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Virtual Talmud

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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