Bradley Burston is a senior editor of the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz in which he writes a regular column he calls “A Special Place in Hell.”
I have known Brad for 45 years. We were part of a Zionist student group at UC Berkeley, and we recently reconnected at a J Street national conference in Washington, D.C. that he was covering for Haaretz. He was a mensch when I knew him, and he still is.
Last week Brad wrote a column he titled “It’s Time to Admit It. Israeli Policy Is What It Is: Apartheid,” and he began this way:
“What I’m about to write will not come easily for me.
I used to be one of those people who took issue with the label of apartheid as applied to Israel. I was one of those people who could be counted on to argue that, while the country’s settlement and occupation policies were anti-democratic and brutal and slow-dose suicidal, the word apartheid did not apply.
I’m not one of those people any more. Not after the last few weeks….”
Brad then detailed the un-democratic and harsh Israeli Military Authority policies in the West Bank, the violent turn the settler movement has taken against Palestinians, and the current Israeli government response. He wrote his article in the wake of the recent bombing by Jewish terrorist settlers (allegedly) of a Palestinian home resulting in the murder of an 18-month old toddler, her father and serious burns suffered by other family members.
I believe the point of Brad’s article is that Israelis are ignoring the inhumane West Bank policies of its government. He wanted to shock people into paying attention.
I cringed. I don’t believe Israel’s West Bank military policy is Apartheid (see below). I’m concerned that the “A” word could serve as a pretext for right-wing Israelis and American Jews to discredit criticism of Israeli policies. I’m worried further still that Brad’s article could become fodder for the guns of the pro-BDS anti-Israel activists in America and around the world who would then claim: “You see – even Israeli journalists believe that Israel is an Apartheid State!”
I emailed the host of TLV1’s “The Promised” podcast, Noah Efron. This weekly hour-long program is among the most thoughtful conversations by Israelis in the English language on Israeli politics, culture and the Jewish world.
Noah Efron is a smart, funny and passionate Israeli, originally from the states, whose day job is being a scientist and Professor at Israel’s Bar Ilan University. His two fellow commentators originally hail from the US as well and include Don Futterman, the Director of the Moriah Foundation and a writer for Haaretz, and Allison Kaplan Sommer, a journalist who is published in all the world’s leading English language newspapers and periodicals. Listening to these three think out-loud is a weekly pleasure that I eagerly anticipate.
I asked Noah to consider doing a segment on the theme of Brad’s article – Is Israel an Apartheid State? He wrote back within hours to tell me he would. The program was aired this week and was titled “Israel and the ‘A’ Word.” It is a must-listen – 15 minutes only. You can find it here – http://tlv1.fm/the-promised-podcast/2015/08/20/israel-and-the-a-word/
This segment was exactly what I was looking for – a thoughtful critique of both Israel’s West Bank occupation and whether it is or isn’t Apartheid. All three commentators said it is NOT, but that Israel is on the road to Apartheid.
In my initial email to Noah, I shared with him part of an article I wrote several years ago on the delegitimzation of Israel that appeared in the Journal for Reform Judaism. Here is what I sent him:
In “An open letter to Archbishop Desmond Tutu” by Warren Goldstein, chief rabbi of South Africa, published in the International Jerusalem Post (November 12-18, 2010), Rabbi Goldstein writes, “…Israel has no Population Registration Act, no Group Areas Act, no Mixed Marriages and Immorality act, no Separate Representation of Voters Act, no Separate Amenities Act, no pass laws or any of the myriad apartheid laws. To the contrary, Israel is a vibrant liberal democracy and accords full political, religious and other human rights to all its peoples, including its more than one million Arab citizens, many of whom hold positions of authority including that of cabinet minister, Member of Parliament, and judge at every level, including that of the Supreme Court. All citizens vote on the same roll in regular, multiparty elections. There are Arab parties and Arab members of other parties in Israel’s parliament. Arabs and Jews share all public facilities, including hospitals and malls, buses, cinemas and parks, universities and cultural [venues].”
Palestinian Arabs living in the West Bank, however, are not Israeli citizens as are those living on Israel’s side of the Green Line (i.e. the 1949 armistice lines established after the War of Independence), and they do not enjoy the same protections as do those living in Israel. For them, their fight is and has always been one against occupation. … While the case can be made that Israel’s strong and often harsh security measures imposed on Palestinian Arabs living in the West Bank are a necessary evil in light of terrorism, we cannot ignore the fact that holding this territory for more than 40 years and keeping the residents there under occupation has had a corrupting moral influence on Israeli troops who have served in the West Bank and upon Israel as a whole.”