Unsurprisingly, last month's article in the Foreign Affairs magazine, which laid down the facts about Israel's apartheid system and Jewish supremacy, generated strong debate and criticism. Writing in the prestigious American journal, authors Michael Barnett, Nathan Brown, Marc Lynch and Shibley Telhami, claimed that Israel presides over a "One-State reality" and that it is "Time to Give Up on the Two-State Solution". The one state reality, they argued "is akin to apartheid" and the persistent invocation by political leaders and policy makers of the two-state solution, merely served "as a smokescreen to obscure this reality".
The authors further claimed that US policy has uniquely enabled the entrenchment of a single-state reality in which apartheid practices have become a feature. They urged Washington to stop providing cover for Israel's policies and start demanding basic rights and protections for Jews and Palestinians alike, including by imposing sanctions on Israel for violations of human rights and international law.
With a ferocious debate sparked by the article, this month's edition of the magazine invited policymakers, scholars and journalists to respond. Former Member of the Israeli Knesset and Ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, and former US Ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, joined the conversation. There are also three additional responses from the Tel Aviv–based Policy Fellow, Dahlia Scheindlin; Professor of Political Science at the University of Haifa, Asad Ghanem and Robert Satloff, Executive Director of the right-wing think tank, Washington Institute for Near East Policy. A response by the authors of the original article, Barnett, Brown, Lynch and Telhami, has also been included in the latest edition.
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Predictably, the fiercest criticism came from Oren, followed by Satloff and, less so, by Indyk. Scheindlin and Ghanem appeared to accept the claims about Israel's one-state reality and its practice of apartheid. As I said in my response to the original article last month, anyone closely following the debate on Israel's practice of apartheid is familiar with the legal arguments behind the claim. Since 2021, Major human rights organisations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, B'Tselem and many more have applied the term to describe Israel. As have many academics: according to a recent poll of Middle East–focused scholars who are members of three large academic associations, 65 per cent of respondents described the situation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories as a "one-state reality with inequality akin to apartheid".
No one who opposes the conclusion of the international human rights community has been able to offer a strong refutation of the claim that Israel has imposed an apartheid system. A culture of denial is endemic amongst advocates of Israel, as is the tendency to smear those that highlight routine violations of human rights and expose the countless laws that discriminate between Jews and non-Jews. I have come to accept that this line of defence is one that supporters of the apartheid state insist on, in order to avoid the personal trauma of realising that their vision of Israel is based on historical myths and moral contradictions. However, I did not expect to see the same culture of denial being displayed by advocates of Israel in a magazine as prestigious as Foreign Affairs.
Resorting to attack lines often associated with social media trolls, Oren denounced Barnett, Brown, Lynch and Telhami for using the term "Jewish supremacy". He seemed to be implying that it is anti-Semitic because the term, claims Oren, was coined by the Nazis. "Instead of striving to understand Israel's complex reality, they rail against 'Jewish supremacy', a term coined by the Nazis and later adopted by the Ku Klux Klan." Equally baffling is the false equivalence between questioning the viability of the two state-solution and America's failed wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. According to Oren, the demand for equality and insisting on Israel to end its military occupation "reflects the same devotion to ideological nostrums that convinces Washington, time and again, to brand dictators as reformers and allies as pariahs".
A similar line of attack was adopted by Satloff, who seemed more interested in playing the man, not the ball. "There is no getting around the perversity of advocating a solution that does away with the world's lone Jewish state" said the Director of the pro-Israel think tank, while repeating the usual argument often used to shut down debate on Israel and Palestine. The goal of such anti-rational assertion is to throw doubt over the motive of anyone who raises questions about Israel's policy. Instead of engaging with the arguments presented in the original article, Satloff tried to present the authors as extreme, and that their views are "far out on the fringe", as he claimed. The "worrying" aspect of this, according to Satloff, is that the authors "teach at major American universities".
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Neither Oren nor Satloff offered any serious counter-arguments to the central claim that a single, deeply entrenched state now controls all the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Both were intent on litigating history; finding ways to blame Palestinians for the collapse of the two-state solution and making false equivalences between the occupier and the occupied. Barnett, Brown, Lynch, and Telhami rejected Oren and Satloff's unfair and ahistorical criticism. "It was not Palestinians who built scores of Jewish settlements housing hundreds of thousands of Israelis across the West Bank, erected a vast array of checkpoints impeding Palestinian movement, built roads and infrastructure exclusively for the use of settlers, and established legal and military regimes that control the lives of everyone in the territory," they said, rejecting the arguments of Oren and Satloff that the victims of military occupation are equally guilty as the occupier.
A common trait of pro-Israel propagandist is to blame Palestinians for their subjugation, as Oren did in his piece. The former Israeli ambassador admitted that he never believed the two-state solution was viable, and yet goes on to blame Palestinians for its failure. Oren further blames the authors for not understating the degree to which, according to him, Palestinians sought to use the peace process as a "stealth instrument to destroy Israel". Yet, as Barnett, Brown, Lynch, and Telhami point out, it is Israel that claimed to endorse the two-state solution knowing, as Oren admitted, that it is not viable, while entrenching colonial expansion and ethnic cleansing, policies which made the very solution Israel purported to support, unviable.
Exposing the double standards, Barnett, Brown, Lynch, and Telhami questioned the bad-faith criticism of Satloff. In his piece "The No-State Solution", he made the case for Israel arguing that its existence is based on international law. "Contrary to Satloff's assertion, we did not question that Israel's existence is legally rooted in international law and recognition by other states", the authors replied in their rebuttal. "We simply insist that the same international law that establishes Israel's sovereignty and legitimacy obligates it to behave in certain ways in the territory it controls. Israel fails to meet those obligations, not because of a temporary occupation but because of an effective annexation of territory that deprives most of its inhabitants of basic human rights. If Satloff believes that such occupation is essential to Israel's nature, then he should be willing to clearly articulate and defend that position".
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A criticism of the original article which I am persuaded by is Scheindlin's. Her article "Hard Truths Are Not Enough" highlighted the different methods of control deployed by Israel to subjugate the Palestinian population. "As unflinching as the authors are, however, at points they do not go far enough," said Scheindlin in comments which debunked the spurious claim that Palestinians cannot be trusted if Israel withdrew from the Occupied Territories. "For instance, they note that Israel maintains a 'draconian blockade' of Gaza, controlling the territory's coastline, airspace and boundaries. This is correct, of course, but understates how Israeli control both harms Palestinian society and perpetuates itself. Israel severely restricts the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza, effectively controlling the economy. Israel also controls the territory's electricity supply, the allocation of frequencies for communication networks and even the population registry that regulates where Gaza residents can live. It has used this authority to stymie industry, housing construction, medical care, sewage treatment and water purification in a region where neighborhoods have been repeatedly demolished by war."
In opening the debate on Israel's one state reality, Foreign Affairs magazine has demonstrated that the likes of Oren and Satloff would prefer to bury their head in the sand and continue to believe in comforting lies, rather than face up to the real and serious concerns about what it means to have a state in historic Palestine that practices ethnic domination and apartheid, while subjugating half the population to decades of oppression, indignity and humiliation.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.