Wednesday, December 20, 2006
The A Word
By SAREE MAKDISI
"Former President Jimmy Carter has come under sustained attack for having dared to use the term "apartheid" to describe Israel's policies in the West Bank. However, not one of Carter's critics has offered a convincing argument to justify the vehemence of the outcry, much less to refute his central claim that Israel bestows rights on Jewish residents settling illegally on Palestinian land, while denying the same rights to the indigenous Palestinians. Little wonder, for they are attempting to defy reality itself.
Israel maintains two separate road networks in the West Bank: one for the exclusive use of Jewish settlers, and one for Palestinian natives. Is that not apartheid?
Palestinians are not allowed to drive their own cars in much of the West Bank; their public transportation is frequently interrupted or blocked altogether by a grid of Israeli army checkpoints -- but Jewish settlers come and go freely in their own cars, without even pausing at the roadblocks that hold up the natives. Is that not apartheid?.....
.....Israel loudly proclaims itself to be the state of the Jewish people, rather than the state of its actual citizens (one-fifth of whom are Palestinian Arabs). In fact, in registering citizens, the Israeli Ministry of the Interior assigns them a whole range of nationalities other than "Israeli." In the official registry, the nationality line for a Jewish citizen of Israel reads "Jew." For a Palestinian citizen, the same line reads "Arab." When this glaring inequity was protested all the way to Israel's high court, the justices upheld it: "There is no Israeli nation separate from the Jewish people." Obviously this leaves non-Jewish citizens of Israel in, at best, a somewhat ambiguous situation. Little wonder, then, that a solid majority of Israeli Jews regard their Arab fellow-citizens as what they call "a demographic threat," which many -- including the deputy prime minister -- would like to see eliminated altogether. What is all this, if not racism?
Many of the very individuals and institutions that are so vociferously denouncing President Jimmy Carter would not for one moment tolerate such glaring injustice in the United States. Why do they condone the naked racism that Israel practices? Why do they heap criticism on our former president for speaking his conscience about such a truly unconscionable system of ethnic segregation?
Perhaps it is because they themselves are all too aware that they are defending the indefensible; because they are all too aware that the emperor they keep trying to cover up really has no clothes. There is a limit to how long such a cover up can go on. And the main lesson of Carter's book is that we have finally reached that limit."