God's Politics

Jeff Halper continues his dialogue with Virtual Talmud bloggers on the controversy surrounding Jimmy Carter’s book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, this time responding to Rabbi Joshua Waxman’s post titled, “Twisting the Truth.”

Twisting “the truth”? Since when are polemics (repeating Dershowitz’s weird choice of the word “screed” to characterize Carter’s book) and wrong statements “the truth”?

Wrong: “The comparison with South Africa is absurd.”

South Africa constructed a system of structured inequality on a racial basis and the permanent institutionalization of the dominance of one people over another. Israel has done the exact same thing. Does it really matter if separation and domination are on the basis of race or on national, ethnic, and religious lines? It is the system we are talking about, regardless of the ideology that fuels it.

Wrong: Arabs citizens of Israel “live where they want and enjoy equal protection of the law.”

Do we still have to argue that point? 93% of the land of Israel is off-limits to non-Jews: 72% is Jewish National Fund land and the other 21% is “state land”of various kinds, all “owned” by the Jewish people (like Rabbi Waxman in far-off Fort Washington, PA), not by the citizens of the country. The Arab citizens of Israel, 20% of the population, are confined to 3.5% of the land. Equal protection? An entire Bedouin village was demolished last week in the Negev, and another 40,000(!) homes of [Palestinian] citizens of Israel, residents for 60 years of “unrecognized villages,” are slated for demolition. Arab citizens of Israel cannot even bring spouses from the Occupied Territories or Arab countries to live with them in violation of their fundamental human rights. That’s not apartheid?! Oh, yeah, they are free to vote, but any government decision that lacks a “Jewish majority” is considered illegitimate.

Wrong: “Jordan and Syria refused to make peace in exchange for the West Bank and Golan Heights respectively, and so for the past 40 years these territories have remained under Israel’s control.”

Israel never tried to exchange the Occupied Territories, including the Golan Heights, for peace. The great mistake of the learned rabbis on this site (and, unfortunately, pretty much everywhere) is to cast Israel’s occupation as defensive and connected to security. The occupation became a proactive claim to the Territories two weeks after the end of the war with the emergence of the Allon Plan, which scuttled peace both the Jordan and the Palestinians. To argue that Israel moved a half-million settlers into the Occupied Territories for security reasons – while still supposedly negotiating with the Palestinians over land – is, indeed, absurd. There is no evidence whatsoever, either diplomatic or “on the ground,”that Israel ever considered relinquishing control of the West Bank.

Wrong: “Hafrada, the Hebrew term that Halper tries to argue means “apartheid,” in fact refers to the policy of separating the territories from Israel proper for security reasons, and not a separation of or discrimination between Jewish and Arab Israeli citizens as he implies.”

Hafrada does mean the separation of populations. Listen to Olmert if you don’t believe me. Referring to the Separation Barrier he said: “We must create a clear boundary as soon as possible, one which will reflect the demographic reality on the ground.” It’s true that apartheid meant structured inequality of groups within the same state, but that’s why South Africa tried to get out of that bind (and remain “democratic”) by creating Bantustans. Israel is doing the same from a different direction. It is expanding to include all the territory to the Jordan River, then it wants to create the Palestinian Bantustan (Sharon’s plan of “cantonization;” Olmert’s “convergence”).

Warning: It is Israel that is setting the stage for a one-state solution by foreclosing a two-state one. If they don’t want apartheid – and don’t to become apologists for apartheid – they better rag on Olmert, AIPAC and their own rabbinical associations to end the occupation totally and today. But I guess liberals can’t be “extremists” – they can’t change the system. They just try to make it a little more “humanitarian.”

Jeff Halper is the coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), based in Jerusalem.

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