Congress Tries to Wish Away Israeli Racism and Apartheid

Israeli checkpoint in Palestine's occupied West Bank. Photo by Magne Hagesæter. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Israeli checkpoint in Palestine’s occupied West Bank. Photo by Magne Hagesæter. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

On July 18, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution by the kind of lopsided vote (412 for, 9 against, 1 present) normally reserved for proclamations lauding members’ hometown Little League programs. Unlike most legislation, Concurrent Resolution 57 is short enough to fit comfortably into newspaper op-ed length:

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that —

“(1) the State of Israel is not a racist or apartheid state;

“(2) Congress rejects all forms of antisemitism and xenophobia; and

“(3) the United States will always be a staunch partner and supporter of Israel.”

The billions Congress wastes annually on xenophobic nonsense like “border security” and “countering China”  belie the resolution’s second point, and the third point is simply bizarre — ask the Lakota or the Cherokee about how trustworthy the US is when it comes to “always” commitments.

But what about that first point, which was what the resolution was really intended to get across after US Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) stepped on a political third rail by contradicting it on July 16 (Jayapal quickly turned tail, apologized, and voted for the resolution)?

Well, there’s a problem with that point as well:

Israel IS a racist (at least if the concept of “race” encompasses ethno-religious groups) and apartheid state.

Israel was expressly founded as a “homeland” for people of a specific ethnic/religious group, and its “basic law” clearly and unambiguously affirms that “Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it.”

Non-Jews, and especially Palestinian Arabs, are legally treated as second-class citizens, when they’re treated as citizens at all. For example, a “right of return” to Israel is offered to all Jews, no matter where they were born, but not to Palestinian Arabs who may have actually been born right there.

That’s racist, period. Disagree? Substitute “Montana” for “Israel” and “white” for “Jewish.” How does it read now?

As for the “apartheid” allegation, no other term fits a state which has spilled outside its internationally recognized borders (as codified in 1948 by United Nations Resolution 181) and set up a two-tier system based on race/ethnicity in territory it occupies. A system where Arabs are subject to Jewish rule without representation in the Knesset, where Arab property is subject to legalized theft by Jewish “settlers,” where roads and other infrastructure facilities are segregated into “Arab” and “Jews Only” use, and under which a menial class of Arabs are allowed to cross into Israel proper from their designated “homelands” to work, but not to live.

The usual defenses I see of Israel on these matters is that its existence as a “Jewish state,” and its apartheid treatment of Palestinian Arabs, are justified and must therefore not be considered “racist” or “apartheid.”

Presumably American supporters of racial segregation and South African supporters of the original “apartheid” considered their systems justified as well.

Claiming something’s justified doesn’t magically make it something other than what it is.

Neither does lying about it in a congressional resolution.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.