Israeli Apologists’ Apartheid Coda

Jonathan Cook examines Jonathan Freedland’s latest column in The Guardian.

Nov. 5, 2017: Solidarity with Palestine protesters in London versus British law enforcement. (Alisdare Hickson, Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

By Jonathan Cook

Will The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland ever write a column on Israel that doesn’t rehash dishonest, Zionist talking-points that were discredited decades ago?

It would be too tedious to deal with most of the misdirections in his latest contribution. Let’s just pull out the final sections of his column and then point out the ahistorical, morally vacuous thinking behind each of his points:

“[Israelis] have been framed as the modern world’s ultimate evildoer: the coloniser. That matters because, in this conception, justice can only be done once the colonisers are gone. Which is why the chant demanding that Palestine be free ‘from the river to the sea’ sends shivers down Jewish spines. Because that slogan does not demand a mere Israeli withdrawal from the occupied West Bank. What most Jews hear is a demand that Israel disappear altogether. And that Israeli Jews either take their chances living in a future Palestine under the likes of Hamas — or get out. But where to?”

Let’s replace “Israelis” with “white South Africans,” who were also a settler-colonising people. Did the fall of apartheid require them to “get out”? I think Freedland will find that they are still there.

Yes, we all understand that “most Jews” are frightened by a chant calling for the liberation of Palestinians from apartheid-style subjugation and confinement in their own homeland. Of course, Jews are frightened. Israel and its apologists, Freedland prime among them, have been telling Jews for decades to be frightened, just as apartheid South Africa’s apologists told whites they would be slaughtered if a black man ever ruled the country. Whites stopped being frightened only when the Freedlands of the early 1990s were forced to change their tune.

What’s more, such a framing brands all Israelis — not just West Bank settlers — as guilty of the sin of colonialism. Perhaps that explains why those letter writers could not full-throatedly condemn the 7 October killing of innocent Israeli civilians. Because they do not see any Israeli, even a child, as wholly innocent.”

Freedland in 2013. (Chatham House, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

If Freedland stepped out of his bubble for a moment and tried living in my world, he might be surprised by the number of people — many of them doubtless those fearful Jews he worries about — who are explicitly calling for Palestinians to be wiped out, who openly support genocide in Gaza — echoing Israeli politicians and leaders of Israel’s nuclear-armed military who have long advocated for a “Shoah,” or Holocaust, in Gaza.

Perhaps the reason some people on the margins of social media are reluctant to join the establishment chorus condemning Hamas is because it is being so blatantly taken advantage of to excuse murdering Palestinian children.

[Related: Israel Kills 1 Child in Gaza Every 15 Minutes’]

When our politicians and media turn this into a zero-sum game, when they rewrite international law to make shutting off food and water to Palestinians a legal and moral duty, you can perhaps understand why people might be reticent to fuel the flames of genocide.

“This is where you wind up when you view this conflict in monochrome, as a clash of right v wrong. Because the late Israeli novelist and peace activist Amos Oz was never wiser than when he described the Israel/Palestine conflict as something infinitely more tragic: a clash of right v right. Two peoples with deep wounds, howling with grief, fated to share the same small piece of land.”

Which could all be changed if those two fated, traumatised peoples actually began “sharing the same small piece of land” — in a one-state solution, as ultimately happened in South Africa. Indeed, that’s the only way a settler colonial project ends without genocide or the ethnic cleansing of one side or the other.

If Freedland wasn’t such a bad-faith actor, he would see where the logic of his own position leads. It would lead to peace. He could be part of that historic transition. Instead he castigates others for treating the catastrophe unfolding in Israel and Gaza as a football game in which everyone must take sides — even as he himself so obviously takes a side: in favour of turning a blind eye to genocide in Gaza.

“So, this is not a football game. It has no need for spectators who root for one team against the other, goading their chosen side to go to ever further extremes. This is not a game, for one grimly obvious reason. There are no winners – only never-ending loss.”

No, there have been winners. Over 75 years, Israel has received lavish support — military, diplomatic, financial — from Europe and the U.S. to help it carry out the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza on Oct. 11, where victims from the hospital bombing were brought.
(Palestinian News & Information Agency, Wafa, for APAimages, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

On the back of this support — and Israel’s integration into the West’s military-industrial complex — Israel has become a very wealthy country, rich in land it stole from the native people.

Yes, it lives with a degree of insecurity – the price it pays, as do all settler-colonial societies until they “finish the job,” as one of Israel’s leading historians has explained – for dispossessing and oppressing the native people. But until Oct. 7 it was clear to Israelis that living with that insecurity was worth it, given all the other benefits.

Feedland is right about one thing, however. Israel doesn’t want spectators in Gaza. Which is why the enclave has been plunged into darkness. None of us can know what horrors are unfolding there right now.

Jonathan Cook is an award-winning British journalist. He was based in Nazareth, Israel, for 20 years. He returned to the U.K. in 2021. He is the author of three books on the Israel-Palestine conflict: Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish State (2006), Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (2008) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (2008). If you appreciate his articles, please consider subscribing to his Substack page or offering your financial support

This article is from the author’s blog Jonathan  

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6 comments for “Israeli Apologists’ Apartheid Coda

  1. anaisanesse
    October 31, 2023 at 18:40

    What makes it worse is the lies. Immediately on October 7 (once the authorities in Israel woke up to the invasion taking place) came the IDF reports with all the usual gory details regardless of any checking up of what was real, what was panic and “friendly fire”, omitting the vital REAL attacks on the main military crossing nerve centre for the control of Gaza, where the IDF officials were hiding inside, as was later shown. Military targets were chosen, at least half of the deaths were military or police adults, and many of the civilians killed were because of mistakes and excesses by panicking IDF and settlers using heavy equipment NOT available to Hamas. Only later were so many of these errors discovered eg by the Grayzone, but the MSM made no attempt to correct them.

      November 1, 2023 at 05:42

      Israel claims that only 300 or so of the 1400 killed were from the IDF.

      • Rafael
        November 3, 2023 at 00:33

        Does Israel also give a figure for how many police were killed? The comment by anaisanesse includes police together with IDF in the counting.

          November 8, 2023 at 13:20

          Police are not considered legitimate military targets under international humanitarian law.

  2. Vera Gottlieb
    October 31, 2023 at 17:26

    Although of Jewish background, and ashamed of it, I have NO USE for israel and boycott any product that comes from this country. How can a people who suffered so much under the Nazis be so cruel to Palestinians. The oppressed turning into the oppressors. Now the israel UN representative wearing a yellow star…I will make myself a star with the Palestinian colours.

  3. JonnyJames
    October 31, 2023 at 13:28

    Thank you Mr. Cook. To be honest, I visit the Guardian website for ridicule, cheap laughs and to “take the piss” as my UK friends say. I simply loathe folks like Simon Tisdall, Jonathan Freedland and many other right-wing authoritarian types regularly featured.

    The Guardian has become a mouthpiece of MI6, at least on foreign policy issues, it seems. To be fair, they do post a decent article once in a while to maintain a base-line of credibility with informed readers. The rest is usually a repeat of the Unified Hegemonic Narrative, echoed in the rest of the mass media. The Guardian once upon a time, seemed to be a paper that covered working-class issues. Now it is mostly promotes right-wing, authoritarian and status-quo viewpoints but papers that over with lifestyle and cultural issues (“one-dimensional “identity politics”)

    What the Guardian did to Julian Assange (and has not done for him) is reprehensible. They ran many stories based on Wikileaks documentation, then threw Assange under the bus. Craig Murray has spoken and written about this, he knows much better than I.

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