Dredging Up the Israel/Apartheid Question

In addition to everything else they are, the scribblings on TheWashington Post
Op-Ed Page are often wildly out of touch. They often have the feel of
having been written a decade ago, stuffed under a mattress somewhere,
and then arbitrarily hauled out and dusted off for publication. With
seemingly no trigger, Richard Cohen woke up today and decided to write about a long-standing though not particularly relevant (and http://ygles

In addition to everything else they are, the scribblings on TheWashington Post
Op-Ed Page are often wildly out of touch. They often have the feel of
having been written a decade ago, stuffed under a mattress somewhere,
and then arbitrarily hauled out and dusted off for publication. With
seemingly no trigger, Richard Cohen woke up today and decided to write about a long-standing though not particularly relevant (and largely semantic) controversy:
whether the word "apartheid" is properly applied to Israel due to its
control of the West Bank and Gaza, whose non-Jewish residents have no
democratic rights in the country that rules over their land. Cohen,
for whatever reasons, focuses on Jimmy Carter's use of the word in his
book from four years ago, and takes the standard, predictable
position: the term is false, deliberately inflammatory, and often the
by-product of anti-semitism, etc. etc. But in dredging up this debate,
Cohen completely omits a very recent, highly significant event: the use of the term by Israel's own hawkish Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, just four weeks ago:

Israel's
defense minister warned Tuesday that if Israel does not achieve a peace
deal with the Palestinians, it will be either a binational state or an
undemocratic apartheid state. . . .

"The simple truth is, if
there is one state" including Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, "it will
have to be either binational or undemocratic. . . . if this bloc of
millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state."

Writing
about the Israel/apartheid controversy without mentioning Barak's
recent statement would be like writing a column about the Senate
reconciliation process without mentioning health care, or writing about
the U.S. military's counter-insurgency doctrine without mentioning
Afghanistan. But Cohen's glaring omission is understandable: there
has been an intense campaign to demonize those who analogize Israel's treatment of the Palestinians to apartheid (as Carter did, in the same way as Barak).
That demonization campaign becomes impossible if Israel's own Defense
Minister makes exactly the same point. So Cohen just shuts his eyes
tightly and pretends the whole thing never happened. Beyond that,
Barak's willingness to explicitly raise the comparison that is all but
off-limits in American political discussion once again illustrates the
bizarre fact that debates over Israeli policies are far more permissive
and open in Israel than they are in the United States.

© 2023 Salon