“I want you all to know that among progressives, it has become clear that you cannot claim to hold progressive values yet back Israel’s apartheid government.” Those words, spoken by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., at a Palestine Advocacy Day event, created a firestorm within the Democratic Party last month. When journalist Katie Halper decided to discuss the comments in one of her regular editorials for Hill TV’s “Rising,” she had no idea that she was about to ignite a firestorm of her own. Ryan Grim and Jacobin writer Branko Marcetic join Halper to discuss.
[Deconstructed theme song.]
Ryan Grim: I’m Ryan Grim. And welcome back to another episode of Deconstructed.
So, as I think I’ve mentioned on this show before, about a year and a half ago, I started doing some guest-hosting over at Hill TV’s show called “Rising,” which has one right-wing co-host and one-left wing co-host — and they don’t so much as argue and yell at each other like CNN’s “Crossfire” used to do, but instead, they sort of present the news of the day and each kind of give their sides of it; probe the other person’s views; ask some questions of them; and then they move on to the next segment. I really like the format, actually, and it’s helped me get a better understanding of today’s right. And I hope I’ve been able to persuade some people in the audience my way.
Now, in May of 2021, I started co-hosting every day. And this May, I moved to hosting only on Fridays, along with my conservative co-host Emily Jashinsky, an editor over at The Federalist.
Now, I’m still doing that. But I’m over at the YouTube channel Breaking Points, still with Emily. Back at “Rising,” one of the left wing co-hosts they’ve been bringing on is Katie Halper, an independent journalist and podcaster. But last week, she planned to make her daily monologue a response to these remarks by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, which had caused a stir inside the Democratic Party.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib: This past year, you all, Amnesty International and the U.N. joined Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem come out with the same conclusion that many Palestinians have long known for decades — that Israel is an apartheid state that, systematically, through laws and actions, privileges one group over the other hand, and doesn’t value all human life equally.
I want you all to know that among progressives is become clear that you cannot claim to hold progressive values, yet back Israel’s apartheid government. And we will continue to push back and not accept this idea that you are progressive, except for Palestine, any longer.
RG: Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt picked up on the comments, and he slammed Tlaib, saying on Twitter: “In one sentence, @RepRashida simultaneously tells American Jews that they need to pass an anti-Zionist litmus test to participate in progressive spaces even as she doubles down on her #antisemitism by slandering Israel as an apartheid state. It’s absolutely reprehensible and does nothing to advance the cause of peace. We call on people of good will and leaders across the political spectrum to make clear that such #antisemitism will not be tolerated.”
Jake Tapper picked up on the story over at CNN:
Jake Tapper: Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan facing criticism today from what several of her Jewish colleagues have deemed antisemitic comments.
Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, called her comments “outrageous” and “nothing short of antisemitic.”
New York Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler, sometimes called “the dean” of the informal House Jewish Caucus tweeted: “I fundamentally reject the notion that one cannot support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state and be a progressive.”
RG: So the monologues at “Rising” are called “Radars,” and I recorded more than 170 of them while I was there. And the process is simple: You write the thing, it gets loaded into the teleprompter, you read it and record it in the studio, and it gets posted along with the show — except on this day, that’s not how it went for Katie Halper, as I reported earlier for The Intercept.
So joining me to tell this story is Katie Halper herself.
Katie, as an independent journalist, you wear a bunch of different hats. Can you tell us about your variety of different affiliations so people can find your stuff?
Katie Halper: Sure, yeah. So I host “The Katie Halper Show” on YouTube youtube.com/thekatiehalpershow. It’s also a podcast. It’s a livestream.
And I also co-host Useful Idiots, which is also a podcast and livestream.
What else? I’ve written for a bunch of places, although I’ve been focusing more on the podcast, but I have written for The Nation, and The Guardian, and New York Magazine. Did a lot of stuff on media coverage at FAIR. Also Jacobin. Full disclosure, I should say that I’ve written for Jacobin.
And I also made a movie called “Commie Camp,” which I’m releasing soon — which is, yeah.
RG: Well, great!
And the Jacobin disclosure is important, because we’re also joined here by Branko Marcteic of Jacobin magazine, who also covered this controversy this week. Welcome, Branko!
Branko Marcetic: Hey, thanks for having me.
RG: And so — Katie, start us out at the beginning here. So you’re guest-hosting in the studio, you record your monologue; after the monologues, there’s always a back-and-forth, it’s never just a straight: This-is-my-opinion and then you cut. The co-host on the other side argues back and forth, and then you move on to the next segment.
RG: So after that, what happened?
KH: I should also say, so that people get a sense of my relationship with The Hill, I’ve been a weekly contributor for three years. So, I started with Krystal and Saagar, and then started up again during the new iteration of The Hill which you were part of, Ryan.
KH: So I would go on there every week, for three years. And then, as you said, I was doing some guest-hosting. And so I hosted a bunch of segments that day. Then I also did deliver that monologue.
A couple of segments after that monologue, the producers asked us to record what’s called a pickup. And basically, that meant that Robby, the right-wing co-host, reiterated what Jonathan Greenblatt had said — which, I was like: OK, that’s somewhat weird! I don’t know, because I haven’t hosted that many times, but it seemed a little weird. And it kind of tipped me off to maybe there was some discussion about my “Radar,” about my monologue.
RG: Right. Because that’s not normal. Like normally: it’s done, it’s done.
RG: But if you need to add a little comment in, it’s not terribly unusual. It’s like, OK, let’s get a little extra balance in there.
RG: Fine. OK.
KH: So Jonathan Greenblatt, they repeated what he had said, which Jake Tapper had already said, and then they added in something from him where he said Amnesty International’s antisemitic, or something.
And I, once again, maybe I shouldn’t have, but I was like: Well, he can call Amnesty International antisemitic, but I don’t know how he’s gonna explain away a bunch of Israeli prime ministers and the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, which has also declared Israel to be an apartheid state.
But if they had said: Katie, we’re gonna cut that part out, that would have been fine. I wasn’t trying to be a bomb thrower.
RG: Right. And so, to back up, and we’ll play, at the end of this episode, your full “Radar” so people can hear it for themselves.
RG: But give us a basic rundown of what point you were trying to make.
KH: Sure. Yeah.
So the point I was trying to make was that Rep. Rashida Tlaib was being smeared. And Jake Tapper — who, by the way, I mean, there’s an interesting backstory, Jake Tapper has gone after Rep. Rashida Tlaib in the past. This is not his first time insinuating that she’s an antisemite. In fact, his coverage of her and of Palestine prompted Jewish Voices for Peace to launch a cancel Jake Tapper hashtag [?#?canceltapper?] and they had a protest outside of CNN.
But anyway, I responded to that clip. I played that clip, which quoted Debbie Wasserman Schultz, saying this is “outrageous.” And then my follow up was like: Yeah, it is outrageous! It’s outrageous that Rep. Rashida Tlaib is being smeared.
And then I went through how people may not like the idea that Israel is an apartheid state, but, unfortunately, apartheid is not about feelings; it’s about facts. And then I went through all the reasons that Israel is an apartheid state. And I was very thorough and careful because there are so many organizations out there that would love nothing more than to be able to discredit someone who’s criticizing Israel.
So I quoted the U.N.; I quoted the International Criminal Court; I quoted what makes apartheid a crime, because it actually is a crime according to international law. I quoted Israeli law that makes it clear that it is apartheid. I cited all these human rights organizations. I quoted B’Tselem, which is an Israeli human rights organization. Then I quoted a bunch of Israeli officials, including prime ministers, who either said that Israel was an apartheid state or warned it was going to be an apartheid state if the two-state solution didn’t work, which obviously, it’s not been working. And then I quoted South Africans — certain South African luminaries — because, of course, they lived under apartheid.
So Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, and then a Foreign Affairs Minister in South Africa, who had just spoken at the United Nations General Assembly. And I pointed out also that I, as a Jew who comes from New York City, I’m like fourth generation New York City, or third generation New York City, I guess — and then my family before that was from Eastern Europe — and I could move to Israel today and get a job; I could build a home; I could move around, and so could Jonathan Greenblatt, and so could Jake Tapper and someone like Rep. Rashida Tlaib couldn’t even go to her family home in what’s now Israel.
RG: Right. And so before we get to the several-day-long saga that ended with your shock firing, Branko, can you tell us a little bit about Nexstar, the company that bought The Hill last summer? And in particular, I was surprised to read in your reporting, there’s a particular executive there who has a history that kind of directly bears on this question.
BM: Yeah. Nexstar is one of these massive media conglomerates, similar to Sinclair Broadcast Group that is buying up local media outlets, particularly local TV news all over the country, basically to try and get as much of their market share as possible.
One thing that I found was that, I think a month before this happened, there was an investment firm that invested, I think they bought 6,100 shares in Nexstar to the tune of about $1 million, and they’re based in Tel Aviv. Now, whether that means that this has to do with what happened to Katie, I don’t know.
But another concerning thing, as you mentioned, Ryan, was this hiring of a guy called Jake Novak, to be the deputy editor of its cable news arm. And Jake Novak, he was a very long-serving journalist, he’s worked for a whole host of outlets, including CNBC as a columnist. He also, just before joining the Nexstar family, happened to have spent about a year and a half at the Israeli consulate general in New York, doing media communications.
Now, I’m not sure exactly what he was doing, but given some of his other activities, I can guess, because six days before he was hired by Nexstar, in August, he did this seminar — and you can find this seminar, it’s up on Vimeo — which is all about combating kind of negative media coverage and perceptions of Israel. And strategies for doing so.
And apparently this had been based on a talk that he had done back in 2016, where during the war then, he sort of was telling people this is how you sort of combat some of the unhelpful messaging in the press and otherwise, about what Israel is doing. And this was sort of an updating of it.
And besides that, I mean, he’s quite a colorful character. Number one, he’s written a piece during the Trump administration, basically saying it’s great that the Trump administration has given up on the two-state solution; it’s actually great that Israel is building these illegal settlements on what should be the land that would make up the Palestinian state in the two-state solution — and, in fact, this is great because it will lead to more peace and more prosperity for both Israelis and Palestinians.
Now, I mean, even if you take away the perversity of arguing that it’s actually good for a country to basically steal another people’s land, can anyone with a straight face really say, having seen some of the events of the past few years, these clashes between Palestinians and Israelis erupt into these horrific bombings of the Palestinian territories, that it has led to peace and stability? I mean, it’s absurd. But I think it shows you the kind of worldview that underwrites a lot of what Novak does.
Another part of the Novak story — and this is one of the more bizarre aspects of this whole thing — is that during the Matt Gaetz underage sex controversy, where he was alleged to have slept with an underage girl, and then there were people using that to extort money out of his wealthy father. In the middle of all this, Novak messages the creator of Dilbert, and he says — and there’s no real explanation in the public record why, he [the creator of Dilbert] himself says: I’ve no idea why he got into contact with me — but he says, basically: This is all too bad, because it’s undermining my efforts to get money so that I can pay this commando team, they’re just standing on standby, waiting to get the money so they can go rescue this U.S. hostage in Iran.
So this is a tapestry of pretty wild stuff. But to me, what it suggests is that: I can’t say that that is the reason that what happened to Katie happened, but it does suggest some sort of editorial tilt among Nexstar that may be pushing the more pro-Israel direction, which wouldn’t be surprising. I mean in the U.S. political system, this is pretty rife.
RG: I was going to say, it suggests a tilt in a way that you just couldn’t imagine if you tried to mirror it and imagine a Palestinian-American in that same position, who has some of the same ties, who, say, gets caught messaging somebody saying: Oh, this is too bad, because I was trying to shake down money for a Hamas commando operation. [Laughs.]
It’s so absurd — it’s so far out of what’s even within the realm of possibility — but in our current political ecosystem, there is a place for people with views like his.
And Katie, you’ve talked about — before we get back into the narrative here — one of the disturbing elements of this to you was that you felt like it was playing directly into some of the most insidious antisemitic tropes.
KH: Yeah, it’s really frustrating as a Jew, and I have to admit, I always go back and forth between how much to say as a Jew, because I think it’s useful to show that people who are Jewish are critical of Israel for a couple of reasons: It’s useful because we need to show that Jews are not a monolith, and Jews are not represented by AIPAC and the Anti-Defamation League. But it also is like: You should be able to criticize Israel even if you’re not Jewish.
But I do get frustrated because, first of all, there’s so much antisemitism out there. And focusing — kind of exclusively, as the ADL seems to do — on criticism of Israel, conflating criticism of Israel with antisemitism is, ironically enough, an antisemitic trope in itself, because it kind of conflates being a Jew with being a Zionist. There’s a long history of Jews taking various positions on Zionism. They’re anti-Zionist Jews; there was a big split within the Jewish community over this. There still is! Some Jews are for two states, some are for one state.
It exposes how Israel still is a third rail, but I’m very uncomfortable with the idea — it kind of lends itself to this idea that Jews run the media — which is not —
RG: [Laughs.] Right. Right.
KH: — the way you get out of that, and you look at it and say: Well, no, that’s not true. The truth is that places like AIPAC and the Anti-Defamation League, which represent certain interests, have a lot of sway, but once you break apart being Jewish from being a member of or supporter of the ADL or AIPAC, then you realize that we’re not a monolith. So it’s not antisemitic to point out that there is an Israel lobby.
Another thing about the Israel lobby is that it’s not all Jewish.
KH: If you look at the numbers, the most Israel zealots are the ones who want us Jews to go back there. And like, I guess, 400 of us will be saved, the rest will burn in eternal damnation, according to the rapture prediction, I believe.
RG: [Laughs.] Right.
KH: But it is really frustrating. And it’s uncomfortable to talk about — like even right now I’m worried about people taking my words out of context. And I’m Jewish, so that gives me somewhat more license, but not a lot, as we saw.
KH: And if you are not Jewish, and especially if you’re Arab or Arab-American; Palestinian or Palestinian-American — you’re so quickly labeled as an antisemite. I, at least, get “self-loathing Jew,” although some people are just calling me an antisemite anyway.
RG: I think it’s interesting how this stuff unfolds. So later that day, you realize that your post isn’t up?
KH: Yeah, so I’m kind of warned by the producers. And I want to say — and I hope that doesn’t get them in trouble — but they were on the right side of history and the right side of this issue.
KH: They were trying to come up with a way, I think, to get the “Radar” out there.
I mean, I shouldn’t say that. I don’t wanna get them in trouble. Not behind anyone’s back, but I think they were advocating —
RG: Well, that’s their job. Their job is to produce content.
KH: Yeah. They were advocating for releasing the “Radar.”
So I get a call on my way out, and I was told — and the producer was like: I wanted you to hear it from me — that the higher-ups saw your “Radar,” and we’re not releasing it. They don’t want us to release it.
And then she explained that there was a new policy of which she had not been aware that was basically that The Hill was not doing op-eds — written or video op-eds — on Israel. But she did tell me, she did distinguish between op-eds and segments, meaning like segments are when the hosts have conversations with each other.
RG: Right. You’re just some news.
KH: Yeah. Like, when I’m on as a guest —
KH: — that’s a segment also, right?
So that was my understanding, that it was something that could be talked about by guests but could not make up the “Radar,” the straight-to-cam, op-eds that are done.
RG: Did you ever speak to, then, any higher-ups at The Hill?
KH: No. So we were going back and forth — and then I did speak to higher-ups at The Hill — one of them called me, told me — I also want to add that The Hill did not dislike me. I pitched them a show, a lefty version of The View — no one steal that, guys, out there.
KH: That’s my show. But I pitched them a lefty version of The View with Briahna Joy Gray, also. So we had shot a pilot for that. It was me, Bri, Rania Khalek, and Abby Martin. We even released one segment from it, and it did really well, numbers-wise.
So Bob Cusack calls me [and] says he’s not going to release it.
RG: He’s the editor in chief of The Hill.
KH: The editor in chief of The Hill, yeah — makes it look like: Them’s the breaks, like we don’t accept all pitches, but the thing is, as you pointed out in your piece, Ryan — this isn’t like a pitch process. Hosts are just given full license to deliver a monologue. And as you’ve pointed out, and you would know this better than I would, because you’ve done so many, you just send the monologue, they put it into the teleprompter, and you’re off to the races.
So after I spoke to him, I asked the producers again, I was like: OK, so can I do this for my segment tomorrow? In other words, when I come on as a guest, not as a host, but when I come on as a guest, can I talk about this?
And they were like: This Nexstar person should have emailed you. And I checked my email. And that’s when I got a message that was like: Hi, Katie. Just wanted to let you know, we won’t be needing you to do your “Radar” tomorrow morning, please send us all unpaid invoices, and best of luck.
And I was really shocked. Like, some people are saying like: Oh, Katie did this to get attention. Or: She knew she’d get fired over this.
No! I’m not an idiot who just out of the gates thought that my first thing was going to be about Israel-Palestine, and saying Israel is an apartheid state. Now, it is an apartheid state and it also shouldn’t be controversial to say that, but it is, because the world in which we live. But I had done so many segments on Israel. They did one where I think the headline was like Israel Lied, because I was talking about how they tried to cover up the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, and how they submitted footage of some Palestinian guy shooting in an alley. And then of course, B’Tselem, among others, proved how that would have been physically impossible from that alley, to shoot a bullet that kills Shireen Abu Akleh.
This was not some attention-getting stunt! This was not like: I’m gonna go out with a bang. I’m gonna become that journalist who refuses to be silent over the Israeli-Palestine conflict. I mean, that’s what happened, but that wasn’t my intention. This was not a PR stunt. I mean, I thought it would raise eyebrows. I thought maybe people would complain because I done another segment that some right-wing, pro-Israel group wrote a really catchy headline like “What The Hill?” And it was critical of me for a segment that I had done at The Hill. So I thought that would happen, because that always happens when you talk about Israel.
But I was shocked when I got that email. And I do think that some people were like: Oh, well, of course, you were gonna get fired over that. I was not trying to martyr myself or make a statement. I wanted to do that “Radar,” that monologue. And, again, I had, as a guest, been given total freedom to talk about whatever I want. I mean, I would suggest things, sometimes they would say: No, we’d rather do this. But, in general, no one had ever been like: We don’t want to do Israel.
KH: And I’d done it on a number of occasions.
RG: Branko, I got a “decline to comment” from Nexstar when I reached out to them for their side on this. Have you gotten any reaction from Nexstar?
BM: No, none. None from The Hill, either.
RG: None from The Hill. Right.
BM: But, to me, one of the things that struck me about Katie’s story is that it’s completely contrary to the whole spirit of the show. I used to watch the show when it was Krystal and Saagar; I watched the show in the iteration that you were on, Ryan; I watch it still, every now and then, in its current iteration. The whole point, as you guys know, is that people on that show talk about topics and take positions on topics that are taboo in the rest of the media. This is the one place where you can sort of get away from the stifling straitjacket of establishment thinking and hear alternative viewpoints and hear different perspectives on things. But apparently not for Israel.
And I found the claims by Cusack just not very convincing. The idea that The Hill doesn’t cover foreign policy, and that it’s only domestic politics. I mean, number one, as Katie pointed out, that’s just not true. But even in the past week, there’s been segments covering the Brazilian election, the Italian election, the hot-mic comment that was caught by the South Korean president, and a host of other stuff. So it’s not particularly convincing.
But also, on top of that, I mean, this does have a domestic political angle.
BM: Because it’s very much part of this kind of intra-party warfare in the Democratic party where you have the more establishment-friendly and more Israel-friendly parts of the party who periodically use this as a wedge issue to attack some of the progressive, insurgent parts of the party.
And one of the things that’s been forgotten in all of this, and I think really has to be stressed, is the reason why Tlaib got this pushback, the reason that this furor began over what she said is not just the stuff she said about Israel being an apartheid state, but she was specifically calling out the fact that the U.S. government hadn’t done anything about the fact that a Palestinian-American journalist had been killed by a state that is meant to be an ally of the United States and the government was doing absolutely nothing — which is unbelievable, and would be completely unacceptable if it was any other government other than Israel. And I think what we saw was a very clever and very successful way to kind of divert attention from that issue — and to turn it into: Well, now the controversy is going to be about is Rashida Tlaib antisemitic? And does Israel have a right to exist? Which, of course, is not —
BM: — what the original point that she was even talking about was.
RG: Yeah. And on the point of the show being a place where you can kind of push the boundaries, I was thinking back. In the year and a half that I was there, there was only one other “Radar” that actually did get held up, and it got held up for a couple of hours, and some executives — I think this was before Nexstar bought The Hill, so back when it was an independent media outlet. And that was on Uyghur genocide. And it was my former colleague Kim Iversen was making the argument that yes, there were abuses, there are abuses, and it’s OK to be concerned about abuses, but it’s kind of State Department propaganda to call it genocide or call it even a cultural genocide.
And it led to a really heated debate — actually it pitted Emily Jashinsky and I on the same side, rarely, because she’s usually on the right, and I’m on the left. But both her and I were arguing — and argued with her for a long time over her points. And they ultimately decided to post it, which I thought was the right decision.
RG: Because there was pushback, it was an argument that was hashed out. And I think it’s good to just hash these out. I don’t have to agree with every single word that’s said on the show.
So to think that that’s OK, but this is not, I think is kind of revealing about where these lines are drawn, Katie.
KH: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s true. I think that the fact that they would be open to airing a debate on Uighur genocide, but not one that’s about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — or I should say the Israeli occupation — is telling. Because obviously, this is a third rail.
RG: Yeah, you’d have the same human rights organizations, in general, lining up but on opposite sides. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch —
RG: — have been extraordinarily critical of Chinese policy in Western China, and also extraordinary critical of Israeli policy. But while they’re consistent, the show — and not to pick on the show, in particular, I think it represents a kind of a broader tightening of the discourse.
And Branko, on that point, I’m curious what the response has been to your story, because it slots into, in a perpendicular way, into the discussions that we’re always having around cancel culture and free speech and censorship. If Katie had been talking about anything else, and had been censored in this way, I think we probably have a three- or four-day national conversation going on on social media. And not to say that there wasn’t a significant amount of attention to this, but it wasn’t the kind of story that it would have been if somebody else had been canceled for something else.
But as an author of one of these pieces, what was your sense of the kind of attention that was paid to it, compared to what could have been?
BM: I have to say, it was mostly positive. And that might just be like: Jacobin is a socialist magazine; the people who read it are most likely going to be people who are on the left in some way. And so they probably agree with the premise.
But yeah, I mean, you’re right. I have not — and I don’t think Katie has either, she said in a Daily Beast piece that she has written — gotten any sort of outrage from the people who, in the political and media landscape, use cancel culture and censorship as a kind of wedge issue for driving their own politics. And I think that shows how cynical this whole thing is.
In the same way, it wasn’t that long ago, when the Queen died, I wrote this piece just doing a little overview of some of the arrests that were happening in the UK, over Republican and anti-monarchist protesters and language being used. And again, very little pushback from the usual kind of corners that are obsessed with cancel culture and yet seem to give a free pass to censorship and cancellation, when it comes to certain topics that they agree with.
My position has always been, and I think the sensible position for anyone is, that whatever your political beliefs are, wherever you are on the political spectrum, the best thing for everyone is to uphold norms of free speech, opposing censorship, and to oppose any sort of measure that would foreclose on our ability to speak freely and to have open conversations about topics, because that’s the best way to guarantee that everyone is able to speak and isn’t censored. And I think that’s the position we should take.
Unfortunately, I think the way that this discourse happens in the United States particularly, but not just in the United States, this issue of free speech is used by people when it’s convenient for them, but then they’re very happy to support censorship. And just one example, I mean, Bari Weiss —
BM: — for instance, she was a columnist for The New York Times, I believe, and she’s a general kind of figure in the media. She signed the Harper’s letter; she is someone who has really taken up this torch of cancel culture, and made it almost part of her personal brand. And of course, during her college days, she was most famous for trying to get professors —
KH: Joseph Massad.
BM: — who were considered too critical of Israel, too positive towards the Palestinian cause, fired. And I think that is just a perfect encapsulation of the double standard and the way that this issue is, I think, cynically used by people who don’t really care about freedom of speech.
RG: And Katie, what kind of reaction have you gotten?
KH: Positive. A lot of people are speaking out, supporting me, which is great.
And then I guess the other silver lining is that I really wanted to make sure that the video got out there. So I made it with an actually independent media organization, BreakThrough News.
So you can find the video at youtube.com/thekatiehalpershow, you can also find it at youtube.com/breakthroughnews. So we still made the op-ed, and there’s been a lot of really positive response to both the video and also the position that I took — which was getting fired, I guess. But I mean for criticizing Israel. Yeah.
RG: Right. Right. And we’ll also play it for folks now.
But Katie and Branko, I really appreciate you guys both joining us.
KH: Thanks. And, yeah, Branko’s piece is really good.
RG: Yeah, well done.
KH: It’s really good.
BM: Well, so is Ryan’s. [Laughs.] Thanks for having us on.
RG: You got it.
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RG: Deconstructed is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept. Our producer is Zach Young. Laura Flynn is our supervising producer. The show was mixed by William Stanton. Our theme music was composed by Bart Warshaw. Roger Hodge is The Intercept’s editor in chief. And I’m Ryan Grim, D.C. bureau chief of The Intercept.
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Thanks so much.
And now, as I mentioned earlier, here’s Katie Halper’s “Radar” editorial in its entirety.
KH: The following monologue is something that I wrote, delivered and recorded at The Hill. It was then censored, and I was then canceled and fired.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib has been condemned by some over comments she made about Israel. Here’s CNN’s Jake Tapper reporting on what the Michigan Democrat said and the response it prompted.
JT: Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan facing criticism today from what several of her Jewish colleagues have deemed antisemitic comments. Here’s what Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in Congress, said at a virtual event yesterday.
RT: I want you all to know that among progressives, it’s become clear that you cannot claim to hold progressive values yet back Israel’s apartheid government. And we will continue to push back and not accept this idea that you are progressive, except for Palestine, any longer.
JT: The CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, slammed the comments saying that Israel does not have an apartheid government and said that she should not be imposing a “litmus test” in a tweet saying Tlaib “tells American Jews that they need to pass an anti-Zionist litmus test to participate in progressive spaces.”
Some of Tlaib’s Jewish colleagues in Congress agreed. Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, called her comments “outrageous” and “nothing short of antisemitic.”
KH: Debbie Wasserman Schultz is right. It is outrageous. It’s outrageous that Rashida Tlaib is getting attacked. Tlaib is merely stating that Israel is an apartheid state and that people who claim to have progressive values cannot support an apartheid state.
No matter how loose a definition of progressive we use, it certainly excludes supporting a racist apartheid system. What’s outrageous is attacking Tlaib for pointing out that progressive-except-for-Palestine is an intrinsically contradictory position.
What’s also outrageous is that the Anti-Defamation League League’s Jonathan Greenblatt would claim that Israel is not an apartheid government. What’s outrageous is that Jake Tapper would accept Greenblatt’s judgment as the truth and not propaganda that needed to be pushed back against.
I understand that Greenblatt and perhaps Tapper feel like Israel is not an apartheid state. But, unfortunately for them, apartheid isn’t about your feelings. It’s about facts.
In 1973, the U.N. define the crime of apartheid as any “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.”
In 1998, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defined apartheid as “inhumane acts of a character [… that are] committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime” […]
These inhuman acts include, among others, infliction upon the members of a racial group or groups of serious bodily or mental harm by the infringement of their freedom or dignity, or by subjecting them to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, by arbitrary arrest and illegal imprisonment of the members of a racial group or groups, any legislative measures and other measures calculated to prevent a racial group or groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country, and the deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of such a group or groups — in particular, by denying to members of a racial group or groups basic human rights and freedoms, including: the right to leave and to return to their country, the right to a nationality, the right to freedom of movement, and residence, the right to freedom of opinion, and expression, and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
I’d encourage Jake Tapper to look this up sometime.
Here are just a few examples of Israel’s apartheid policies: The Law of Return of 1950 allows any Jew — which means anyone with one Jewish grandparent — the right to return to Israel; the right to move to Israel and automatically become citizens of Israel. It gives their spouses that right, too, even if they’re not Jewish — though, if they’re Palestinian, that’s another issue entirely. Palestinians, of course, lack that right.
The Israeli citizenship law of 1950 to deprive Palestinian refugees and their descendants have legal status, the right to return, and all other rights in their homeland. It also defined Palestinians present in Israel as Israeli citizens without a nationality and group rights.
These laws together obviously fit into the International Criminal Court’s apartheid criteria.
More recently, the nation-state law established that the fulfillment of the right of national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people. It demoted Arabic from an official language to a language with special status. It also stipulated the state views Jewish settlement as a national value and will labor to encourage and promote its establishment and development. These are just some of the reasons that human rights organizations have declared Israel an apartheid state.
Al-Haq; Al Mezan Center For Human Rights; Adalah, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel; Addameer, Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association; Human Rights Watch; and Amnesty International have all documented Israeli apartheid policies.
Israel’s own human rights organization B’Tselem has declared: “the Israeli regime enacts […] an apartheid regime.” B’Tselem divides the way Israeli apartheid works into four areas:
Land: Israel works to Judaize the entire area, treating land as a resource chiefly meant to benefit the Jewish population. Since 1948, Israel has taken over 90 percent of the land within the green line and built hundreds of communities for the Jewish population.
Citizenship: Jews living anywhere in the world, their children and grandchildren, and their spouses are entitled to Israeli citizenship. In contrast, Palestinians cannot immigrate to Israeli-controlled areas, even if their parents or their grandparents were born and lived there. Israel makes it difficult for Palestinians who live in one of the units it controls to obtain status in another, and has enacted legislation that prohibits granting Palestinians who marry Israeli status within the green line.
Freedom of movement: Israeli citizens enjoy freedom of movement in the entire area controlled by Israel and may enter and leave the country freely. Palestinian subjects, on the other hand, require a special Israeli-issued permit to travel between the units and sometimes inside them, and exit abroad also requires Israeli approval.
Political participation: Palestinian citizens of Israel may vote and run for officem but leading politicians consistently undermine the legitimacy of Palestinian political representatives. The roughly 5 million Palestinians who live in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, cannot participate in a political system that governs their lives and determines their future.
I was born in New York City, My great-grandparents and the family before them were from Eastern Europe. I could move to Israel today, buy a house, get a job, travel around with no problem. So could Jake Tapper and Jonathan Greenblatt. But a Palestinian like Rashida Tlaib can’t even visit her family home in what is now Israel.
This demographic tension is recognized by Israeli officials and politicians who have described their own country as an apartheid state. Former Attorney General Michael BenYa’ir wrote in 2002: “we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture. That oppressive regime exists to this day.”
Zehava Galon, former chair of Israel’s Meretz party said, in 2006, Israel was “relegated” to “the level of an apartheid state.”
In 2007, Israel’s former education minister Shulamit Aloni wrote, “the state of Israel practices its own, quite violent, form of apartheid with the native Palestinian population.”
In 2008, former environment minister Yossi Sarid said, “what acts like apartheid, is run like apartheid and harasses like apartheid, is not a duck — it is apartheid.”
In 2015, Former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan said President Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies are leading to either a binational state or an apartheid state.
Even Israel’s Prime Ministers have used the a-word. In a recently published 1976 interview, assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said: “if we don’t want to get to apartheid … I don’t think it’s possible to contain over the long term, a million and a half [more] Arabs inside a Jewish state.”
In 2007 yet another prime minister, Ehud Olmert, warned, “If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished.”
Prime Minister Ehud Barak said in 2010, “As long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic. If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.”
But there is no other standard more universally respected in defining apartheid — not the U.N., not the International Criminal Court’s, not human rights organizations, not Israeli prime ministers — than the people of South Africa who lived under the system of apartheid. After all, apartheid is an Afrikaans word. It means “apartness.” It was the official policy in South Africa from 1948 to 1994, allowing white South Africans in the minority to rule over and discriminate against the vast majority of Black South Africans. The definitions from the United Nations and the International Criminal Court come out of their experiences.
In 1997, Nelson Mandela said: “The U.N. took a strong stand against apartheid; and over the years, an international consensus was built, which helped to bring an end to this iniquitous system. But we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”
In 2013, Desmond Tutu recalled being struck by the similarities between what he experienced in apartheid South Africa and what he observed in Israel.
Desmond Tutu: I visited the occupied Palestinian territories, and have witnessed the humiliation of Palestinians at Israeli military checkpoints. The inhumanity that won’t let ambulances reach the injured, farmers tend their land, or children attend school. This treatment is familiar to me and the many Black South Africans who were corralled and harassed by the security forces of the apartheid government.
KH: Listen to South Africa’s Minister for International Relations, Naledi Pandor, addressing the United States’ [sic] General Assembly just last week:
Naledi Pandor: While we work to address contemporary conflicts, we should not ignore long-standing conflicts, such as that of the people of Palestine, which has been on the United Nations’ agenda throughout the seven decades of existence of this organization.
We cannot ignore the words of the former Israeli negotiator at the Oslo talks, Daniel Levy, who addressed the U.N. Security Council recently and referred to the increasingly weighty body of scholarly, legal, and public opinion that has designated Israel to be perpetrating apartheid in the territories under its control.
KH: To my fellow Jews, to my friends in the Democratic Party who wants to support Israel and think of themselves as progressive, it’s important to look at what Israeli law today does, what the lived experiences of Palestinians today means as defined under international law, and what our friends from South Africa have long pointed out — but we should not stop there. South Africans didn’t just define apartheid, they dismantled it. Instead of attacking Rashida Tlaib for her candor, her critics should ask themselves how Israeli apartheid can be dismantled. What would a post-apartheid country look like?