Of the laceration of Israel there is no end. The most recent contributor to this favored pastime is Noura Erakat, a Rutgers University professor and human rights attorney. Her impeccable left-wing credentials include legal advocacy for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.
Her new book, Justice For Some, is an attempt to implant her political bias within a scholarly framework of Israeli “colonial domination” based on “racial and ethnic discrimination” as the Jewish state becomes “a de jure apartheid regime.” Why go any further with a diatribe that embraces every current cliché about a malevolent Jewish state? Because it exposes, if inadvertently, the politicized distortions about Israel that currently pass for academic scholarship.
Erakat’s rendition of history begins after World War I with “the settler-colonial framework” that reveals “the colonial nature of the Palestinian struggle.” There had been no mention of a distinctive “Palestinian” identity or community in the Balfour Declaration, which “justified the juridical erasure of a Palestinian community” — a community that did not yet exist. “British policy,” she writes, “demanded that Palestinians not exist as a people in order to pave the way for British colonial ambitions in the Middle East.”
But her narrative includes the contradictory (and erroneous) claim that Palestine nationalism emerged following World War I — unless “following” means decades later. As she recognizes, the earliest expressions of Palestinian nationalism “reflected a broad Arab nationalist consciousness,” expressed “in the form of a Greater Syria.”
For Professor Erakat, the transformation of “Palestine” into Israel in 1948 illustrated “international law’s utility in advancing settler-colonial ambitions.” To fulfill its national aspirations, Israel would embrace “the legal fiction of Palestinian nonexistence.” Yet she ignores the reality of “Palestinian nonexistence” in national terms until two decades later, following the Six-Day War, when Israel regained the Biblical land known as Judea and Samaria. Only then, she concedes, did a distinctive “Palestinian” people begin to emerge, claiming the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean as its own.
The theme of Israel’s “colonial domination” frames, pervades, and distorts Professor Erekat’s narrative. But the worst is yet to come. By 2018, as the result of Israeli conquest of “Palestinian” land, the Jewish state was “on the cusp of expanding its sovereignty across nearly all the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.” Israel, she anticipates, would then “enter a phase of unabashed racial discrimination: a de jure apartheid regime.”
Erekat embraces the fiction that there are now “over five million Palestinian refugees.” This illusory number is embraced by UNRWA, established in 1949 after the Arab attempt to annihilate the fledgling Jewish state had failed. The most accurate current number of living refugees is approximately 30,000; the other five million are descendants of refugees (just as I am a descendant of Russian and Rumanian refugees, not a “refugee”). Ironically there are now as many UNRWA employees as there are living Palestinian refugees.
Professor Erekat is obsessed with the “settler-colonial” cruelty of an “apartheid regime” (Israel). Yet she blames Palestinian leaders for abandoning “a politics of resistance,” thereby reducing “the potential of its legal strategies to challenge the geopolitical structure sustaining Palestinian oppression.” Committed to statehood (over resistance), they are “obscuring the reality of settler-colonial removal and inadvertently enabling an apartheid regime.”
Professor Erekat’s analysis is reduced to the laceration of Israel, which “established itself by force and insists on maintaining its settler-sovereignty by force.” It is hardly surprising that she accuses Israel of “overseeing a singular regime based on racial and ethnic discrimination characterized by … apartheid.” This is ideological propaganda, not history.
Appropriately, Professor Erekat’s book cover displays enthusiastic praise from Professor Richard Falk, who has elsewhere asserted that it is not “an irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians with the criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity”; and Angela Davis, who has described Israel as the practitioner of modern-day apartheid. Professor Erekat is in good company.