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The Connection That Wasn’t Made: Sterling, Kerry and Israeli Apartheid

May 5, 2014   ·   0 Comments

Palestinians in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron demonstrate against Israeli “apartheid,” 30 March 2009. (Mamoun Wazwaz/MaanImages)

Above: Photo by Mamoun Wazwaz/MaanImages.

By Michael M'Gehee:

“Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the Donald Sterling scandal is . . .” began the New York Times’ piece by their editorial board on the Donald Sterling controversy in which the Los Angeles Clippers owner was recorded making racist comments.

But what the Editorial Board of “the paper of record” finds “most disturbing” differs from what this particular writer finds most disturbing.

For the NYT editors the “most disturbing aspect” is that no one in the NBA was surprised at Sterling’s comments. They had known about Sterling’s racism for a long time. And this is why the NYT wants to know: “Why Did the N.B.A. Long Tolerate Sterling?

Both true and fair enough.

But, as usual, it is what is missing from the NYT piece that is more revealing than what is offered. While denouncing the tolerance of racism there is no mention of Israeli apartheid, which Sterling pointed to in defense of his racist opinions.

Donald Sterling: It's the world! You go to Israel, the blacks are just treated like dogs.

V. Stiviano: So do you have to treat them like that too?

DS: The white Jews, there's white Jews and black Jews, do you understand?

V: And are the black Jews less than the white Jews?

DS: A hundred percent, fifty, a hundred percent.

V: And is that right?

DS: It isn't a question—we don't evaluate what's right and wrong, we live in a society. We live in a culture. We have to live within that culture.

V: But shouldn't we take a stand for what's wrong? And be the change and the difference?

DS: I don't want to change the culture, because I can't. It's too big and too [unknown].

V: But you can change yourself.

DS: I don't want to change…

When the NYT editors write that, "There’s a larger obligation here," namely that, "The league’s top leadership tolerated and sheltered Mr. Sterling for much too long," the irony of the NYT criticizing others about tolerating and sheltering racism is too much. Organizations like NYTimes eXaminer ("Snow Job About Israel-Palestine – An Analysis"), FAIR ("How to Read Stories About Israel in the NY Times (Hint: Very Carefully)"), and Electronic Intifada ("Watch the video on Israeli racism The New York Times didn’t want you to see"), as well as writers like Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein, have long highlighted the NYT's biased coverage in favor of Israel.

And while the racist policies of Israel is hardly limited to black Jews, at nearly the same time that Sterling made this comment another related item was in the news.

US Secretary of State John Kerry warned that if Israel did not make progress in a Middle East peace agreement then they would risk becoming an “apartheid state.” Of course, Palestinians, Arabs, and black Jews would scoff at the notion of “becoming” an apartheid state. But no matter, the comment received immediate repudiation from influential Jewish groups that had Secretary Kerry apologizing for his remark, as the NYT covered in their article “Kerry Expresses Regret After Apartheid Remark.”

“Any suggestion that Israel is, or is at risk of becoming, an apartheid state is offensive and inappropriate,” the American Israel Public Affairs Committee said.

However, even the United Nations stands to differ on this matter.

Ten years ago the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that a South African law professor, John Dugard, who happened to be the special rapporteur for the United Nations on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, wrote a report to the UN General Assembly that described Israel as not only "an apartheid regime," but one that is "worse than the one that existed in South Africa."

The example Haaretz mentioned of Israeli apartheid was not even that of the treatment of black Jews in Israel, but how “Dugard points to the roads only open to settlers, from which Palestinians are banned.”

There are more examples as one of Dugard’s successors noted in his final report to the UN. In January of this year Richard Falk concluded that, “Through prolonged occupation, with practices and policies of apartheid and segregation, ongoing expansion of settlements, and continual construction of the wall arguably amounting to de facto annexation of parts of the occupied Palestinian territory; the denial by Israel of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people is evident.”

With such a stinging remark from someone like Dugard, a man with intimate knowledge on South African apartheid—Haaretz made a point to acknowledge that Dugard “was a member of a Truth Commission at the end of the apartheid regime, and was appointed by the UN in 2001 as special rapporteur for human rights in the West Bank and Gaza”—for him to make such a comment, and for his successors to note the problem has since only gotten worse, is bad enough. But, followed by a high-profile NBA team owner attempting to justify his racism by pointing to that of the racism which exists in Israel today, as well as John Kerry’s apartheid remark, what is truly “the most disturbing aspect” of all of this is how the mainstream media in the West, and not just the New York Times, failed to connect these dots and start a discussion on Zionism and apartheid in Israel.

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