Is Israel an apartheid state?

The comparison must not be dismissed out of hand.

In a review of Anthony Julius's Trials of the Diaspora for the Daily Telegraph, Charles Moore warns of the anti-Semitism that is creeping "back on to English lawns". With little qualification, he argues that "criticism of Israel is often quite different from that of other countries involved in violent political conflict. It is existential criticism. It is against the Jews."

I agree that anti-Semitic attitudes are indeed prevalent in much of the debate surrounding the Israel-Palestine issue, but to blame liberals and progressives for this sorry state of affairs is wrong. I have touched upon this subject in a recent blog on Israel's plan to increase settlement activity in East Jerusalem, so will not go into depth here. Yet one line in Moore's article needs refuting. He writes: "In a weird ideological alliance with Islamism, the secular left now tries to argue that Israel is an 'apartheid' state."

Is this such an outrageous statement? In 2008, the then United Nations general assembly president, Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, said that Israel's actions on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip were reminiscent of "the apartheid of an earlier era". Risking public censure, he added: "We must not be afraid to call something what it is."

His views echoed those of the UN special rapporteur John Dugard, who announced in 2007 that "Israel's laws and practices certainly resemble aspects of apartheid". Citing house demolitions in the post-1967 occupied territories as an example, his report said: "It is difficult to resist the conclusion that many of Israel's laws and practices violate the 1966 Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination."

Were Brockmann and Dugard "in a weird ideological alliance with Islamism"? How about Desmond Tutu, patron of a Holocaust centre in South Africa, who, after a visit to the Holy Land in 2002, said: "It reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa"?

No area of political debate should be off limits, and to imply, offhand, that the likes of Tutu, Brockmann and Dugard are Islamist stooges is a failure of rational thought.

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.