Jimmy Carter’s book Palestine Peace not Apartheid has to have entered the hall of fame of books most discussed by people who have not read them. I’ve discussed the book with several people myself and haven’t read it. That discussion mainly focuses on his characterization of the current situation in the Palestinian territories as apartheid. If you need more fodder for the discussion, and still don’t want to read the book, I’d recommend Joseph Lelyveld’s new piece in the New York Review of Books that discusses the aptness of the use of the word apartheid in depth. Here’s a taste:
Two uses of “apartheid” are in play when attempts are made to attach the word to Israel: the Durban usage, citing Israel as an “apartheid state”; and, more commonly, the application of the term to the occupation in the territories, which has now gone on for all but nineteen of the nearly fifty-nine years of Israel’s existence, through different phases as Jewish settlements took root and expanded on the West Bank along with the heavy military presence that guards them, supplemented now by a network of roads for the exclusive use of the settlers and the Israel Defense Forces. The settlements, roads, barriers and military presence have effectively divided the West Bank into security zones or enclaves, severely limiting Palestinian passage from one zone to the next. The crushing impact on Palestinian lives and families is clear enough. The debate on whether it amounts to “apartheid” turns on whether it’s to be seen as a legitimate and reversible response to the threat of terrorism across the border in Israel, or whether it’s meant to be as permanent as it looks.