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Is Israel Moving Toward the “Apartheid” Which Yitzhak Rabin Feared?

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
December 2015

In a previously unpublished recording of a 1976 interview, Israel’s fifth  
prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, can be heard calling the still nascent West  
Bank settler movement “comparable to a cancer,” and warning that Israel  
risked becoming an “apartheid” state if it annexed and absorbed the West  
Bank Arab population.  
The recording is being publicized for the first time in the documentary of  
Rabin’s November 1995 assassination by a right-wing Jewish extremist who  
opposed Rabin’s efforts to achieve peace with the Palestin¬ians.  
According to The Times of Israel (Sept. 25, 2015), “Rabin’s imperturbable  
monotone betrays increasing anger as he complains about the settlements  
growing in number and size … ‘I see Gush (‘The Bloc of the Faithful’ the  
ideologically driven founders of the settle¬ment movement) as one of the  
most acute dangers in the whole phenomenon of the State of Israel. Gush  
Enunim is not a settlement movement. It is comparable to a cancer on the  
tissue of Israel’s democratic society. It’s a phenomenon of an organization  
that takes the law into its own hands. I don’t say with certainty that we  
won’t reach the (point of) evacuation, because of the (Palestinian)  
population. I don’t think it’s possible to contain over the long term. If we  
don’t want to get to apartheid, a million and a half (more) Arabs inside a  
Jewish state.’”  
In an editorial, “Israel Is Destroying Its Own Freedom,” written on the  
occasion of the Jewish New Year, Haaretz (Sept. 13, 2015) declares: “The  
last colonial state which today celebrates the 48th Rosh Hashanah of the  
occupation, continues to believe that controlling another people ensures its  
victory. This superstition, which in the past vanquished great powers such  
as France, Britain and the Ottoman Empire, was shaken a few days ago by a  
terrifying symbolic picture. In the small village of Nabi Saleh, near  
Ramallah, an armed and masked Israeli soldier set upon Mohammed Tamimi, a  
12-year-old boy with an arm in a cast, his mother and additional female  
relatives then set upon the soldier, trying to free the boy from the  
soldier’s choke hold.”  
Haaretz continues: “If there is a symbol that summarizes and distills the  
reality of the State of Israel in the territories, it is the photograph from  
Nabi Saleh, which spread around the world like wildfire. In Israel some  
people were angry that the soldier did not shoot the boy, and some were  
astounded at the humanity of the soldier who decided, on the basis of either  
his conscience or the presence of television cameras not to shoot. This is a  
distorted dichotomy, which would not exist if Israel understood the  
occupation and morality, occupation and heroism, occupation and democracy  
cannot coexist … As long as Israel persists in the occupation, it condemns  
itself to destroying the freedom of the Palestinians and of itself.”  
Columnist Bradley Burston recently wrote an article with the headline, “It’s  
time to admit it, Israeli policy is what it is: Apartheid” (Haaretz, Aug.  
15, 2015) He states that, “What I’m about to write will not come easily for  
me. I used to be one of those people who took issue with the label of  
apartheid as applied to Israel. I was one of those people who could be  
counted on to argue that, while the country’s settlement policies were anti-  
democratic and brutal and slow-dose suicidal, the word apartheid did not  
apply. I’m not one of those people any more, not after the last few weeks.”  
Burston continues: “Not after terrorists firebombed a West Bank Palestinian  
home, annihilating a family, murdering an 18-month old boy and his father,  
burning the mother over 90 per cent of her body — only to have Israel’s  
government rule the family ineligible for the financial support and  
compensation automatically granted Israeli victims of terrorism, settlers  
included. I can’t pretend any more. Not after Israel’s Justice Minister  
Ayelet Shaked, explicitly declaring stone-throwing to be terrorism, drove  
the passage of a bill holding stone-throwers liable up to 20 years in  
prison. The law did not specify that it targeted only Palestinian stone-  
throwers. It didn’t have to. Just one week later, pro-settlement Jews hurled  
rocks, furniture and bottles of urine at Israeli soldiers and police at a  
West Bank settlement, and in response Benjamin Netanyahu immediately  
rewarded the Jewish stone-throwers with a pledge to build hundreds of new  
settlement houses.”  
In the end, laments Burston, “This is what has become of the rule of law.  
Two sets of books. One for us, and one for them. Apartheid. We are what we  
have created. We are what we do, and the injury we do in a thousand ways to  
millions of others. We are what we turn a blind eye to. Our Israel is what  
it has become. Apartheid.”  
Criticizing Prime Minister Netanyahu for his failure to confront Jewish  
terrorism, columnist J.J. Goldberg, writing in The Forward (Aug. 14, 2015)  
declares: “There’s all too much room in Israel for these creeps. As the Shin  
Bet security agency is now acknowledging, settler violence against  
Palestinians in the West Bank, largely discounted for years, is becoming a  
crisis. Property vandalism, burning of fields and cutting down olive trees  
have long been endemic. Most perpetrators are never caught. Most of those  
arrested are let off with a slap on the wrist or less. Now, though the  
agency says it is morphing into an armed conspiracy. Law enforcement  
authorities recommended stepped up measures a year ago, but Netanyahu vetoed  
then.” •

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