Excusing Israeli apartheid in the NYT

A man speaks at a podium

The New York Times wrongly claimed that Israeli author A.B. Yehoshua supported one state with equal rights not just for Israel and the West Bank, but for Gaza too.

Francesco Militello Mirto ZUMA Press

The New York Times’ June obituary on the life and views of A.B. Yehoshua got a key point about the Israeli author wrong.

Joseph Berger, with contributing reporting from Jerusalem bureau chief Patrick Kingsley, writes that “late in life” Yehoshua “argued for the establishment of a single state encompassing Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, where Jews and Arabs would have equal rights and voting powers.”

I have found no evidence that Yehoshua included Gaza in his plan.

He put forward this plan in a 2018 Haaretz op-ed to “stop the apartheid process in principle, and at a certain stage to reverse it.”

Yehoshua further noted that talk of a “Palestinian state” has “become only a deceptive and crafty cover for a slow but ever-deepening slide into a condition of vicious occupation and legal and social apartheid with which we in the peace camp – Israelis and Palestinians alike – have come to terms out of weariness and fatalism.”

But his claimed reversal of the “apartheid process” applies only to his thinking on Palestinians in the West Bank. He specifically excludes the Gaza bantustan and the 2 million Palestinians living there.

I directed The New York Times to the Haaretz op-ed where he writes, “First, the plan relates only to the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria. It is not intended for the Gaza Strip…”

Yehoshua then describes Gaza as its own “sovereign Palestinian territory” rather than as a bantustan penning in hundreds of thousands of refugees with homes and lands nearby.

Furthermore, his proposal for Israel and the West Bank – on which he elaborates in a January 2022 interview – is plainly racist in its creation of a senate with six or seven states.

Yehoshua expresses astonishment that California with its large population and Wyoming with its small population each have two senators in the US Senate and that such an arrangement is accepted by Americans. He then, however, notes that his own proposal for a senate would “avoid the threat of the demographic invasion of the Arabs.”

This is not equal rights for Palestinians in the West Bank as The New York Times claims, but a repackaging of apartheid to head off Palestinian “demographic invasion” and political clout.

Despite multiple emails, the newspaper failed to issue the requested correction – though it has over the years issued corrections numerous times following my emails.

If there is evidence to the contrary about Yehoshua’s exclusion of Gaza, The New York Times chose not to provide it. A change of mind would have had to occur in literally the final days of his life and would have been a scoop by the newspaper.

Such evidence would mean that Yehoshua moved off of his rejection of equal rights in one state for Palestinians from Gaza and grappled more fully with the apartheid reality he had begun to recognize in the West Bank.

The evidence, however, remains missing.


Thomas Friedman and Shmuel Rosner in recent New York Times op-eds also fail to grapple sufficiently with the apartheid reality that led directly to the collapse of the Israeli coalition government.

Friedman blames Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the opposition party Likud, for the government’s collapse.

He writes that Netanyahu cynically “brought the government down by leading a vote against a renewal of the two-tier legal system that allows Israeli settlers in the West Bank to live under Israeli civilian law, instead of under the military law by which Israel governs the Palestinians.”

Friedman had the decency to add that this “two-tier system has been regularly renewed, and Netanyahu’s settler constituency cannot survive without it. But to deny the unity government the capacity to govern, Netanyahu rallied a vote against it.”

Friedman extolled Naftali Bennett’s ruling coalition, without having the decency to acknowledge that many members of that coalition also support Israeli apartheid in the West Bank.

It’s a telling exclusion. Any viable Israeli coalition government will include a large number of apartheid advocates and this government will receive billions of dollars from US taxpayers.

It’s a rotten reality that most US politicians choose to support.

Shmuel Rosner’s take a few days later was, if anything, even worse.

He, too, is intent on lauding the coalition government.

But he completely ignores coalition support for apartheid as causing the government’s collapse.

He twists the reality and instead of relating the collapse to apartheid attributes it to a failure to “extend Israeli citizens’ rights to Israeli settlers.”

“The final straw came when Arab legislators and right-wing opposition lawmakers refused to vote with the coalition on a bill to extend Israeli citizens’ rights to Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank.”

In Rosner’s telling, superior rights for Jews over Palestinians in the West Bank become a matter of equal civil rights for Jewish settlers with those Israelis living in modern-day Israel.

It’s extraordinary that this sort of apartheid apologia passes for informed commentary at The New York Times.

And this raises the further question: Where are the Palestinian voices on the opinion page pointing out the collapse was over Israel’s insistence on apartheid?

Stolen property

Additionally, we now know that Prime Minister Yair Lapid has moved into a Jerusalem home taken from Palestinian Hanna Salameh in 1948.

This raises the question of how closely The New York Times will engage the provocative move, given that the newspaper has itself invested in “air rights” above stolen Palestinian property.

David E. McCraw, then Vice President and Assistant General Counsel for the newspaper, acknowledged to The Electronic Intifada’s Executive Director Ali Abunimah in 2010 that as a general principle of property law, the “air rights” of a property – the right to build on top of it or use (and access) the space above it – belong to the owner of the ground.

Will President Joe Biden visit Lapid later this month in the stolen home? If so, will The New York Times broach the subject without mentioning its own complicity in the theft of Palestinian property?

In fact, will a New York Times journalist address the two thefts at all in the pages of the newspaper?


Michael F. Brown

Michael F. Brown is an independent journalist. His work and views have appeared in The International Herald Tribune, TheNation.com, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The News & Observer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post and elsewhere.