A Confession

I’m going to confess something up front here: Until 2023 I wasn’t aware that Israel was an apartheid state.(1) I’ve been reflecting on this “revelation” over the last week or so and it’s become clear to me, embarrassingly so, that I had, for several decades, very subtly chosen to adopt a position of willful ignorance over the years when it came to the subject of Israel-Palestine. “It’s so complicated!” I used to tell myself and others. This was my stock answer. It was how I made the question go away.
Well, it turns out that the matter of whether Israel is or isn’t an apartheid state is not complicated. Israel is and has for decades been a textbook example of an apartheid state. “Israel’s apartheid policies are much worse than South Africa’s.” – Jimmy Carter 2007

“A Land Without a People for a People Without a Land”?

To go into the details of the 150 years of history that have shaped Israel’s culture is, obviously, well beyond the scope of this short piece of writing. That said, it isn’t beyond the scope of this article to attempt to synthesize the “condition of origin” that formed the core structural underpinnings of Israel’s basic ideology. An ideology that has, so far, not only fueled Israel’s inception but also, to a large degree, its’ longevity as a Middle Eastern state.
“A Land Without a People for a People Without a Land” is a phrase that was used by the Zionist movement as far back as the mid 19th century.(2) It became a central meme, a rallying cry that carried Israel through clash after clash up through the first half of the 20th century. Although the saying, “A Land Without a People for a People Without a Land”, is no longer used openly by Israelis as a slogan, it perfectly sums up the core beliefs and the underlying impetus for what has driven project Israel for well over a century.

Ursula von der Leyen and a Morphing Meme

We hear echoes of Israel’s original meme in other memes that are still being used today. For instance Ursula von der Leyen, the current head of the EU, made a speech less than a year ago in which she referred to Israel as the nation that “made the desert bloom”. (3) Although it is a somewhat more subtle declaration than the original Zionist rallying cry it is, essentially, saying the same thing. The meme insinuates that before the Jewish people inhabited the land they took from the Palestinians and currently occupy, there was nothing or next to nothing there. The Webster Dictionary definitions of a desert include the following: “a) An area without water apparently devoid of life”, b) A desolate, forbidding area, c) A wild uncultivated, uninhabited tract.”

The Natural Outgrowth of an Entrenched Contradictory Ideology

I feel I have to be completely straightforward here: However you slice it, the aforementioned proclamations, the memes I just spoke of, infer that the millions of people, who happened not to be white people, living on the land that Israel proceeded to take by force, acre by acre, region by region, over the course of many decades, are racist proclamations. They are racist memes that overtly deny the humanity of the millions of Palestinians that inhabited and still inhabit the land that Israel continues to forcibly take from them.

What ensued as a natural outgrowth of the obvious racism that has fueled project Israel from its outset is the birth of an apartheid nation, pure and simple. There isn’t anything that is remotely complicated about it. Israel is and has from its outset been the quintessential apartheid nation.

What I’m saying here is that the “condition of origin” of any undertaking will, eventually, however long it takes, rise to the surface and either threaten to upend the undertaking in question or support its continued existence as a project that is structurally coherent. Coherent in the sense that it is justified as an entity with a valid possibility of a future that is not enchained by contradiction in time and space. Put in less technical terms: When you don’t deal with your shit it comes back around to smear you.

Did Israel Have Other Options?

As difficult as it may have been to undertake, Israel could have officially dealt with its core contradiction at any time over the course of the last seventy-five years. To begin with, Israel would’ve had to clearly see and name its contradiction/s openly and honestly. This however, would have required, for a time, Israel’s losing face as a nation. It also would have required making massive adjustments, the likes of which may have seemed impossible to those who might’ve seriously considered dealing with this core contradiction.

All of this said, South Africa made the aforementioned massive adjustments and ended apartheid in their nation thirty years ago. Israel however, chose another path. They chose to bury, to repress, to turn away from their contradictions. This has culminated in Israel’s somewhat predictable attempt to end the existence of their neighbors via an act of mass slaughter and displacement of all of the Palestinians in their immediate vicinity. So far, Israel has chosen genocide as its means of dealing with its contradictions. (4)

What About October 7th, 2023?!

Indeed, what about October 7th of 2023?! In a future article I will dive more deeply into the details of what really took place during Hamas’ attack on October 7th. For now, I will say that the US-Israeli corporate military industrial complex’s version of what happened on Oct. 7 was designed to trigger maximum levels of vexation and desire for vengeance amongst the Israeli and Western publics.

Simply reporting on the coordinated violent rebellion of a people who have been encaged, periodically tortured, killed and gaslighted for decades, as well as being stripped of all means of egress and hope, would not be enough to justify the genocidal response that Israeli authorities had planned and are now carrying out.
In order to go forward with the current wholesale massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, largely of innocents, Israel’s heads of state knew they had to concoct a story of systematicly premeditated mass rape and beheadings to mute as many forthcoming voices of opposition as possible. (5),(6),(7)

Is There Still Hope?

Where there is life, there is still hope. It is incumbent now upon all of us in the world community who have heretofore made excuses, who have looked away, who, like myself, chose to adopt a position of willful ignorance instead of seriously looking into this matter before it exploded, to move forward with resolution. It’s time now to come to terms with our own contradictions as well as Israel’s. This is not, ultimately, about assigning blame. In fact it will be imperative that we eventually move beyond the stage of blame in order to open up a real space of possibility (8) in which a deep reconciliation will become practicable.

We must do now what the brave people of South Africa, both black and white, did thirty years ago. We must commit ourselves to truth and reconciliation. We must join together to condemn the current genocide and push for a ceasefire and eventual peace. This is the option that aligns our thoughts, our feelings and our actions. This is the coherent option. It’s the path of reconciliation and, ultimately, the path of Love. This path of reconciliation is what’s best for Palestine and it is, whether it’s clear now or not, what’s best for Israel.

1) https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2022/02/israels-system-of-apartheid/
2) https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/quot-a-land-without-a-people-for-a-people-without-a-land-quot-diana-muir
3) https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-65413810
4) https://www.pressenza.com/2024/03/gaza-israel-and-the-space-of-possibility/
5) https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/3/21/october-7-forensic-analysis-shows-hamas-abuses-many-false-israeli-claims
6) https://thegrayzone.com/2023/11/18/video-what-happened-october-7/
7) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-A49EK8-z5c
8) https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2024/02/israel-defying-icj-ruling-to-prevent-genocide-by-failing-to-allow-adequate-humanitarian-aid-to-reach-gaza/
*9) Jon Cohen – A dear friend of mine who gently needled me for years to see the light.