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Twisting the Truth

In response to Rabbi Eliyahu Stern’s blog post criticizing former President Jimmy Carter’s new book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” “God’s Politics” guest blogger Jeff Halper, an Israeli peace activist, defended Carter’s perspective on Israeli policies toward Palestinians and his use of the term “apartheid.”

Read Virtual Talmud blogger Rabbi Joshua Waxman’s reply to Halper:


Calling Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians “apartheid,”as both Jimmy Carter and Jeff Halper do, is both ludicrous and inflammatory–a calculated attempt to turn people against Israel by an insidious comparison with South Africa’s racist policies.

As Michael Kinsley and others point out, the comparison is absurd–South Africa was built on the racist premise that whites were superior to blacks and black citizens were required to live in specific areas with few if any rights–that’s apartheid. The Israeli citizenry, on the other hand, includes 1.4 million Arabs who are free to vote, live where they want, and enjoy equal protection under the law.


The critical questions arise around the West Bank and Gaza–areas that are not parts of Israel and whose Palestinian occupants are not Israeli citizens. Israel took possession of these territories after fending off four hostile armies in the 1967 Six-Day War. With the exception of East Jerusalem, Israel did not annex this territory, instead trying to exchange it for peace–as it did successfully with Egypt, returning the Sinai in the 1978 Camp David Accords (memo to President Carter: you earn Nobel Peace Prizes by reaching out to others and building bridges, not by writing error-ridden, one-sided screeds). 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.


Now, I’m no fan of Israel’s settlement policies or the way that Israel treats Palestinians in the territories. Nevertheless, we must realize that policies toward a hostile group of people who are not your citizens (i.e., Palestinians in the territories) are going to differ from treatment of minority citizens of your country (i.e., Arabs and Druze living in Israel)–and indeed they do.

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. Halper himself can’t recognize this difference because he refuses to make a distinction between Israel and the territories, arguing instead for a one-state solution that effectively wipes Israel off the map.


Except for some extremists on the left like Halper and the Islamist Palestinian party Hamas, and those on the right like Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s Minister for Strategic Affairs and leader of the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party (which advocates expelling Israel’s Arab population), most people on both sides of the issue today realize that a two-state solution–an independent Israel and Palestine–is the only way forward.

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Jeff Halper

posted December 25, 2006 at 3:44 pm

Twisting the Truth ? Since when are polemics (repeating Dershowitz s weird choice of the word screed to characterize Carter s book and simply wrong facts The Truth (which is a pretty scary concept in and of itself). Wrong fact: 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, not the ideology that fuels it. Wrong fact: 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 JNF 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 violations 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 fact: 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 pro-active 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 many of them while 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 fact: 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 that is not apartheid. The good rabbis should not be ragging on me and Hamas and Lieberman. 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 liberals can t be extremists, they can t change the system. They just try to make it a little more humanitarian. We learned that back in the 60s. Give me an honest redneck any time. And I can’t believe the three of you take Dershowitz so uncritically! Cheez…..

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Jeff Halper

posted December 25, 2006 at 4:05 pm

P.S. Instead of relying on neo-cons like Kinsler for your analysis, or whatever, of apartheid, read something serious like Chris McGreal’s 2 part series in the Guardian comparing SA and Israel.

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posted December 26, 2006 at 6:45 pm

with all do respect you are failing to see the israeli side of this. what would you reccomend for israel to do? give up all their land when they are being constantly attacked by these militants. i am not saying everything that israel does is right. but one must call out the wrongs on both sides. you are failing to do this.

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Shirley Collins

posted December 26, 2006 at 6:52 pm

The simple and inevitable TRUTH of the matter of LAND disputes between Israel and surrounding countries is that GOD! owns ALL of the Land and he gave the JEWISH people(his CHOSEN people), (as Israel is also chosen by him) specified land to be thiers. It was taken by others and no matter what ANYONE says or does to stop that, it will happen anyway,because GOD does not lie. I for one, will not go against Israel for any reason or person or country.

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posted December 27, 2006 at 1:59 am

Shirley, you demonstrate the reason why those of us who do not subscribe to your religious views fear their insertion into foreign policy by the Religious Right. In a similiar vein we fear that the Religious Right has in the background the desire to do what it can to immanentize the eschaton. This is the Christian equivalent of what the Taliban were trying to do in Afghanistan. It is something which those of us who are not driven by a fundamentalist Christianity fear. Foreign policy should not be driven, however indirectly, by a desire by fundamentalist Christians to hasten their eschaton. Instead of trying to force God’s hand in the Middle East, it would be better for Christians to remain thoroughly committed to the primary commandments of loving God with all your heart and loving your neighbour as yourself. And so, stop supporting Israel unconditionally and pressing the government to do likewise. Yes, support Israel in areas which are justified, but do not support Israel in actions which she acts in an apartheid like manner. Sensible foreign policy is not built upon religious tradition and interpretations of eschatology. This is the 21st century, and it is time to seek a just peace in the Middle East. For that the principle players must be honest brokers and negotiate in good faith. The job of the United States and her citizens, (if a sustainable peace is to be sought and obtained), is to bring the parties together and apply such suasion as is possible to assist the parties in reaching an equitable agreement. Eschatology has no place in foreign affairs. For an example of why, see Osama bin Laden.

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posted December 27, 2006 at 1:08 pm

Mr. Carter is nothing more than one who seeks only to bring attention and personal profit to himself, and will stoop to any level to achieve the first and generate the second. He is a disgace to this christian and many others. His position in this book shows his much publicised “christian” life as a faithful churchgoing baptist and sunday school teacher to be nothing more than a sham due to the fact that true christians know they are required by God to stand up for Isreal, His chosen people, and the land He specifically set aside for them. We pray for Mr Carter in hopes that he will repent from this insult to God by accusing his people of practicing aparthied, and thereby giving support to the movement of world-wide terrorism.

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Steve K

posted December 27, 2006 at 11:36 pm Are we to imagine it is Israel who only wants peace? You say it’s only the extremists who want constant war and then associate the complete population of Palestine with violence. The Israeli government must also feel it is every Palestinian that is a threat to peace considering they’ve walled them all off, cut electricity and other utilities to entire cities; it is Israel that has placed dyptheria and other diseases in Palestinian drinking water. It is IDF that bulldozes entire cities. As Carter said, this is a two way struggle, and both sides are at the throats of the other. It is a bit unbalanced in favor of Israel because they hold so much more technology in warfare, power in politics, and economy, and the Palestinians are desperate people. Doesn’t the Torah say to treat the alien in the land as a citizen?

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DeWayne Benson

posted December 29, 2006 at 5:53 am

The secular Zionist leadership of Israel today are overloading the entire system in an effort to immigrate Jewish persons, principly from poorer areas of the world. This immigration is overloading an economy already in serious trouble, despite reports of blossoming economy, most see only the cost increases. Educated people because of resultant unemployement also leaving to find jobs elsewhere. The situation in Israel reminds me strikingly of America, where leaders of our Corp/Gov outsource American factories and operations, as a result harvesting large profit’s from these 3rd World operations. In the mean time the common population suffer in defending these same ‘strategic’ overseas operations, noticing the angry crowd of 3rd-World people’s forming against us.

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posted January 5, 2007 at 5:36 am

In my opinion, both Waxman and Halper have good arguments. The truth is probably a mixture of what both of them have to say. Although I am a Christian and revere the Bible, I don’t think the modern nation of Israel has anything to do with biblical prophecy, the End, etc. I support a nation of Israel in the same way that I would support an independent Kurdistan or Assyria, and I am revolted by many actions of the Israeli government. NEVERTHELESS, we have to look at who started the fire. It wasn’t the Jews in Palestine. It was the Arabs who attacked them both before and after the declaration of the state of Israel. Israel has demonstrated a willingness to trade land for peace, and it would probably do a LOT more over time if the belligerant, sadistic dictatorships of the Middle East would make peace. Jimmy Carter means well, and he is a nice icon for Habitat for Humanity. But, as president, he was a naive fool. I voted for Reagan in 1980 (for one reason) because I was terrified that Carter’s ignorance was going to embolden the Soviets even further and back us into a nuclear war. Israel has to live in reality; it can’t afford Carter’s nonsense. Thank God we only had to endure this man’s presidency for four LONG years! And thank God he isn’t the PM of Israel. If he were, the countdown for its extinction would be on.

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posted January 15, 2007 at 9:28 pm

Israel took possession of these territories after fending off four hostile armies in the 1967 Six-Day War. …and have subsequently built illegal settlements in violation of international law. I won’t fault the Palestinians for fighting on their own land to repel an occupying force, no more than I would fault any population for attempting to rid itself of its oppressors.

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posted January 21, 2007 at 5:19 pm

I think that President Carter is extremely courageous in pointing out the racial injustices practiced by Israel toward the Arabs (and other minorities who live in the region that they claim for themselves.) The land grab that Israel has made is wrong. However the Arabs need to grow up and find a better way of defending themselves than the violent methods they now use (where, like African Americans in the ghettos, in their rage they end up primarily killing each other.) If they would quiet down and become silent within themselves the Truth would immediately reveal itself to them and they would be successful in gaining that which belongs to them by Divine Right. The entire Israeli political situation needs to be discussed openly, but for some reason, ANY questions or criticisms are immediately labeled anti-semitic, thus removed from any intelligent debate and changed into religious charges. This is the only country that we give such tremendous financial aid to yet we cannot question anything that they do. If we continue to support them unquestioningly, then we are supporting apartheid. Also, I do not subscribe to the idea that ANY group of people has been singled out by God to be his favorites or his CHOSEN people, putting them above all others. I cannot believe in a God who loves some of His creations more than He loves others. What kind of cruel God would THAT be? I speak with God on a daily basis and HE/SHE has assured me that this is NOT SO and that NO OTHER PERSON ON THIS PLANET IS ANY GREATER IN HIS EYESIGHT THAN I. And I rest assured in the knowledge that God loves ME! I think that the Bible is a beautiful book of stories and I learn a lot about love reading it. But I also remember that those stories were compiled from ancient myths or composed and written by scholars who would of course make themselves better than anyone else. Do I believe in Jesus? Of course I do! But I also remember that He said, “These things I do, so shall ye do and even greater things.” I think President Carter is the best President America has had since LBJ forced through the Civil Rights Act.

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