KARMELHazemBader:Getty

Nick Kristof observes ethnic cleansing and collective punishment first-hand:

On one side of a barbed-wire fence here in the southern Hebron hills is the Bedouin village of Umm al-Kheir, where Palestinians live in ramshackle tents and huts. They aren’t allowed to connect to the electrical grid, and Israel won’t permit them to build homes, barns for their animals or even toilets. When the villagers build permanent structures, the Israeli authorities come and demolish them, according to villagers and Israeli human rights organizations.

On the other side of the barbed wire is the Jewish settlement of Karmel, a lovely green oasis that looks like an American suburb. It has lush gardens, kids riding bikes and air-conditioned homes. It also has a gleaming, electrified poultry barn that it runs as a business. Elad Orian, an Israeli human rights activist, nodded toward the poultry barn and noted: “Those chickens get more electricity and water than all the Palestinians around here.”

These Palestinian Arabs were subject to constant harassment and violence from the Jewish settlers nearby. Kristof adds every caveat - about security, about double-standards, etc. But I fail to see how this kind of governing system, brutally punishing people for being the wrong ethnicity and religion and using the apparatus of the state to impoverish and marginalize them, is somehow in a different moral zone than apartheid. Could a reader mount a case for a clear difference? I think even parts of Soweto were allowed to access the national grid.

And how is the US supposed to engage the moderate Muslim world to help defuse Islamism and Jihadism, if we are also partly financing this kind of brutal sectarian and ethnic discrimination against Muslims?

(Photo: A Palestinian from Arab al-Hazaleen (south Hebron) fights 14 February 2007 with Israeli border police as an army bulldozer demolishes Beduin mud houses beside the Israeli settlement of Karmel. By Hazem Bader/AFP/Getty Images.)

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.