Opinion

The Message: West Bank Annexation = Apartheid

Dmitry Shumsky
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A protester against annexation holds a sign in Tel Aviv on June 23, 2020.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Dmitry Shumsky

A recent report by a new human-rights think tank – established and led by former Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon – is likely to become a seminal civil-political document in the public battle against the formal imposition, and validation, of an apartheid regime between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

Using plain language, “The Laundry Report: It’s Not ‘Annexation’ – It’s Apartheid,” the report by Zulat explains how the application of Israeli law to the occupied territories, or parts of them, will create a single political regime that will form the basis of two separate systems of law: one for Israeli citizens and another for the Palestinian population. The latter has no civil rights and will largely remain trapped in Bantustan-like enclaves in territories A and B (areas that, according to the Oslo Accords, are under full Palestinian control and Israeli security control, respectively).

The report uncovers the right’s calculated, comprehensive program to invent a new lexicon of annexation, aimed at concealing the fact that the planned move will result in apartheid. Along the way, the right systematically evades both the word “apartheid” and any discussion that even hints at the deeper consequences of the annexation on Israel’s political and civil identity, which, from the moment of the application of Israeli law to the territories and denaturalization of their Palestinian inhabitants, will officially and finally lose its democratic character.

As the report shows, the linguistic and conceptual whitewashing by the right – of the apartheid state in the making – has been a success for years. Positive-sounding and deceptive civil expressions such as “applying sovereignty,” whose purpose is to market to Israelis the apartheid projects wrapped in the shiny cellophane of officialdom, found their way to the heart of the mainstream media, turning these outlets into the abject handmaiden of the pro-Netanyahu right.

As paradoxical as it may sound, the findings of “The Laundry Report” could stir hope in the ranks of the left: They show that even though racist, ultranationalist, “Bibi-ist” right-wingers have ruled the country for more than a decade, they are still afraid. They are afraid that if Israelis were apprised of the full racist and deplorable significance of the apartheid state that the right is trying to sell them at the cost of destroying democracy, they might not buy their rotten merchandise and could even protest vigorously against its marketers.

It can be said, with the appropriate caution, that the right’s fears are justified. If a majority of Israeli Jews held the racist and fascist views of the Bezalel Smotriches and the Miki Zohars, the right wouldn’t bother to craft and distribute the apartheid-denying dictionary designed to win broad support for the annexation plan. The recreation of Israel as an apartheid state, one that has no comparison in the family of free nations in the 21st century, is a stark red line not only to those the right has the insolence to call the “extreme left,” but also to those who are described as, and describe themselves as, centrists.

The petition published in Haaretz June 26 declaring that “Annexation means ... establishing an apartheid state” is an example of the shared opposition to an apartheid state by the left on the one hand and the center-left and center on the other. Its signatories include public figures and former politicians who could scarcely be imagined standing shoulder to shoulder to fight for a common political cause.

On one side, individuals with unassailable leftist credentials such as Avraham Burg, Esawi Freige, Mossi Raz, Issam Makhoul, Dov Khenin and Galon, and on the other side, clear centrists such as Yona Yahav, Amnon Rubinstein and Ephraim Sneh, and even one person from the center-right, Meir Sheetrit.

Moreover, it would appear that Yesh Atid voters may not accept the idea of creating an apartheid regime in Israel. As Yossi Verter wrote (Haaretz, June 26), Yair Lapid “has no qualms about joining the no-confidence vote the Joint List proposed, ... [titled] ‘the annexation and apartheid government must fall.’”

In other words, Lapid believes, and rightly, that a clear, strong voice against an apartheid state could actually lead his supporters in the center to stand behind him even more fiercely, rather than deterring them. They, like his supporters on the left, are troubled by the prospect of the official cancellation of Israeli democracy that the establishment of an apartheid regime would necessarily entail.

It is possible, then, that a fundamental political change, from a state with democratic trappings to a nondemocratic state that differentiates between citizens and subjects who have no political rights, could rouse many Israelis from the political center from their apathy and indifference.

To prompt this group to join with the remnants of the left to halt the apartheid project, the route taken by “The Laundry Report” should be followed: Drive home the message, again and again, that annexation and “imposing sovereignty” do not and cannot mean anything other than the official establishment of an Israeli apartheid state.

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