Top Israelis Have Warned of Apartheid, so Why the Outrage at a UN Report?

IN HIS MEMOIR, the Israeli journalist Hirsh Goodman described how he returned home from the Six Day War in June 1967 to hear the country’s founding father and first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, speak on the radio. “Israel, he said, better rid itself of the territories and their Arab population as soon as possible,” recalled Goodman. “If it did not Israel would soon become an apartheid state.”

Goodman was born and raised in apartheid-era South Africa. “That phrase, ‘Israel will become an apartheid state,’ resonated with me,” Goodman wrote. “In a flash I understood what he was saying.”

In a flash. Yet fifty years later, despite an entrenched and ongoing occupation, Israel’s defenders angrily reject any invocation of the A-word. Leading U.S. politicians who have dared utter it in relation to Israel, such as John Kerry and Jimmy Carter, have been forced to apologize and backtrack. Last week, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UNESCWA) became the first U.N. agency to publish an official report documenting how “Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole,” and this provoked — as my colleague Glenn Greenwald has noted — a huge furor which led to the U.N. secretariat removing the report from its website and the Jordanian head of the UNESCWA, Rima Khalef, quitting in protest.

Good riddance, say supporters of the Jewish state. To mention the grotesque crime of apartheid in the same sentence as the democratic state of Israel, they claim, is “slander”, a “smear”, a “despicable” and “blatant lie”, a shameful act of “Israel-bashing” and a “new form of anti-Semitism.”

So what, I wonder, does that make Ben Gurion? Dishonest or despicable? How about Yitzhak Rabin, who told a TV journalist in 1976 during the first of his two terms as Israel’s prime minister, “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”? Was he also engaged in a smear campaign against the nation he led?

In recent years, two more former Israeli premiers, Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak, have echoed their illustrious predecessors’ warnings. Olmert has predicted that “if the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, then the State of Israel is finished” while Barak has declared that “if this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.”

Are they Israel bashers, too?

Meanwhile, several high-profile Israelis have suggested that apartheid is not a future risk but a present reality, including former education minister Shulamit Aloni (“Israel practises its own, quite violent, form of apartheid with the native Palestinian population”), former environment minister Yossi Sarid (“what acts like apartheid, is run like apartheid and harasses like apartheid, is not a duck — it is apartheid”) and former attorney general Michael Ben-Yair (“we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories”).

Others have gone even further, recognizing that Israel is in complete control between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and extending the apartheid analogy from the occupied West Bank and Gaza to inside the Green Line, to what’s considered Israel proper. Former Foreign Ministry chief Alon Liel, who also served as ambassador to South Africa, has said that “until a Palestinian state is created, we are actually one state. This joint state…is an apartheid state.”

Are we expected to dismiss all of these former Israeli officials as Israel-haters?


An apartheid notice on a beach near Capetown, denoting the area for whites only. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images) An apartheid notice on a beach near Capetown, South Africa, denoting the area for whites only. Photo: Keystone/Getty Images

And what shall we do with the testimonies of prominent South Africans who defeated apartheid at home — only to be horrified by what they then witnessed in the occupied territories? “I’ve been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land,” wrote the Nobel Peace Price-winning bishop Desmond Tutu in 2002. “It reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa.” A range of senior officials from the African National Congress have backed Tutu’s comparison, including former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe (“the current situation… is worse than conditions were for blacks under the apartheid regime”), current speaker of the South African parliament Baleka Mbete (“far worse than apartheid”) and former South African intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils (“the Israeli measures, the brutality, make apartheid look like a picnic”).

Are we expected to believe that all of these veterans of the South African anti-apartheid struggle have lost their minds? Are we supposed to denounce them as anti-Semites?

Then there is international law. What is often left unsaid in much of the debate over Israel and the A-word is that one can legitimately debate whether, or to what extent, modern Israel resembles apartheid-era South Africa. In the occupied West Bank, with its “separate and unequal” road networks, water systems and housing policies, and where Israeli settlers are bound by Israeli civil law while Palestinians are judged according to Israeli military law, it seems an open and shut case. Inside the Green Line, where Palestinian citizens of Israel have the right to vote and stand for parliament and where Arabic is an official language it is, admittedly, less clear-cut. However, human rights groups like Adalah point to more than 50 different laws or bills in Israel that privilege Jews over Arabs or discriminate in favor of Jews in areas such as housing, education and family reunification.


A car drives on a new segment of a highway separating Palestinian and Israeli traffic near the West Bank city of Ramallah, 12 August 2007. Once finished, the highway will connect north of the West Bank to its south, bypassing Jerusalem. The highway will be used by both Palestinians and Israelis, but on two different lanes separated by a wall of concrete. AFP PHOTO/ABBAS MOMANI (Photo credit should read ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images) A concrete wall separates Palestinian and Israeli traffic on a highway near the West Bank city of Ramalla, in 2007.Photo: Abbas Monmani/AFP/Getty Images

Yet under international law, apartheid is a specific crime with specific definitions, independent of the South African experience. The 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid widened the definition of apartheid to “similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination as practiced in southern Africa” and applied it to “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group,” including the denial of free movement and the expropriation of land.

Four years after the collapse of the Afrikaner regime in South Africa, the 1998 Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court (ICC), defined apartheid as “inhumane acts…committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”

From a strictly legal perspective, therefore, whether or not Israel is identical to, or even resembles, apartheid-era South Africa is, frankly, irrelevant. The only issue that matters is whether Israel is in violation of international law. In 2009, a team of academics and lawyers commissioned by South Africa’s statutory research agency concluded that Israel maintains “a system of domination by Jews over Palestinians” and “this system constitutes a breach of the prohibition of apartheid.” In 2013, another study co-authored by international law professor and former UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Territories, John Dugard, found “Israeli practices in the occupied territory are… in breach of the legal prohibition of apartheid.”

Back in 1967, Goodman understood in a flash what Ben Gurion was trying to say. Today, defenders of the Jewish state refuse to understand the warnings of former Israeli prime ministers, the condemnations of South African anti-apartheid activists, and the clear strictures of international law. For Palestinians, however, this is far from an academic issue or a mere debating point. For fifty years they have been the victims of discrimination, segregation and oppression. How much more do they have to endure?

— source theintercept.com by Mehdi Hasan

The General’s Son

Days of Revolt 038
Chris Hedges interviews Miko Peled, Israeli peace activist and author of The General’s Son: The Journey of an Israeli in Palestine

Today we’re going to talk about the construction of the state of Israel, founded in 1948, and its historical, cultural, and political legacy. A state that took over a land that for seven centuries had been Muslim, engaged in a process of historical amnesia as well as ethnic cleansing, and has now devolved increasingly into an authoritarian, some would say even Jewish form of fascism.

And with me to discuss that process is the great Israeli peace activist, Miko Peled, born and raised in Jerusalem. His father fought in the Israeli war of independence, became a general in the Israeli defense force, and eventually rose up as a significant and extremely important peace activist in his own right, a great legacy to his children. Miko was in the military at the time of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. He served as a medic. And he has been one of the most courageous and outspoken voices for justice within Israeli society.

Thank you, Miko, for joining us.

PELED: Yes.

HEDGES: We had spoke a little bit before the camera, that this progression into an assault on civil liberties, which has become extreme within Israel, the rise of politicians, Lieberman, Netanyahu, and others who are overtly racist, is in your words a kind of natural progression. And it’s one that is often hard to see because I knew when I was in the Middle East, some of the early figures as you probably did of the Israeli state, people like Teddy Kollek, [inadible] Rabin, Abba Eban, you know, well educated, urbane, Eban was in his own right an impressive intellectual. Talk a little bit about how that natural progression took place.

PELED: Well, I think that all of those early zionist leaders understood that in order to accomplish their goals they have to have this beautified package. And it was up to them to present this beautified package. This very civil, very western, very [crosstalk] liberal–

HEDGES: [interceding]–Secular–

PELED: –Secular and open-minded face, and they did a very good job in doing it because they were secular, they were quite liberal. They were European, they were white. And so they’re very good at that.

PELED: And having had that mask so to speak, they were able to commit terrible atrocities. Now they’re committing these atrocities against people who were brown so nobody really cared that much.

HEDGES: Are you talking about ‘48?

PELED: I’m talking about the ethnic cleansing of ’48, basically, which is the foundation of the state of Israel. Without that there wouldn’t have been a state of Israel. There was a foundational moment, the massacres, the terrorism that that involved. And a state that begins with that, you know, [crosstalk] this is foundation much like the United States–

HEDGES: [interceding]–Well much like, the United States, although we threw slavery on top of it.

PELED: Exactly.

So, they understood that you know, in order to present yourself in civil society you have to look civil. Today’s Netanyahu and Bennett and all these guys, they don’t understand why they have to pretend because they’re getting all the money and all the support they need from America and from the Europeans. They’re doing quite well. They’re continuing the same policies, they’re continuing the same atrocities. Of course, they’ve got better technology so they’re killing more people, perhaps. But they don’t understand why, and [Eidan Papi] wrote this, and he said, you know they just dropped the facade, they’re the exact same people but they dropped the facade. And it’s true. They don’t understand why they need the facade, so they dropped it.

HEDGES: But let’s go back, because I covered Oslo. And perhaps my reading of Rabin is different than yours. It appeared to me, as a reporter that was covering Rabin, that he really did recognize that the occupation was destroying his country, and had a commitment to end it, he understood that he had to integrate as part of the Oslo agreement, the Palestinians into the Israeli economy to give them a stake in the culture in order to bring peace. And then of course, with the rise of Netanyahu he is being burned in effigy at Netanyahu rallies, dressed as a Nazi, and he’s assassinated. It does seem that there was, within Rabin, a kind of cathartic moment, a moment of recognition, but perhaps that’s not a narrative you agree with, I don’t know.

PELED: Yeah, my take is a little bit different.

HEDGES: Okay.

PELED: I see Rabin as a terrible war criminal.

HEDGES: Well he was, without question.

PELED: Without question, who hated the Arabs, hated the Palestinians, despised them, looked down on them, and there was no way in hell he was going to allow them to establish an independent state in the West Bank.

HEDGES: So how do you read Oslo then?

PELED: Well Oslo was, Oslo I think did exactly what it was supposed to do, which was to strengthen Israeli hold on the land, on the resources, on the people, and give Israel more control, but bring in the Palestinian leadership to maintain some security, maintain some peace and quiet among the Arabs. And I remember when Oslo started, when Oslo came out, my father wrote an article saying Rabin crossed the Rubicon. You know, he shook Arafat’s hand, this is a great step. Later on, after he actually took a look at the Oslo Accords, there was an interview with him in one of the Israeli papers, and he said Rabin does not want peace. This is not a peace accord, this is an accord that’s going to keep the Palestinians completely [crosstalk] dependent on Israel–

HEDGES: [Interceding]– Because they kept the borders. Israel kept the borders.

PELED: Israel, I mean the Palestinians, there was nothing that was promised to them that was given them. They got no borders, they got no capital, they got no state.

HEDGES: And they were promised I think 5 billion dollars, which then never appeared, but that’s the fault in Europe. I mean, the European Union.

PELED: I mean, in terms of how Israel saw, they saw this as an opportunity to bring in the Palestinians, bring in Arafat and his people, to manage some of the problems, collect the trash, perhaps do one or two of the things, and give them very little authority. Palestinians got absolutely nothing from Oslo, and Israel got everything from Oslo. And people talk about Oslo as a process that failed, I disagree. I think Oslo did exactly what it was supposed to do, and the reality that exists today, life for Palestinians is far worse than it was and it is a direct result of Oslo, and I think Oslo was intending, that was an intention of Oslo.

I’ve got this picture that I have, of Clinton, Mubarak, King Hussein, Rabin, and Arafat all marching together on the red carpet in the White House, and when you look at that picture it says everything. There’s no way that those people are going to do anything, with the exception of Arafat perhaps, that was going to help the Palestinians. These were two vicious Arab dictators that were already in the pocket of Israel, an American president, which we know has to be in the pocket of Israel or else he wouldn’t be president, and an Israeli war criminal.

So I was thinking, I remember when my father said this, Rabin does not want peace. Rabin was getting the Nobel Peace Prize. How could he say this? But he read the Accords, and like other people who read the Accords, he say them for what they were worth.

HEDGES: Boy, he was ahead of me then.

PELED: He was ahead of a lot of people. [crosstalk] He was ahead of a lot of people–

HEDGES: [interceding]–Let’s talk a little bit about your father. So, he reaches a position, I mean, especially, Israeli is a militarized society so, you know, it’s not just rising within the military. You know, you achieve supreme social status by being–this is how Rabin, of course, ends up becoming prime minister, Netanyahu living off the legacy of his brother who was killed in Entebbe in the raid, and he breaks with that establishment. And, you know, I’ve got to believe in, you wrote a book, “The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” that life became difficult for you and your family.

PELED: Yes. Less, well, maybe for me too, but a little bit less. He never thought that there was a break. The way he saw it, he thought that he was completely consistent in his entire life, and what led him to decide and say the things that he did say and think the way he thought was, what was best for the state of Israel? What was best for the Jewish state?

And he was a hawk his whole life. He was a young officer in 1948, you know. At one point before 1948 he left the Palmach, you know, the Jewish militia, because they weren’t doing enough. He thought they were just sitting around doing nothing so he left, he quit, which was unthinkable. And then he came back in ’47 and, of course, the war of independence began, so he joined back and he was in the military as an officers. And then he remained in the military and he dedicated his whole life to the military and then, in the weeks leading up to the ’67 war, he made a name for himself as the one who was the harshest critic of the Israeli government because the government was hesitating and not giving the generals the okay to start the war.

And I talk about it. I looked up these meanings in the Israeli army archives. The way he spoke to the prime minister was, you know, any other prime minister would have fired him and kicked him out, out of the room. So that was his legacy, and then the day after the war is over he stands up and he says, we now need to make peace [crosstalk] with the Palestinians.

HEDGES: [interceding] Well, we should be clear that the ’67 war saw the seizure of East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

PELED: Yes, and the Sinai and the Golan [crosstalk] Heights–

HEDGES: [interceding]–And the Sinai and the Golan Heights, right–

PELED: –And then he stood up the next day after the war was over. In the very first meeting, the weekly meeting of the general high command, and he said we now have an opportunity to solve the Palestinian problem and here’s how we need to do it. We need to use the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and allow the Palestinians to establish their own state there. We will solve the problem once and for all and we can move on.

And he also said, if we don’t do this now we’re going to have terrible resistance. We’re going to have terrorism, and we’re going to end up being a binational state. It’s going to be the end of the Zionist state. And he felt very strongly that there should be a Jewish state, a Zionist state, and he was a Zionist until his last day. But, of course, as he was saying this the Israeli bulldozers were already destroying Palestinian towns and building for Jews only in the West Bank, and they really saw it as an extension of the rest of Israel.

The rest of the establishment, both the political and military establishment, saw the taking of the West Bank as completing the job of 1948, which they thought, you know, at the time, they thought it was a mistake that Israel didn’t take the West Bank. But anyway, for reasons that had to do with Israeli politics, not anything to do with the Palestinians, the West Bank wasn’t taken in ’48. So they completed the job. They had the opportunity and for them it was done. Now we build for Jews and get rid of these Arabs.

He saw it as an opportunity, and I think in a way he was naive. He though you could restrain this beast that was created, restrain this colonial beast that was established in Palestine, and of course you can’t restrain it, you know, it has a voracious appetite that knows no end, which is why he and several other notable Israelis [of his day], Yeshayahu Leibowitz, or we have [Neri] and several others who [crosstalk] became–

HEDGES: [interceding]–Leibowitz being the great intellectual, we should mention, who kind of presciently predicted, I think he even used the word fascism, that would come to Israel if it essentially carried out this colonial project.

PELED: Yes. In fact, Leibowitz coined the phrase Judeo-Nazi for the soldiers who were occupying. So, I think they were naive, because they thought they could restrain this. They thought there was this good side of Zionism and we need to push for that. And, of course, they were wrong, sadly, and that’s the reality that we have today as a result of the fact that they were wrong, you know?

HEDGES: So, now within Israeli society if you stand up and defy the dominant narrative, which is racist towards Arabs, Palestinians, and we can look at some, you know, really historic Israeli figures: Gideon Levy, Amira Hass, Uri Avnery, my sense is that the persecution is far fiercer, perhaps, than what your father endured. Is that correct?

PELED: Well, my father, what my father endured was more of an isolation. You know, I remember, and I talk about this in the book, too, I remember my mother saying, you know, people don’t invite us anymore–

HEDGES: –He goes on to be an academic, right?

PELED: He goes on to become an academic, [crosstalk] and he teaches–

HEDGES: [interceding]–In Arab literature, right?

PELED: Yes.

HEDGES: Yes, wow.

PELED: He taught Arabic literature. He became an expert in Arabic literature. He wrote about Naguib Mahfouz, and so on. But, politically, he was very active. He dedicated the rest of his life to the idea of peace with the Arab countries, peace with the Palestinians. He dared to say Palestinians instead of just calling them Arabs–

HEDGES: –And we should note that among Palestinians he was one of the very few Israeli figures who was really revered.

PELED: Yes. Even today, when I travel around the country, people say, oh, you know, you’re the son of Abu Salam, Abu Salam, you know?

HEDGES: Salam means peace in Arabic.

PELED: So, yeah, they did respect him and appreciate what he did for them, also on a very personal level because he would help people, you know, if somebody’s son was in prison, somebody’s land was taken, so he would use his influence while he still had it, but they were isolated socially as well. Like my mother would say, nobody invites us anymore. You know, all our friends do things and we’re not invited. It didn’t bother him so much. He wasn’t really a social guy but my mother, you know, was troubled.

At school I would, you know, people would say that my father was an Arab lover, which is a terrible thing to, you know, terrible thing to be an Arab lover, of course.

HEDGES: Let’s just stop there for a minute and talk about what happens in Israeli schools, the indoctrination.

PELED: Well, the narrative is taken for granted. So it’s not, I mean, it’s taught as something we all accept as true, you know?

HEDGES: Which narrative?

PELED: The narrative that says that we returned to our land.

HEDGES: Right.

PELED: We were gone for two thousand years because we were kicked out. Now we’re back. It’s our land, we took it. We’re reasonable people. We agreed for the Arabs to stay. We accepted the partition plan. They attacked us. After they attacked us and we won we still asked them to stay and not leave and they all just got up and left, so now we have their homes. We have their land, you know–

HEGES: –And of course they were driven out.

PELED: Of course they were driven out, but we don’t talk about that. We can’t say that.

And then they attacked us again and they attacked us again, and thankfully, being the descendants of the Maccabees and King David, we defeated them every time, but all we want is peace and all we get is, you know, rockets and attacks from these Arabs, [crosstalk] and terrorism.

HEDGES: [interceding] Well, Omar Bartov, the great Israeli historian, writes about the way the Holocaust is used within Israeli schools to essentially tie Arabs to the nazis.

PELED: Yeah. Well, they do it in two ways. One is, there’s a natural progression. You know, there were the Egyptians, and then the Greeks, and then the Romans, and the Inquisition, and then the Nazis, and then the Arabs. You know, people hate us because we’re Jews. There’s anti-Semitism, and that’s just our fate. You know we have no choice, and we have to do our best to fight them.

The other thing is this famous meeting of the Mufti of Jerusalem [crosstalk] with Adolf Hitler–

HEDGES: [interceding]–With Hitler, right–

PELED: –And that gets blown, you know, I think Netanyahu said, I don’t know, six months ago or so, that [crosstalk] the idea to [exterminate]–

HEDGES: [interceding]–Hitler, that the Mufti had suggested to Hitler that he liquidate–

PELED: [crosstalk]–to destroy, yeah, exactly.

HEDGES: [crosstalk] Right, he had to backtrack on that.

PELED: –So, I mean, that’s the narrative, and it’s an insane narrative, and there’s very little dissent that’s allowed. Not that it’s illegal, but socially, and when you’re in society you cannot bring the possibility that perhaps, you know, Israel is an occupier, perhaps Israel contributed to the suffering of [crosstalk] Palestinians.

HEDGES: [interceding] Is it worse now? Because when I lived in Jerusalem you didn’t have the quote-unquote security barrier that has been built, you know, from one end of Israel to another blocking, in essence, the West Bank from the rest of Israel. People would actually go to get their car fixed, you know, in Ramallah or something. There was more, your gardener may have been Palestinian, which has now been stopped. Do you think that because of that the racism is worse now in Israel or not?

PELED: Well, I don’t know–

HEDGES: –Because there’s no, virtually no contact.

PELED: There’s–I don’t think the racism is worse. I don’t think it could get worse from where it was.

HEDGES: Okay.

PELED: I mean, Israel established itself as a racist, apartheid state from day one, just by the laws they passed and, you know, the nature of the state. But now they added this security issue, this threat from the Palestinians, as though they are out there to get us and kill us and, you know, especially after Oslo the peace process fell apart.

So they use that to isolate, and I think two things happen. Number one, the Israeli, the more liberal kind of peace camp was a Zionist peace camp, which is why it’s failed, because they’re trying to restrain–They didn’t want to give up on Zionism, which is really a racist, colonialist ideology, but they wanted ti have this nice, friendly face.

HEDGES: Well, they’d run summer camps and they’d have Jewish kids and Palestinian kids play together, and then they’d send them back to, you know, Israeli occupation as if that was somehow going to bring peace.

PELED: Exactly. So the kids go back, the Palestinians go back to the refugee camps, the Israelis go to the [crosstalk] military–

HEDGES: [interceding]–The beach in Tel Avi, [wherever] the military, [audible laughter]–

PELED: –[inaud.] the military, and then they shoot the same kids and so, you know, that still goes on.

So that’s one reason it failed. The other reason is, you know, the establishment does not want any kind of relationship between Israelis and Palestinians because eventually people will realize that there is no threat, you know, and that, to them, is a threat.

But I think the discourse, like I said, because they dropped the facade, seems a lot more blunt. Seems a lot more racist, you know? But the essence of Israeli society and the essence of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians, I don’t think it’s changed at all.

HEDGES: Now, you suffered a personal tragedy. Your niece was killed in a suicide bombing in Jerusalem on a bus, right?

PELED: Not a bus. It was a suicide bomber–

HEDGES: –A suicide bomber–

PELED: –On the street. Yeah.

HEDGES: And that had on a huge effect on you, but in an interesting way, in that it made you, you know, rather than retrench and demonize, it pushed you in the other direction. Can you talk a little bit about what happened?

PELED: Yeah. I think it has to do with the fact that, by the time this happened, you know, my father had already passed away, but he left us with this legacy of understanding that the Palestinians were not the enemy and that they were not the devil, and that we are responsible for their suffering. So, you know, we already came into that with that.

When this terrible, unspeakable tragedy happens, you know, don’t know what to think or say. You just kind of, it’s all emotion. But really, it was my sister Nurit who stood up and said, first of all, when Netanyahu, who was prime minister, called and wanted to come and, you know, pay his condolences and so on, they told him not to come. They didn’t want him in the house, because they said, you’re responsible.

The second thing, you know, people asked about retaliation and all this, she said, retaliation? Are you out of your minds? You mean you want to kill more people? And she said, no real mother would want to see this happen to any other mother. Don’t talk to me about killing more people. And besides, we are responsible. You know, when you maintain this kind of a brutal oppression of another people this is the price that you pay as a society of the oppressors. You know, this is what happens to us. This is the price that we pay, and we hold the Israeli government, she said she and her husband hold the Israeli government responsible.

HEDGES: Wow.

PELED: So, from my perspective, you hear all this and you see all this, and all the emotion plus all the stuff that I already knew, I felt that I had to get more engaged. I mean, there had to be somebody somewhere, you know, that I could talk to, things that I could do, and that eventually drove me to, you know, into activism.

HEDGES: Well, you support the boycott, divestment and sanction movement, and you call for a unified, a singular state.

PELED: Yeah. Well, I think the two are related. Israel established a single state over all of Palestine, so a single state is a reality. The choices we have are either to allow this very racist single state to continue, very cruel, very brutal single state to exist, and this is really the condition of having a Jewish state in Palestine. You have to have racist laws. You’re going to have political prisoners, thousands of them. You’re going to have massacres like in Gaza. This is a condition without which there cannot be a Jewish state in Palestine.

Or, we can look beyond this very narrow, Zionist perspective and say, well there is one state. There are two nations living here. If we want to, if we believe in justice, if we want to seek peace eventually then we have to apply justice and we have to allow for real democracy to emerge and replace this racist regime. And the best example is South Africa, the fall of Apartheid and replacing it with a one person, one vote democracy, and that’s, I think, the model that has to be applied in Palestine as well.

And BDS is the way to do it.

HEDGES: Right.

PELED: I mean, I was talking to some people from South Africa even yesterday, and they always, South Africans always tell me BDS is what, it was key in bringing down Apartheid, and so BDS is, I believe, going to be a key, not the only factor, but a key factor [crosstalk] in bringing it down.

HEDGES: [interceding] But we’ve seen, the BDS movement has gotten significant traction in Europe, and it is growing in the United States, and the Israelis are panicking. Why?

PELED: Well, they’re panicking because they’ve come to, for several reasons. Number one, they’ve come to expect what they call anti-Semitism from Europe. So, any thing that, any Palestine solidarity is considered anti-Semitism. So, they accept it from Europe because Europeans are anti-Semites, but not in America. America is our friend. And so I think they’re realizing that the Palestine solidarity movement in America has grown significantly. Its voice is being head.

HEDGES: But, you know, I speak at universities, so I’ll talk for Students for Justice–Half of them are usually Jews.

PELED: Yes. That’s true. My son is, he’s in SJP UCLA. So, it’s true, and I’ve seen that too. You know, half the kids at a lot of these campuses are Jews and not even Palestinians, and that worries them even more, because the Jews, American Jews are like, they consider them to be the lifeline, you know, and now they’re turning away, and they too are becoming anti-Semitic, or whatever the term, self-haters or whatever.

So that scares them. And I think number two, they know. Everybody knows what happened in South Africa. Everybody knows the strength of the BDS movement. Everybody knows they know that what they’re doing is criminal, even though they say that they, you know, that it’s justified, so they must see that the end is near. You know, they must see that something is happening here that’s detrimental, and now they’re talking about using the Mossad and taking out leaders of the BDS and activists and so forth.

HEDGES: Oh, I didn’t hear that. Well, they are going from campus to campus pretty effectively outlawing, you know, pressuring universities to outlaw these groups, to take these students and strip them of all their student leadership positions, you know, including outside. That could be in the student council, or, they’ve done that at Northeastern, passing, I think they’re trying to pass legislation in some states to make it a criminal offense. Is that?–

PELED: –Yeah, and the UC system just tried to broaden their definition of intolerance to include criticism of Israel, and there was a big debate about that, and these students, I have to say, my hat’s off to Students for Justice in Palestine. They do an [crosstalk] amazing job–

HEDGES: [crosstalk]–Yeah, they’re amazing.–

PELED: They face the administration. They jump through all the hoops and they get the job done, and they’ve really changed the level of the conversation on this issue in America, you know, more than anybody has expected.

HEDGES: Are you hopeful? Do you think this is the–

PELED: I am very hopeful. I wouldn’t be doing any of this if I wasn’t hopeful.

HEDGES: Right.

PELED: I think in the next five to ten years there’s going to be a major shift. I think we’re going to be talking about a completely different reality, absolutely.

HEDGES: Well, once America pulls the plug it’s going to force Israel, I mean, essentially, because Israel has become a pariah state now with very, very few supporters other than the United States, you know, should that happen, you know, they’re going to be forced to respond.

PELED: Yeah. I think America tends to join the party a little bit late, usually. But I think that certainly Bernie Sanders opened the door–

HEDGES: –Yes he did, yeah.–

PELED: –To criticizing Israel, and that’s, talk about crossing the Rubicon. [crosstalk] This is something you can’t undo.

HEDGES: [crosstalk] Right. Yeah. Right.

PELED: And I think it’s going to be less and less the right thing to do politically, will be to support Israel. And I think, whereas this last AIPAC convention all the candidates were there. They all spoke against BDS, by the way. They all said pretty much the same thing, except for Sanders.

HEDGES: Right.

PELED: I think in the next cycle in four years, it’s not going to be like that.

— source therealnews.com

Refusing Israeli government-sponsored trip

Earlier this month, professional football star Michael Bennett made headlines when he pulled out of an Israeli government-sponsored trip to Israel for NFL players. In an open letter, Bennett, who plays for the Seattle Seahawks, wrote, “One of my heroes has always been Muhammad Ali. I know that Ali always stood strongly with the Palestinian people, visiting refugee camps, going to rallies, and always willing to be a ‘voice for the voiceless.’ I want to be a ‘voice for the voiceless’ and I cannot do that by going on this kind of trip to Israel.” Bennett’s words struck a chord with his teammates. In the end, only five out of the original 13 players ended up traveling as ambassadors of goodwill for Israel.

Michael Bennett talking:

I decided not to go because, you know, doing some—my research on Palestine and Israel and all the things that were going on, I’ve seen so many similarities between the Black Lives movement and the Palestinian movement. And, you know, I figured if I was going to go to Israel, I should be able to go see both sides. And, you know, I didn’t want to be an ambassador for a certain government if I wasn’t sure if I agree with everything the government was doing. So I thought it would be better to go on my own time, you know, and figure out my own situation when I get there.

they contacted us during the last year in the summertime, and, you know, they were talking about this trip. And I thought it was just more of like a trip that you get to go see Israel. I didn’t know it was like an ambassador trip and all the extra stuff. So, you know, once I found out about that, some of my friends called me and was like, “Oh, did you know this? And did you know that?” And when they called me, I just decided to—you know, I was like, “Oh, well, I can’t. I can’t do this. I don’t want to be an ambassador for something that I don’t agree with.”

I feel like there were some people that thought I was anti-Semitic, and so they were like getting mad. And I was like, “No, I’m not against any Jewish people or any—I’m not against anybody, when it comes to people.” But, you know, they seemed—they thought I was anti-Semitic. But I wasn’t. You know, I was just saying that when I do go to Israel, I would love to see Palestine, too.

And, you know, I got a lot of great things. I think a lot of people tweeted, emailed all kinds of things and said they were proud, you know, that an athlete stood for something that was going on in the world. And I think when the things that are going on in America at the same time, the things that are going around the whole world and Palestine, all across, and, you know, I just wanted to be—if I do be an ambassador, it’ll be for the goodwill of the world, the things that are going on around the world. And they’re so similar to the things that are going on in America, whether we’re talking about Ferguson or we’re talking about Baltimore or Eric Garner. Just, you know, there’s a lot of things that are going on here that are similar to things that are going on in Palestine. And once I did so much research and started reading and seeing the similarities, I knew that I couldn’t go on this trip.

Muhammad Ali, “My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother or some darker people, some poor, hungry people in the mud, for big, powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger. They never lynched me. They didn’t put no dogs on me. They didn’t rob me of my nationality and rape and kill my mother and father. Why would I want to—shoot them for what? I got to go shoot them, those little poor little black people, little babies and children, women. How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.”

I think that Muhammad Ali is an inspiration for all athletes to, you know, use their platform for good. And I think, as an athlete, a lot of times, you know, you get caught in the marketing situation where you’re marketing for so many brands that you forget that you are a person and that there’s things that’s going on that, with just some words that you speak, you can inspire young kids to make decisions, or you could bring awareness to things that are going on. So, Muhammad Ali, he just inspires me just to be the voice for the voiceless, like, you know, to be able to use my platform. And this generation is so different from back then, when, you know, protesting and rallies and all kinds of things, you had to go out and find 500,000 people and get them to follow you and do all this kind of things to share your message. But now, you know, just with the click of a button on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, you can reach a million people, and you can share your message. And when you share your message, you can change a lot of lives.

when John Carlos did that, I don’t think the world was ready for what he did. I think now the world is ready for change. You see so many different people, of all different ethnicities, marching, doing everything together. And I think, with technology, you know, you can share your message. I think when he did that, I think, you know, repercussions of what he did, I thought, yeah, it probably hindered his career or the things that happened to him, but ultimately, like you said—I mean, I think in sports sometime, people, you know, identify with the—your legacy with how many touchdowns you get, how many yards you score or how many medals you win, how many dunks you get, how many grand slams you win. But, ultimately, I feel like your legacy is definitely, you know, how many kids you can reach in your community, how much change can you make, because at the end of the day, the records are being broken, but that fist that he held up is still staying the same. It’s a stagnant picture forever. People remember that fist being something. People don’t remember who won the 1979 gold medal or the 1985 gold medal, but they remember that moment when he put his fist up.

Dave Zirin talking:

I think Michael Bennett is a person of uncommon character. I think folks hear that. But while he’s a person of uncommon character, he is also a part of a wave of athletes who are speaking out right now and have been speaking out over the last several years. And I think this is happening because of a perfect storm of reasons, everything from the influence of the Black Lives Matter movement to the influence of social media, to the fact that there are just people in the streets right now absolutely fed up with what’s happening both in this country and in the world. And we have to remember that athletes don’t live in this hermetically sealed chamber apart from this, like Michael Bennett spoke about. I mean, he has daughters, and there is a misogynist and sexual harasser in the White House. You can’t be apart from that. Or the fact that, you know, Michael Bennett is somebody who reads the work of Angela Davis. I know that about Michael. And Angela Davis just wrote a book called Freedom is a Constant Struggle, that connects the issues of Ferguson and Palestine.

we can’t speak about the issue—as Angela Davis argues, we can’t speak about Black Lives Matter in this country without looking at it globally. And that’s what Michael Bennett did, in terms of applying that political analysis to this trip, that was being sent over to hype brand Israel and create goodwill ambassadors. So these things are connected to much broader struggles, but at the same time, it still takes those individuals, just like John Carlos raising his fist in 1968, just like Colin Kaepernick taking that knee. It still takes those individuals who are willing to stand up and speak out and share with the world what it is they’re learning and experiencing. And that’s what makes Michael Bennett unique, but at the same time, as we’re seeing, courage is contagious. So when Michael Bennett speaks out, you see the ripple effect across the NFL, across the sports world and across sports fandom, as well.

Michael Bennett talking:

to be honest, I really didn’t think that that movement would be coming from Colin Kaepernick. I thought it would probably be coming from somewhere else in the NFL. I just—I think I was blindsided when it was him. Like, when it was him who made that decision to—you know, to do it, I was like, “Wow! Kaepernick is like—he’s like on a whole ‘nother level right now. He’s trying to change—he’s trying to make a conversation about something that should have been had a conversation about a long time ago.” And when he took that knee, it just—it just made me realize that, you know, when he did that and the way that he touched—made people speak around the world about this, it was like, “Wow! Athletes really do have this platform that a lot of people just want to hear.” And when he made that decision to do that, I think it changed a lot of lives. I think it brought out some ugliness in people, but it also brought out some beauty in some people. And I think, for us, for me personally, it just challenged me to be—to even, you know, join him and try to make it—try to make everything in his message more—make it where people understand it and they want to be a part of it, where young kids are speaking about it, too.

For me, the greatest thing about what he did wasn’t that the adults were having a conversation about it; it was that the young people were having a conversation about it. It was the 10-year-old, 9-year-old teams. You know, they’re not even getting paid in the NFL, and they just—they’re fearless. They’re taking a knee. And they don’t even know—they understand why they’re taking a knee, but at the same time, they really don’t understand the magnitude of what they’re doing. And then you take the middle school teams that are taking a knee, and there’s not even a lot of fans in the stadium, but they’re taking that knee. And you see high school people doing it, and you see college people doing it. Then you see guys in the NFL doing it. And it’s like, man, that started a fire. And the greatest thing was that the young kids were aware, starting to be awoke about things that are going on, and more aware. And I thought that was the coolest part about all of it. It was that the young people—the seed that he planted with the young people, it started growing, and it caught—started growing like fire and just started growing like weeds everywhere. And it was special. I think that, you know, he did something really special. And really, it all started with a knee. And that’s the funniest part about it. And I think it was—I think it was a great—and it was a great thing.

– students at Mizzou, at the University of Missouri, Black Lives Matter activists demanding change, ultimately toppled their president when the college football team said they wouldn’t play until the president left.

What those kids did was, and Missouri, was the truth of it all: People are the power. I think people have so much power when they connect together and they have a belief in something. I think, truly, if you look at all the great philosophers or the people that wrote—the people there before us, the revolutionaries, the people that wanted to create change—and, you know, they talk about solidarity. And to have solidarity among young people to really, you know, put their minds together and join together and say, “Look, this is going to change. This is what’s going to change,” and come and go and force the president out, I think that was—that was just the most amazing thing of the whole year.

Angela Davis is just a—besides my wife, I just—I just love everything about her. I think when you have a person that, you know, speaks their mind no matter what, regardless of the backlash to—and the things that she’s been through. I mean, there’s a lot of times that people talk to you, but they’ve never been through anything, and they never really fought that fight. They just speak about it. But I think, for her, she actually genuinely is on the ground daily. Her daily fight, her daily struggle, her daily everything, is to make change in life. Whether it’s in Australia for women’s—for women in jail, whether it’s here for political prisoners, whether it’s here for Black Lives Matter, whether it’s in Palestine, it’s just her whole life is about how to create change. And I think that’s important.

I think she just encourages me to be able to, you know, really dedicate my life to try to make change. And it really—really, everything else doesn’t really matter if there’s always a system that keeps certain people down. Nothing really matters if—how many touchdowns I score, if another black kid is shot and killed. Doesn’t matter how many sacks I get, if the education system is unfair for black youth or people of color youth. Doesn’t matter how many times I hit Tom Brady or any other quarterback, if there’s a wall being built. You know what I mean? So, and she just gives me power to just go out there and just speak how I feel, you know, also educate myself on the things.

I mean, I think she’s just a great role model for young women, even if you don’t agree with her message or you don’t agree with the things that she says. But you cannot—you can’t disagree with her courage. You can’t disagree with her ability to speak and make a movement. You can’t disagree with her ability to organize. And I think that’s what young people have to really look up to her, is how do we organize, how do we come together and try to create change. And I think with her doing all the things she’s done, it just motivates us to just keep growing and know that there is a possibility that we can link up as people, not even looking at color. We’re just looking to link and connect as people and growing and try to make change and not let, you know, the government do what they want to us, you know, give us a chance to go out there and just speak our mind and get the young people to take a step forward. I think she’s just a courageous person. And I get goosebumps whenever I talk—you know, whenever I talk to her or if I just listen to her messages that she spoke or if I’m just reading the book. You know, reading one of her books, it just motivates me.

this country was built on immigrants, if you think, from African Americans coming from Africa, being enslaved and building all the things that they built, you know, the White House, all the things that they built. Then you go to the Asians. They’re here. They built all the railroads, built all the things on the West Coast. The Spanish, who built all these different things. And Native Americans, who built all these different things. To the labor on the backs of slaves and the labor of immigrants. And I think, at this point, you know, they should definitely not be kicked out, because they’re the ones who built this place.

I think this is a time—and there’s been so many different times where there’s been so many times for movements, whether it’s in the ’60s, you know, during World War II or during Vietnam or during all these different times, you know, civil rights movements and all these movements. And I think this is a time where people are coming to agreeance that we’re all just human beings, and we’re all part of the system, and it takes all of us to grow. So, the resistance to trying to divide us, no, I’m not surprised in it. I’m actually encouraged, and I’m just happy that everybody is starting to come together and have that full circle.
____
Michael Bennett
Seattle Seahawks defensive end.

Dave Zirin
sports editor for The Nation magazine. He is also the host of Edge of Sports.

— source democracynow.org