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Israeli Critic Exposes ‘Lie of Apartheid’

None other than US journalist Richard Cohen, a fierce critic of Israel, exploded the ‘Israel apartheid” lie. What about Saudi Arabia, he asks.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 3/4/2010, 10:03 AM / Last Update: 3/4/2010, 10:26 AM

Israel news photo

None other than Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, a long-time and fierce critic of Israel, has exposed the lie behind tying the Jewish State with the term “apartheid.” His column on Tuesday, under the headline “Israel has its faults, but apartheid isn't one of them,” tore apart the description as "pure racism."

Cohen’s comments coincided with “Israel Apartheid Week” events that are being staged on dozens of campuses throughout the world, predominantly in Canada and the United States.

“Israel's critics continue to hurl the apartheid epithet at the state when they have to know, or they ought to know, that it is a calumny,” wrote Cohen (pictured). “Interestingly, they do not use it for Saudi Arabia, which maintains as perfect a system of gender apartheid as can be imagined -- women can't even drive, never mind vote -- or elsewhere in the Arab world, where Palestinians sometimes have fewer rights than they do in Israel.”

The media watchdog group CAMERA noted, “The importance of [the article] appearing in the influential Post and secondarily in Post syndicate subscriber newspapers, especially at the beginning of international Israel Apartheid Week, should not be underestimated."

It pointed out, “If Israel can be tarred with the same brush as South Africa was when a white minority brutally repressed the black majority, it likewise can be ousted from the United Nations, denied international recognition (its sovereignty implicitly rejected), economically and militarily boycotted, and eventually brought to its knees.”

Cohen flatly stated that the linking of the word “apartheid” with Israel belies the truth. “The use of the word has become commonplace -- Google "Israel and apartheid" and you will see that the two are linked in cyberspace, as love and marriage are in at least one song,” according to Cohen. “The meaning is clear: Israel is a state where political and civil rights are withheld on the basis of race and race alone. This is not the case.”

He also took aim at former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, whose book “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid” set off a storm of protest in the Jewish community. Carter last year wrote a public apology for his previous criticisms that “stigmatize Israel” but did not refer to his own book’s description of Israel.

Cohen wrote, “Carter was waving the bloody shirt of racism, and he knew it.”

The journalist contrasted the official apartheid policy of South Africa decades ago, when the majority black population was denied citizenship and civil rights, with the situation in Israel, where Arabs and Jews have equal civil rights, including representation in the Knesset.

He stated, “Whatever this is -- and it looks suspiciously like a liberal democracy -- it cannot be apartheid.”

Despite Cohen’s rare defense of Israel, his column did not spare Israel from his usual condemnation of a Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria. He asserted that the areas are “not part of Israel proper, and under every conceivable peace plan -- including those proposed by Israeli governments -- almost all of it will revert to the Palestinian Authority and become the heartland of a Palestinian state.”

However, Cohen admitted that the term apartheid does not apply to Judea and Samaria, which he calls the West Bank, and wrote that "security concerns are not rooted in racism.”

As for Israel Apartheid Week, Cohen condemned it. He told readers, “Israel is not above criticism and the Palestinians have their case, but when that case is constructed out of lies about the Jewish state, it not only represents a wholly unoriginal cover of some old anti-Semitic ditties but also denigrates the Palestinian cause…"

“Years of this sort of stuff have made Israel tone-deaf to legitimate criticism and exasperated with any attempt to find fault. That's why Israel refused to cooperate with the South African jurist Richard Goldstone when, on behalf of the United Nations, he looked into alleged war crimes. The United Nations had once equated Zionism with racism. After that, it was hard to care what the United Nations thought.”