FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Slandering Israel?

Sometimes when a debate seems all but settled, a prestigious voice can reopen it.  So it is with Richard Goldstone, who states the following  in a New York Times op-ed entitled “Israel and the Apartheid Slander”:

“In Israel, there is no apartheid. Nothing there comes close to the definition of apartheid under the 1998 Rome Statute: “Inhumane acts … committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” Israeli Arabs — 20 percent of Israel’s population — vote, have political parties and representatives in the Knesset and occupy positions of acclaim, including on its Supreme Court. Arab patients lie alongside Jewish patients in Israeli hospitals, receiving identical treatment.”

(Richard Goldstone, “Israel and the Apartheid Slander”, New York Times,  November 2011)

Goldstone speaks with triple authority – as a South African judge, as  the first chief prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, and as the head of a UN Human Rights Council investigation into Israel’s invasion of Gaza.   It’s therefore worth noting that, even on the most generous assumptions, he’s wrong.

Uri Davis, in Apartheid Israel, has documented how Israeli Arabs are disadvantaged by systemic discrimination.   Let’s grant, for the sake of Goldstone’s argument, that this disadvantage doesn’t amount to oppression.  Still, Israeli apartheid, as defined in the Rome Statute, is virulent and real.

There are inhumane acts committed against Palestinian Arabs. This doesn’t really seem to be in dispute.

Let’s still suppose that none of these, or few of them, are inflicted on Israeli Arabs but only on Palestinians in the occupied territories.  Nevertheless they are “committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”

The Israeli laws surrounding qualification for Israeli citizenship give, and are intended to give, Jews domination over Arabs in Israel. They do so by assuring that Jews can get citizenship in a wide range of circumstances in which Palestinian Arabs cannot.

These laws, whose stated purpose is to keep the state Jewish, identify Jews by ancestry, not religion. This is as much as to say that they are racial laws.  ‘Race’ is certainly a shifty and controversial term, but for that very reason, ancestry-based laws are considered to have as much of a racial character as laws are likely to have:  that is why, for instance, the UK laws that restricted certain passports to ‘British patrials’ were thought, if not racially motivated, then certainly racially tainted. (Thus Lord Mishcon, recorded in Hansard: “The effect of the Immigration Act 1971 is that most British patrials are white people, while virtually all British non-patrials are of non-European descent.” British Nationality Bill, Hansard,  July 22 1981)

So we have racial laws, designed to maintain racial domination.  We have oppression as part of that design.  Even if we grant that the oppression is not visited on Israeli Arabs, we still have apartheid within the definition of the Rome Statute.

The definition does not require that no subgroup of the oppressed group be treated non-oppressively.   That requirement would not have been met even by South African apartheid.  It is sufficient that, in a state where racial dominance is maintained by fundamental laws, oppression of a dominated group exists.  That other laws protect some subgroup of that dominated group from oppression is neither here nor there.

Goldstone also  claims that Israel inflicts suffering on the Palestinians for ‘security reasons’.   Even if this could possibly apply to all of Israel’s cruelties, it is irrelevant:  it would only establish that Israel had a motive for apartheid, not that it didn’t practice apartheid.  His other excuse – that some day, some time, Israel might possibly relinquish the occupied territories – is beyond irrelevant; it is fatuous.   Here and now, Israel practices apartheid within the limits of the definition Goldstone cites.

Michael Neumann is a professor of philosophy at Trent University in Ontario, Canada. Professor Neumann’s views are not to be taken as those of his university. His book What’s Left: Radical Politics and the Radical Psyche is published by Broadview Press. He contributed the essay, “What is Anti-Semitism”, to CounterPunch’s book, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. His latest book is The Case Against Israel. He can be reached at: mneumann@trentu.ca

More articles by:

Michael Neumann is a professor of philosophy at a Canadian university.  He is the author of What’s Left: Radical Politics and the Radical Psyche and The Case Against Israel.  He also contributed the essay, “What is Anti-Semitism”, to CounterPunch’s book, The Politics of Anti-Semitism.  He can be reached at mneumann@live.com

Weekend Edition
May 25, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
A Major Win for Trump’s War Cabinet
Andrew Levine
Could Anything Cause the GOP to Dump Trump?
Pete Tucker
Is the Washington Post Soft on Amazon?
Conn Hallinan
Iran: Sanctions & War
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out of Space: John McCain, Telescopes and the Desecration of Mount Graham
John Laforge
Senate Puts CIA Back on Torture Track
David Rosen
Santa Fe High School Shooting: an Incel Killing?
Gary Leupp
Pompeo’s Iran Speech and the 21 Demands
Jonathan Power
Bang, Bang to Trump
Robert Fisk
You Can’t Commit Genocide Without the Help of Local People
Brian Cloughley
Washington’s Provocations in the South China Sea
Louis Proyect
Requiem for a Mountain Lion
Robert Fantina
The U.S. and Israel: a Match Made in Hell
Kevin Martin
The Libya Model: It’s Not Always All About Trump
Susie Day
Trump, the NYPD and the People We Call “Animals”
Pepe Escobar
How Iran Will Respond to Trump
Sarah Anderson
When CEO’s Earn 5,000 Times as Much as a Company’s Workers
Ralph Nader
Audit the Outlaw Military Budget Draining America’s Necessities
Chris Wright
The Significance of Karl Marx
David Schultz
Indict or Not: the Choice Mueller May Have to Make and Which is Worse for Trump
George Payne
The NFL Moves to Silence Voices of Dissent
Razan Azzarkani
America’s Treatment of Palestinians Has Grown Horrendously Cruel
Katalina Khoury
The Need to Evaluate the Human Constructs Enabling Palestinian Genocide
George Ochenski
Tillerson, the Truth and Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department
Jill Richardson
Our Immigration Debate Needs a Lot More Humanity
Martha Rosenberg
Once Again a Slaughterhouse Raid Turns Up Abuses
Judith Deutsch
Pension Systems and the Deadly Hand of the Market
Shamus Cooke
Oregon’s Poor People’s Campaign and DSA Partner Against State Democrats
Thomas Barker
Only a Mass Struggle From Below Can End the Bloodshed in Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
Australia’s China Syndrome
Missy Comley Beattie
Say “I Love You”
Ron Jacobs
A Photographic Revenge
Saurav Sarkar
War and Moral Injury
Clark T. Scott
The Shell Game and “The Bank Dick”
Seth Sandronsky
The State of Worker Safety in America
Thomas Knapp
Making Gridlock Great Again
Manuel E. Yepe
The US Will Have to Ask for Forgiveness
Laura Finley
Stop Blaming Women and Girls for Men’s Violence Against Them
Rob Okun
Raising Boys to Love and Care, Not to Kill
Christopher Brauchli
What Conflicts of Interest?
Winslow Myers
Real Security
George Wuerthner
Happy Talk About Weeds
Abel Cohen
Give the People What They Want: Shame
David Yearsley
King Arthur in Berlin
Douglas Valentine
Memorial Day
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail