The Los Angeles Times has crossed another anti-Israel line. This time the paper published in its opinion pages a call for international economic sanctions against the Jewish state. Under the headline “Boycott Israel”(August 20), Neve Gordon, an Israeli academic at Ben Gurion University, leveled the “apartheid” smear and urged support for the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.” A veteran defamer of Israel, Gordon repeatedly referred to his Jewish identity as supposed proof of the merit of his fringe views.
The Times Op-Ed pages have become a venue for extremist attacks on Israel and Jews. An anti-Semitic cartoon echoing Nazi imagery and unbalanced, error-prone opinion pieces prompted CAMERA to take out full-page ads in southern California papers in 2008.
A nineteen month study had revealed the Times carried 50 percent more guest columns with a pro-Arab message than those with a pro-Israel message. Beyond this quantitative tilt was the additional problem that many of the anti-Israel columns contained extreme and often factually false charges. The trend toward publishing strident, distorted attacks against Israel in the opinion pages has continued in 2009.
Newspapers take pride in expressing diverse views and discussing controversial issues, and this is something the public expects. But the public also expects them to avoid turning their opinion pages into a venue for extremism and incitement.
At least when it comes to Israel, though, the Los Angeles Times welcomes fringe authors and views, as evinced by its publication of Neve Gordon’s Op-Ed.
Who is Neve Gordon?
Neve Gordon is a radical Israeli professor at Ben Gurion University who has made a career out of vilifying Israel. Marginalized in Israel as an extremist, he peddles his biased anti-Israel ideology in such agenda-driven outlets as the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Palestine Chronicle, and Counterpunch. He accuses Israel of being fascist, apartheid, and a terrorist state. On the other hand, while stopping short of condoning Palestinian terrorism against Israel, he justifies it as a reaction to Israel’s “occupation.”
At the height of the second Intifada, shortly after two reservists were brutally lynched by a Palestinian mob after unwittingly straying into Ramallah, Gordon (together with Yigal Bronner) wrote a letter to Ha’aretz blaming the failure of the Camp David negotiations — and the subsequent Palestinian violence — on Israel. Defending Arafat’s rejection of Israel’s vast concessions, the writers argued the Israeli government understands only force. And in March 2002, when Israel was suffering from a wave of Palestinian suicide attacks and unprecedented terrorism, Neve Gordon was working with Palestinians to dismantle Israeli roadblocks meant to keep attackers out of Israeli cities.
It is no wonder that Neve Gordon’s writings have been posted on anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi sites. Below is a sampling of Gordon’s pronouncements:
Israel is Fascist
Nationalism, in its most dangerous form, has become an integral component of the Israel political arena. The propaganda of power, reminiscent of the most brutal fascist regimes, no longer manifests itself covertly but is openly put to use by the Likud, the Israeli governing party. (National Catholic Reporter, Nov. 20, 1998)
Israel’s gravest danger today is the one it faces from within: fascism. (Baltimore Sun, Jan. 23, 2002)
Israel is a Terrorist State
Israel’s F-16 attacks are no different than Hamas’s suicide bombers. If anything, Israel’s actions are much worse, both because they are state sanctioned and because the force used is much greater and therefore more destructive. While Israel has been using methods of terror against the Palestinian population, it has also inflicted widespread, long-term damage…(South Bend Tribune, June 12, 2001)
Blaming Palestinian Terrorism on Israel
…there was relative quiet during the six-month truce with Hamas, a quiet that was broken most often as a reaction to Israeli violence…” (Irish Times, Palestine Chronicle, Dec. 30, 2008)
the original source of the current violence, [which] is not Hamas, but rather the occupation of the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem.” (How to sell ‘ethical warfare’, Atlantic Free Press, January 17, 2009)
In one especially ironic justification of anti-Israel violence, Gordon cites “economic boycott” as one of the reasons why Hamas indiscriminately fires its rockets into Israeli towns:
We’ve basically had an economic boycott on the Gaza Strip. And the people there have been living in what one should probably call as a prison. And they’ve been reacting with rockets, because probably that’s the only way that they can react. (Democracy Now, Jan. 5, 2009)
Gordon went on to describe the rocket attacks — flagrant violations of international law — as “resistance” which should be seen as “rational”:
If you look at what’s been going on in the Gaza Strip in the past three years and you see what Israel has been doing to the Palestinians, you would think that the Palestinian resistance is rational. (Democracy Now, Jan. 5, 2009)
Gordon’s Los Angeles Times “Boycott” Op-Ed
Gordon calls for a boycott on Israel because, he insists, the country is “an apartheid state”:
The most accurate way to describe Israel today is as an apartheid state. For more than 42 years, Israel has controlled the land between the Jordan Valley and the Mediterranean Sea. Within this region about 6 million Jews and close to 5 million Palestinians reside. Out of this population, 3.5 million Palestinians and almost half a million Jews live in the areas Israel occupied in 1967, and yet while these two groups live in the same area, they are subjected to totally different legal systems. The Palestinians are stateless and lack many of the most basic human rights. By sharp contrast, all Jews — whether they live in the occupied territories or in Israel — are citizens of the state of Israel.
Gordon’s rendition is no different. Nothing in his description above, meant to “prove” his apartheid allegation, has anything at all to do with real apartheid. Israel has indeed been administering the West Bank, to some degree, for 42 years. This, however, is the country’s right, and even obligation, under international law. Israel captured the land during a defensive war. For many of those years, Palestinians openly called for the destruction of Israel. Since then, Israel has on multiple occasions offered to withdraw its troops and completely end any control it still exercises over Palestinians as part of a peace agreement. Such an occupation is not illegal, and it certainly is not “apartheid.”
Nor is it “apartheid” that Arab and Jewish Israeli citizens are generally subject to a different set of laws than West Bank Palestinians who are not Israeli citizens. Israelis of all races, ethnicities and religions are governed by the same legal system. West Bank Palestinians, on the other hand, are citizens of the Palestinian Authority, an altogether different geographic and political entity. Naturally, these residents do not share the very same rights and responsibilities that apply to Israeli Muslims, Christians or Jews. (In the same way, although American citizens of Iraqi descent have the same rights as all other US citizens, Iraqi citizens who lived under American occupation in Baghdad or Basra were obviously not, for example, permitted to vote in the US presidential elections.)
If what Gordon describes is not apartheid, then what is it? It is nothing more than a legal military occupation of disputed land, which has continued because the two sides have failed to reach an agreement. And the two sides have yet to reach an agreement in large part because the Palestinians rejected Ehud Barak’s offer of statehood. They rejected Bill Clinton’s offer. And they most recently rejected Ehud Olmert’s offer. Each of these proposals would have given the Palestinians a state virtually identical to the one Gordon claims in his Op-Ed to be advocating.
As Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl explained on May 29,
Abbas acknowledged that Olmert had shown him a map proposing a Palestinian state on 97 percent of the West Bank — though he complained that the Israeli leader refused to give him a copy of the plan. He confirmed that Olmert “accepted the principle” of the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees — something no previous Israeli prime minister had done — and offered to resettle thousands in Israel. In all, Olmert’s peace offer was more generous to the Palestinians than either that of Bush or Bill Clinton; it’s almost impossible to imagine Obama, or any Israeli government, going further.
Abbas turned it down.
An earlier instance of the Palestinian refusal to end the conflict was characterized as criminal by Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar. In 2000, he said that if Yasir Arafat does not accept Bill Clinton’s peace proposal, “it won’t be a tragedy, it will be a crime.”
To Gordon, though, it is Israelis who should be severely punished for Arafat’s crime. It is Israel that should be delegitimized and economically attacked because Abbas is content staying away from the negotiating table, as he himself admits, until Israel satisfies his preconditions. “Until then,” the Palestinian leader told Diehl, he will accept the status quo, because “in the West Bank we have a good reality … the people are living a normal life.”
Israel understandably believes that without a peace agreement, let alone negotiations, it would be irresponsible and even dangerous to withdraw from the West Bank. This caution was all-too-painfully reinforced by the country’s experience after withdrawing from Gaza and Lebanon, when it was attacked from the very territories from which it unilaterally withdrew.
And it’s not only security concerns that could justify Israel’s continued presence in the territory until the Palestinians are ready to hammer out an agreement. International law, too, allows for it. Professor Eyal Benvenisti, an expert on human rights and international law, explained in his book The International Law of Occupation that
the basic principles of traditional occupation law call for the occupant to assume control over the affairs of the occupied territory for the duration of the occupation. Neither the Hague Regulations nor the Fourth Geneva Convention limits the duration of the occupation or requires the occupant to restore the territories to the sovereign before a peace treaty is signed. (145)
So again, Gordon’s actual gripe is not with “apartheid,” but with Israel’s legal presence in the West Bank, and the country’s insistence on negotiating an agreement that might, in the end, require the Palestinians to compromise on some of their demands.
The impression left by Gordon’s Op-Ed is that the author haphazardly substituted the word “apartheid” for the word “occupation” in order to demonize Israel and justify his boycott call. The absurdity of this method of “argumentation” is most evident in the following passage, in which he lays out his conditions for “ending [Israel’s] apartheid”:
The second means of ending our apartheid is through the two-state solution, which entails Israel’s withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders (with possible one-for-one land swaps), the division of Jerusalem, and a recognition of the Palestinian right of return with the stipulation that only a limited number of the 4.5 million Palestinian refugees would be allowed to return to Israel, while the rest can return to the new Palestinian state.
In other words, Gordon doesn’t just view Israel’s legal occupation as apartheid; he would also deem anything short of fulfilling his specific demands as being a continuation of this supposed apartheid. If Israel, for example, were to withdraw from 98 percent of the West Bank with a two-for-three land swap, this would mean continued apartheid. If a Palestinian state comes into existence on 100 percent of the West Bank, but Israel prevents any diaspora Palestinians from moving to Israel, this would be apartheid.
Gordon’s Op-Ed is not merely illogical. It delegitimizes Israel’s very existence by promoting the apartheid canard and calling for a boycott, with the purpose of forcing Israel to immediately concede to Palestinian demands without consideration of the safety of its own citizens.