Journalists and liberal Zionists are determined to push ‘apartheid’ charge down the memory hole

Today’s New York Times has a long and compelling feature article about the Palestinian “misery at the heart of the conflict,” including house demolitions and evictions in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The most remarkable thing about the article, though, is what it leaves out, the systematic legal discrimination that fosters these conditions. In a word, the fact that Israel has been accused by leading human rights groups in recent months of the crime of “apartheid.”

Those accusations were shocking because of who was saying them. First B’Tselem, Israel’s leading human rights group, said in January that Israel is an “apartheid… regime of Jewish supremacy from the river to the sea.” Then in April the leading such organization globally, Human Rights Watch, issued a 213-page report documenting the Jewish state’s intention to dominate Palestinians and the inhumane acts that spring from that intention — and concluded that Israel was committing crimes of “apartheid” and “persecution.”

When Israel launched its recent attack on the Gaza strip, B’Tselem repeated the charge: “The current violence throughout Israel/Palestine is an outcome of the apartheid regime that controls the entire area.”

These very serious allegations had a very serious intention: to change the western understanding of what is taking place in Israel. There is only one state between the river and the sea, the occupation is 54 years old and Israeli leaders have no intention of reversing it, so Israel must grant equal rights to all under its governance.

But western media and liberal Zionists are determined to make the charge disappear down the memory hole, as they cling to the fantasy that there can still be a Palestinian state in the land east of the green line.

For instance, Richard Engel misled viewers on NBC News in announcing the ceasefire May 20: “Many Palestinians say the rockets and clashes are their only tools to resist what they call Israeli apartheid that limits how and where they live.” And that accusation is “disputed,” he said.

The report was misleading because Palestinians are hardly alone in that assertion — no, human rights groups with Jewish executives have made the charge, and cited the Nation State Law that gives Jews higher rights in the land.

More maddening was a New York Times article on changes in the U.S. Jewish community that twice refers to “apartheid,” but in each case as some crazy radical charge.

At Temple Concord, a Reform synagogue in Syracuse, N.Y., teenager after teenager started calling Rabbi Daniel Fellman last week, wondering how to process seeing Black Lives Matter activists they marched with last summer attack Israel as “an apartheid state.”

Another student in that article is so stressed out by “pro-Palestinian memes” on his social media that he deactivates his account. One such meme is, “Zionism is a call for an apartheid state.” The student says, “I don’t think that using that message is helpful for convincing the Israelis to stop bombing Gaza.”

Leaders in the human rights community say that language is actually vital to gaining equity. A new campaign by activists and scholars urges the media to “call it apartheid.” The young Jewish group IfNotNow repeatedly calls out Biden to “stop using our money to fund apartheid.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been forthright about labeling Israel an “apartheid state” in recent days. And one lobbyist for Israel, Michael Koplow of Israel Policy Forum, is frank about the political importance of the charge to the left:

As the fighting has continued, constituencies in the Democratic base are increasingly comfortable charging that Israel is an apartheid state while denouncing Israeli war crimes…. It is entirely unrealistic to expect Biden to ignore all of this, from either a policy or a domestic politics perspective.

But these are exceptions. Most supporters of Israel in the media are very happy to see the apartheid charge in the rearview mirror. As the London Review of Books pointed out, liberal Zionists need to maintain a delusion that there are two regimes, the good Jewish democracy in Israel, and the bad occupation over there that will end some day. When there is actually just one regime, with Jews on top everywhere.

For instance, Jodi Rudoren, editor of the Forward, published an explainer-for-young people about the roots of the conflict that misleads those readers when it asserts that smart people believe “there is a workable outline for” a viable two-state solution.

Rudoren concedes that Israel’s “treatment of Palestinians… is unfair” but never mentions the apartheid charge or the racist Nation State Law and misstates the number of settlers at 400,000. At least she is honest about her American Zionist motivation:

We can protest Israeli policies, including the harshness of the airstrikes, without giving up the idea that there should be a Jewish state.

Similarly, a PBS interview of Daniel Brumberg of Georgetown about the conflict left out the apartheid charge entirely, and allowed Brumberg to offer homilies about the U.S. Jewish “debate” over Israel’s future.

And it has probably to do with what kind of state Israel will be. Will it be a Jewish state? Will it be a democratic state? Can it be both, hopefully?

The irresponsibility goes on and on. Mary Louise Kelly interviewed former Miamian and Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer on NPR on May 19 and asked him about trends in support for Palestinians but left out the apartheid accusation.

Every time one of these flare-ups happens, you know public opinion here in the U.S. hardens a little against Israel. Support for Palestinians is growing. And I wonder, in Israel, do Israelis see that?

This NPR timeline of important events re Gaza in the last 20 years or so mentions the International Criminal Court investigation of March but not the “apartheid” findings by leading human rights groups in January and April.

Liberal Zionists are also stuffing the apartheid charge down the memory hole.

Peace Now has a long interview with Yossi Alpher describing the worsening relations between Palestinians and Jews since the Nation State Law and beyond, and never mentions the apartheid charge.

While in its “Resources for understanding” the crisis, the Union for Reform Judaism recommends articles by rightwing Zionists Douglas Feith and Yossi Klein Halevi, also Tom Friedman, but leaves out B’Tselem’s report, and Human Rights Watch’s too.

Or there is New York Times op-ed by Dahlia Scheindlin, the political consultant, who says the occupation and discriminatory laws passed by Netanyahu’s government since 2009 aim at maintaining Israel as a “Jewish-dominated state.”

These laws have roots in the conflict over national identity or occupation. They elevate the status of Jews over Palestinians, or they are tailored to constrain criticism of the occupation.

The motive for this effort is no mystery: It is aimed at ensuring that Israel remains a Jewish-dominated state, with minimal political opposition.

I think she should have mentioned the reports that give a different name for the problem, and assign blame to Netanyahu’s predecessors, too.

All these speakers are trying to deny the reality, there is not and will never be a real Palestinian state. And save Israel from the obloquy of the apartheid charge. It looks like they’re succeeding.

So where are the Palestinian voices in mainstream media?

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