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 latest album, It Never Entered My Mind, is out now on Eidola Records and is on Spotify here.

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The Brexiteers have lost battles but they are still set to win the war

The prospect of the UK avoiding Brexit, or even a “hard” version, remains doubtful. 

Before the general election, the Brexiteers would boast that everything had gone their way. Parliament had voted to trigger Article 50 by a majority of 372. The Treasury-forecast recession hadn't occurred. And polls showed the public backing Brexit by a comfortable margin

But since the Conservatives' electoral humbling, the Leavers have been forced to retreat on multiple fronts. After promising in May that the dispute over the timetable for the Brexit talks would be "the fight of the summer", David Davis capitulated on the first day.

The UK will be forced to settle matters such as EU citizens' rights, the Irish border and the divorce bill before discussions begin on a future relationship. Having previously insisted that a new trade deal could agreed by 29 March 2019 (Britain's scheduled departure date), the Brexiteers have now conceded that this is, in Liam Fox's words, "optimistic" (translation: deluded). 

That means the transitional arrangement the Leavers once resisted is now regarded as inevitable. After the eradication of the Conservatives' majority, the insistence that "no deal is better than a bad deal" is no longer credible. No deal would mean the immediate return of a hard Northern Irish border (to the consternation of the Tories' partners the DUP) and, in a hung parliament, there are no longer the votes required to pursue a radical deregulatory, free market agenda (for the purpose of undercutting the EU). As importantly for the Conservatives, an apocalyptic exit could pave the way for a Jeremy Corbyn premiership (a figure they previously regarded as irretrievably doomed). 

Philip Hammond, emboldened by the humiliation of the Prime Minister who planned to sack him, has today outlined an alternative. After formally departing the EU in 2019, Britain will continue to abide by the rules of the single market and the customs union: the acceptance of free movement, European legal supremacy, continued budget contributions and a prohibition on independent trade deals. Faced with the obstacles described above, even hard Brexiteers such as Liam Fox and Michael Gove have recognised that the game is up.

But though they have lost battles, the Leavers are still set to win the war. There is no parliamentary majority for a second referendum (with the pro-Remain Liberal Democrats still enfeebled), Hammond has conceded that any transitional arrangement would end by June 2022 (the scheduled date of the next election) and most MPs are prepared to accept single market withdrawal. The prospect of Britain avoiding Brexit, or even a "hard" version, remains doubtful. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.