are more likely to hold this view than their elders. Haredim or fundamentalist Orthodox Jews overwhelmingly support segregation of Palestinian-Israelis.

Asked if a Palestinian-Israeli who feels part of the Palestinian people can nevertheless be loyal to Israel, 63% of Palestinian-Israelis said ‘yes.’

Only 28% of Jewish Israelis agreed.

If the solid majority in a society systematically views a minority as disloyal and doesn’t want them living in its neighborhoods, that sounds an awful lot like Apartheid.

Juan Cole
Juan Cole

Juan Cole is a public intellectual, prominent blogger and essayist, and the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan.


  1. Biden is not wrong Juan Cole, Biden is lying and just doesn’t care.

    Imagine the gall it takes to list on your own bio, that you are a “public intellectual.”

    Juan, I don’t think so.

    1. Biden is either lying – must be the first time ever! – or his stooges that surround him tell him the desirable narratives for the necessary Democratic Party support from that pro-Tel Aviv end of town.

      Depart from tat narrative and see what happens to you.

  2. The acknowledgment of Israeli Apartheid by human rights organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and B’Tselem is what most of the world has known for a long time. The founding of the state of Israel by largely traumatized survivors of the Shoah mostly from Eastern Europe: Ukraine, Russia, and Poland sadly perpetrated on the innocent indigenous Arab population of Palestine was rightly called the Naqba the Arabic word for catastrophe. 750,000 Palestinian Arabs driven off their land through terror, violence, and racist hatred virtually akin to the same hatred as Nazis for the Jews. Now we see a state premised on Jewish supremacy, violence, and terror on another innocent indigenous population. Seems the lessons of the Shoah were not learned. The Zionists continue to play the perpetual victim backed by the United States so that they can continue their crimes. Fortunately, with the leadership of great Jews of conscience like Noam Chomsky, Norman Finklestein, Peter Beinhart, Max Bloomenthal, Amira Hass, and Gideon Levy appeals to the Shoah no longer work. The world is overcoming what Finklestein has called the Holocaust Industry to call Israel and the United States to account for is ethnic cleansing, violence, and racism towards the Palestinian people. Any state that relies on violence and hatred to suppress the rights of another has long ago lost any genuine legitimacy and no amount of bombing of Gaza (the world’s largest open air prison) can change that fact, something Biden and his cronies are too old and tired to realize.

    1. @Jeremiah: thanks for striking back at the israeli trolls – when ye hit them with facts, them shrivel and change the subject….

    1. You don’t approve of Juan Cole’s opinion!
      Fire off a rocket of explosive ad hominem.

  3. Is this serious? You ask why the most entrenched status quo political jackasses (it’s certainly not just Biden) won’t agree to a term of disparagement that would cost then $millions in campaign donations? Get real Mr Colgate Professor of Inability to Grasp the Obvious. And since when does what Biden thinks mean anything? If he agreed to the term, it would be for some devious & rotten reason that is worse than his denial.

  4. Israel is a defacto American state.
    We happily provide them with weapons, money, and all the (propaganda) publicity that is required.
    Fortunately, Kingdom of SA allies with Israel to counter Shiite Iran, a good friend of Russia and buds with Putin.
    Have you noticed that Trump and his Confederates have much love for those four.
    Donnie’s golf obsession approves the new LIV against our own Masters.
    But, how is it possible to ally with Israel when the far right wing groups are anti Semitic?? But really, really love Trump?

    1. Maybe America’s a defacto Israeli state…. I haven’t heard of any Israeli professors losing tenure, voicing opinions running afoul of American policy.

      If they exist; they’d be lucky to find work hanging drywall here.

  5. Why is Isreal not viewed with the same disgust as the world saw South Africa not so.long ago.It probably has a lot to do with the influence.of the Mass media and it Jewish

  6. Actually Sleepy,Senile Joe Biden is wrong on almost everything.From Russia to China to Iran he never gets it right.This also.holds true for Covid,economy,civil rights,immigration.There is only minute difference between Biden and Trump is a psychopath,Biden is just too old and has TOO Much baggage from kissing the Corporate sector.for 50 years.We can do.better and.we must.

    1. Wendy, please don’t blame Biden or Trump too much. They have plenty of help.
      Hardly anyone protests or speaks up against their judgment.
      Murdoch Media Empire shapes much of our perceptions all around the globe.
      And many westerners are wilfully deaf, dumb, and blind as we have vested interests.
      Alex Jones’ supporters are a perfect example of values, morals, and beliefs of current powerful forces and our institutions have tremendous difficulty in dealing with their problems.
      They say: Hitler never kill anyone, but he had thousands of very willing executioners.

  7. Israel being an Apartheid state does not stop the billions in foreign aid that the US sends annually.
    I don’t know where the taxpayers are finding the money to fund Israeli Jim Crow laws. Maybe it’s from the welfare entitlements that citizens endorse at each election.

    1. Most people don’t know that Israel doesn’t need the money we give them. The foreign aid is not helping down trodden Jews, just the opposite.

      1. The foreign aid and military assistance allow Israel to trod on the Palestinians. No need to try to get along when the American Empire has your back.

  8. SADLY, the hate, violence and murder of islam is responsible for israel today. No one can live with the terror from muslims. There is no evidence of peace and there never will be until islam is no more

  9. American government support for Israel is perfectly natural. We have a long history of enslavement, indigenous people’s genocide, illegal seizure of land, even land protected by treaty, apartheid repression, treating resistance as terrorism, maintaining second class roles for millions of citizens – and doing all this in the name of God. Israel does all of these things and America still does several of them. We are natural allies.

    I might add we have done and sometimes still do the things we condemn Russia and China for, and excuse Israel and Saudi Arabia for.

  10. Biden wrong immoral senile—machiavelli wrote corrupt people require incompetent leaders

  11. Biden wrong immoral senile—machiavelli wrote corrupt people require incompetent leaders….

  12. This is a good example of the racism that has become quite popular among liberals. A quick primer: Jews are indigenous to that land, the historic Jewish nation of Palestine. It had been invaded, conquered, with most slaughtered or driven into exile. The Jewish nation was finally restored in 1948 via the UN and renamed Israel. It’s the sole Jewish nation, a tiny country roughly the size of New Jersey — some 1% of the Mideast region, with 99% of the region consisting of the various Arab countries. What could be more blatantly racist than condemning Israel as an “apartheid state” for refusing to cede the Jewish nation to the Arab states?

    1. dhfabian, thanks for a reminder of the most common israeli propaganda lies.
      1. the hebrews were not ‘indigenous to Palestine. ye heard of the “bible, old testament”?
      there ye will find a detailed story of how the hebrews, following a vengeful, racist, homophobic, anti-women, pro-animal sacrifice deity named ‘yahweh’ , , wiped out the actual indigenous population, the Philistines, Canaanites, Moabites, Ammonites, etc.
      2. having left Palestine [due to a falling out with the aforementioned vengeful, racist, homophobic, anti-women, pro animal-sacrifice deity] and having been absent for close to two millennia , jewish zionists returned and drove out or massacred the Palestinians, who, after living there for 2000 years, somehow erroneously considered themselves to be ‘indigenous’ by then…..
      3. the equation of “CRITICISM OF ISRAEL’ = ‘RACISM’ is a brilliant propaganda lie. yer daddy GOEBBELS would be proud. he weren’t pro jewish, necessarily, but him definitely fond of APARTHEID… but it is entirely possible to criticize israel without being racist. many honest, ethical Jews criticize israel for its human rights violations. like shooting journalists, to just name the latest. or Palestinian kids, a subject Chris Hedges used to have an opinion about [methinks he was against it] before he ascended a higher sphere where eloquently – and in effectively – waxing about the merchants of war is all he does anymore. Chris has ascended beyond the ordinary us. ye can’t even write an email to him. but i digress.

      4. yer constant yelping of “antisemitism! antisemitism!” when someone complains about the treatment of Palestinians is amusing in a dark, twisted, repulsively evil way since palestinians are SEMITES themselves, do look up the word! i know research does not come easy to yer kind, but do look it up! so the israeli efforts to make their very own palestinian CITIZENS human beings of a lesser order [= APARTHEID] is actual highly ANTISEMITIC how ’bout them apples?!
      5. building settlements in occupied territories is a cynical violation of international law. there is no “other way” of seeing this. israel consciously, aggressively violates international law every day, every year. so mebbe wipe that smug grin of moral superiority of yer face? Judaism, which proclaims a very small genetic group to be ‘god’s chosen” at the exclusion of all other genetic groups, is the single most racist theology i have ever encountered. if ye think about it, that is precisely how hitler worked. except with him it was the ARYANS’ who were the chosen ones, and there was a little bit less YAHWEH [god] in the mix, but the absolute claim to genetic superiority is the same. to hell with ye all, zionists and nazis alike!

      1. @arvo
        Jews have been living in the present day Israel continuously and were trying to return from Exile even in the 16th century.
        Most Arab residents are themselves of immigrant stock, being descendants of soldiers in Ibrahim Pasha army who were settled following its conquest in 1830.
        The Arab Jewish conflict has nothing to do with race and everything to do with territorial disputes with a pinch of religion thrown in ( for instance the Hamas charter states that Palestine is WAKF land and cannot be ruled by Infidels who can live in it only in in a subservient status.

  13. Note: For a legitimate example of an apartheid state, learn about Syria. Or look into the degree to which the US is an economic apartheid state today.

    1. @dhfab, err, or, just look at ISRAEL. the facts speak for themselves. the antisemitic oppression of the indigenous Palestinian citizens is very easily documented…
      there, that legitimate enough ? or do entertain us with some of the more exotic israeli propaganda lies… ye israeli trolls stink just as bad as the russian ones!

  14. Juan–why did you support US invasions Syria, Iraq, Libya Afghanistan?—CIA and Soros funded

  15. The state of National foreign policy will only change when Capitalism fails and the American Empire falls.I do.not expect this to happen before we and the planet are dead.

  16. The results of a poll involving less than 800 persons, taken in close proximity to riots in the Jewish-Arab mixed towns, including burning of Jewish owned shops, hotels, restaurants, is not a very good way of assessing the character of a state.
    There are no laws or regulations regarding separation of Arabs and Jews and no mainstream party advocates such a separation.
    The reality on the ground is that Jews and Arabs live and work side by side, Israeli Arabs are represented in all areas of public (Parliament, Government, police, judiciary, etc.) and economic life.
    Not everything is rosy and perfect : the rights of the Bedouins in the Negev are not yet fully recognized, there is inequality in budgetary allocations and discrimination vs. Arab local government, but the gradient is positive.

    1. @alteyid48 just more lies, in yer case lies by omission. – whether it is laws governing immigration of a spouse, or detention of juveniles, or the issuing of building permits, there is so much proof of an APARTHEID system that mebbe ye wanna leave yer shilling for some other, more promising cause like proving the earth is flat? [it sez so in yer holy book]

  17. @arvo
    My idea of a holy book was Das Kapital, Theses on Feuerbach, and such, but I moved on a long time ago.
    I am a firm believer in the non flatness of Earth (is what is called a geoid).
    If you read my comment, I said myself that there is a certain amount of de facto discrimination against Israeli Arabs, but on a scale totally different from South Africa in the (real) Apartheid era or for that matter from the US South up to the Sixties.
    By the way, in the PA selling a house to a Jew is punishable by death .Is this also a sign of apartheid?

  18. About fifteen years ago former President Jimmy Carter wrote a book. “Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid.” He got a lot of criticism for writing that book that criticized discriminatory Israeli policy and practice toward Palestinian-Israeli citizens Perhaps, just perhaps, that is one of the reasons why he is a pariah in the Democratic Party. He is never given an opportunity to make a speech at national party conventions, for instance. Yet without question he has been the most altruistic ex-President.

  19. @altoid:48
    yes, there was a MINORITY of jews living there. in 1922 census of Palestine figures are as follows: 591.000 muslims vs 84.000 jews. and that was after years of british mandate FAVORING jewish immigration . ye ever heard of the ‘BALFOUR DECLARATION? do a bit of studying before bleating so loudly.
    how having a small minority of yer ethnic group translates into the right to call this a JEWISH STATE will be forever yer secret. to reasonable folks it is the result of a violent takeover. ever read the “nation-state” law of israel 2018? ye say studying hurts yer head? well that explains. why ye can’t see the apartheid.
    as for yer argument that it is ‘apartheid light’, not ‘real apartheid’ do know that it feels very fucking real for the Palestinians involved . the whole illegal occupation issue is something ye probably never heard of. do STUDY before bleating!
    as for yer last pitiful sorry shill argument – people resisting an illegal, cruel occupation which is now what. 70 years and going strong, make their own rules. self defense is another principle ye might wanna study. but yer head hurts already! this is so much more difficult than they made it sound at shill school and troll academy!! off ye go then.

  20. @arvo

    The British Mandate for Palestine was approved by the League of Nations on 24 July 1922 , with effective date 29 September 1923.It included a requirement to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish national home in Eretz Israel but for most of the time Jewish immigration was severely restricted..
    The State of Israel was proclaimed on May 14, 1948, after the UN resolution to partition Palestine has been accepted by the Jewish leadership in Palestine and rejected by the Arabs in Palestine and in the surrounding countries.
    The West Bank and Gaza have been at that time occupied by Jordan and Egypt which, for their own reasons , did not think to establish a Palestinian State ( which never existed in the past).
    Most of the population in the West Bank and in Gaza are under the control of the PA and Hamas respectively .
    The Basic Law :Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People is largely symbolic and declarative in nature ,totally redundant and uncalled for.It does not detract from the individual rights of non-Jewish citizens.
    Please try and make an effort to use standard English in your comments and not your personal version of it, Your ramblings are hard to follow in any case.
    Thank you for your cooperation

    1. OldJew48:
      High time you come down off your high horse; with your clever but fallacious argument.

    2. @altoid: shill, shill, shill. this is indiscriminate shilling, against international law. so, incidentally, is ERECTING SETTLEMENTS ON OCCUPIED TERRITORIES….. as per altoid [e.g., ye the shill] everything israel does is legit, even shooting kids [ask chris hedges if he debases himself to talk to mere mortals], shooting journalists, etc.
      the occupied territories, a place for people without rights. gaza, the world’s biggest outdoor prison. and ye shill and wax on how all of this be fine, yet in yer heart ye know how wrong ye are. do go ahead. there was many ‘fine folks’ in germany shilling for hitler like ye do for israel… ye might wanna slink away, ye stinking liar. israel is based on murder, eviction, breach of international law and apartheid. when will yer mossad handlers realize that ye can’t win here, no matter how much ye lie, for i got truth on my side. word has it yahweh himself be fond of truth, too… but then again, jahweh be fond of killing homosexuals, adulterous women, and ‘sorcerers’ as well as killing and burning sheep to please him. sounds like a strange kink to me, but i ain’t yahweh…who am i to judge…

      1. @arvo
        The “occupied territories” are not part of Israel and as such are not relevant as the discussion is if Israel, in its internationally recognized borders , can be defined as an “Apartheid State”. The answer is no.
        The Israel Gaza border is a border between 2 sovereign entities , one of which is calling for the destruction of the other (guess which).Israel has every right to decide who is going to be allowed to pass through tis border ( as have all states in the world). Gaza has a common border with Egypt which is not controlled by Israel.

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