Last month, when the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem declared for the first time in the organization’s 30-year history that Israel meets the very definition of an “apartheid regime,” it was the shot heard around the world, except for the fact I’m totally kidding.
It was the shot pretty much heard nowhere, as international news media organizations all but ignored B’Tselem’s meticulous documentation of two peoples living under one regime but two separate sets of laws. Even more conspicuous were those outlets that mentioned the report but omitted the word “apartheid” or reported only Israeli government’s rebuttal, despite the report’s unambiguous language.
“In the entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, the Israeli regime implements laws, practices and state violence designed to cement the supremacy of one group – Jews – over another – Palestinians,” write the authors of the report.
Not a word about it in the New York Times, which is notable given the newspaper provides almost daily coverage of Israeli politics and news.
Not a word about it in the New York Times, however, which is notable given the newspaper provides almost daily coverage of Israeli politics and news. When you Google the words “B’Tselem apartheid report New York Times,” you find only a 2017 article titled, “Why Israel is Nothing Like Apartheid South Africa.”
The last time the newspaper mentioned the Israeli human rights organization was in 2018, when it documented Israeli soldiers rejoicing at the shooting death of a Palestinian man in Gaza.
Is it any wonder the American public, particularly New York Times subscribers, remain in the dark about Israel’s human rights and international law violations in the Palestinian Territories? Is it any wonder pro-Israel talking points have become institutionalized in mainstream political discourse?
If you’re expecting better from the country’s other globally recognized and read newspaper – the Washington Post – then you’d be sorely disappointed. Not a single mention of B’Tselem’s report, only a pair of dead links that had at one time pointed to reports published on the matter by the Associated Press (AP).
When I reached out to the Washington Post for comment, I was told by an employee who is not authorized to speak on behalf of the newspaper that “we don’t always keep those [AP] stories on our site permanently.”
While cable news giant CNN published an article about the report on its website, it did not give it any air time, and nor did Fox News, predictably, leaving American television viewers oblivious to the fact that the United States’ number one beneficiary of tax payer funded foreign aid is an apartheid state, akin to white ruled South Africa from 1948 to 1994.
CNN’s decision to publish the report only on its website and not on television also matters because the network introduced a large share of Americans to the Middle East, having established its journalism bona fide and built its audience during the first Gulf War (1990-1991).
“CNN’s coverage of the first Gulf War did more than rivet the eyes of a nation on much of what unfolded in Iraq, Israel, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia,” observes Bernard Rogers McCoy, a professor of journalism at the University of Nebraska. “It focused world attention on unedited events. It forced us to redefine America’s role in global politics, diplomacy and security.”
It should not be forgotten that CNN fired one of its regular contributors – Marc Lamont Hill – after he called for a non-violent end to Israeli’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian Territories at the United Nations, urging for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea.”
News of Israel’s status as an apartheid state went largely unreported across the Atlantic, too – with B’Tselem’s report absent from sites belonging to BBC News.
News of Israel’s status as an apartheid state went largely unreported across the Atlantic, too – with B’Tselem’s report absent from sites belonging to BBC News and Murdoch owned tabloid newspapers. Interestingly, when you enter the word “apartheid” into BBC News search function, it produces only a 2017 article titled, “Israel and Apartheid Have Nothing in Common.”
This collective silence extends beyond the media and into mainstream political discourse, and noticeably the Biden administration has not uttered a word about the report.
Notable because the new President has made the advancement of democracy and human rights the corner stone of his presidency, having already reversed Trump’s Muslim travel ban, halted shipment of weapons to the Middle East, promised to “reassess” the US-Saudi relationship, and end the war in Yemen.
Could it be that the categorization of Israel as an apartheid state by an Israeli human rights group is enormously embarrassing for both Biden and his newly confirmed Secretary of State – Anthony Blinken – who have not only expressed opposition to the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to hold Israel in compliance with international and human rights law, but also have embraced a controversial definition of anti-Semitism, one that includes some criticisms of Israel?
Could it be that the categorization of Israel as an apartheid state by an Israeli human rights group is enormously embarrassing for both Biden and his newly confirmed Secretary of State?
“It’s really concerning to hear a representative of the Biden administration publicly embrace the controversial IHRA [International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance] working definition, which has absolutely nothing to do with Jewish safety and everything to do with silencing and censoring Palestinians,” Jewish Voice for Peace Action Government Affairs Manager Beth Miller told Mondoweiss.
Opponents of BDS have long accused, without evidence, that the boycott movement against Israel is motivated by anti-Semitism, but the B’Tselem report, which is produced by well-respected Israeli human rights activists, totally debunks this baseless allegation, leaving those who reflexively defend Israel from criticism with the metaphorical egg splattered across their face.
It’s unlikely the Biden administration can wish the report away, the same way the country’s news media organizations successfully have. The Democratic Party congressional caucus is becoming increasingly progressive, even on Palestine, and given the Black Lives Matter movement has incorporated the Palestinian liberation struggle into his anti-racist communications, an ever-increasing number of Americans will oppose the funding and sponsorship of apartheid.