Moshé Machover: On Israeli Apartheid

By Moshé Machover – 23 Oct 2012

Moshé Machover

Moshé Machover

In my opinion the whole semantic discussion of Israeli “apartheid” skirts around the fundamental question: the underlying political economy of Zionist colonization.

The UN re-definition of the term “apartheid” is so broad as to cover any systematic discrimination against a “racial” or ethnic group. In this broad sense, Zionism certainly practises apartheid. But the same it true of many regimes around the world – including of course all colonial and colonizing regimes.

But the really important issue is avoided in this discussion. Zionist colonization and the Israeli settler state differ in a fundamental respect from apartheid in its original, South-African sense. South-African colonization and its settler state were based on exploiting the labour power of the indigenous people. These people were harshly oppressed and severely discriminated; but their presence was vital for the political economy of the settler state. They were an asset. Zionist colonization, in contrast, is more like the colonization of North America and Australia: based not on keeping the natives as a source of exploitable labour power but on excluding them by various forms of ethnic cleansing. The natives are not a source of surplus for the settlers; instead, they themselves are surplus to requirements.

This is much worse for the indigenous people than South-African apartheid, because it is much more difficult to undo.

Moshé Machover is an Israeli socialist anti-Zionist activist and co-founder of the Socialist Organization in Israel (Matzpen). He is currently living in London, England. He is emeritus professor of philosophy, King’s College, London University. His most recent book is Israelis and Palestinians: Conflict and Resolution.

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