By Philip Weiss / Mondoweiss
The use of the word apartheid to describe Israel’s treatment of Palestinians just keeps growing. David Rothkopf, the former editor of Foreign Policy, baldly states that Israel is an apartheid state in a piece published by Haaretz last weekend.
“Americans once boasted that our ally Israel was the Middle East’s only democracy. Now it is an apartheid state with a government actively working to roll back basic democratic rights and protections. American values like tolerance and the celebration of diversity are ones the current Israeli government rejects…”
Rothkopf has described Israel as an apartheid state for two years, but this latest article in Israel’s leading newspaper is an appeal to “Bibi,” as Rothkopf calls Netanyahu, to avoid a rupture with the U.S. If the rightwing government goes further in its crackdowns on civil rights and Palestinian subjects, Rothkopf warns, it could “have direct, immediate, negative consequences for the U.S.-Israel relationship including the provision of aid.”
So Israel is an apartheid state, thereby committing a crime against humanity, but we should keep giving it aid– because the U.S. has a “strong working relationship” with Israel. This is the marvel of the Israel lobby. Israel’s American supporters have such an exceptional view of the importance of the Jewish state that they think the ordinary rules of human rights just don’t apply.
Support our Independent Journalism — Donate Today!
Rothkopf is an establishment figure in foreign policy: a former undersecretary of Commerce and scholar at Carnegie Institute for International Peace, he once attacked the “theory” of the Israel lobby and apologized for Israeli apartheid.
Though Rothkopf must also be considered a progressive influence in official circles. Years ago, he told his college roommate Michael Oren that Zionism is the “exactly the wrong” response to modern history, and in using the word “apartheid” now, Rothkopf is taking the right side of a fierce battle-line inside Washington. The New York Times avoids the term. Ted Deutch won his new job as head of the American Jewish Committee when as a Congressman in September 2021 he smeared Rashida Tlaib as an antisemite for daring to accuse Israel of apartheid. “I say to my colleague who just besmirched our ally…that’s antisemitism.”
Tlaib’s crime was citing the Human Rights Watch report of 2021. Just last week the man who oversaw that report, Ken Roth, explained at Americans for Peace Now (video here) that Human Rights Watch held out against the “apartheid” designation of Israel for years, using the excuse of the peace process.
Note Roth’s visceral description of apartheid, and the “demise” of the two state solution.
It was the utter demise of the peace process that is part of what I think has led the human rights community to say that this kind of radical, oppressive discrimination that we see in the West Bank– where you have these well-developed settlements for Israelis living under civil law with all the rights of being an Israeli citizen, and right next door in Area C of the West Bank, you have Palestinians who can’t even add a bedroom into their home without it being demolished and who have to travel on special roads and go through checkpoints– it has all the elements of the oppressive discrimination that constitute apartheid. And the only reason I think people didn’t call it that until now, or until recently, is because of the peace process defense. People say, Well, yeah, it’s bad. But don’t worry, there’s the peace process. And when we have peace, it’ll be better.
The two state solution is over. The only real option appears to be one state.
And what we’ve recognized is the peace process is going nowhere. This government in particular is determined on doing all it can to undermine any prospect for a two-state solution. The only real option of peace at this stage seems to be a one-state solution, or maybe some kind of confederation. But we’re moving away from the two state option. And in that circumstance, if you look at what there is today, it’s apartheid, it’s hard to say anything else about it. And this is not just the new Netanyahu government, it’s also the old Netanyahu government. And, and even before that, I mean, this has been a trend in Israel for a long time. But it’s being reinforced right now. Certainly not reversed.
Yes, Palestinians and activists said Israel is an apartheid state years ago. Al Haq made the determination years ago, so did the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights. Jimmy Carter was punished for using the word in 2006. The Russell Tribunal said so in 2012. Rep. Betty McCollum did so in 2018.
HRW coordinated its report on apartheid in 2021 with B’Tselem, which went first with the apartheid declaration, Roth told Americans for Peace Now. “The group that really led the effort was B’Tselem… We were all talking. There was one stage where we thought we might try to do it together.”
So these two human rights groups sought to gain political cover from one another. And David Rothkopf surely felt licensed to use the word himself in 2021 after those reports were issued.
HRW issued the report because it had lost its figleaf: The “demise” of the two state solution made it untenable not to talk about apartheid.
“We couldn’t justify not calling it apartheid, given the facts on the ground, given what the legal standard of apartheid is, by saying, ‘Oh, don’t worry, there’s the peace process.’ It just wasn’t credible anymore. And we all kind of came to that conclusion, roughly along the same period.
Again, Ned Price of the State Department said last week that the two-state solution is being saved by “triage.”
“Is there a realistic possibility of a two state solution today?” Matt Galloway of CBC asked the Palestinian lawyer Diana Buttu last week. She was precise and emphatic:
“Absolutely not. That ship sailed many, many, many years ago. And the reason it sailed many, many years ago, is because there’s been a consistent government policy to build and expand settlements even in the face of international condemnation… It leaves us fearful that tomorrow is going to be worse than today and knowing that there really is no future for our children here.”
Rothkopf’s piece in Haaretz is another in the series of warnings to the Netanyahu government from American Jewish friends of Israel that the prime minister has misread the politics of the United States, that he is risking a confrontation with the U.S. government, and the Jewish community will splinter over Israeli human rights abuses.
Biden needs to set clear red lines about U.S. support– such as “effectively annex[ing] the parts of the West Bank Israel has not already illegally seized,” Rothkopf advises. And he says Netanyahu is overplaying his hand:
“Netanyahu continues to mistakenly believe that he has American politics on his side. His formula is GOP support plus that of American Jews…”
But Jews are leaving the reservation, especially secular American Jews.
“We don’t want you here in Israel but keep those checks and that lobbying coming” is just not a formula that is going to work. In fact, take it from me, it is going to piss a lot of people off.
Speaking of lobbying, Rothkopf says that the tail wagged the dog on the Iran deal.
“Israel actively worked to undermine America’s efforts to strike a nuclear deal with Iran—actions that even many senior Israeli national security officials now realize was a mistake.”
This ought to be a scandal: Israel and its lobby are the reason we don’t have a deal with Iran.
And American Jews were recruited in the defense of apartheid:
American Jews have been whipsawed by having to defend Israeli abuses of Palestinians… [It was] Jews upon whom support for the U.S.-Israel relationship depended in years past.
A lot of Jews refused to sign up for that duty. “A day will come when we will be ashamed of ourselves,” IfNotNow writes of the latest assassination of a Palestinian. Though, to be clear, Zionism and Judaism were conflated in the last generation by the Jewish establishment.