A while back, Jimmy Carter wrote a book called “Palestine: Peace not Apartheid” making the point that perpetual Israel occupation & settlement of Palestinian land amounted to a policy of apartheid in the West Bank. The Anti-Defamation League wasn’t happy:
We have read your letter to American Jews. As much as the tone of this letter is different from that of your book, “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid,” or your many public interviews, the damage to the good name of Israel and the American Jewish community from your unwarranted attacks remains. As does our outrage.
No matter the distinction you articulate in your letter, using the incendiary word “Apartheid” to refer to Israel and its policies is unacceptable and shameful. Apartheid, that abhorrent and racist system in South Africa, has no bearing on Israeli policies. Not only are Israel’s policies not racist, but the situation in the territories does not arise from Israeli intentions to oppress or repress Palestinians, but is a product of Palestinian rejection of Israel and the use of terror and violence against the Jewish state. Nothing illustrates the stark difference better than Israel’s offer of withdrawal made at Camp David and its unilateral withdrawal from Gaza.
And here’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak today:
Israel’s defense minister warned Tuesday that if Israel does not achieve a peace deal with the Palestinians, it will be either a binational state or an undemocratic apartheid state. [...] “The simple truth is, if there is one state” including Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, “it will have to be either binational or undemocratic. … if this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.”
One of the lessons I took away from the Carter controversy was that the use of the term “apartheid” seems to shut down people’s critical faculties and make them defensive. So I generally prefer to set it aside. The point is that there’s a political system in the West Bank where the Jewish residents have the right to vote, have privileged access to water, have exclusive access to some roadways, have privileged rights to travel, etc., none of which are shared by the non-Jewish residents. You can call it what you like, but it’s not democracy.