Israeli Ex-Diplomat Says Growing Acknowledgment of Apartheid ‘Must Be Wakeup Call’

Former negotiator of Oslo Accords warns that increasing use of the word "apartheid" to describe Israel's mistreatment and control of the Palestinian people has deep implications.

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Two Israeli ex-diplomats late this week publicly criticized their government’s apartheid policies against Palestinians, with one former negotiator of the Oslo Accords calling the growing use of the word around the world a “wakeup call” that must not be ignored.

Speaking Thursday at a United Nations Security Council session examining the long-term impacts of maintaining the status quo in illegally occupied Palestine, the former Oslo negotiator, Daniel Levy – who now heads the U.S./Middle East Project – said that denying basic human rights to Palestinians “will never be a recipe for achieving sustainable security.”

“We know of certain developments that can at the same time be both politically uncomfortable and politically salient,” he added. “The increasingly weighty body of scholarly, legal, and public opinion that has designated Israel to be perpetrating apartheid in the territories under its control is just such a development.”

“A designation made by Palestinian scholars and institutes, later examined by and endorsed by the Israeli human rights community led by B’Tselem, has now become the legal designation made by Human Rights Watch and this year by Amnesty International,” Levy said.

Many Palestinians and individuals ranging from the late South African bishop and human rights campaigner Desmond Tutu to former US President Jimmy Carter to United Nations special rapporteurs have for decades called Israel’s policies and actions in Palestine apartheid.

In recent years, a growing number of politicians, local and regional governments, civil society organizations, religious groups, artists, academics, journalists, and others around the world have spoken out against the crime of Israeli apartheid. These include an increasing number of Israelis and Jews outside Israel, including in the United States, where a 2021 Jewish Electoral Institute survey found that 1 in 4 American Jews believes Israel is an apartheid state.

Noting that numerous African, Arab, and other U.N. member states “all referenced this apartheid situation,” Levy contended that “it will come as little surprise if this echoes and resonates in parts of the world that have experienced apartheid and settler colonialism and have gone through decolonization.”

“It is a paradigm that will also bring the discrimination faced by Palestinian citizens of Israel into sharper relief,” he added. “It must be a wakeup call.”

Levy wasn’t alone in sounding the alarm on Israeli apartheid this week. In an interview with Ben Lynfield published by Plus 61J Media on Friday, former Israeli diplomat Alon Liel – who served in South Africa during the rule of that country’s Israeli-backed apartheid regime – said Israel’s designation of six Palestinian civil society groups as terrorist organizations followed a familiar pattern.

“It brings me back to apartheid South Africa and I am ashamed. These are my memories of South Africa, the chasing of the people of the struggle,” added Liel, who last year joined another former Israeli ambassador to South Africa, Ilan Baruch, in condemning Israeli apartheid.

“I was among those people who thought our alliance with apartheid is wrong morally, though beneficial financially, and I was among those diplomats fighting against it,” he continued. “Now I see our soldiers doing what the South African police and army used to do during the 1970s and 1980s.”

Liel added that “if there were governments calling their ambassadors back to Europe for consultations, Israel would behave differently. But nothing like this is happening.”

“As long as the Europeans don’t take concrete measures on the diplomatic, security, and economic level, Israel doesn’t give a damn,” he said. “It feels very confident that this anti-human rights behavior will have no cost politically in the international arena.”

The former diplomat added that Israel’s policies and actions will eventually have negative consequences.

“The demolition of houses, transfer in Masafer Yatta, the arrests, the blockade [of Gaza], all of this is accumulating,” he noted. “And then there are the killings. We have an average of one Palestinian killed a day. Hundreds are killed every year, whether it’s from an operation in Gaza or the routine operations and daily clashes.”

“This aggressive behavior, without any real threat or existential threat, will in the long run further affect the image of Israel, making it be seen in public opinion as a trigger-happy country, a violent country and a country that doesn’t care about human rights,” Liel predicted. “This will have certain prices in the long run.”

Brett Wilkins is is staff writer for Common Dreams. Based in San Francisco, his work covers issues of social justice, human rights and war and peace. This originally appeared at CommonDreams and is reprinted with the author’s permission.