The rights group B’Tselem should be praised for its document last month “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is Apartheid.” It should be lauded largely for a reason the authors may not be aware of – or maybe they are but for some reason preferred not to address it.
As long as it was customary to believe that unlike the military occupation beyond the Green Line, Israel proper had a democratic regime, one could take pleasure in the famous Haaretz op-ed by the late Moshe Arens a decade ago proposing that Israel offer citizenship to the Palestinians in the West Bank. I remember well that Arens’ piece was enthusiastically received by some leftists who support the creation of one democratic state between the river and the sea.
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But now that B’Tselem has ripped the democracy mask off the apartheid face of the Israeli ethnocratic regime, we can no longer fantasize that a naturalization of the West Bank residents would bring the Palestinians into a fundamentally democratic country.
For those fantasizing about a “binational state” in the Greater Land of Israel, it should now be clear that even if they can imagine a “progressive” – and totally unrealistic – scenario under which the Palestinians beyond the Green Line receive full Israeli citizenship, this would mean subjecting them anew to a regime “reminiscent of the South African regime that sought to preserve the supremacy of white citizens,” as B’Tselem puts it. (Though the document does recognize differences between the two regimes, contrary to the claims of some of its critics.)
We can assume that the clear apartheidist practice of preserving Jewish supremacy in the “one state” would manifest itself in the imposition of military rule over the new Palestinian citizens, similar to the military government in “democratic” Israel from 1948 to 1966 that most Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel were subjected to.
While one state between the Jordan and the Mediterranean would continue the entrenchment of Jewish supremacy in Israel/Palestine, a viable Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders and the full evacuation of the settlements preventing vitial contiguity for the new state would mark the first significant crack in the wall of Jewish hegemony in the region. Indeed, it would be a painful blow to the warped nationalist-racist perspective under which only one people in the Israeli-Palestinian region – the Jews – deserves self-determination.
In its pointed conclusion, the B’Tselem authors note that between the river and the sea, “There are various political paths to a just future” based on human rights, liberty and justice. This vagueness is out of place. With the same clarity with which B’Tselem recognized the basic apartheidist logic of the Israeli regime, it should state that, in the preliminary stages, the path for battling the Jewish-supremacy regime runs through the national liberation of the Palestinians via a sovereign state in the territories captured in 1967.
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Contrary to the view among many Palestinian Israelis, the establishment of this state does not mean the abandonment of Israel’s Palestinian minority to the good graces of Jewish hegemony; it’s the first step toward establishing true equality between Jews and Palestinians in the region, including within Israel. The mass evacuation of the settlements, which were built to perpetuate Jewish supremacy in the region, would be a serious defeat for the ethno-nationalist forces in Israel and spur a revival of its democratic forces.
The B’Tselem document doesn’t just avoid pointing to a preferred diplomatic path for fighting Jewish supremacy, it doesn’t seem to note what steps can be taken to advance this struggle. But the very fact that it has applied the concept of apartheid to the Israeli regime between the river and the sea hints clearly at the methods needed, because apartheid, as we know, is fought with international pressure including boycotts and sanctions.
Indeed, to remove the stain of apartheid from Israel and redesign its government in the spirit of rational Zionism’s principles of equality and justice, which were never realized here, there must be uncompromising international pressure with the goal of forcing Israel to evacuate the settlements, which were built in violation of international law, and to agree to establish a viable Palestinian state.
Despite the welcome affirmation of the illegality of the settlement enterprise last week at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, it doesn’t seem that such pressure is likely in the foreseeable future. Still, we can assume that the more the principles in “This is Apartheid” seep into the international community's consciousness, the more such pressure will become reality.