Rep. Rashida Tlaib Said Progressives Must Oppose Apartheid, Not Zionism


The trademark of In today’s social media age, misinformation quickly spreads through political discourse, is endorsed by authority figures, and unconditionally adopted by droves of people before fact-checkers can establish the credibility of the claims.

On Monday, the Anti-Defamation League made a serious allegation against a Democratic member of Congress that was immediately picked up by news outlets and high-profile politicians. It warrants a thorough examination.

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL, made the following claims on Twitter regarding Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.: “In one sentence, [Tlaib] simultaneously tells American Jews that they must pass an anti-Zionist litmus test in order to participate in progressive spaces, even as she redoubles her #antisemitism by vilifying Israel as an apartheid state.”

Rep. Jerry Nadler, DN.Y., among others, chocked and elaborated on the claim: “I fundamentally reject the notion that one cannot support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state and be a progressive one.”

Other members of Congress – including Representatives Ted Deutch, Haley Stevens and Juan Vargas – have made similar public comments.

We take up these claims in two parts.

First, did Tlaib—who is Palestinian-American—say that progressives “must pass an anti-Zionist litmus test in order to participate in progressive spaces”? And did she say that “one cannot support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state and to be progressive”?

To test these claims, The Intercept identified and verified the comments in question. According to a video of Tlaib’s remarks at a Palestine Advocacy Day event, she made the following claim: “I want you all to know this progressiveit becomes clear that one cannot claim to be holding back progressive values ​​just yet Israel‘s apartheid government.”

Tlaib is not saying that one must oppose Zionism or claim that Israel has no right to exist in order to uphold progressive values. The Intercept asked Greenblatt and Nadler for additional information that would support their claims, but received none.

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Specifically, Greenblatt refers to “a sentence,” suggesting that Greenblatt’s entire assertion should be supported by the sentence in question.

Tlaib refers specifically to “Israel’s apartheid government” in her remarks, making it clear that she opposes the apartheid nature of the government, not the idea of ​​an Israeli state.

For Greenblatt’s or Nadler’s claims to be accurate, they would have to assume that the only conceivable Israeli system of government is an apartheid government, and thus to reject apartheid is to reject any Israeli government. Neither Greenblatt nor Nadler have made such a claim, and indeed such a claim would be absurd. It is quite conceivable that Israel will organize itself as a Jewish-democratic state that offers all its residents equal rights. A system of apartheid is not the only option available.

We therefore consider false the claim that it established a litmus test of the existence of the State of Israel or support for Zionism.

Such misinformation circulates easily in Washington. On Wednesday afternoon, a U.S. Capitol reporter asked Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DN.Y., to respond to a claim by Tlaib that one cannot both support Israel and be progressive while ignoring the critical detail of the apartheid government let out Ocasio-Cortez declined comment, finding the reporter’s wording suspicious. It turned out that the question had actually distorted Tlaib’s claim.

Now let’s examine Greenblatt’s second claim that Tlaib “slander[ed] Israel as an apartheid state.” To test Greenblatt’s claim, we examined reviews conducted by human rights organizations with a proven track record of analyzing such issues.

In order to determine whether Israel’s government is apartheid in character, such a system must first be described. Amnesty International concludes:

The term “apartheid” was originally used to describe a political system in South Africa that explicitly enforced racial segregation and the domination and oppression of one racial group by another. It has since been adopted by the international community to condemn and criminalize such systems and practices around the world.

The crime against humanity of apartheid, under the Apartheid Convention, the Rome Statute and customary international law, is committed when an inhuman or inhumane act (essentially a gross violation of human rights) is committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by a racial group another, with the intention of maintaining this system.

Apartheid is best understood as a system of persistent and cruel discriminatory treatment of members of another racial group with the intention of controlling the second racial group.

According to Amnesty International, such a description fits Israel’s current government. “Israel is introducing a system of oppression and domination against the Palestinians in all areas under its control: in Israel and the OPT” – the occupied Palestinian territories – “and against Palestinian refugees to help the Jewish Israelis. This is tantamount to apartheid, which is forbidden under international law. Laws, policies and practices designed to maintain a cruel system of control over the Palestinians have left them geographically and politically fragmented, often impoverished and in a constant state of fear and insecurity,” the report concludes. “This is apartheid.”

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B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, has come to the same conclusion. “The Israeli regime imposes an apartheid regime in all areas under its control (Israeli sovereignty, East Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza Strip),” the report reads. “B’Tselem concluded that the bar for defining the Israeli regime as an apartheid regime is met after considering the accumulation of policies and laws that Israel has developed to consolidate its control over the Palestinians. “

According to B’Tselem, Israel systematically denies Palestinian subjects a variety of rights in order to maintain an unequal system, making the system by definition apartheid. B’Tselem’s report states that Israel “pursues this organizing principle in four main areas,” namely:

  • Land – Israel is working to judaize the entire area, treating land as a resource intended primarily to benefit the Jewish population. Since 1948, Israel has taken over 90% of the land within the Green Line and established hundreds of communities for the Jewish population. Since 1967, Israel has implemented this policy in the West Bank as well, building more than 280 settlements for approximately 600,000 Jewish Israeli citizens. Israel has not established a single community for the Palestinian population in the entire area stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River (with the exception of several communities built to concentrate the Bedouin population after they were stripped of most of their property rights) .

  • Citizenship – Jews living anywhere in the world, their children and grandchildren – and their spouses – are entitled to Israeli citizenship. In contrast, Palestinians cannot immigrate to Israeli-controlled areas even if they, their parents, or their grandparents were born and lived there. Israel makes it difficult for Palestinians living in one of the entities it controls to obtain status in another, and has enacted laws prohibiting granting status within the Green Line to Palestinians who marry Israelis.

  • Freedom of Movement – ​​Israeli citizens enjoy freedom of movement throughout Israel-controlled territory (excluding the Gaza Strip) and can enter and leave the country freely. Palestinian subjects, on the other hand, need a special Israeli-issued permit to travel between (and sometimes within) entities, and exiting abroad also requires an Israeli permit.

  • Political Participation – Palestinian citizens of Israel can vote and run for office, but political leaders constantly undermine the legitimacy of Palestinian political representatives. The approximately five million Palestinians living in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, cannot participate in the political system that governs their lives and determines their future. They are also denied other political rights, including freedom of expression and assembly.

Human Rights Watch, another international human rights organization, came to similar conclusions:

Above [Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory] and in most areas of life, the Israeli authorities systematically privilege Jewish Israelis and discriminate against Palestinians. Laws, policies, and statements by senior Israeli officials make it clear that the goal of maintaining Jewish Israeli control over demographics, political power, and land has long guided government policy. To pursue this goal, the authorities have, to varying degrees, dispossessed, imprisoned, forcibly separated, and subjugated Palestinians because of their identity. In certain areas, as described in this report, these deprivations are so severe that they amount to crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.

Therefore, we find Greenblatt’s claim that it is defamatory to call Israel’s government an apartheid state false.

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