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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Yo Zushi is a contributing writer for the New Statesman. His work as a musician is released by Eidola Records.

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Who will win in Manchester Gorton?

Will Labour lose in Manchester Gorton?

The death of Gerald Kaufman will trigger a by-election in his Manchester Gorton seat, which has been Labour-held since 1935.

Coming so soon after the disappointing results in Copeland – where the seat was lost to the Tories – and Stoke – where the party lost vote share – some overly excitable commentators are talking up the possibility of an upset in the Manchester seat.

But Gorton is very different to Stoke-on-Trent and to Copeland. The Labour lead is 56 points, compared to 16.5 points in Stoke-on-Trent and 6.5 points in Copeland. (As I’ve written before and will doubtless write again, it’s much more instructive to talk about vote share rather than vote numbers in British elections. Most of the country tends to vote in the same way even if they vote at different volumes.)

That 47 per cent of the seat's residents come from a non-white background and that the Labour party holds every council seat in the constituency only adds to the party's strong position here. 

But that doesn’t mean that there is no interest to be had in the contest at all. That the seat voted heavily to remain in the European Union – around 65 per cent according to Chris Hanretty’s estimates – will provide a glimmer of hope to the Liberal Democrats that they can finish a strong second, as they did consistently from 1992 to 2010, before slumping to fifth in 2015.

How they do in second place will inform how jittery Labour MPs with smaller majorities and a history of Liberal Democrat activity are about Labour’s embrace of Brexit.

They also have a narrow chance of becoming competitive should Labour’s selection turn acrimonious. The seat has been in special measures since 2004, which means the selection will be run by the party’s national executive committee, though several local candidates are tipped to run, with Afzal Khan,  a local MEP, and Julie Reid, a local councillor, both expected to run for the vacant seats.

It’s highly unlikely but if the selection occurs in a way that irritates the local party or provokes serious local in-fighting, you can just about see how the Liberal Democrats give everyone a surprise. But it’s about as likely as the United States men landing on Mars any time soon – plausible, but far-fetched. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.