On Friday, United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres asked a UN agency to remove a report from its web site that accused Israel of the crime of apartheid. The report has since been removed from the site, although the executive summary is still there. Rima Khalaf, the head of the agency (the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)) resigned in protest.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
The report is certainly explosive. Written by Virginia Tilley and Richard Falk, two scholars who are strong supporters of a single, democratic state in all of Mandatory Palestine (and are generally also seen as anti-Zionist, a label I don’t know if either embraces, but which I doubt would particularly bother either of them), it basically makes the case that not only the occupation, but Israel’s very existence as a Jewish state is incompatible with international law and creates an apartheid regime. No doubt, the Secretary-General, knowing the already hostile environment the UN faces on Capitol Hill and in the White House, did not relish the idea of giving such an enormous boost to that hostility which is already threatening to cut off a major source of UN funding.
I am not going to offer an analysis of the report here. One reason is that while I have read through it, I need to examine it more thoroughly. But I can say a few things about the report.
- I clearly do not agree with many of the report’s conclusions and recommendations, and have issues with some of the methodology as well.
- That being said, the report makes more than a few points that I find either valid or, at the very least, troubling enough that a serious discussion about them is not only warranted, but crucial.
- Disagreeing with the report’s conclusions, methodology, or evidence is not a valid reason to simply mute the report.
- The question of whether any state can be both democratic and also a state of only one ethnic/religious/racial group of people is one that bears on a great many conflicts in the world today, as well as on the very definition of democracy. On that basis alone, it needs to be discussed. In the specific case of Israel, it has obvious and practical ramifications. For those who believe Israel can be a Jewish and democratic state, it must be acknowledged that those two things must necessarily exist in tension. As such, we cannot avoid either an open discussion to figure out how a Jewish democracy works or an open and civilized debate with those who believe it is not possible for state to be both Jewish and democratic.
NOTE: The following piece is purely my own view. While anything on this blog that is not a piece written for the Foundation for Middle East Peace may not reflect the Foundation’s view, this piece in particular is a personal opinion. To date, the Foundation has not decided whether to make any statement about the policy platform issued by the Movement for Black Lives. The views here are strictly my own. They should not be taken as being in any way reflective of FMEP’s views, nor should this disclaimer be interpreted as meaning that FMEP disagrees with the views expressed here in part or whole.
A collection of groups that are part of the Black Lives Matter Movement have released an historic document. It is a policy platform that is broad in scope and wide-ranging in vision. Naming themselves the Movement for Black Lives (MBL), the 50 organizations do not claim to speak for any but themselves, but they clearly represent a large portion of the Black community in the US and of the Black Lives Matter movement.
So far, the opposition to the MBL platform has mostly come from the right wing. Liberals and leftists are either supportive or, I suppose, silent about any reservations they may have. But one controversy has been raging throughout the political spectrum, at least with in the Jewish community, and, not surprisingly, it’s about Israel. Two paragraphs are at issue:
“The US military accounts for over 50 percent of discretionary federal spending, a total of 598.5 Billion dollars spent annually, as compared to 70 billion spent on education, 66 billion spent on healthcare, $63.2 billion spent on housing and 29.1 billion spent on social security and unemployment. In addition, approximately 3 billion dollars in US aid is allocated to Israel, a state that practices systematic discrimination and has maintained a military occupation of Palestine for decades. Together with aid to Egypt — Israel’s most important regional ally — this figure represents nearly 75 percent of all US aid dollars. As these figures demonstrate, resources and funds needed for reparations and for building a just and equitable society domestically are instead used to wage war against a majority of the world’s communities.”
“The US justifies and advances the global war on terror via its alliance with Israel and is complicit in the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people. The US requires Israel to use 75 percent of all the military aid it receives to buy US-made arms. Consequently, every year billions of dollars are funneled from US taxpayers to hundreds of arms corporations, who then wage lobbying campaigns pushing for even more foreign military aid. The results of this policy are twofold: it not only diverts much needed funding from domestic education and social programs, but it makes US citizens complicit in the abuses committed by the Israeli government. Israel is an apartheid state with over 50 laws on the books that sanction discrimination against the Palestinian people. Palestinian homes and land are routinely bulldozed to make way for illegal Israeli settlements. Israeli soldiers also regularly arrest and detain Palestinians as young as 4 years old without due process. Every day, Palestinians are forced to walk through military checkpoints along the US-funded apartheid wall.” Continue reading
The Icelandic capital city of Reykjavik has declared a boycott of all Israeli goods. The measure is clearly symbolic, as the
Björk Vilhelmsdóttir, the Reykjavik official who brought the boycott motion
city itself can’t do enough trade with Israel, or any other country, for such an action to have any impact. The responses to the action, however, are worth examining.
A retiring official, Björk Vilhelmsdóttir, of the Social Democratic Alliance, a center-left party, brought the motion for the boycott. The motion compels the city to boycott all Israeli products “as long as the occupation of Palestinian territories continues.” The memo that explains the reasoning behind what it terms a “symbolic” decision states that the city condemns “the Israeli policy of apartheid” in the Occupied Territories. Continue reading
When I started getting serious about action on the Israel-Palestine conflict and the associated US foreign policy, I found it imperative to convince people that the Oslo Accords were doomed to fail. There were the obvious critiques of the accords: the lack of any sort of human rights framework, the absence of consequences for failing to abide by conditions or fulfill agreed upon commitments, and the formal recognition of Israel without any mention whatsoever of a potential Palestinian state. But I saw an even bigger obstacle.
Conventional wisdom has it that Jerusalem is the most difficult stumbling block. But I have always maintained that it is the Palestinian refugees that were the most serious obstacle to a negotiated solution. Read more at LobeLog
Once again, in his speech Wednesday at the United Nations, President Obama revealed the reduced importance of the Israeli-Palestinian
Obama speaking at last year’s UNGA
conflict on his agenda. He also revealed just how out of touch his entire country is with respect to reality.
The Israel-Palestine conflict was the last specific global issue mentioned by Obama in his address to the UN General Assembly, and his wording was straight out of the playbook. It was also only mentioned briefly and without any hint that the United States would be taking any action at all on the issue. Read more at LobeLog.
Tal Schneider is an Israeli journalist and blogger. At her blog, she recently published this excellent piece by Afif Abu-Much, who lives in the community of Baqa Baqa al-Gharbiyye in Israel. Afif’s village is one of those that would be handed over to the Palestinian Authority in the sorts of land swaps that Avigdor Lieberman champions and all too many other Israelis support. The legitimacy and morality of such an action is often debated, but actually hearing from an Israeli citizen who would be directly affected by such a move is sadly rare. I am very grateful that Tal has permitted me to reprint this piece here, in full, as she and Sol Salbe translated it from Hebrew. Continue reading