Jerusalem Post columnist Larry Derfner doesn’t mince words:
“As long as in this territory west of the Jordan River there is only one political entity called Israel, it is going to be either non-Jewish or non-democratic. If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, it will be an apartheid state.”
Those are the words of Ehud Barak, defense minister and former prime minister, at last month’s Herzliya Conference, the country’s highest-profile gathering of VIPs. Barak’s statement begs the question: Seeing that Palestinians in the West Bank haven’t been able to vote in Israeli elections since the occupation started in 1967, isn’t he saying Israel has been an apartheid state since then?
So, putting Barak’s statement in the context of this week’s news, should people really be so outraged that a few dozen colleges overseas are staging “Israel Apartheid Week”?
Myself, I prefer the term “colonialism” to “apartheid” when comparing Israel’s rule in the West Bank to other regimes in world history. There are important differences between the occupation and apartheid – for one, apartheid was based on race, the occupation is based on nationality. Yet there are important, obvious similarities, too, the main one being that in both apartheid South Africa and the West Bank, one group of people harshly, systematically and “legally” keeps another group of people down.
Anyway, however different from apartheid the occupation may be, it’s definitely more like apartheid than it is like democracy.