Bill Fletcher Jr.ColumnistsOp-EdOpinion

Yes, “Apartheid” Describes Israel


By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
NNPA Columnist


I was struck by how quickly Secretary of State John Kerry backed down when he was chastised by anti-Palestinian critics for suggesting that Israel might be on the road to becoming an apartheid state.  What was so unusual about such a statement?  Israeli media commentators, including some political officials, use that term to either describe the current situation or to warn of impending disaster.  Here in the U.S, however, we have to fret over using such a term because it, allegedly, might offend someone.

If I am critical of anything, it is precisely that Kerry did back down, added to the fact that Israel is not on the road to becoming an apartheid state: It is already such a state. Apartheid is a term that was both used by the White South Africans to describe their system of racial separation and oppression from 1948-1994, as well as an officially recognized term by the United Nations that describes the broader system of racial suppression that can exist in any country and is not restricted to South Africa.  As a result, the term “apartheid,” describing a system of racial categorization and suppression, can and should be applied to what we have seen unfold in Israel since its founding, quite ironically, in 1948.

Palestinian land has been seized, allegedly for security reasons, never to be returned.  Palestinian refugees have been refused the international right of return to the homes and land that they left in the midst of the 1948-49 war.  An educational system exists in Israel in which there is a differential in the resources available for Jewish Israelis vs. Palestinian citizens of Israel.  And, of course, the Israelis continue an illegal occupation of Palestinian territory that commenced in 1967 whereby the Palestinians have only nominal control of a portion of their own land.​

Secretary of State Kerry, out of apparent frustration with the antics of the Israeli side in negotiations, correctly noted that if/when negotiations break down, the permanent occupation of the West Bank along with Israel’s policies towards its own Palestinian citizens, will shatter any idea that Israel exists as an alleged democratic state.  Kerry was, more than likely, trying to appeal to the Israeli establishment to awaken and smell the coffee.

Instead, opponents of Palestinian justice threw the coffee in Kerry’s face.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a racial justice, labor and global justice writer and activist.  This past January he led an African American fact-finding delegation to Israel and Palestine.  Subsequent to the trip he wrote “Traveling through Palestine While Black” at


Bill Fletcher Jr.

Bill Fletcher Jr has been an activist since his teen years. Upon graduating from college he went to work as a welder in a shipyard, thereby entering the labor movement. Over the years he has been active in workplace and community struggles as well as electoral campaigns. He has worked for several labor unions in addition to serving as a senior staffperson in the national AFL-CIO. Fletcher is the former president of TransAfrica Forum; a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies; an editorial board member of; and in the leadership of several other projects. Fletcher is the co-author (with Peter Agard) of “The Indispensable Ally: Black Workers and the Formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, 1934-1941”; the co-author (with Dr. Fernando Gapasin) of “Solidarity Divided: The crisis in organized labor and a new path toward social justice“; and the author of “‘They’re Bankrupting Us’ – And Twenty other myths about unions.” Fletcher is a syndicated columnist and a regular media commentator on television, radio and the Web.

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  1. You are the bigoted one here. Kerry backed down because it FALSE. Even Carter apologized for giving a wrong impression by falsely using the word as click bate. His book explains that it’s NOT Apartheid.

    ALL citizens of Israel are EQUAL. They can do anything they want. They can ALL serve in military or attend ANY school. An Arab CAN attend a school in a Jewish community and live in a Jewish majority community. And some do!!! That makes it NOT Apartheid.

    There are Arabs in the TOP LEVELS of Israel gov’t. Effecting laws & resources & everything. On Supreme court, Prime Minsters, in Cabinet. Again that makes it NOT Apartheid.

    The Arab Palestinians in the disputed territories have their OWN gov’t. Israelis aren’t under their gov’t. And they aren’t under Israeli gov’t. You are calling a war conflict “apartheid” which serves one side’s propaganda but does not serve peace for anyone.

    Israel invited Arabs to stay as full citizens in their opening speech. Arabs, seven armies, attacked Israel. In that WAR some Arabs stays. Many ran. Some were kicked out in areas where Arab armies were harming Israel’s roads & security.

    MORE Jews, 800,000 were kicked out of Muslim countries and absorbed by Israel. It was all a big people swap. Same as in Pakistan and India.

    Even so, Arabs who attack do not have rights to say “oh that didn’t work for us, we want a re-do.”

    So why do you have an interest in this topic? What are your sources of info? Do you respect Israeli and Jewish sources? Or are you bigoted at those? Why do you, not involved, have any right to judge a situation that is removed from your world? You don’t comment or do it with 98% of the world. But you feel fine telling Jews, that you know they are bad people, without even allowing in the FACTS that they know.

    What you do is most problematically harmful to Palestinian Arabs. They need peace. And supporting the lies of the warmonging Hamas & Fatah & terrorist corrupt rulership… is not helping any moderate Pals get a better future. You’re views are a little support for war & destruction of a country, under the name of the opposite.

    I’m saddened to see outsiders so negative at both Arabs and Jews, that they come up with and support these ideas… that by the way, are the same one’s colonalists told Arabs, in order to keep them distracted from blaming colonalists.

    When you blame Jews, you always have to ask yourself, am I scapegoating Jews? Because that’s a core of antisemitism.

  2. Thanks, but your position is not grounded in history. Israel was established as a colonial project in conjunction with British imperialism in the context of World War I. No one asked the Arabs, who had been there in what had been a province of the Ottoman Empire, what they thought. It was akin to the land being taken from Native Americans here in the Western Hemisphere.
    I do not know whether you have ever visited the region. I have twice. I could not believe the inhumane conditions that the Palestinians live under. I could not believe the roads that Palestinians are not allowed to use. I could not believe the way that the land has been divided up. I could not believe the flagrant disregard of international law in the seizure of Palestinian land.
    My view on apartheid is rooted in history. And please do not throw around the anti-Semitic label. As someone who has fought the real anti-Semitism that we see coming from right-wing populist and neofascist movements, I do not need you or anyone else trivializing the term by suggesting that my support for Palestinian rights is somehow bigoted.

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