American ApartheidOne of the things that has always bothered me about the PC(USA) divestment debate and our wider discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the unacknowledged hypocrisy of criticisms leveled against Israel. I agree that Palestinians are suffering and I hope for the eventual creation of a viable Palestinian state as part of a negotiated two-state solution. Critiques of Israeli occupation and settlement policies are legitimate and necessary.

But how can Americans criticize Israel for “stealing” Palestinian land when our nation is built on land stolen from indigenous peoples? If we demand that Israel return land to Palestinians, should we also be required to return land to Native Americans?

How can Americans call Israel an apartheid state when we live in one of the most segregated nations in the world? How different are “new Jim Crow” policies from apartheid?

After these frustrations were once again stoked at GA221, I attended the Wild Goose Festival and heard Jim Wallis begin his talk on “Racism is America’s Original Sin” with this line he penned back in 1987:

The United States of America was established as a white society, founded upon the genocide of another race and then the enslavement of yet another.

That pretty much sums up what I’ve been trying to articulate. I would go a step further and say that America is an apartheid state.

So one of the things I’m taking away from WildGoose14 is a commitment to studying and naming the many unresolved issues of American colonialism, racism, and apartheid.

Here is a sample of articles and books I’ve already come across in this past week of thinking about this:

I’ll be thinking a lot more about what this trajectory means for my life and ministry, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, how do you respond to the claim that America is an apartheid state?

John W. Vest

John is a "church hacker" attempting to overcome the limitations of church as we know it. To connect with him and learn more about his work, please visit

Reader Interactions


  1. John Vest et al., One perspective I learned from my former colleague, Prof. Carolyn Kirk (urban sociology, Monmouth College) is that all nations are ‘developing nations,’ including the USA. No nation state has ‘solved’ the global problems of racism, heterosexism, economic inequality, discrimination against Muslims et al., anti-Semitism, etc. To name USA as an ‘apartheid’ state would be only accurate if we named discrimination, racism, economic inequality, Islamo-phobia as the evils of persons & org’s in all nation states and societies. So I am not sure how this claim moves the conversation forward with our fellow citizens in USA today. Faithfully, Bob Cathey

  2. That Atlantic article is devastating.

    Does acknowledging the “apartheid” of the American state necessarily prohibit us from acting conscientiously in other parts of the world?

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