Israel – US – Israeli “Apartheid” – Secretary Kerry, The Debate Is Really More Constrained By Poor Metaphors, Don’t You Think? – 3 May 2014

Please. If anything it is this article which shows what the limits of debate about Israel are.

US Secretary of State opened up a predictable diplomatic controversy by suggesting that Israel, if it continues present policies, could become an “apartheid state”, thereby joining a disturbingly large group of people who can’t seem to grasp that comparisons to apartheid should be radioactive politically if they are not rigorously supported by facts.

Greg Sargent attempts to supply innuendo and supposition to bolster Kerry’s claim, but this only proves how tenuous the claim really is: “The future prospect of apartheid comes from what is sometimes called ‘the demographic problem,’ which is that Palestinian birth rates are substantially higher than Jewish Israeli birth rates, and eventually the number of Palestinians will exceed the number of Israeli citizens, at which point you have a minority government ruling over a majority population without citizenship rights.”

A population without citizenship rights? About 20% of _Israeli citizens_ are “Israeli Arabs” – only a small portion of those being non-Muslim, and most self-identifying as “Palestinian” in ethnicity. That population votes in elections and is part of a pluralistic Israeli state which operates in two official languages – Hebrew and _Arabic_.

If I’m supposed to demand we all “Cry Freedom” about that, you’ll be a long time waiting for me to do that.

But such are the limits of the debate about Israel. No one acknowledges there are Israeli Arabs with rights recognised by some hypothetically uniform “Jewish state”. It would be nice if we could transcend _those_ limits. But I see no call for that here.

How about this propagandistic claim: “There’s no other country in the world for which any criticism of the policies of that country’s current government will immediately be met with charges of insufficient loyalty to that other country and the insistence that only supportive statements may be made. Nobody would accuse an American Secretary of State of being ‘anti-British’ or ‘anti-Japanese’ if he said a decision of one of those governments was problematic, but people are routinely called ‘anti-Israel”’ if anything but full-throated support for whatever the current Israeli government does should pass their lips.”

Um, if John Kerry said either Britain or Japan could prospectively become an “apartheid state”, then yeah, people would complain about his “criticism”. The point is, that venom seems only reserved for Israel. (By the way, Britain and Japan are not non-racialist utopias. British voters elected hardcore racist Nick Griffin to represent them in the EU parliament. Japan has long had a reputation for being unwelcoming even to Chinese or Korean immigrants, despite the fact that no visible characteristics seem to identify people from other Asian countries as distinct from native-born Japanese. Even given these things, it would be outrageous to leap from those observations to “Britain is prospectively an apartheid state” and “Japan is prospectively an apartheid state”. Both are democracies with some unsavoury ethnocentric movements disturbingly on the rise. Perspective is important here. We don’t junk all of democracy to send a message about some crackpots. So we should not with Israeli democracy.)

Most troubling about Sargent’s narrative is that he seems to find himself incapable of imagining that supporters of the defence of Israel could actually be interested for its own sake in defending Israelis. His language suggests that he assumes a greater geopolitical purpose _always_ motivates them: “Like others before it, this controversy played out according to a familiar script: 1) Official says something uncomfortable but true about Israel; 2) The Anti-Defamation League and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) condemn the statement,…

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