Sunday, May 28th | 8 Sivan 5783

May 2, 2023 12:00 pm

Foreign Affairs Article Urges Sanctions Threat Against ‘Apartheid’ Israel

× [contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]

avatar by Ira Stoll


A mock Israeli checkpoint set up during a past ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ at the University of California at Los Angeles campus. Photo: AMCHA Initiative.

Foreign Affairs, the journal published by the Council on Foreign Relations, greeted Israel’s 75th birthday with a long article claiming that the country “resembles an apartheid state” and urging Washington to threaten Israel with sanctions and “sharply reducing aid.”

The article, which runs more than 5,000 words, is by four professors—Michael Barnett, Nathan Brown, and Marc Lynch of George Washington University and Shibley Telhami of the University of Maryland. They are editors of a book, The One State Reality: What Is Israel/Palestine?, that was published in March by the Cornell University Press.

The article might be dismissed as an irrelevant rant by academics, but the hundred-year-old journal and the Council that published it have close ties to business, government, and media elites. The chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee on the Council’s board, Jami Miscik, is a former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency who sits on the boards of Morgan Stanley, General Motors, and HP Inc. The authors have also been on a tour of other institutions—Columbia, Harvard, the Brookings Institution—to promote their work.

The article is getting negative reviews from more accurate and responsible scholars, who say that it is misleading to focus only on Israeli actions and policies without also providing more detail about the context in which they arose. “As an Israeli who wants to end the occupation, it’s beyond me how an article like this, by serious analysts, scarcely mentions the Palestinian Authority and its failures — not all of which can be laid at Israel’s door — or the Palestinian violence that also shredded the Israeli Left,” wrote Yehuda Mirsky, a professor at Brandeis who was a State Department official during the Clinton administration.

Related coverage

May 25, 2023 11:14 am

Shavout: The Shadow of Mount Sinai Over Our Heads

The renowned American writer and humorist Mark Twain, is purported to have said “Action speaks louder than words, but not...

Headlined “Israel’s One-State Reality,” the piece is a mixture of false claims and half-truths paired with a policy agenda that is not justified by those false claims and half-truths.

Among the false claims is the assertion that, “Forced to choose between Israel’s Jewish identity and liberal democracy, Israel has chosen the former.” There’s been no such choice. And the two aren’t necessarily in conflict, especially when “liberal” is used, as the article uses it, not to mean left-wing but generally to mean respectful of individual rights and human dignity. How “liberal” is any democracy that is unable to tolerate Jewish identity? And how “Jewish” is anything illiberal and undemocratic? In addition, of all the moments to accuse Israel of having abandoned liberal democracy, a moment when Israelis are literally gathered by the tens of thousands in the streets to advocate for liberal democracy sure is a strange time to do it. The Foreign Affairs claim is not just false; it’s visibly false.

The Foreign Affairs article falsely depicts fringe views as representing a majority position of Israeli society. The article says:

The man he appointed as minister of national security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, has declared that Gaza should be “ours” and that “the Palestinians can go to . . . Saudi Arabia or other places, like Iraq or Iran.” This extremist vision has long been shared by at least a minority of Israelis and has strong grounding in Zionist thought and practice. It began gaining adherents soon after Israel occupied the Palestinian territories in the 1967 war. And although it is not yet a hegemonic view, it can plausibly claim a majority of Israeli society and can no longer be termed a fringe position.

It’s an internal contradiction for the article to claim, simultaneously, that “by any reasonable definition” Israel should be considered to include “all lands from its border with Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea,” and also that “a majority of Israeli society” wants to expel the Palestinians to Iran and reclaim Gaza. There’s not a majority for these positions among Israeli Jews, let alone for “Israeli” society under the maximalist definition that the authors ridiculously claim is reasonable.

The Foreign Affairs article claims that Israel “has control over a territory that stretches from the river to the sea, has a near monopoly on the use of force, and uses this power to sustain a draconian blockade of Gaza and control the West Bank with a system of checkpoints, policing, and relentlessly expanding settlements. Even after it withdrew forces from Gaza in 2005, the Israeli government retained control over the territory’s entry and exit points. Like parts of the West Bank, Gaza enjoys a degree of autonomy, and since the brief Palestinian civil war of 2007, the territory has been administered internally by the Islamist organization Hamas, which brooks little dissent. But Hamas does not control the territory’s coastline, airspace, or boundaries. In other words, by any reasonable definition, the Israeli state encompasses all lands from its border with Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea.”

Not only Israel but virtually every country, however, has border checkpoints and policing. Israel does not control Gaza’s border with Egypt. And the “near monopoly on the use of force” does not include the 77,000 security personnel on the Palestinian Authority payroll, the Hamas terrorist group that launches rockets at Israeli targets, or the Hezbollah missiles aimed at Israel from Lebanon. It’s cynical and misleading to blame Israel for conditions in Gaza, which Israel withdrew from 18 years ago.

Foreign Affairs has been drum-beating for a one-state solution for years, including in a 2019 article by Yousef Munayyer and a 2011 article by Ali Abunimah. The idea hasn’t gained much traction with American policymakers or with the Israeli public, though President Trump did say in 2017, “I am looking at two-state, and one-state… I can live with either one.” Polls also indicate that a majority of Israeli Jews are skeptical, based on experience, that Palestinians will embrace positions and conditions that would make a fully sovereign Palestinian state alongside Israel anything other than suicidal for Israeli security.

Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

Share this Story: Share On Facebook Share On Twitter

Let your voice be heard!

Join the Algemeiner

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.