Is Israel an Apartheid State?

26 Mar

[Prefatory Note: This post was originally published on March 22, 2017 by The Nation under the title “The Inside Story of Our UN Report Calling Israel an Apartheid State,” the text of which can be found at this link: What is below is somewhat modified.]



Is Israel an Apartheid State?


Six months ago, the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA) asked Virginia Tilley and me to write a study examining the applicability of the international criminal law concept of apartheid to Israel’s policies and practices toward the Palestinian people. We were glad to accept the assignment, and conceived of our role as engaging in an academic undertaking. ESCWA, one of several UN regional commissions, requested the study as a result of an uncontested motion adopted by its 18 Arab member governments.

Almost within hours of its release on March 15, our report [bearing the title “Israel’s Practices Toward the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid”] was greeted by what can only be described as hysteria and derision. The newly appointed US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, denounced the report and demanded that the UN repudiate it. The newly elected Secretary General, Antonió Guterres, quickly and publicly called for ESCWA to withdraw the report from its website, and when Rima Khalaf, the head of the commission, resisted, Guterres insisted. Rather than comply, Khalaf resigned, explaining her reasons in a gracious, principled letter to the Secretary General, an eloquent expression of public conscience that is itself extremely rare in UN experience and worthy of the most favorable notice and commentary. [for text of letter see Soon thereafter, the report was withdrawn from the commission’s website, despite containing a very clear disclaimer at its outset noting that the report represents the views of its authors and not necessarily that of ESCWA or the UN.


What is striking about this pattern of action and reaction, which resembles in many respects the US government response to the Goldstone Report (the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict of 2008-9), is the degree to which Israel’s officials and supporters, in response to criticism, have sought to discredit and wound the messenger rather than address the message by offering a detailed substantive explanation and defense. Each time such a technique succeeds in this mission of discrediting, wounding, and diverting attention the role of the UN as a promoter of the public good is weakened, and the Organization becomes rather an instrument by which dominant geopolitical forces assert their will at the expense of truth, reason, and human wellbeing.


Virginia Tilley, a professor of political science at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and a leading world expert on apartheid, and I, as well as ESCWA, would welcome substantive discussion and critical feedback, and we had hoped that our analysis and conclusions would provide the basis for debate, dialogue, and further consideration of the recommendations appended at the end. ESCWA, for its part, took steps to ensure that the report lived up to scholarly standards, submitting the draft text to three prominent international jurists, who had been anonymously solicited to offer objective vetting. Each submitted a strong positive appraisal along with suggestions for revision, which we gratefully incorporated before the final text was released. Against this background, it is irresponsible for government officials and others to dismiss our report as a biased polemic, and to do so damages the authority of the UN and respect for international law.


It is also misleading to do what the American and Israeli diplomats did, as well as the media– treating this study as if a report officially endorsed by the UN. Such treatment overlooks the disclaimer on the opening page of the report, which clearly states that the analysis and interpretations presented are those of the authors alone, and are not to be attributed to the UN. In effect, it is a document initiated by a UN agency, appraised for quality by reference to scholarly standards, but not adopted nor even endorsed at this point, although this might happen in the future, a step we as authors would welcome.


During my tenure as the UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories (2008-14), I witnessed how defenders of Israel attempted to discredit critics. My reports in that post often included sharp criticisms of Israel and other actors, ranging across various topics including defiance of international law, unlawful expansion of settlements, excessive use of force, and complicity of international corporations and banks that do business for profit with the settlements, and others. To my surprise, I never received substantive pushback regarding these specific allegations, but I did have the unpleasant experience of having my words on completely unrelated issues torn out of context, and brought to the attention of UN high officials and important diplomats representing member states. Among my harshest critics were not only the usual ultra-Zionist NGOs, but also Barack Obama’s diplomats at the UN, including Susan Rice and Samantha Power, as well as then-Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. I mention this personal experience only to note that it falls into a longstanding pattern of diversionary rebuttal that prefers to smear rather than engage in reasoned debate about the important issues of law and justice at stake.


The international crime of apartheid was authoritatively specified in the 1973 Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. The main elements of the crime consist of deliberate and systematic acts of racial discrimination with the purpose of maintaining unlawful structures of racial domination, that is, a dominant race subjugating another race. Our report also considered whether, in the context of inquiring into the presence of apartheid, it was appropriate to consider Jews and Palestinians as distinct races; we found that there were abundant grounds for doing so. As our report shows, “race” in this legal context is treated as a socially and politically constructed category developed to identify a distinct people. It has no necessary correlation with biogenetic realities, which in this case actually shows an overlap between Jews and Palestinians.


Even Palestinian citizens of Israel, who can vote and form political parties, are subject to many discriminatory laws that impair security and the quality of life. The report also proceeds from the proposition that whether apartheid exists or not depends on the overall treatment of the Palestinian people as a whole, and not by accepting the fragmentation that has been imposed by Israel. Adopting what we believe to be an innovative methodology, we approached this challenge by dividing the Palestinians into four domains that correspond to the manner in which Israel has exercises its authority over the course of many decades, although the specific tactics of control vary through time. In the past, a thorough study by international law scholars found that Israel’s practices in the occupied Palestinian territories are consistent with apartheid [See Virginia Tilley, ed., Beyond Occupation: apartheid, colonialism and international law in the occupied Palestinian territories [Pluto: London, 2012]. It called attention to the discriminatory treatment of Palestinians, who are subject to military administration as compared to the Jewish settler population, which enjoys the full benefit of the rule of law as it is observed in Israel in relation to Jewish nationals. That study found that “settler-only roads,” dual legal systems, and the draconian separation of the two populations into regions on the basis of race hallmarks of apartheid. Repressive practices that have made the lives of ordinary Palestinians a daily ordeal are a core dimension of this racially organized system of control. It should be also noted that according to preferred readings of international law, penalizing and criminalizing nonviolent forms of resistance to apartheid itself constitutes the crime of apartheid.


A second domain investigated in the report involves Palestinians who are residents of Jerusalem. Here the apartheid character of Israeli rule is exhibited in the way the government of Israel severely undermines the human security of Palestinians living in Jerusalem, manipulating their rights of residence as well as imposing a variety of discriminatory practices, ranging from fiscal measures, demolitions, to the arbitrary withholding of building permits.


The third domain deals with the Palestinian minority living in Israel, perhaps the most problematic component in terms of establishing a definition of apartheid that encompasses the entire Palestinian population. In this category are some 1.7 million citizens of Israel, who are allowed to form political parties and vote in elections. But this minority, which makes up about 20 percent of the overall Israeli population, is prohibited by law from challenging the proclaimed Jewish character of the state and is subject to a wide range of discriminatory nationality laws as well as administrative practices that severely restrict their rights, with effects on land acquisition, property, immigration, family reunification, and marital freedom.

International law has detached apartheid from its South African origins; it’s now a stand-alone crime against humanity that does not stand or fall by whether it contains similar features to those that constituted the apartheid regime in South Africa.


A fourth domain, and the one affecting the largest demographic segment, is made up of Palestinians registered as refugees by UN procedures or living under conditions of involuntary exile. In the background is Israel’s rejection of UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (1948), which confirms that Palestinians dispossessed or displaced by Israel in 1948 enjoy a right of return. General Assembly Resolution 3236 declares this right of return or repatriation to be an “inalienable right,” which thus presumably incorporates those additional several hundred thousand Palestinians later displaced by the 1967 war. As far as is known, no Palestinian displaced since the establishment of Israel in 1948 has been granted a right of return to resume residence.


The report argues that the crime of apartheid has been detached from its historical origins in South Africa. Neither the 1973 Convention nor the 1998 Rome Statute underlying the International Criminal Court ties apartheid to South Africa, but rather treats its practice as a stand-alone crime against humanity. Thus, there are important differences between the way apartheid operated in South Africa and the way it is currently being imposed on the Palestinians, but these differences are not relevant to the question of whether it fairly and accurately applies to Israel. One notable difference is that in South Africa the Afrikaner leadership forthrightly proclaimed apartheid as a reflection of its ideological belief in the separation of races, whereas for Israel such a structure of separation on the basis of race is denied and repudiated, and its attribution is treated as an inflammatory insult. There are other differences as well, relating to degrees of labor dependence and the demographic ratio between Jews and Palestinians.


This quasi-permanent structure of domination cannot be justified or explained by reference to Israel’s legitimate security needs.

Our report concludes that Israel has deliberately fragmented the Palestinian people in relation to these four demographic domains, relying on systematic discrimination, including “inhuman acts,” primarily to maintain its control and render resistance more difficult, while continuing to expand territorially at the expense of prospects for Palestinian self-determination. On the basis of these findings—backed up by detailed presentations of empirical data, including reliance on Israeli official sources—we conclude that the allegation of apartheid as applied to the Palestinian people is well founded and descriptive of the present situation, more so than the terminology of occupation.


As earlier suggested, we are keenly aware that our report is the work of academic investigators and does not represent an authoritative finding of apartheid by a formal judicial or governmental institution. As mentioned—contrary to media coverage and diplomatic denunciations—the report has never been endorsed or accepted by the UN, or even ESCWA. We do recommend such an endorsement, and we urge the UN, national governments, and civil society to take measures designed to encourage Israel to dismantle its apartheid regime and treat the Palestinian people in accord with the dictates of international law and human rights, as well as elementary morality.


The broader setting associated with our contention that Israel has become an apartheid state draws on the reality that there is no peaceful resolution to the conflict on the diplomatic horizon, and thus no foreseeable prospect for ending the discriminatory regime and the attendant suffering of the Palestinian people. This quasi-permanent structure of domination cannot be justified indefinitely by invoking Israeli security needs, which are themselves partly created by the unwillingness of Israel to respect Palestinian rights under international law. A people cannot be permanently repressed in by military force and administrative coercion ways without viewing the structure that has emerged as an apartheid regime. Indeed, part of the reason for not awaiting a more formal assessment of these charges of apartheid is our sense of urgency in ending a set of arrangements that have for so long been responsible for so much suffering and denial of basic rights, above all the right of self-determination.


It remains our central hope, one shared with ESCWA, that the widespread availability of this report will lead to a clearer understanding of the Palestinian plight and encourage more effective responses by the UN, by governments, and by civil society. Beyond this, it is our continuing wish that people of good will throughout the world, especially within Israel, will work toward a political solution that will finally allow Jews and Palestinians to live together in peace, with justice.




70 Responses to “Is Israel an Apartheid State?”

  1. Zak March 26, 2017 at 6:50 am #

    Prof Falk, it has been some time since I commented on your site but I have been keeping up with the posts and want to reiterate my thanks for all that you do.

    I can’t help but think that the way this report was posted and removed was completely predictable and although you may not be able to speak on specifics, for various reasons, I did want to extend my gratitude for your work and efforts. I read reports on the day the report was removed that the spokesperson for the Sec-Gen stated that there was an issue about procedure and that the report was not removed due to content. Of course, anybody with a minimal amount of experience on this issue can see that diplomatic pressure/orders (open secret that the Sec-Gen works for the US lol?) and media collusion worked their magic.

    But I do wonder whether the way this report was posted – maybe not following procedure as the Sec-Gen statement declared? – was on purpose? Did you know that trying to go down a path seeking agency, Sec-Gen, UNSC, or UNGA approval would bury the report before it could be made public?

    I see that your explanation in this article kind of refutes that idea, as it seems clear that you followed your mandate, and that various people, officials and media have incorrectly stated or implied that the report carries more (official) weight than it actually does (I’ve seen this among activists and supporters of Palestinian rights as well, almost uniformly). It may simply be as clear cut as you state in the article.

    My intention here is not really to ask you for confirmation about whether this report was released in the manner it was so as to avoid a complete blackout because as I said, you may not be able to publicly say so. It may also be simply a case of UN procedures that me and many others are ignorant about – maybe reports like this are commissioned all the time and since there was no official endorsement, it was easy to kill. I really don’t want to make it seem like there are conspiracies going on or anything, past the regular realpolitik and diplomatic realities that dominate an organization like the UN – it’s not a secret that the UN is run by powerful states who hold leverage at any given time, and not necessarily the laws which govern the global order. It is what it is.

    In any case, as usual, you have done your work with the utmost respect and professionalism and once again, you’ve shown why the struggle for justice needs people like you. Whatever happens with the report, or the apartheid analysis, it was splashed across the mainstream media – that, combined with the latest settlement resolution, can only help.

    The predictable uproar by the usual suspects about anti-semitism, bias and blah, blah, blah also provides some hope. Just like when BDS or any other rights/law based activity, comment, or resistance is presented and the howls of proffessional propagandists reach pathetic heights, no one has dared to challenge the content of your report, or the law. It speaks volumes about their legitimacy, and the legitimacy of those struggling for human rights and international law.

    As distressing, uncomfortable or damaging as this may be to you personally, you’ve once again gone above and beyond, putting your expertise to work. It’s not just inspiring, but much appreciated. I’ve asked you before to keep doing what you do, but I had no idea you would continue at this level, heading straight into the lion’s den with no regard for your own situation, with the courage and resolve that few of us have. Much respect.


  2. Brian Cohen March 26, 2017 at 7:17 am #

    It’s impossible to take Falk seriously when he fails to even write the word “Hamas” in his article, let alone address the largest roadblock facing the peace process. The sad reality is that Falk has no interest in real peace nor does he have any concern for the Palestinian people who suffer under the brutal Hamas military theocracy in Gaza – that wants to take over the west bank as well. Why doesn’t he? Because just like other weak diplomats, he’s lazy. It is oh so much easier to take the easy way out and ignore the massive meltdown in the Arab world by pinning all blame on Israel.
    If Falk were indeed sincere, he’s write an article on how to deal with the problem of Hamas and how he suggests to rescue the Palestinians from their brutal, fascist rule. But don’t hold your breath, Falk is a die-hard throwback to the days of marxist-leninists and he would never bother trying to solve the Palestinian’s problems when he can simply blame everything on the zionists. In his worldview, it doesn’t matter if Palestine is yet another brutal Arab dictatorship that abuses its citizens – his goal is to get rid of Israel.

    • Richard Falk March 26, 2017 at 8:35 am #

      I do not think you make the case for why mentioning Hamas would alter the analysis of
      Israel’s policies and practices. They long preceded the existence of Hamas, which as you
      may know came into existence after 1967 with the initial encouragement of Israel to offset
      the influence of the PLO. In recent years, after being encouraged by Washington to abandon terrorism and
      enter the elections in Gaza in 2006, which it was not expected to win, it has put into a terrorist box
      to avoid dealing with its proposals for long-term ceasefires and 50-year coexistence arrangements. There
      is well-documented evidence that after 2006 it made discreet moves to encourage Washington to include it
      negotiations and avoid violence along the Israeli border. I have talked to Hamas leaders on several occasions
      and believe them to be sincere in seeking a diplomatic path that would stabilize a ceasefire over a long term,
      but it would require Israel to end blockade and withdraw from West Bank, which I do not think the current leadership
      is prepared to consider, which makes it useful to treat Hamas as the principal obstacle to achieving peace. On Hamas’
      behavior toward the Palestinians, I am not in disagreement with you, but it is hardly worse than in several countries
      that the West maintains positive relations with, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, etc..

      • Fred Skolnik March 26, 2017 at 2:42 pm #

        I will only add, once again, that in the matter of “interpreting” what Hamas wants and how Hamas will act, the conclusions of armchair quarterbacks and other amateurs is next to meaningless, Israel has professional intelligence officers who speak the language, follow the internal dialogues, are fed by sources within Hamas, and know how to “interpret” the information they receive and certainly do so objectively. I myself am far from being an expert in Arab affairs but it is next to impossible for anyone with the slightest understanding of what Hamas represents not to realize that it is as unlikely for Hamas to relinquish the God-ordained dream of getting everything, meaning the State of Israel itself, as it is for the religious settlers to give up the dream of getting Judea and Samaria, which is to say, it is impossible unless they relinquish their faith. The difference is that Hamas is very likely to take over any Palestinian state that comes into being while the settlers are very unlikely to take over the State of Israel. This is admittedly my opinion but it is at least based on intimate knowledge of the country and its people and is not a product of bias one way or the other.

      • Kata Fisher March 26, 2017 at 7:43 pm #

        Professor Falk, I have to tell you something. I had reflection that Gaza and Palestine in Long Terms could be along with Jordan in danger of similar things that were and are taking place in Saudi Arabia. Do you know any effective way that can be applied in order to avoid that in Holy Land? I know this may be add question, and that reflection was somewhat bewildering in a way. I myself do not know what to think about it. I do not even understand it.

      • talknic March 27, 2017 at 1:52 am #

        @ Fred Skolnik March 26, 2017 at 2:42 pm #

        “… it is next to impossible for anyone with the slightest understanding of what Hamas represents not to realize that it is as unlikely for Hamas to relinquish the God-ordained dream of getting everything, meaning the State of Israel itself, as it is for the religious settlers to give up the dream of getting Judea and Samaria, which is to say, it is impossible unless they relinquish their faith”

        Hamas were not established because of a religious belief. Its a war over territory, against colonization, occupation, illegal settlement

        “The difference is that Hamas is very likely to take over any Palestinian state”

        They were voted into power last time

        “while the settlers are very unlikely to take over the State of Israel.”

        Uh? In 1897 the Zionist Federation decided to colonize Palestine, by settling it!

        “This is admittedly my opinion … and is not a product of bias one way or the other.”

        You’re fooling yourself Fred

      • ray032 March 27, 2017 at 4:51 am #

        Fred, once again you show what ‘You can’t have your cake and eat it too’ means.

        On one hand you write, “Israel has professional intelligence officers who speak the language, follow the internal dialogues, are fed by sources within Hamas, and know how to “interpret” the information they receive and certainly do so objectively.”

        Almost all those same “professional intelligence officers” are unanimous in saying the greatest existential threat to Israel is maintaining the occupation and treating Palestinians as inferior humans.

    • talknic March 26, 2017 at 11:28 pm #

      Brian Cohen March 26, 2017 at 7:17 am #

      “It’s impossible to take Falk seriously when he fails to even write the word “Hamas” in his article,”

      OK Let’s talk about Hamas.

      Hamas was established 1987

      1987 was ninety years after the Zionist Federation decided to colonize Palestine

      1987, after thirty nine years of having Israeli forces “in territories” according to the Israeli Government, “outside the State of Israel”

      1987, twenty years after Israel in 1967 illegally acquired even more non-Israeli territories by war. 20 years of occupation and illegal settlement.

      Hamas today are a reaction to a hundred and twenty years of Zionist colonization including 69 years of illegal occupation and illegal settlement by the State of Israel.

      The Hamas Charter

      Article Thirty-One:
      “As to those who have not borne arms against you on account of religion, nor turned you out of your dwellings, Allah forbiddeth you not to deal kindly with them, and to behave justly towards them; for Allah loveth those who act justly.” (The Tried – verse 8).

      ” … let alone address the largest roadblock facing the peace process”

      UNSC res 476 is one of about ten reminders to Israel of UNSC res 252. The binding International Law, the binding UN Charter and relative binding conventions in ANY UN resolution, are binding. Here is what it says of Israel.

      3. Reconfirms that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal validity and constitute a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and also constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East;

      “The sad reality is that Falk … yadda yadda yadda”

      The really sad reality is that you haven’t refuted anything Mr Falk has said and you’re now indulging in an personal attack that is entirely irrelevant to the facts surrounding the the issue at hand.

      Israel by its own admission to the UNSC on May 22nd 1948 (ibid), has been waging wars “in territories outside the State of Israel” since 00:01 May 15th 1948 (ME time), when it’s border became effective

      • Fred Skolnik March 27, 2017 at 12:28 am #

        The reality is that Jews purchased private land in a country ruled by the Ottoman Turks and then the British without displacing a single Arab and where Arabs were living without the remotest thought of exercising sovereignty. The reality is that both the Arabs and the Jews subsequently claimed sovereignty over the same land, the UN proposed a compromise, the Jews accepted it, the Arabs rejected it and invaded Israel with the declared aim of destroying it and massacring its population. The reality is that 20 years later Jordan initiated a war against Israel and as a consequence Israel occupied the West Bank and remained there because the Arabs refused to end the conflict. The reality is the entire Hamas Charter, which I suggest that you read paragraph by paragraph to understand what its aims and intentions are.

    • Larry White March 27, 2017 at 2:37 am #

      Mr Cohen , it is hard to take you seriously when you fail to mention , Irgun / Haganah or Lehi –all Zionist terrorist groups who bombed Arab markets and buses ,killing hundreds of civilians.Perhaps you should write an article about that part of Israel,s history of terrorism , then complain about Hamas.

  3. Judith Deutsch March 26, 2017 at 2:12 pm #

    Just wanting to let you know how much many of us respect your incredible work. Here are some letters addressed to the Toronto Star:To the Editors:

    As a long-time reader of The Star and as a Jew, I am appalled and dismayed by Rosie DiManno’s recent rant against Richard Falk (and against any Jew who opposes the policies of the Israeli government) in her column.

    Is it wrong to criticize another government if their policies are deemed to be unjust?

    Surely the Canadian press criticizes the Trump government for its oppressive and unjust policies and actions. Why does Israel get any special treatment?

    We must be able to criticize and oppose oppressive regimes wherever they exist.

    Throwing the word “anti-Semite” at Jews who are brave enough to speak out against injustice is itself oppressive.

    Ellen G. Levine

    “Falk the self-hating Jew strikes again”
    Having read much of Richard Falk’s work on international human rights law, his work on nuclear weapons, and his reports as UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, it is hard to know where to start in commenting on Rosie DiManno’s unsubstantiated, ignorant, and insulting rant against Falk’s work on the basis of his being a “self-hating Jew.” For context, I recall that at the time of Operation Cast Lead (2009) the late Ursula Franklin, Jewish by birth, also likened Israel’s massacre of Gazans to the Nazi period, saying “Never Again means never again for anyone”. And Jewish Canadian concert pianist Anton Kuerti publicly said that he was ashamed to be Jewish and ashamed to be Canadian. Criticism of Canada and of Israel reflects moral integrity and indignation about racism anywhere. Quite a contrast to Michael Ignatieff and Stephen Harper at that time, both of whom publicly expressed their utter disregard for Palestinian lives. Centrally, critics of Israel, like Richard Falk and Ursula Franklin and Anton Kuerti, are highly informed by archival evidence and by impeccably reliable eyewitness reports. And significantly, anti-Semites attack Jews and Jewish institutions, but they do not criticize Israel. Critics of Israel value all lives, but anti-Semites and anti-Palestinians believe that some people matter and others don’t.
    Judith Deutsch


    The errors of judgement and fact in Rosie Demanno’s hatchet job on Richard Falk – and by extension anyone with a fundamental critique of Zionsim – are too many to list here. Let me just point out one.

    She ends the article with what, she no doubt thinks, is the coup de grace: an example of antisemitism so outrageous, in her mind, even her most skeptical reader will be won over.

    “… the Palestine News Network refers to the building of illegal settlements in Occupied Territories as the “Judaization” of Palestine … It is entirely about those damn Jews.”

    It may shock Rosie to learn that “Judaization” is, in fact, official Israeli government policy. And “Judaization” is exactly what they, the Israeli government call it: “Yehud” in Hebrew. The word appears in dozens of government documents and policy papers, and rolls off this lips of Ministers and bureaucrats all the time.

    Of course this term – and policy – is shocking to Canadian ears. (Can we imagine a Canadian government policy of “Europeanizing” the north. Or perhaps a Quebec policy of “Francifying” West Montreal.

    This is the reality of a state that de-facto and de-jure privileges one ethnicity over another – and is not ashamed to name it and brag about it.

    In fact “Judaization” is what the entire Zionist project has been about.

    Peter Trainor

  4. Fred Skolnik March 26, 2017 at 2:22 pm #

    What you are doing is redefining the word “race” for the sole purpose of sticking Israel with the apartheid label. “No necessary correlation with biogenetic realities” indeed! Are you joking? It is as if you were to say, For our purposes we shall treat “childhood” as “a socially and politically constructed category” with no necessary correlation to age. And you wonder at the responses you are getting.

    The word apartheid was specifically defined to describe a specific situation. No one has given you the license to redefine it, You will have to find another word, as hard as it is to let go of it. The word you would probably use if “apartheid” hadn’t become one of the dirtiest words in the language and therefore irresistibly tempting to apply to loathsome Israel is “discrimination.” That there undoubtedly is in Israel against the background of the conflict, and it is regrettable, but it doesn’t even reach the proportions of the discrimination against the Kurds wherever they have lived, or the Copts in Egypt, for example, or the Jews in Muslim countries. I am speaking about the State of Israel of course, where, as I have mentioned but will mention again, as it has apparently not sunk in, Arabs eat in the same restaurants as Jews, travel on the same buses and trains, use the same public spaces, are treated in the same hospitals as Jews, treat Jews in these hospitals as doctors and nurses, serve as lawyers and judges in Israel’s legal system, teach and study in the universities, serve in the Knesset. With regard to the occupation of the West Bank, it is a military occupation and nothing else, oppressive in proportion to terrorist activity, which would be dealt with in precisely the same way whether the settlements existed or not.

    • Omar Mirza March 27, 2017 at 1:36 am #

      “What you are doing is redefining the word “race” for the sole purpose of sticking Israel with the apartheid label. “No necessary correlation with biogenetic realities” indeed! Are you joking?”

      If anti-Semitism is a form of racism — does anyone disagree with that? — then Jews are a racial group, and so are the indigenous non-Jews who are deprived of human rights by Israel just for being non-Jews.

      • anan March 28, 2017 at 8:25 am #

        Jews are not a race or racial group Omar Mirza. Jews are a multi-racial multi-ethnic sect or religion or cultural group. DItto with muslims.

        That is why it isn’t racism to have bigotry against either Jews or muslims. It might be sectarian, but it isn’t racist.

        Omar Mirza, how would you categorize the treatment of large numbers of non Jewish non Palestinian immigrants in Israel who work in technology? [Be they Asian, Russian, European, American, African, Latin American etc.]

        Israelis seem to treat non Palestinians (including non Palestinian muslims such as techies and business people from Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, American muslims, Moroccans, Kurds, Iraqis, Indian muslims etc.) great. Sadly this nice treatment of non Palestinians is not applied to Palestinians. This has always puzzled me. Why do you think this is?

        Do you think that patriotic Israeli citizens that happen to have Palestinian heritage “are deprived of human rights by Israel just for being non-Jews”?

      • Richard Falk March 28, 2017 at 11:17 am #

        There are different definitions of ‘race’ in different contexts. Our study of Israel as an apartheid state uses
        a definition that relates to the Apartheid Convention, and Israel’s own emphasis on ‘demographic bomb’ and the like.

    • talknic March 27, 2017 at 1:38 am #

      @ Fred Skolnik March 26, 2017 at 2:22 pm #

      “That there undoubtedly is in Israel against the background of the conflict, and it is regrettable, but it doesn’t even reach the proportions of the discrimination against the Kurds wherever they have lived, or the Copts in Egypt, for example, or the Jews in Muslim countries.”

      Ye olde two or more wrongs make a right is soooo convincing

      “Arabs eat in the same restaurants as Jews… etc etc … “

      I should think so, by1950 more than half the Jews in Israel were Arabs. BTW Jewish Arab refugees from the Arab states were first cared for in Israel by UNRWA until 1952/53

      “With regard to the occupation of the West Bank, it is a military occupation and nothing else, oppressive in proportion to terrorist activity, which would be dealt with in precisely the same way whether the settlements existed or not.”

      Nice try Fred. Problem is, hundreds of thousands of Israelis are illegally living in territories not yet Israeli by any agreement in contravention of GC IV. A convention adopted in order to protect all civilians, including those of the occupying power from the possible collateral consequences of occupying another people and their territory.

      What kind of a scummy government purposefully loans civilians money at interest on condition that they illegally settle in the front lines?

      • Mike 71 March 27, 2017 at 6:06 am #

        The deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians by Hamas rockets is likewise a violation of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which describe that action as a “War Crime.” Isn’t this a case of the pot calling the kettle black? If Hamas is not bound to follow the Geneva Conventions, they forfeit their protection and under those circumstances, Israel is not bound by them either.

        Under International Law, Israel as the victorious belligerent of the 1967 “Six Day War,” may retain captured land until possession is modified by peace treaty. See:
        (Latin: As you possess, you may continue to possess)
        The Post World War II occupations of the Axis powers ended with peace treaties. When, and if, Palestinians want this “occupation” to end, they will negotiate for it!

      • Larry White March 28, 2017 at 7:32 am #

        Mike 71 , “When, and if, Palestinians want this “occupation” to end, they will negotiate for it!”

        With whom and for what ??.

        “lthough Netanyahu plays the part, the details of his party platform need to be taken into account as a “peace partner” to show the reality behind the circus. Likud Party Charter states:

        a. “The Jordan river will be the permanent eastern border of the State of Israel.”

        b. “Jerusalem is the eternal, united capital of the State of Israel and only of Israel. The government will flatly reject Palestinian proposals to divide Jerusalem”

        c. “The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river.”

        d. “The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel. The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting.”
        – See more at:

        Speaking of the Geneva conventions –IYou are aware that Israel is in violation of the 4TH GC , article 49 , which states that ! “It is prohibited for an occupier , (Israel in this case) to transfer it,s citizens ,(Israelis ) to the territory it occupies (Palestine this case) .This violation is a war crime.

        Btw , Hamas revised it,s Charter years ago.Look it up .I am not going to spoon feed you.

  5. Larry White March 27, 2017 at 2:27 am #

    Professor Falk , thanks you for your courage and tenacity in showing Israel for what it is , an Apartheid racist and supremacist state.

    This has been obvious to some of us for a long time.Then there are those who insist on burying their collective heads in the sand.Perhaps some day they will wake up and see they are on the wrong side of history.

  6. Stefan Andersson March 27, 2017 at 2:28 am #

    It’s really depressing to see How UN officials treat an excellent scholarly report. Hopefully it Will backfire and give the report more readers than otherwise. Spread the TRUTH✌️️

  7. Fred Skolnik March 27, 2017 at 7:36 am #

    Are you Indian, Mr. Mirza? I’m a great fan of Sania Mirza, who used to play doubles with our Shahar Peer.

  8. Beau Oolayforos March 27, 2017 at 10:43 am #

    Dear Professor Falk,

    In your publications as Special Rapporteur, I think you discussed at some point the specifics of water allowances in the occupied territories. I admit that I’ve been too busy, or lazy, to do an experiment that any of us might possibly do: take our monthly water bills , compare our consumption to those of comparable individuals or families in the West Bank or Gaza, and then try to live within those people’s limits. It might bear on our understanding of “apartheid”.

    • Richard Falk March 27, 2017 at 11:07 am #

      I am in Ireland at present, and unable to access my reports. Your recollection is correct, but there were
      twelve reports over the six year period without an index, and so with my bad memory, I would have trouble
      tracking it down, but I will when I can..

    • Kata Fisher March 27, 2017 at 11:59 am #

      A Note:

      A Note:

      According to the Book of Daniel, Apartheid is more than one can imagine — at least — not even to bare.

      Humans are limited creatures, and when they make themselves more than that (limited creatures) — they stop to be humans. The problem of apartheid is vast, and legal binding of apartheid is vast — to understand all apartheid is not even in a human ability of a least.

      I made a note:

      A Note: Entire contemporarily and or ancient teritory of the Israel and Judea / Holy Land / Judea and Samaria and / or Palestine Mandate is one vast area of a severe apartheid.

      Its that civilly ecclesiastically illigal Jordan Landmark of Arab saud’s (and other Westerns) and illegitimate, counterfit who did all of that. We do not know that anything else acts legally binding, apartheid as that.

      I do not know that any generation will be strong enough and righteous to null that civilly ecclesiastically illigal Jordan Landmark.

    • anan March 27, 2017 at 3:33 pm #

      Beau, shouldn’t water be sold at its market price? The question is how revenues from natural water source sales be allocated.

      The PA has huge long term budget deficits as far as the eye can see, and desperately needs revenue from water sales.

      Water in historic Palestine should be much more expensive than elsewhere in the world because Palestine is a natural desert . . . which derives much of its water from ocean water desalination. Most Palestinians and Israelis need to pay much more for water . . . to align with market forces.

      “Apartheid” has nothing to do with it. This is a monetary dispute about natural resource royalty streams.

      • Larry White March 28, 2017 at 6:38 am #

        anan , it is most definitely about apartheid.Israel controls the distribution of water resources and does so in a manner that gives illegal Israeli settlers more water than Palestinians in the Occupied Territories at a ratio of 5 :1.That,s Apartheid in it,s vilest form.

        Read for yourself!!.

        The following is just a typical example of how the GOI prosecutes it,s apartheid regime in matters of water distribution.Israel considers the water in the Occupied West Bank to be “Israeli State property”.Go figure.

        “On 10 March 2008, Fa’iq Ahmad Sbeih received a visit from an Israeli army patrol at his farm in al-Farisya, a
        few km north of Jiftlik, in the Jordan Valley area of th
        e West Bank. The soldiers confiscated 1,500 metres of
        rubber hose which brought water to his farm from a spring on a hill above his land, and crushed the small
        metal pipe which was connected to the hose. The confiscation order delivered by the army stated that the
        hose was confiscated “due to lack of permit”. The army considers the spring water as “state property” .

        Read more from the same report.

        “To boost insufficient supplies the Palestinians mu
        st buy water from Israel – water that Israel
        extracts from the Mountain Aquifer and which the Palestinians should be able to extract for
        themselves if Israel were to allow them a more
        equitable share of the aquifer. In recent years
        the quantity of water bought by Palestinians
        from Israel has increased, to some 50 MCM/Y,
        but this is not enough to match the increase in
        population in the West Bank and supplies are
        often reduced by Israel to the Palestinians (but
        not to the Israeli settlers in the OPT) during
        the hot season, when needs are greater.
        The total amount of water available to Pale
        stinians from these vari
        ous supplies in recent
        years has been a maximum of some 170-180 MC
        M/Y, which reportedly fell to a mere 135
        MCM in 2008, for a population of 2.3 million.
        However, as much as a third (some 34 per
        cent) is lost in leakages due to old and inefficient networks,
        and these cannot be readily
        replaced and modernized due to the restrictions on Palestinians’ movements and other
        obstacles imposed by Israel, including the re
        quirement that permits be obtained from the
        Israeli army for even small development projects.
        In practice, therefore, Palestinians have
        access to an average of no more than 60-70 li
        tres per capita per day, and some survive on
        much less even than this
        , as little as 10-20 litres per person per day.
        Even at an average of 60-70 litres per person per day, the amount of water available to
        Palestinians is the lowest in
        the region. While there has been
        a meagre increase in the total
        amount of water available to Palestinians in
        the OPT during the more than 40 years of Israeli
        occupation, the amount available per capita is
        now less than in 1967 as the Palestinian
        population has more than doubled since then.”

        Read the full report at !!.

        Click to access mde150272009en.pdf

      • Beau Oolayforos March 28, 2017 at 11:40 am #

        I only meant to focus on the quantity of water available to certain people under certain circumstances, irrespective of money. Shall we compare what is available to typical Israeli, Palestinian, and US families? The proportion of income necessary to have a decent amount of it? It’s an attempt to understand, to feel, the predicaments of others.

  9. Herman Cohen March 28, 2017 at 12:12 pm #

    The irony is that apartheid in South Africa was designed to create separate states based on ethnicity. If Israel is guilty of apartheid , it should accept a Palestinian state.

  10. Laurie Knightly March 28, 2017 at 7:13 pm #

    Israel’s Harshest Critic Gets Its Highest Honor Times Sunday, January 24, 1993

    JERUSALEM – To his fans Yeshayahu Leibowitz is the modern incarnation of an angry Old Testament prophet. To his critics, he is a crank who delights in insulting Israel’s most hallowed institutions.
    The 90-year old professor who says Israel should give up Arab land has been named to receive the Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement.
    The awarding of Israel’s highest honor to its highest critic has touched off an emotional debate that goes to the core of Israel’s self image as a democracy and a Jewish nationalist homeland.
    “I’m disgusted,” says former Prime Minister Yitzak Shamir. Angry phone calls flooded radio talk shows. Legislators and army officers protested. Prime Minister Rabin asked at a Cabinet meeting whether the award could be withdrawn.
    A three-member committee, appointed by the education minister, awards the Israel Prize each year to a dozen recipients. Some past winners have been Arab poet Emile Habibi – another controversial choice – and conductor Zubin Mehta. The honor includes a $7,500 prize.
    Education minister Shulamit Aloni, a leftist, told Rabin she could not interfere with the committee choice.
    Leibowitz emerged as a voice of dissent in 1967, when he warned that Israel’s triumphs in the Six-Day War would turn to ashes unless it quickly withdrew from the Arab territories it had just captured.
    “I wrote on the seventh day that this brilliant military victory will prove to be a historic and political disaster for the State of Israel,” Leibowitz said recently.
    Against the euphoria of the time, his was a voice in the wilderness and might have gone unnoticed if Leibowitz had not been one of Israel’s finest and most eclectic minds.
    Born in Latvia and educated in Germany, he is a professor of biochemistry and neurophysiology, an authority on Jewish philosophy, and an editor of the Hebrew Encyclopedia.
    He is also an orthodox Jew who wears a a black skullcap, prays daily in the synagogue, and delights his secular audience by his contempt for Israel’s religious establishment.
    Leibowitz argues that the domination of 2-million Palestinians has corrupted Israel and given rise to a “Judeo-Nazi mentality in certain circles” – harsh words for a nation steeped in memories of the Holocaust.
    The elderly professor was asked sarcastically on a talk show if he believed Israel would put Palestinians in concentration camps and kill them in gas chambers.
    “It is known to me that the State of Israel is keeping thousands of Arabs in concentration camps,” he replied referring to camps for Palestinian prisoners.
    Leibowitz says soldiers should refuse to serve in the occupied lands.
    “Our problem is not to liberate the Palestinians, our problem is to liberate Israel from this curse,” he said in an interview in his tiny book-crammed study in Jerusalem.
    Leibowitz believes many share his views but “lack the courage to say what they mean.”
    Unexpected praise for the award came from the Jerusalem daily Au Nahar in Jerusalem.
    “This should be a lesson to the Arab regimes which adhere to the position that dissidents should be overpowered,” said an unsigned column.

  11. Fred Skolnik March 29, 2017 at 2:24 am #

    I am once again, respectfully and politely, Prof. Falk, offering the following link for a different view of the water problem:

    • Richard Falk March 29, 2017 at 10:57 am #

      As long as you are impersonal in these comments, I am glad to post. Otherwise, not.

      Actually, I am helping you out as you will make more of an impact on those who are not
      already in your corner.

    • Larry White March 29, 2017 at 12:41 pm #

      “I am once again, respectfully and politely, Prof. Falk, offering the following link for a different view of the water problem:”Fred Skolnik

      How does one respectfully offer the view of the Begin/Sadat center for research. BESA is practically an arm of the GOI.Check out it,s web site.

  12. Dr Mazin al-Najjar March 29, 2017 at 7:11 am #

    Dear Professor Richard Falk

    I hope this message will find you *insha Allah* in the best of health, spirit, and happiness. My name is Mazin Al Najjar, Palestinian refugee from Gaza and a resident of Cairo now. I am almost 60 years old and stateless since I was born on June 4, 1957 in the Baptist hospital in Gaza.

    I have been following and actually archiving your newsletter for years. It is a great source of knowledge and insight. I am learning a lot from this newsletter even form your beautiful English style.

    I am writing to ask your kind permission to translate this article titled: Is Israel an Apartheid State? into Arabic and publish it in the quarterly *Ru’yah Turkiyyah*, the Arabic edition of “Insight Turkey,” published by SETA foundation in Ankara, Turkey. Thank you very much for your consideration. Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Sincerely Mazin Al Najjar, Ph.D., P.E. Mobile: +20 1222249077 E. Mail:

    • Richard Falk March 29, 2017 at 2:16 pm #

      Dear Mazin Al Najjar:

      Thanks for your message and gracious words, and good wishes.

      I am so sorry that you have had to endure statelessness since your birth. It is horrible failure of justice and
      human rights.

      I would happy to have my article ‘Is Israel an Apartheid State’ translated into Arabic and then published in the Arabic
      edition of “insight Turkey.”

      with my greetings,

      Richard Falk


  13. Gene Schulman March 29, 2017 at 8:28 am #

    So? That was 24 years ago, and Israel still has caught on. Will they ever?

    • Gene Schulman March 29, 2017 at 1:25 pm #

      Sorry. That should read, Israel still has not caught on. And is in reference to Laurie’s post above.

      • Laurie Knightly March 29, 2017 at 8:52 pm #

        Leibowitz said that people lack the courage to say what they mean and that’s part of the problem. In 2005 he was voted number 20 out of 200 of the greatest Israelis of all times. [Israeli news website Ynet] And yet while he lived, his distractors were so noisy that it was often misleading. He also believed that mixing state and religion corrupts faith – as does the converse, I would add. He seemed impervious to the criticism – don’t know.

        Good video of Tariq Ali interviewing Richard on the apartheid issue…… The words apartheid, race, and genocide have been given new/enhanced/legalized meanings. This gives the opposition a semantic opportunity that avoids/distorts the matter being presented.

      • Gene Schulman March 30, 2017 at 5:44 am #

        Would love to see that interview. Can you provide a link? I haven’t been able to find it.

        Maybe, when this is all part of history, Richard will be considered one of the top twenty friends of Israel, for having been its conscience.

      • Richard Falk March 30, 2017 at 7:43 am #


        If you mean the interview with Tariq Ali, I don’t have the link and have not seen it. We did
        have a wide ranging conversation on many topics. I am not sure how much survived the editorial process.

      • Gene Schulman March 30, 2017 at 7:56 am #

        Well, Laurie seems to have seen it. Maybe she can provide a link.

        First day nice enough in Geneva to sit on the balcony and read in the sun. Made the mistake of trying “Kill Boxes”. Ruined my day. Grizzly torture almost too hard to believe. But everyone should read it, if they want to understand what our world is really like. And why.

  14. Rabbi Ira Youdovin March 30, 2017 at 11:39 am #

    Prof. Falk,

    It had been a while since you blocked one of my posts. But now that you’ve censored a comment that I believe does not violate your stated criteria of decency, I’m writing to ask why, and to suggest that you reconsider.

    My comment offers harsh criticism of the report you co-authored with Prof. Tilley, because it adds to the toxic environment of mutual hostility that works against attainment of peaceful Palestinian-Israeli co-existence which you assert, in your piece for The Nation, is your objective, and is thus deleterious to both sides, especially the Palestinians. My comment challenges your judgment, not your character, which is the central issue in the discussion you seek to generate.

    I therefore respectfully ask that you reconsider posting my comment. If there are specific words or sentences you find offensive, please call them to my attention via private e-mail and I will explore the possibility of editing to your satisfaction.


    Rabbi Ira Youdovin

    • Richard Falk March 30, 2017 at 3:44 pm #

      Dear Rabbi Youdovin:

      I just received your message late at night here in Cork, Ireland, and I am the first speaker at a conference
      that begins in the morning, and so I must be brief. Actually, I agonized about your long comment, realizing that
      it reflected your considered judgment on important issues. At the same time I found the opening and ending of the
      comment extremely insulting and exactly the kind of demeaning language that I am determined to avoid. In this instance
      I have never, never advocated the elimination of the the state of Israel, but rather its policies, practices, and
      structure of discriminatory dominance based on Jewish identity. You quote a former Princeton colleague without naming
      him or her, and do so with approval. The sentences that particularly offended me were the following:

      “Not long ago, one of your former Princeton colleagues spoke at UC Santa Barbara, where you were teaching at the time. During the Q&A, one of your UCSB students asked him to comment on your views of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. His response: “Prof. Falk’s approach is that first we eliminate Israel, and then we’ll decide what to do next.”
      The report you co-wrote with Prof. Tilley, together with the circumstances of its provenance and your subsequent statements, testify to the accuracy of this assessment.”

      I see no good reason why I should publish such a sentiment on the website of my blog. And I am puzzled why with your knowledge and intelligence that you insist in twisting
      my views so as to give them a meaning that I reject and are inflammatory and if you think that this is about judgment rather than character I am deeply perplexed. I have never, and never will, resort to such tactics when addressing your views, despite the gap separating our understanding of the issues.

      Best wishes,


  15. Rabbi Ira Youdovin March 30, 2017 at 8:39 pm #


    Resolving the Palestinian- Israeli conflict, as with all conflicts, requires that each participant examine its role in perpetuating the discord with an eye toward introducing moderation while, at the same time, seeking points of commonality with its adversary on which to build cooperation and mutual understanding. The report you wrote with Prof. Tilley, which is utterly one-sided and escalates the verbal warfare to an unprecedented toxicity, runs contrary to virtually everything known and written about conflict resolution.

    You write in your article for The Nation (and reproduced on this blog): “it is our continuing wish, shared with the members of ESCWA, that people of good will throughout the world, especially within Israel, will work toward a political solution that will finally allow Jews and Palestinians to live together in peace, with justice.” But seeking to de-legitimize Israel and making it a pariah state, which clearly is the report’s objective, seems an odd way of pursuing this admirable objective. Indeed, implementing its recommendations, explicit and implied, would drown Israel in a floodtide of refugees, cripple its economy, and add more tumult to an already dangerously tumultuous Middle East.

    The jarring incongruity between what you cite as the report’s purpose and the list of its sponsors cannot be ignored. It was commissioned by the UN Economic and Social Council for Western Asia (ESCWA) consisting of eighteen Arab states: Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, The Sudan, The Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, The United Arab Emirates and Yemen. How many of these despotic regimes are committed to negotiating peace with justice? (Richard, we are both tennis fans so hopefully you will appreciate the source of my assessment: “Richard, you can’t be serious!”)

    In fact, ESCWA, itself, imposes apartheid on Israel, which is a UN member state located in western Asia, but excluded from ESCWA membership (which includes Sudan, Libya, and Tunisia which are African.)

    It’s axiomatic among experts who do conflict resolution that the process applied to the task has a large impact on the results. It’s virtually impossible that peaceful co-existence between Jews and Palestinians under any structural format could emerge from the destabilization, dislocation and hostile chaos that are the inevitable consequence of the approach the report urges.

    You say that you “see no alternative.” With all due respect, may I suggest that perhaps you don’t want to see one. The narrative you weave in your work for the UN, on this blog and elsewhere, systematically omits anything and everything that discredits your depiction of Israel as being unalterably determined, from even before achieving statehood, to extend Israeli rule over the totality of its biblical boundaries, and to either subjugate or ethnically cleanse the Palestinian inhabitants. With this self-imposed blind spot, you ignore or dismiss Israeli peace proposals over the years, as well as the substantial forces inside Israel and in Jewish communities throughout the world, and especially the United States, that strongly oppose the occupation, and hope, with all our heart, that the Palestinians can overcome the ideological and political schism that divides their body politic into mutually hostile camps, and build a consensus that will enable them to come to the negotiating table with a single, united voice able to make commitments that will be honored by all Palestinian factions. Your approach, which puts the total blame on Israel, militates against this.

    None of this is intended to obscure or deny the fact that Israel is guilty of improper, illegal and unethical acts, and that the regime being imposed on the West Bank is a form of apartheid. Achieving peace with justice in the context of two states for two peoples, will require enormous concessions from Israel. But to apply the specious accusation of apartheid to life inside the Green Line—which is a tactic for making apartheid appear as systemic in everything Israel touches—conveys a bogus image of Israeli intransigence and inalterable opposition to legitimate Palestinian aspirations, which strengthens the hard line rejectionists within the Palestinian community who eschew compromise in favor of perpetual resistance by violent and non-violent means which, in turn, strengthens the hand of Israeli extremists who argue that nothing Israel does will alter Palestinian determination to destroy the Jewish State. And vice versa.

    Richard, I sincerely believe that you are totally committed to helping the Palestinians. But as one who is committed to Palestinian independence and a better future for all Palestinians, my very strong sense is that your efforts, while heartfelt, are misguided, in fact, you are hurting them. There is a better way, one that fosters cooperation between Jews and Palestinians. After all these years during which the Palestinians’ situation has not improved, I suggest it is time to try another tack.


    • Richard Falk April 3, 2017 at 4:52 am #


      I honestly believe that the modified version of your comment raises your concerns in a much
      more effective manner. Clearly this is an unintended consequence of my ‘censorship.’ Yet actually
      it is much more engaging from my side to depersonalize the discussion and debate, giving others the
      benefit of the doubt with respect to sincerity, integrity, and the like.

      You are correct that our study of the apartheid allegation is one-sided to the extent that it only
      examines wrongdoing attributed to Israel. But let us remember that it is now the 50th anniversary year
      of the occupation with no real end in sight, and the settler population rising close to the 800,000 level.
      Ending apartheid, that is the domination of the Palestinian people so as to to sustain a Jewish state by
      reliance on systematic discrimination, would create the basis for a genuine basis for reaching a sustainable
      peace by proceeding on the assumption of the equality of all peoples resident in historic or Ottoman Palestine.
      I realize that involves reverting to the notion of a Jewish homeland in Israel as distinct from a Jewish state, but
      without such a move Israel would be unable to achieve human rights for the totality of its population or to remain
      democratic given demographic trends. It is important to recall that ending in apartheid in South Africa did not entail the destruction
      or elimination of the South African state, but only that part of the Afrikaner regime that imposed a racist structure of
      control. The Zionist project from its inception has had plural interpretations over the course of the past 120 years, and there
      is nothing fixed about its goals; the core ethical mistake of the Zionist movement was its attempt to erase the ‘the majority
      indigenous population as of 1917 or 1947 by insisting on ‘a Jewish state.’ This is not to engage in ‘the blame game’ but represents
      a search for sustainable peace that might enable these two peoples to live together in a better way. I agree that the Palestinians
      have made important mistakes of an ethical and tactical nature over the years, but until the issue of power and domination is addressed any ‘peace’
      would be imposed and unsustainable. Where we disagree if how, given the circumstances that presently exist, to discern the best way forward
      in a context where all paths seems blocked. I believe that the South African model of transformation, even taking account of the many differences,
      is the most hopeful one. After all, Zionism itself has demonstrated that ‘the impossible happens.’ I think there is ambiguity around your
      sense that the Palestinians are intent on destroying the Palestinian state, the counterpoint to which would be that Israel is intent on destroying the
      Palestinian people. What Palestinian perspectives have since 1988 (as updated by Arab Initiative of 2002) have insisted upon is withdrawal to 1967 borders
      and a refusal to subscribe to the notion of Israel as a Jewish state empowered to discriminate through its nationality laws as between Jewish and Palestinian
      rights of return. The non-territorial suffering of the Palestinian people much also be part of a genuine peace mix, including refugees and some sort of peace
      and reconciliation process. I am not sure whether this responsive comment will clarify our differences, but it does represent my attempt to do so.

      Best from Cork,


      • Rabbi Ira Youdovin April 3, 2017 at 7:24 am #


        Thanks for interrupting your travels and time with your wife to post an extensive response. I appreciate it.

        There’s much in your historical analysis with which I disagree. But rather than arguing over the past, let’s look to the future. Reverting to the Homeland format is a theoretical concept. How would it work in real time? Who would govern? How would decisions be made? National defense? Foreign policy? etc. Your proposal cannot be assessed without a clearer picture of what you have in mind.

        I look forward to receiving your response.


      • Richard Falk April 6, 2017 at 8:20 am #


        Your question is fair enough, but I am not competent to provide the sort of detailed response that would be necessary
        for the implementation of such a concept of ‘living together.’ It would depend on a background of political will and
        rising trust without which such a revamping of the state as meta-ethnic and society as the site of ‘ethnic communities’
        given a variety of security guarantees, but no absolute assurance. I believe the tragic mistake of the Zionist movement
        was to combine the search for ethnic sanctuary with the establishment of an ethnic state necessitating the displacement,
        dispossession, and subjugation of a large portion of the indigenous population. On the detailing of the policy and security
        arrangements, others will have to fill in the blanks, but if such a framing of the relationship between Jews and Arabs ever became
        possible, I have confidence that the governance dimensions could be handled.

        In turn, I would be interested in how you would respond to this notion of separating ethnic protection of the Jewish people from
        the administration of an ethnically preferential state as has been the case for Israel since 1948. An alternative suggested in
        some detail by Jeff Halper would be to establish a bi-national state. He is working with a group of Israelis and Palestinians to
        carry this approach forward. This is less radical than my preferred option, but contains some of the same flaws as present reality
        and faces almost as great obstacles. In the end, it will be up to legitimate representatives of the two peoples, possibly ratified
        by a referendum to make the final commitment.

        some of the flaws of present arrangements.


      • Fred Skolnik April 6, 2017 at 10:56 am #

        May I say, Prof. Falk, that you are misrepresenting both the nature of the Jewish state and the “necessary” consequences of its existence. It was only the war initiated in 1948 by the Arabs that brought about “the displacement, dispossession, and subjugation of a large portion of the indigenous population.” Nothing in the partition plan “necessitated” this other than the inability of the Arab nation to reconcile itself to the existence of a non-Muslim state in the Middle East, in which the Arabs would have continued to live just as they had lived for hundreds of years under Turkish rule, if not much better, as they do in fact live in Israel today despite all the problems. And of course Israel is not an ethnic state. It is is a national state and there is no reason to define it other than as a national state unless it is to diminish and delegitimize it.

  16. anan March 31, 2017 at 1:06 am #

    Richard Falk, thank you for allowing such an open and informative discussion on Palestine. I know of no other forum of open discussion with such diverse knowledgeable and thoughtful participants.


    I understand that you regard Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza as Apartheid. But why do you consider Israel proper with the 1967 borders (specifically the treatment of patriotic Israeli citizens of Palestinian heritage) as Apartheid?

    Finkelstein has repeatedly warned against emphasizing Israel’s treatment of Israeli Arabs.

    While it is true that Israel has internal challenges of sectarianism, bigotry, racism . . . what country in the world now (or in recorded history) has not had major challenges with sectarianism, bigotry and racism?

    To help us understand your perspective, could you mention a country that you do not think practices Apartheid and please explain why?

    Again thanks for your time and passion for this cause . . . and your love of the Palestinian and Israeli people.

  17. ray032 April 1, 2017 at 5:48 pm #

    Johnathan Cook, the Independent Journalist living in Nazareth, introduced this video on my FB newsfeed.

    Ilan Pappe is, I think, the most important voice right now on setting out the key issues regarding Israel-Palestine. In this 45-min talk and Q&A, he offers an exceptionally clear-sighted analysis of Israeli settler colonialism. The problem has to be precisely understood before the path and the will to a solution can emerge.

    • Mike 71 April 3, 2017 at 8:05 am #


      Ilan Pappe is not representative of a majority of Israelis; neither were Vidkun Quisling or Marshall Petain representative of the majority of Norwegians or Frenchmen respectively. The later two, who were puppet governors of their respective nations for the Third Reich, were arrested, prosecuted, convicted and executed for treason. Pappe is better off in British academia, where he has an audience, rather than in Israel where he is considered an anathema to the nation’s values.

      • Larry White April 3, 2017 at 4:56 pm #

        “Pappe is better off in British academia, where he has an audience, rather than in Israel where he is considered an anathema to the nation’s values.” Mike 71

        Israel,s values ??.

        Please elaborate.

      • ray032 April 4, 2017 at 3:26 pm #

        Mike, this comment adds nothing to this discussion except for the purpose of obfuscation.

        Professor Falk, Norman Finklestein, Miko Peled and the thousands of Jews living in Israel protesting the occupation and treatment of Palestinians do not represent the majority of Israelis.

        A hallmark of Democracy is the legal protection of the rights of minorities in recognition the majority could be wrong.

        In my view, this recognition the minority could be right comes from the ancient story of the Prophet Micaiah in the Jewish Tanach. There is no mention of this brave Jewish Prophet, who dared to speak Truth to Power, before or after this one Day, one incident in his life.

        The kings of Israel and Judah held a summit meeting to discuss going to war 2900 years ago. All 400 Prophets in Israel were summoned to tell the kings if God was with them in the war plan? They were unanimous in telling to kings God was with them. Go to war!

        The king of Judah was suspect all 400 Prophets were in total agreement and asked if these were ALL the Prophets in Israel?

        The king of Israel admitted “There is one more man from whom to inquire the word of the Lord, but I hate him for he does not prophesy good about me, only bad; Micaiah the son of Imlah.”

        A messenger was sent for Micaiah and said all 400 told the kings God was with them assuring victory in war, so go along with them and don’t rock the boat.

        At first, Micaiah went along with the others until the king adjured him to speak the Truth of the Lord.

        The solitary man then said, “I saw all the Israelites scattered over the mountains like sheep who have no shepherd. And the Lord said, ‘These have no master. Let them return each one to his house in peace.”
        He continued, “Therefore, listen to the word of the Lord. I saw the Lord seated on His throne, and all the host of heaven were standing by Him on His right and on His left. And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab so that he will go up and fall in Ramoth-Gilead?’ One said in this manner and another one said in that manner.

        And a certain spirit came forth and stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him,’ and the Lord said to him ‘How?’
        And he said, ‘I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And He said, ‘You will entice and you will prevail. Go forth and do so.’

        Naturally one of the 400 smacked him across the face.

        ‘So said the king, “Place this one in prison, and feed him a scant amount of bread and a scant amount of water until I come back in peace.”

        And Micaiah said: “If you will return in peace, the Lord did not speak to me.” And he said, “All the nations listen.”

        The king ignored Micaiah, went into battle incognito, and died that night.
        1 Kings 22 & 2 Chronicles 18

  18. ray032 April 2, 2017 at 7:42 pm #

    Just got this email from Jonathan Cook discussing in video, different angles of Israel’s apartheid system similarities.

    My offer to Owen Jones: A tour of Nazareth
    3 April 2017

    In an interview with the Jewish Chronicle at the weekend, Owen Jones announced that he would soon be making his first trip to Israel to see friends and would also take the opportunity to visit the occupied Palestinian territories. There can be no excuse for Jones not to make every effort during his stay to get the full story of what has happened and is happening to the Palestinian people.

    That will mean doing more than just visiting the occupied territories – and then hearing his liberal Zionist friends decry what goes on there as the fault of the Israeli right wing. They will assure him that, when (sic) the Israeli Labour party returns to power, all the horrors he has seen will come to an end. They will tell him, not that he has witnessed some of the symptoms of problems inherent in Zionism, but that these problems were created exclusively by Benjamin Netanyahu and the settlers.

    That is a deception – one liberal Zionists have been using to keep Labour activists like Jones docile for decades. He has a duty to dig much deeper. That will upset his friends, but he must ignore their protests if he really cares about justice for the Palestinians and about getting to the truth.

    After all, it was Labour Zionists – those who are today represented in the UK by the Jewish Labour Movement (to which he gave a memorial lecture last night) – who set up the original settlements in the occupied territories after 1967 and established the blueprint for creeping annexation and ethnic cleansing there. The model of occupation was created not by Netanyahu, but by Generals Moshe Dayan and Yigal Allon of the Israeli Labour party, the same party that continues to maintain its close ties to Britain’s Labour party.

    If Jones doubts that Labour Zionism caused the problems that have led many people today to regard Israel as pariah state, he can ask Israeli historian Ilan Pappe for an early copy of his forthcoming book The Biggest Prison on Earth. In it Pappe explains how, after the mass expulsion of Palestinians in 1948, the Israeli Labour leadership created and refined an oppressive two-decade military regime for the fragments of the Palestinian people who managed to remain inside the new Jewish state’s borders – after Israel had, very reluctantly, made them nominal citizens.

    It was during this military government that Israeli Labour party leaders began formulating how they would expand their rule into the occupied territories. When they engineered a chance to seize the territories in 1967, the military government inside Israel was simply exported wholesale into the West Bank and Gaza.

    If Jones really wants to understand what has been taking place, he must visit a Palestinian community inside Israel. Preferably, he should come to the only Palestinian city to survive 1948 as a Palestinian city –Nazareth. The city was exempted only because the commander sent to expel Nazareth’s population disobeyed orders. If Jones believes Israel is a Jewish and democratic state, as he apparently does, then he needs to see how that democracy plays out for the one in five Israelis who are Palestinian…………………………..

    • Fred Skolnik April 3, 2017 at 11:13 pm #

      Dear ray, I assume you are in agreement with Jonathan Cook about democracy and Nazareth, so I assume you have been there. Please tell us specifically what you saw in Nazareth that told you “how that democracy plays out for the one in five Israelis who are Palestinian.”

  19. Gene Schulman April 4, 2017 at 12:01 am #

    This article in the NYTimes is nothing but an apologia for the sins of Israel’s apartheid state. Though the author points out differences between South African and Israeli practices, apartheid by any other name is till apartheid. Apartheid is apartheid is apartheid (with apologies to W. Shakespeare and Gertrude Stein).

    Our “Wandering Who?”, Gilad Atzmon, has pointed out that Israel doesn’t practice apartheid like it was practiced in South Africa. The South Africans wanted their blacks to remain as cheap labor. The Israelis want their Palestinians to disappear so that the country will be majority Jewish/Zionist. But until that happens, if it does, Israel is, and will remain an apartheid state, as the much maligned report by Tilley and Falk claim.

  20. Ira Youdovin April 6, 2017 at 12:51 pm #


    Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

    I’ll begin my response by asking you to take a step back from your anger at my referencing a quote from one of your Princeton colleagues who characterized your approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as calling for dismantling Israel and then deciding what to do next. Perhaps you might realize that what you’re doing in this exchange is precisely what your critic says you do. You’ve called on Israel to renounce statehood, or for some unnamed body to snatch it away, without considering what would happen to Israel’s more than six million Jewish citizens or, for that matter, to its nearly two million Palestinian citizens, or to residents of the Occupied Territories and, indeed, the entire Middle East whose lives would be impacted by the massive destabilization that would ensue.

    You describe eschewing statehood for becoming a homeland as a “minor revision in the Zionist program” which returns Zionism’s to its original objectives. I’m afraid that both claims are wrong. The notion of establishing a Jewish sanctuary short of statehood is not a Zionist concept. It appears in the Balfour Declaration (1917) which promises the Jews a “home” in Palestine at a moment in history when the idea of statehood, Jewish and otherwise, was still foreign to the Middle East. There were Jews who saw their task as providing financial and political support to creating an “ethnic sanctuary”, as you put it, that would exist under British protection as a crown colony or something similar. They called themselves “non-Zionists”. “Zionists”, on the other hand, from the outset, sought to create a Jewish state with a Jewish majority extending full rights to its non-Jewish citizens. In the early 1940’s, as Britain retreated from its commitments to the Jews, it became apparent that being a colony was not sufficient, and non-Zionism disappeared save for a tiny remnant.

    The notion of a bi-national state has knocked around for more than a century, never gaining traction in either community. There’s even less chance of it taking hold at the present time. I’ve read some of Jeff Halper’s material. He envisages two autonomies with no real center to make enforce decisions and make policy on key issues such as national defense, water resources, etc. It simply won’t work.

    Btw, you remark that Jeff Halper’s approach is less radical than the one you prefer. Am I correct in inferring from this, and from your advocacy of unlimited Palestinian immigration to a single state extending from the Mediterranean to the Jordan, that your preference is a for placing a “Jewish homeland” in the middle of a large Arab-majority state? Even Edward Said warned against this happening.

    You’ve used South Africa as a model of what might transpire. I’ll suggest another model that is more relevant because it addresses the specifics of the Middle East. Following WW1, the victorious allied powers carved up what had been the Ottoman Empire into kingdoms, states and spheres of influence. In some of these entities, disparate groups that had little in common other than living in close proximity and sharing a long history of bitter conflict, were mashed-up together in an artificially imposed and delusionary unity, which eventually dissolved into bloody civil war. For a glimpse of bi-nationalism in the Middle East, look no further than Syria and Iraq. Do you really want this for the Palestinians?

    As I’ve written previously, there are better options. The two state solution is dead only if moderates in both communities who seek peaceful co-existence continue in their failure to reign in the extremists, who will settle for no less that total victory.

    Gene Schuman and others may dismiss my analysis as Zionist hasbara. But, in fact, a two-state solution is supported by almost everyone but extremists and their supporters: the UN, EU and the Arab League, among many others.


    • Richard Falk April 6, 2017 at 2:46 pm #


      Just one quick point. When South Africa dismantled its apartheid regime it did not relinquish its status
      as a sovereign state. It gave up being a racist regime. If Israel was prepared to become a secular state with equal
      rights for both peoples, then there would be no need for an ethnic sanctuary. If Zionism wants to keep alive its commitment
      to an ethnic community, then some variant of my idea is appropriate.

      BTW, you seem incapable of letting go of this anonymous Princeton critic who invoke now a second time without having
      the decency to disclose who he or she was.

      There are a huge array of two-state solutions, but the ones with political traction call for complete or near complete
      withdrawal to 1967 borders, East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state, and equal sovereign rights. Such features
      are totally unacceptable to the present leadership of Israel and most of the opposition. Of course, a Palestinian state with
      qualified sovereignty and diminished territory might be negotiable at some point, but it would not likely be sustainable if
      there was not a substantial recognition of Palestinian rights under international law.


      • Rabbi Ira Youdovin April 7, 2017 at 9:27 am #


        Would a territorial resolution based on the 1982 Arab League proposal, with unlimited immigration to the new Palestinian state satisfy your criteria (assuming that other outstanding issues—Jerusalem, water, Holy Places, etc.) are also resolved through negotiation?



      • Richard Falk April 7, 2017 at 5:06 pm #


        My ur-norm has always been that a legitimate and sustainable solution depends on the
        an authoritative meeting of minds of the two peoples, achieved initially by negotiation
        between parties on the basis of equality and giving relevance to respective rights under
        international, and that result endorsed by separate referenda. There are at least three
        tricky additional policy issues–settlements, right of return of Palestinians indigenous
        to Israeli territory, and some truth and reconciliation process. Also, important would be
        to have a neutral negotiating atmosphere, which did not exist during the Oslo peace process.



      • Fred Skolnik April 7, 2017 at 9:51 pm #

        You are again using the term indigenous in a misleading way, perhaps to obscure the fact that the Arabs arrived in the Land of Israel through conquest. Indigenousness is not transferable or communicable from a conquering to a conquered population. The Conquistadors did not become indigenous by raping or marrying Inca and Aztec women or forcing them to convert. In this context one would ordinarily use the term refugees but perhaps you understand by now that there is no legal or historical precedent fpr defining as refugees the descendants of refugees born ourside a home country. Of the original refugees, 30-40,000 are still alive and, coincidentally or not, this is the number Olmert proposed to resettle in the State of Israel under a peace agreement. I imagine that it could be as high as 100,000 if Israel was convinced that the Palestinians are prepared to live in peace..

  21. Gene Schulman April 7, 2017 at 12:04 am #

    “Gene Schuman and others may dismiss my analysis as Zionist hasbara.” I do indeed! I don’t mind the publicity, but at least try to spell my name correctly.

  22. Rabbi Ira Youdovin April 8, 2017 at 1:34 pm #


    With all due respect, you didn’t answer my question. I inquired into what is your preferred outcome for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. You responded that the outcome will be determined by a process in which both sides participate. That’s a truism. But it doesn’t respond to my question, which represents my third unsuccessful attempt at getting clarification of a concept you posted last week.

    You wrote that a fair and just resolution cannot be attained unless Israel reverts to being a Jewish homeland as distinct from a Jewish state. (n.b. the notion of “reverting” is historically inaccurate. The Zionist movement categorically rejected it a century ago. I quote it here so as not to tamper with your actual wording.) Although the concept of Israel renouncing its statehood struck me as being abhorrent, unrealistic and contrary to your denying that you advocate dismantling Israel, I figured you might have something in mind that I didn’t grasp. So I asked you to flesh out your idea in greater detail. You evaded my question by noting that South Africa didn’t have to surrender its sovereignty, although Israel surrendering sovereignty is precisely what you advocate. So I asked again, this time asking your assessment of the two-state format which is endorsed by, among others, the U.N. and the Arab League, whose recent Summit reaffirmed its endorsement shortly after the release of your ESCWA report which declared it dead. Again you evaded discussion of the proposal in last week’s post which assuredly calls for dismantling Israel.

    If you believe that the only way to achieve justice for the Palestinians is for Israel to permit their unlimited immigration inside the Green Line, leaving Israel to survive as some kind of autonomy in the midst of an Arab majority state, so be it. I think you’re misguided and am prepared to engage in a civil exchange, which will focus on substance, not name calling. But if you’re not willing to defend, or even explain, your ideas, a conversation is impossible.

    Apropos, I notice that you’ve ignored interesting proposals by anan and others.



    • Richard Falk April 9, 2017 at 10:35 am #


      I am puzzled why you seem so intent on personalizing your comments with me and others. Constructive discussion
      is much more likely to occur if you gave others the benefit of the doubt as to motives, and gave more credence
      to misunderstandings that might be, and often are, mutual. I had, for instance, no intention to evade your question,
      but evidently interpreted in a way other than what you intended.

      My personal preference for what it is worth is for a single secular state operating within a democratic framework.
      Such an outcome makes no sense unless the political atmosphere on both sides changes, with Palestine needing unity
      of political representation and a clear commitment to coexistence, and with Israel reconsidering whether it wants to
      risk peace or continue with the realization of maximal Zionist goals.

      Where perhaps we disagree is with respect to a core issue is with respect to the legitimacy, viability of ‘a Jewish state’
      established and maintained in a context where the indigenous non-Jewish population is forcibly displaced or remains as
      as a discriminated minority (via nationality laws). I share with Edward Said the view that peace requires real equality
      between the two peoples and the two sovereign entities and an open reckoning with the past, including the Nakba as event and process.
      I believe that at this point the Arab Initiative of 2002 is not practical or ideologically acceptable to either side. The PA
      is ready to accept some modified form of such a proposal, which seems essential to their political survival, but Israel signals
      the reverse by its accelerated settlement policies as reinforced by the growing political leverage of the settler movement and
      its vision of Israel as encompassing all of what is supposed to have been biblical Israel.

      As for the right of return, the issue is partly substantive and partly symbolic. There is a detailed Palestinian proposal showing
      how the two peoples could live together with mutual respect and equal rights of return at a cost of one year’s US military assistance
      program. I am not sure how reliable is such a projection, although it seemed carefully developed by urban planners and put forward by
      a Palestinian very dedicated to a peaceful solution.

      And finally, I lack the energy and capacity to respond to all comments that raise worthwhile suggestions, e.g. Anan.

      Really finally, I never intended for Israel to renounce statehood, but to modify its conception of statehood to bring it
      closer to the European conception of the state as meta-religious and meta-ethnic. Even a devoted Zionist such as Henry Seigman
      calls Israel an ehtnocracy rather than a democracy.



  23. Sean Breathnach January 28, 2018 at 11:25 am #

    Prof, perphaps you have already seen and commented on this article by Alan Johnson. It would be enlightening to read your comments either way.

    • Richard Falk January 29, 2018 at 8:36 am #

      Thanks, Sean, for calling this study to my attention. I will respond as soon as I am able to
      read and absorb its contents. After a glance I believe the main argument is that Israel’s relations
      to non-Jews is different from that of the South African white relations to black Africans, but that
      misses the point: the crime of apartheid is based on subjugation by one race of another. There is no
      requirement that Israeli apartheid resemble South African apartheid except in that core sense of a
      governmentally sustained structure(s) of subjugation.

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