Friday, May 11, 2007

"The Israeli Occupation of Palestine represents a system of Apartheid." Discuss.

Hello friends! Some of you have found your way to this post via "Pieces of Palestine," a new zine(!) created by my friend Jill and I. I wanted to open up this space for a serious discussion of some of the issues we raised playfully in the article "The Mix-and-Match Apartheid Quiz!" We want to acknowledge that leveling a charge of Apartheid against any state is controversial and deserves to be carefully considered and freely discussed.

So, join us! Is the occupation a form of Apartheid? Want do you think? Leave us a comment and let's start talking.

Here are a few things that I wanted to add to the discussion:

The charge of Apartheid is a serious and painful one. Few historical crimes strikes such an emotional chord with us - most likely because few historical situations remind us so much of ourselves. For those of us from the United States, when we examine Apartheid, we find echoes of the Jim Crow south, the reservation system, Manifest Destiny, detainee abuse, as well as echoes of the crimes of states around the world. Because Apartheid was a tremendously complex and comprehensive system which used every part of the political apparatus to ensure colonial denomination - population transfers, petty segregation, economic exploitation, prisons, denial of political participation, etc., etc. - it’s easy to find similarities between Apartheid and other unjust systems.

What are the similarities between Apartheid South Africa and the Israeli military occupation of Palestine? Well, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Palestine describes the parallels exceptionally well and I encourage you to read it. But I'll try my hand at enumerating some of the similarities here.

Take a look at this picture. On the left you see a car with a green license plate, on the right, a yellow license plate. This difference in license plate color represents a crucial distinction. The yellow license plate (right) is an Israeli license. Owners of a cars with such plate and with an accompanying Israeli ID can travel freely throughout the West Bank and into Israel. The green license plate (left) is Palestinian plate. Israeli soldiers stop cars with these plates at checkpoints and deny drivers access to particular parts of the West Bank. Yellow plated cars can travel on "by-pass roads," highways that snake through out the West Bank, by-passing Palestinian town and creating boundaries that divide the West Bank into isolated cantons (like South African bantustans). These highways are accessible only to Israelis.

This is one example of a system of separation and inequality that pervades the West Bank and is the reason for calling the military occupation of Palestine an "apartheid system." Israelis are permitted to live in the West Bank, in violation of international law, and at every turn are privileged above Palestinians.

Palestinians must carry ID. Their movements are restricted. Their economy has not be allowed to develop, or rather had been un-developed. Their governing bodies have been rendered completely ineffectual. The West Bank has been divided up into cantons. Homes are demolished. Palestinians are imprisoned and abused by Israeli authorities. The Israelis army brutally crushes nonviolent demonstrations. The Israeli military occupation of Palestine violated the most basic human rights of Palestinians. All of these facts bear resemblances to the South African policy of apartheid.

Is the Israeli military occupation exactly the same as South African Apartheid. No. Are there similarities? Oh, yeah. Are we saying that Israel is an apartheid state? Well, what do you think? Drawing an analogy between to different situations isn’t easy, especially when asking questions will get you called all sorts of nasty names. Our opinions aren’t what’s important; we need a free and open dialog about this crucially important issue.

Here are a few more resources on apartheid that may interest you:

Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid
by Jimmy Carter

AFSC Discussion Guide for Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid

End the Occupation Apartheid Discussion

Know of more resources? Comment and I'll post them.

No comments: