The Jerusalem Post Is Now Enlisting Washed-up ANC Apparatchiks to Whitewash Israel’s Practice of Ethnic Apartheid
On September 24, The Jerusalem Post published an article titled, “Israel is not an apartheid state, former South African defense minister says.” The article notes that the former African National Congress (ANC) minister in question, Mosiuoa Lekota, served time in prison with Nelson Mandela during South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle. He went on to serve in the government of then-South African President and ANC leader Thabo Mbeki between 1999 and 2008, though he subsequently left the ANC to form a new party called Congress of the People. Lekota appears to be something of an obscure has-been in South African politics, with his party winning just 0.27% of the vote in the country’s 2019 elections. He is no longer even a member of the National Assembly and currently holds no elected position at any level of government.
The article has been doing the rounds on Twitter/X, predictably being seized on with glee by Israel’s defenders both at home and abroad. The Jerusalem Post’s own editor tweeted that Lekota’s comments have supposedly “refuted one of the most pernicious lies about Israel.” The editor of the UK’s Jewish Chronicle, Jake Wallis Simons, meanwhile, tweeted out the article with the hashtag #Israelophobia. Other social media users who have been gloating about it include the founder of an organization calling itself “Jews & Allies.”
It appears that this is not the first time that Lekota has been wheeled out to “refute” Israel’s status as an apartheid state. A July 2021 blog post at the New Jersey-based Jewish Standard quotes him as stating: “I tried to find a comparison between how we lived under the apartheid regime and the situation in Israel and I could not find one.” This was subsequently repeated in tweets posted by an organization calling itself “Stand With Us” and its director Michael Dickson, who claims to be among the “Top 15 Most Influential Jews on Twitter.”
Lekota made his more recent remarks during an interview with the South African Friends of Israel earlier this month. (One can only imagine what kind of sycophantic treatment he receives given his prima facie propaganda utility. South African friends of Israel appears to be a subgroup within the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF). The “national chairperson” of both groups is one Rowan Polovin, who incidentally has himself written for The Jerusalem Post. The SAZF lists amongst its “affiliate organisations” the Jewish National Fund, which owns over 10% of Israel’s public land.)
The Jerusalem Post reports that Lekota stated:
“I was in Israel, my brother” …
“In Israel, you won’t find the same divisions between Jews and non-Jews that we used to witness during apartheid. There are no segregated buses for different ethnic groups, like Jews and Arabs.” …
“In Israel, everyone boards the same bus, travels wherever they need to, and disembarks as they wish. There is no apartheid in Israel, not even within their schools.”
First of all, Lekota doesn’t even have all of his facts straight. Because that last sentence is completely false; the truth is that the Israeli school system is almost completely segregated. This has been reported as fact by mainstream publications such as Haaretz and Foreign Policy magazine. And as Human Rights Watch has pointed out: “Discrimination against Palestinian Arab children colors every aspect of the two systems.” But this aside, the key to understanding why Lekota is seemingly so confused about this subject lies in the words I have italicized: “in Israel.” Condemnations of Israel’s practice of ethnic apartheid do not generally refer to Israel proper — that is, Israel within its pre-June 1967 borders.
To be clear, Palestinian citizens of Israel who live in Israel proper (sometimes referred to as “Arab Israelis”) are not treated as equally as Jewish Israelis and largely live as a persecuted and marginalized minority. According to a 2010 report by PeaceWorks authored by University of Haifa Professor of Sociology Sammy Smooha:
Arabs in Israel are most distinguished… in being an enemy-affiliated minority. In the eyes of the Jewish majority and the Jewish state, they are potentially hostile because they are part of the Arab world and the Palestinian people who remain inimical to Israel. … The state places Arabs under a machinery of control to better deter, discover, and punish acts of subversion and disloyalty.
So, even within Israel proper, there are certainly some parallels with South Africa’s experience of apartheid.
But those condemning Israeli apartheid are usually referring to the occupied territory of the West Bank, which lies outside Israel proper’s pre-June 1967 borders. And in the West Bank, ethnic apartheid is not just evident, but characterizes pretty much the entire way of life for the two ethnic groups that live there.
Those two ethnic groups are Palestinians and Israeli settlers. In spite of being the larger of the two with several million inhabitants, Palestinians are denied even the most basic of civil and political rights. They have no right to vote in any of Israel’s political institutions even though the land is ruled by Israel. The Israeli settlers, on the other hand, who are the smaller of the two ethnic groups with several hundred thousands of inhabitants, are afforded the full rights of citizenship of any Jewish Israeli in Israel proper. This is in spite of the fact that they are not even supposed to be there in the first place. Because the government-sponsored settlements they live in have been built for decades in flagrant violation of international law and in the face of widespread condemnation from the international community, including even sometimes from staunch allies like the United States.
While the Israeli settlers enjoy preferential treatment from Israeli security forces, the latter brutalize Palestinians on a daily basis. The occupying Israeli military and police frequently engage in arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, torture, and even extrajudicial killings of (often unarmed) Palestinians (including children as young as two-years-old). The Israeli state has also been found responsible for forced displacement, land expropriation and restriction of movement. And all of this happens in an atmosphere of near-total impunity.
As if all of this weren’t bad enough, Palestinians in the West Bank now also increasingly face violence from some of the Israeli settlers themselves. A December 2022 press release from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights stated: “Armed and masked Israeli settlers are attacking Palestinians in their homes, attacking children on their way to school, destroying property and burning olive groves, and terrorising entire communities with complete impunity.”
Furthermore, exactly the kind of ethnic segregation that Lekota claims doesn’t exist in Israel proper most certainly does exist in the West Bank, and in some cases has done so for a long time. He mentions segregated buses, for instance. Yet in March 2013 (that is, over a decade ago) NBC published an article titled: “‘A Palestinian Rosa Parks is needed’: Israel’s segregated buses spark outrage.” An even more egregious picture plays out with respect to roads. Specifically, some roads have been built for use exclusively by the Israeli settler population. In addition to segregated infrastructure, another central aspect of apartheid in South Africa — that of land — is very much in play in the West Bank as well. In June 2023, Haaretz published an article titled: “Half of West Bank Land Seized by Israel Exclusively for Settler Use, Report Says.”
In short, many facets of life in the West Bank are clearly analogous to the apartheid policies enacted by the South African National Party governments of the 20th Century. And this view is increasingly becoming an uncontroversial statement of fact repeated even in mainstream corporate-owned media including The Washington Post and MSNBC. Israel’s apartheid policies in the occupied West Bank have also been condemned by figures such as the Canadian legal scholar Michael Lynk, who served as the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian Territories between 2016 and 2022, and former US president Jimmy Carter, whose 2007 book on the subject is titled Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.
Mainstream human rights organizations — in spite of often playing down Israel’s crimes and taking brazenly pro-Western stances on other issues — have also described Israel’s behavior in the West Bank as apartheid. This includes Human Rights Watch — whose board of directors contains former State Department personnel — and Amnesty International — which has been condemned by human rights lawyer Francis Boyle for its pro-Israel bias. Even Israel’s own major human rights organization, B’Tselem, described the country as engaging in apartheid in early 2021.
As if this weren’t enough proof, even figures from Israel’s own political, intelligence, military and academic elite have done so as well. Former Israeli attorney general Michael Ben-Yair in February 2022 described Israel as an “apartheid regime.” Earlier this month, Tamir Pardo, who served as the head of the Mossad between 2011 and 2016, said: “There is an apartheid state here.” In August of this year, Amiram Levin, who served as head of the Israeli army’s northern front described the situation in the West Bank as “absolute apartheid.” In March of this year the Israeli Law Professors’ Forum for Democracy, made up of 120 of Israel’s leading legal scholars, issued a statement saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent policy changes “validate the claim that Israel practices apartheid.”
If even figures like this consider Israel to be practicing apartheid, then you can be sure that the claim is about as uncontroversial in political discourse as the Copernican system is in modern astronomy. The fact that The Jerusalem Post has to stoop to enlisting some buffoonish, washed-up ANC apparatchik to utter such obviously misleading and, at times, provably false propaganda shows just how desperate it has become in its pathetic, flailing effort to deny what is becoming obvious even to many of Israel’s own elites.