It’s a little disconcerting to come across a serious, well-argued article about the condition of Israel today without a single mention of the Palestinians or the occupation. That absence is so glaring, one can only assume that mentioning either or the two would have somehow played havoc with the point the author was trying to make.
Milton Shain argues (Why the ANC Deplores Israel, November 16, 2021) that Israel is a state like any other, with the same symbols, particularistic legislation and problematic minority that many states have. That being the case, he maintains, the ANC’s antipathy to the Jewish state can only be regarded as anti-Semitic, rather than, say, politically motivated.
I have tremendous respect for Milton as a scholar and, on a personal level, he has always been more than kind to me. So it’s no fun to take him to task for what I believe is a misguided effort to whitewash Israel, concomitant to having a go at the ANC.
Shain knows a lot more about the ANC and South African anti-Semitism than I do. I won’t challenge his conclusion that the ANC is anti-Semitic. What I will challenge, though, is his attempt to portray Israel as a run-of-the mill country – no different from many others – without even bothering to come to grips with the fact that is has now held the Palestinians of the occupied territories hostage for longer than formal apartheid existed in South Africa.
To back up his thesis, Shain recommends that readers consult Israel and the Family of Nations, a book by Alexander Yacobson and Amnon Rubenstein. Both authors are well-known liberal Zionists, the first a professor of history and the second a former politician and legal scholar.
Their book, like Shain’s article, is an attempt to prove Israel’s right to exist by highlighting its commonalities with other states and downplaying its dissimilarities, such as its illegal (under international law) settlements in the West Bank and the harsh military regime that governs the lives of Palestinians in the occupied territories