Apartheid Does Not Have the Right to Defend Itself, or to Exist

With its latest attack on Gaza—on the families it drove from their homes in what is now Israeli territory—Israel is surpassing itself in viciousness. As of today, Israel has killed 212 Gazans, including at least 61 children and 36 women. It is “obliterate[ing] multiple generations of families” in the middle of the night—at least 21 members of the al-Qawlaq family, from 6 months to 90 years old. It is pulverizing residential towers and media offices and bombing “civic infrastructure, businesses and the main roads leading to the city’s al-Shifa hospital.” Destroying the roads is an instructive example of Israel’s gratuitous, and clever, cruelty: It of course prevents ambulances and medics from moving where they’re needed; it also blocks the families who are fleeing to the hospitals for safety from the sudden explosion of their homes. But, We didn’t bomb the hospital!

Given all of Israel’s precision weapons and careful advance planning, this is not an accident, nor was the killing of at least two key senior medical staff in one night—reminiscent of the one day, during the Great March of Return protest in 2018, when Israeli snipers, who claimed to “know where every bullet landed,” just happened to wound and kill 18 paramedics. It’s a plan to increase the suffering and chaos.

A powerful state only does these things to people it despises and fears.

I hope that everyone, or at least an increasing number of Americans, can finally acknowledge what they are seeing, what Israel is, and that they will then reject the fables and excuses they are being constantly fed.

Israel is a colonial-settler enterprise. Israel is an ethno-religious (Jewish) supremacist enterprise. Ipso facto, Israel is an apartheid enterprise.

It is that kind of enterprise by virtue of its ongoing conspicuous actions and by virtue of its own self-definition as a “Jewish State.”

As British activist Haim Bresheeth-Žabner says “From a de facto racist state, Israel has become an Apartheid state de jure.” Per Israeli human-rights organization B’Tselem, Israel is “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid.”

Even Human Rights Watch agrees that Israel is guilty of the “crime” of apartheid. It is indisputable, as B’Tselem’s executive director. Hagai El-Ad, says, that: “Apartheid is the organizing principle that connects all these forms of colonization and transfer, disenfranchisement and oppression, domination and supremacy. …All Palestinians living under Israeli rule are treated as inferior in rights and status to Jews who live in the same area.”

As I’ve said in a previous article, regarding the Zionist colonial, intrinsically apartheid, enterprise: “That’s what has to be named and opposed. Every other problem in the context is a derivative of that.”

And that is indefensible. Colonialist apartheid is a crime—in terms of both internationally-accepted political ethics and the norms of international law. Colonialism and apartheid are crimes under jus cogens—the preemptory, compelling norms of international law “from which no derogation is ever permitted.” The perpetrators of such crimes are considered hostis humani generis, an enemy of all mankind.

A colonial apartheid regime has no “right of self-defense” against the resistance of the people it is attempting to exterminate, expel, or force into submission. Those people the colonial regime is trying to subjugate do have every right to fight for “liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle.” Individual people and organized groups—whether kids throwing rocks or Hamas throwing missiles—have every right, with any means necessary, to resist, fight, and defeat the occupying colonial power.

Nine years ago, in an essay I recommend to everyone, Noura Erakat demolished Israel’s claims to have a right to self-defense under international law in occupied Palestinian territory—and Gaza is “still considered to be occupied by Israel by the United Nations”:

the right of self-defense in international law is, by definition since 1967, not available to Israel with respect to its dealings with real or perceived threats emanating from the West Bank and Gaza Strip population. … This is not to say that Israel cannot defend itself—but those defensive measures can neither take the form of warfare nor be justified as self-defense in international law….

An occupying power cannot justify military force as self-defense in territory for which it is responsible as the occupant….

Israel is distorting/reinterpreting international law to justify its use of militarized force in order to protect its colonial authority. Although it rebuffs the de jure application of Occupation Law, Israel exercises effective control over the West Bank and Gaza and therefore has recourse to police powers. It uses those police powers to continue its colonial expansion and apartheid rule and then in defiance of international law cites its right to self-defense in international law to wage war against the population, which it has a duty to protect.

We’re now beyond the “occupied territory” issue and Israel’s game of denying it “occupies” the various geographical prisons whose every facet of life it controls. It is clear now that all Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank, Gaza, or the Green Line, “from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea”—a majority of the population—are under the single apartheid “regime of Jewish supremacy,” and have the full right of resistance thereto. It’s important that everyone recognize, as Joseph Massad, points out, that “Israel’s leaders now accept that Jewish colonists and their descendants will forever be a minority in historic Palestine,” in “their own settler-colonial state.”

That regime not only does not have the “right” to defend itself against its subjugated population, it does not—and we should have no compunction to say so—have the “right” to exist. Per Sharmine Narwani, also nine years ago, the Zionist enterprise is “the last modern-day colonial-settler experiment, conducted at a time when these projects were being unraveled globally.” I reprised that point in my aforementioned article, where I said it was possible in the few years after WWII “because racism and ethno-supremacist colonialism were still integral parts of the Western worldview. The great world powers could still blithely dismiss the lives, land, and humanity of an Arab population as dispensable—secondary both to the aspirations of the largely European Jews who formed the Zionist vanguard and to the guilty consciences of European gentiles. It was compensatory colonialism, with the compensation paid by an expendable third(world) people.”

And James Baldwin: “the state of Israel was not created for the salvation of the Jews; it was created for the salvation of the Western interests… and for Europe’s guilty Christian conscience”

It was a propitious historic opportunity for Zionism. Ten years later, when anti-colonial struggles were raging, no Western liberal would have dared to suggest any such project had a “right” to exist. Seventy-three years later, it should be just as unimaginable.

That the Zionist movement never considered demanding territory from Germany or any White European country that participated in the Holocaust (which would have at least had some ethico-political logic), although it did start out considering Uganda and Argentina, indicates its self-understanding as a child project of White supremacy and imperialism. “Little Ulster,” and all.

May be an image of text that says 'Fiorella Isabel and 11 others liked Caitlin Johnstone @caitoz 15h You don't get to drop an entire colony on top of an inhabited country, grind those inhabitants into the dirt for generations, and then claim self defense every time they retaliate. That's not a thing.'

So it is good, finally, to see “apartheid” and the “colonization of Palestine” being named and opposed by Democratic activists and prominent politicians, including Palestinian-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, on the floor of the Congress and AOC and her squaddies tweet-storming “Apartheid states aren’t democracies.”. And it’s good to see legislation introduced by Congresswoman Betty McCollum, with “more than a dozen” supporters, to prevent U.S. aid to Israel from “paying for the military detention and abuse of Palestinian children, the demolition of Palestinian homes, or the annexation of Palestinian land.”

Though I find too much of it—AOC and Bernie in particular—about the bad right-wing Netanyahu government, and whether we can get our politicians to speak in really neutral terms. Let’s recognize everyone’s humanity. Palestinian lives matter, too. This isn’t about finding a way for the victims and opponents of Zionist apartheid to get along peaceably with its enforcers and proponents. It’s about finding a way to defeat them.

There is definitely a new trend. The Zionist narrative is losing—among large sectors of younger adults (Jewish and Gentile) has, I would say, already and irretrievably lost—its air of legitimacy, virtue, and necessity. Nothing has done more to undermine that narrative than the open internet and social media (which is why no force is more interested in imposing controls on those channels than acolytes of Zionism). The scenes of Palestinian dispossession and Israeli rampage are just too blatant to ignore. A divide is opening up in the country over Palestine-Israel, and it is reflected in the Democratic Party, a majority of whose constituency understands that you can’t claim to be anti-racist and continue to support the US being the indispensable enabler of Israel’s Mohammed Crow apartheid. There is no such thing as Progressive Except Palestine.

It also remains the case that both political parties and the entire media, academic, and cultural apparatus—none of which is controlled by popular will—are firmly committed to Zionism and the unconditional support of Israel in ways that will be extremely difficult to reverse. We still live in a polity where 75% of House members “oppose placing any conditions on aid to Israel, including some progressives from the Democratic Party’s left [sic] wing,” and signed an AIPAC-backed letter saying so; a country where Creepy Joe (“I am a Zionist” “the USA would have to invent an Israel”) Biden is ratifying the decisions of Bad Orange Man to recognize Israel’s illegal annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights within the apartheid “regime of Jewish supremacy,” with the whole of Jerusalem as its capital; where it was the Cool Black Guy preceding both of them who first gave bunker-buster bombs to Israel, secretly, and made it a non-negotiable demand that Native Americans must recognize that America will be a White Man’s State “Palestinians must recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state“; a culture where, under the auspices of the Republican and Democratic Parties’ largest donors (uber-Zionists Sheldon & Miriam Adelson and Haim Saban) and the occasional Israeli-spy producer many of them work for, the crème de la Hollywood crème shows up dutifully twice a year to raise $50 million a night in comfort money (to provide “well-being facilities”) for the Israeli Army that is pulverizing apartment towers and killing multi-generational families in Gaza. (Fear not, though, the Dem celebs do not hesitate bravely to ruffle feathers at such events by challenging their Republican counterparts); where the United States military itself can, without objection, be described as “a Zionist institution”; and on and on.

In a deep sense, America has become a Zionist country. There is a lot of Zionist-committed money and power controlling the institutions that make policy and manufacture consent and that have made Zionism into a core component of American ideology and politics. They will have to be forthrightly and fearlessly named, opposed, and defeated to change the way the United States enables the apartheid “regime of Jewish supremacy.” There will be a lot of hemming and hawing to avoid doing that.

I’ll point out, for example, that if Betty and other tweet-storming “left-wing” progressive legislators really want to disrupt the military aid to Israel that is right now enabling the killing of children in Gaza, they have no need for new legislation to do so. All aid to Israel—every dollaris already illegal under the terms of the Symington and Glenn Amendments, which prohibit aid to any country acquiring nuclear weapons.  The latter came about because Sen. John Glenn was concerned specifically about “diversion [of weapons-grade uranium] from U.S. nuclear contractor NUMEC to Israel’s nuclear program”—an act of nuclear espionage and theft abetted by that Hollywood spy-producer, which, for some reason, didn’t subject him and his confreres to the same fate as Julius and Ethel.

Every single US president and the entire US “intelligence community” blatantly lies, and every single member of Congress knows they are lying, about the (per Schumer!) “well-known fact” of Israel’s nuclear weapons in order to disburse aid to Israel. All any member of Congress who is serious about “conditioning” aid to Israel has to do is point this out, publicly and consistently, on the floor of the Congress and in every media interview. All Betty has to do is join Desmond Tutu, tell the truth and demand that her colleagues and the president follow the law. That would simply and immediately disrupt the discourse of Israeli “self-defense” exceptionalism, the blathering about dangerous Palestinian rockets and Iranian nuclear programs, etc., and create new kinds of pressure for American politicians to explain themselves—much more than concerned tweeting and submitting bills they know Nancy Pelosi and Chuck (“Guardian of Israel”) Schumer are going to bury.

Which is why nobody does it.

There is no chance that a group of people who unanimously lie all the time to give Israel tons of public money in contravention of U.S. law will pass Betty’s law, or any like it—and Betty knows it. If Betty and her co-signers are serious about “conditioning” aid, they will bring up Israeli nuclear exceptionalism, every day. If they don’t, it’s because they have agreed, at the direction of their party leadership, not to. It’s because they are more committed to not disrupting Zionism’s hold on the Democratic Party (or on America itself) than they are to disrupting, let alone defeating, Israeli colonialism and apartheid; it’s because they are not really fighting for Palestinians, but–with deliberate, chosen impotence—virtue-signaling to their increasingly dissatisfied constituents (53% of Dems support such conditioning of US aid.). Just as they are doing with Medicare-for-All and the minimum wage.

Here’s where that gets you:

It took a long time to turn the Democratic Party away from its long-standing alliance with Crow apartheid in America. It took a lot of images like those of Emmet Till, and Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney, and Bull Connor’s cops and dogs, and the taking up of arms by black groups, and burning of American cities, broadcast on the media of the day, to help make that happen—to get the Democratic Party and the political and media elite to see that it was just plain wrong, and there could be no more asking black people to be patient and wait—just a little more, until we figure out all the complications, hem, haw—for the end of American apartheid.

Now take the difficulty of that transformation and multiply it. Keep going.

I hope I’m wrong, but I will use the “n”-word we should always avoid: The Democratic and Republican parties will never abjure their commitment to Zionism. As in: “If Washington D.C. crumbled to the ground, the last thing that would remain is our support for Israel.” There is a lot more lopsided money and power behind that proclamation today than was behind George Wallace’s “Segregation forever!” in 1963. Those political parties will die, and should be killed, as the parties they are—and as one of their presidents, without objection, said he would—fighting for Israeli apartheid. The political and media elites, and George Wallace himself, came to see American Jim Crow apartheid as not just wrong, but impossible: they could not not significantly re-calibrate in the face of armed black militancy and burning American cities. They do not care a whit how many Palestinian (or Syrian, or Iranian) towers, towns, and children burn. There is no limit.

If “left-wing” legislators and activists aren’t going to go right at it, and, as unflinchingly as they would have against George Wallace, fight the fight to the political death of any agent or institution that wants to die on the crumbling hill of Zionism, then…well, there’s no such thing as Progressive Except Apartheid Zionism Forever.

Because time is way past up for hemming and hawing. It always comes too late in systems of apartheid. It came very late for African-Americans. It has been way too long for Palestinian Arabs.

If you don’t see the connection, you’re just wrong. Here’s an eloquent voice on that for African-Americans, which also absolutely is a voice for Palestinians, about whose predicament he wrote with equal urgency and eloquence:



What is it that you expect Palestinians to reconcile themselves to? There comes a time when even the most stubborn have to recognize that appeals to colonized people for peace and patience are nothing more than demands to surrender and accept their subjugation.

I hope that an increasing number of Americans see Israel’s latest blatant program of ethnic cleansing and its vicious attack on Gaza as instances of colonialist violence that has never and will never stop within the Zionist project.

I hope they see that it is simply wrong to expect, let alone demand, that Palestinians wait any longer to overturn, by any means necessary, the system of apartheid in which their homes, lands, hopes, and lives are just not as important as those of Jewish settlers. I hope, and think, they understand that the time for hemming and hawing is over. Way over.

This is not a conflict between Israel and Hamas, but between the whole Zionist movement—which includes all the forces mentioned above—and the whole Palestinian people. It is a fight that pits enormous, well-coordinated, military, financial, and political power against the enormous, but still ill-organized, power of millions of people.

I know it seems impossible to imagine the defeat of Zionism, but we have to recognize both the reality and fragility of Zionist power.

Yes, Israel has the fourth-largest army in the world, with nuclear weapons, and the support of the Imperial High Command in Washington. Yes, per Bresheeth-Žabner, “Israelis, of left, right and center, do not doubt that they can continue to oppress and suppress Palestinians with impunity.” Yes, “Palestinians have been abandoned by the west, by the Arabs, by Israeli liberals, and by liberals the world over.” And, yes, after securing the betrayal of a few Arab monarchies, Jared Kushner crowed, “We are witnessing the last vestiges of what has been known as the Arab-Israeli conflict.” So, Mission Accomplished?

Problem is, there’s those seven million Palestinians whose lives Israel must control, and who, despite being betrayed by Arab countries, ignored by Western liberals, and crushed again and again by arrogant Israelis armed with American-supplied weapons and impunity, just won’t stop rebelling against their subjugation. The impossible-to-ignore breadth of betrayal itself, capped off by the accelerated ethnic cleansing that, it is now evident, none of them can escape, has only created unprecedented Palestinian unity and solidarity. Even the streets of ‘48 Israel are burning with rage. Israel has erased the Green Line, and the Palestinian General Strike has forgotten it.

As David Hearst says, the Abraham Accords—Netanyahu and Trump’s gambit “that opening relations with Arab states was the means by which he could bypass a Palestinian state and ignore Palestinian rights”—have been revealed as a “delusion,” and the Arab signatories to be fools as well as traitors. Add to that the always-obvious but always-ignored fact that, as Sharmine Narwani put it: “Strip away the spin and the gloss, and you quickly realize that Israel doesn’t even have the basics of a normal state. After 64 [now 73] years, it doesn’t have borders. … and it needs a gargantuan military just to stop Palestinians from walking home.” Add to that the fact that the deceptive historical and ethical narrative of Zionism has been exposed and discredited for everyone who peers outside the mainstream media Overton window—and that’s too many people. Israel’s feared “de-legitimization” has already left the barn; Gaza and Sheikh Jarrah are just sealing the door.

All of which makes it possible for Hearst to say: “The project to establish Israel as a Jewish state has never been in more peril than it is now, when it thinks it is on the cusp of victory.” After all, Israel, as the “regime of Jewish supremacy,” depends on a program of brutally colonizing seven million people forever, with the necessary acceptance and approval of the rest of the world. History has some lessons about that. “No justice, no peace,” isn’t just a slogan; it’s political analysis. Given who has what to lose in the actual context, if those seven million Palestinians continually rile thing up and make life uncomfortable for their colonial masters, there’ll be a lot of the latter re-settling on the East Bank. Of the Hudson.

Like Hearst, I have favored words like “project” and “enterprise” over “state” because I also see an Israeli state as the unfinished project of the Zionist enterprise. As I’ve remarked before, the question: “Does Israel have a right to exist?”—which we rightfully deconstruct as demanding our ratification of the colonial ethnic cleansing whereby Zionists have established 1948 Israel, should really be deconstructed further. It is not about the past, but the present and the future. It is actually asking—and that is why Zionists are so insistent on getting our answer—“Will Israel exist?” It is asking: “Do you accept the legitimacy of Zionists to be establishing a colonial-settler Jewish State, ethnic cleansing, apartheid, brutally enforced submission, and all?” The settlers’ motto is “Finish ’48!” Because the Nakba isn’t over, and never will be. Just look.

Israel does not yet exist, because seven million Palestinians still do. And we have to be aware, as Bresheeth-Žabner warns us, that: “Israel has been preparing for many years for a window of political opportunity – a historical juncture which will enable it to vacate Palestine of most of its remaining indigenous population.” We cannot let this uprising or the next become Zionism’s next big opportunity.

Every American is engaged in this fight now, and must make a choice—because their government has already made one for them, the choice for Zionism, which silence and inaction ratify. The clear and simple choice we all make is either to continue to support Israeli Zionism, which is colonialism, ethno-religious supremacy, and apartheid, or to oppose and defeat it.

Don’t overcomplicate it. It really is a simple choice. This is Zionism:


These settlers taking over Palestinian homes are exactly right: This is the essential activity of Zionism: Taking other people’s homes. This is what how the unfinished project of Israel was started, what it still is, and always will be, “at the expense of the Arabs who lived here.” This is what Palestinians are being asked to reconcile themselves to.

This is colonialism, ethno-religious supremacism, ethnic cleansing—intrinsically, apartheid. The notion that the historical burden of one people is to surrender their land and homes to, and be subjugated by, another. There is no defense of it.

This is what one supports if one supports Israel and Zionism. This is what one accepts if one accepts Zionism.

This is what every major US politician, every media institution, and every major academic institution support when they support Israel.

This—which is only possible because of US military, political, diplomatic, and financial support—is what you abet when you ignore and stay silent about it. This, and all the past (Iraq, Libya), ongoing (Syria), and future (Iran) wars and aggressions in support of it

This is just wrong.

How much longer?

Jim Kavanagh edits The Polemicist. Follow him on Twitter @ThePolemicist_.