8.11.2010

is israel an apartheid state? a south african perspective, part five, final

PLEASE NOTE: About 15 comments were removed from this post through a Blogger glitch. I have restored the content of those comments to the best of my ability. They are reposted under my name, but with the original poster's name indicated, along with the time and date of the post.

* * * *

Part One.

Part Two.

Part Three.

Part Four.

I want to conclude with two more short pieces.

One is some notes from Clare O'Connor's portion of the talk. As I mentioned in my intro, I encourage you to listen to Clare's talk, especially for the descriptions of the conditions under which Palestinian people are forced to live. (The audio is here.) I am only paraphrasing the final portion of her talk, as it directly relates to these posts.

The second is a bit of the audience discussion that followed the talk.

* * * *

Clare O'Connor, Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid:

When we use the word "apartheid" and talk about the South African model, we are not using the analogy merely as a political tool. Apartheid is a legal system that any state may practice.

When comparing the South African apartheid regime and the present-day regime in Israel, there are some striking similarities.

- Both involved a process of settler colonialism forcing the displacement of indigenous populations, and the concentration of this population in reservations or townships.

- In both instances, the colonized community was further sub-divided into different groups with different rights.

- In both, the movements of the colonized people are strictly controlled, their lives severely restricted.

- Both regimes relied (or rely) on the use of brutal military force to repress and control that population.

- Both regimes have enjoyed the complete immunity that results from full US and European support.

There are also superficial similarities, such as both systems beginning in 1948, in both cases 87% of the land being off limits to the indigenous population, and some others. And, as Joe spoke about, there are the actual links between the two countries.

But there are considerable differences as well.

- Israel has not legislated "petty apartheid" rules against its Palestinian citizens.

- There are 1.2 million Palestinians who are Israeli citizens and can vote.

- And, perhaps most crucially, the system was not set up to facilitate a labour supply.

- However, South African visitors to Israel often observe that the use of force against the Palestinians is significantly more brutal and systematic than it was against the majority of black South Africans during the apartheid regime.

But our description of Israel as an apartheid state does not revolve around a list of similarities and differences. An apartheid state is the political and economic control of one group of people over another, indigenous population.

In other words, Clare said, it doesn't matter if the two systems line up exactly or not. No two historical situations are ever exactly parallel. The point is the larger picture.

Given what I've learned, I believe that to call Israel an apartheid state is to see with our eyes open. And to refuse to use the word is to insist on denial.

* * * *

After the talk, a woman sitting behind me commented on using the word among friends and family.

She said, in essence, "The problem that I find with using the word 'apartheid' is that it immediately divides people. People shut down. They have pride for their country, they conceive of apartheid as a horrible thing, they don't believe their country is an apartheid state, and they won't talk to you if you use the word."

There were various responses to this. But the best response, for me, was the simplest:

We're using this word because it is accurate.

It is the most accurate term to describe the situation under which the Palestinian people live.

A freedom movement does not exist to win friends and make people feel good. If some people - North American Jews, for example - cannot look at Israel this way, will the use of a different word change that? If we invent a new term to describe this system, if we call it something other than apartheid, will those same people be any more sympathetic to this cause?

And should we discontinue the use of an accurate term because some people are offended by it?

* * * *

In conclusion, in response to the accusations of anti-Semitism and "self-hating Jew" that I will be rejecting in comments, "a simple lesson: how to tell the difference between hatred of a people and criticism of a nation's policies".

40 comments:

Mike said...

Almost sounds like the reservation system we've been using here in Canada, not surprising I guess if I recall correctly the South Africans used our system as the basis for theirs. I do wonder why we're not being called on it though... must be our resputation.

L-girl said...

Almost sounds like the reservation system we've been using here in Canada,

There are many similarities.

if I recall correctly the South Africans used our system as the basis for theirs.

I've read a ton about SA and I never saw that anywhere.

I do wonder why we're not being called on it though... must be our resputation.

In what sense called on it? Because progressive Cdns and Native peoples do call Canada on it. Certainly we don't expect the US with its far more brutal past or Europe with its colonial past to say anything.

redsock said...

Certainly we don't expect the US with its far more brutal past or Europe with its colonial past to say anything.

Why not? Just a few years ago, Bush was lecturing other countries about the need for transparency in election. And Obama is using his Nobel Peace Prize as a baton to orchestrate mass murder all over the globe.

L-girl said...

I meant really say anything - something meaningful.

Mike said...

I remember reading about a connection between our reservation system and SA apartheid back in 90s before reform in SA. I was just checking google to say if I can find anything more specific but so far I've found a sentence here and there mentioning it but nothing very informative or conclusive yet I'll keep looking.

Mike said...

Here's one:http://www.africafiles.org/article.asp?id=20813

" It is significant that South Africa came to Canada at different times since the Boer War asking and getting permission to study the Canadian system by which Indian people were controlled and managed separately from the politically dominant white population. South African took what it needed and applied it to its own situation: first to segregation, and after the Second World War to apartheid. The fundamental difference between Canada and South Africa was [as I have myself noted above: JSS] that Canada was interested in segregating and managing, as cheaply as possible, a population it did not want as an important source of labour. South Africa was interested in the same type of relationship, but for a people whose labour it needed and wanted cheaply. "

L-girl said...

Interesting! Thanks, Mike. I'm still a tad skeptical, as there are some truly bizarre things in that article. But there's no doubt Canada, like all countries, has a lot of ugliness in its history. A white English-and-French speaking nation in North America generally didn't get there by invitation!

edwin said...

Two things:

Will Ferguson briefly talked about Canada's role in creating apartheid in Canadian History for Dummies - a great read by the way.

For a more technical look at South African apartheid and Israel:

Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid?
A re-assessment of Israel’s practices in the occupied
Palestinian territories under international law

A study coordinated by
the Middle East Project of the
Democracy and Governance Programme,
Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa


A. Introduction
The Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa commissioned this study to test the
hypothesis posed by Professor John Dugard in the report he presented to the UN Human Rights
Council in January 2007, in his capacity as UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in
the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel (namely, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and
Gaza, hereafter OPT). Professor Dugard posed the question:
Israel is clearly in military occupation of the OPT. At the same time, elements of the occupation
constitute forms of colonialism and of apartheid, which are contrary to international law. What
are the legal consequences of a regime of prolonged occupation with features of colonialism
and apartheid for the occupied people, the Occupying Power and third States?


It is 302 pages - and very slow to load.

edwin said...

I think I forgot to include the address of the document:

http://www.hsrc.ac.za/Document-3227.phtml

L-girl said...

Thanks for the info.

A Conformer said...

Hey, L. This was a very interesting read. I've always seen the use of the word apartheid when it came to Israel as distracting and populistic, and as mainly being used to cause a controversy. The way I see it, there are important similarities but also important differences, and the analogy can either fail or succeed according to what information you decide to put the spotlight on. From what I know of SA (which is admittedly not much), the situation here is in many ways better, and in other ways worse. Reading a thought out, detailed argument for the use of the word was, as I said, definitely interesting.
A few notes:
- The occupation used to be very much about cheap labor, too. From 67 till 89 (the dates are not clear cut, but it's roughly true), lots of Palestinians worked in Israel, and at that time also had a lot more freedom of movement (not total freedom, of course). After the 1st intifada, and during the peace process, Israel disengaged economically (again, far from completely, but to a large extent) from the Palestinian territories.
I wouldn't say cheap labor was the main reason behind it, but let's call it a "happy" side effect.
- I think the obsession with security here goes a lot deeper and is older than the occupation. The way I see it, the clear and strong sense of real, tangible, impending doom inherent in Jewish and Israeli culture should not be underestimated, and it's impossible to understand the conflict without it. After all, the majority of Jewish people that came to Israel before 48 were fleeing pogroms, violence and hostile governments in their birth countries. Add the holocaust to that, and voila- you've got a deep-rooted paranoia and obsession with security, and an ongoing feeling that no matter how stable and safe things seem, they're gonna come down crashing any minute.
- From what you say, I understand that the apartheid refers only to the situation from 67 onwards, since all Arab-Palestinians that lived within Israel in the years 48-67 received citizenship. It should be mentioned that the large mobilization of population (man, that sounds whitewashed as hell... but I'm using Kelly's terminology) occured around 48. Since 67, there's barely been any mobilization. Palestinian cities are still in the same place they were when they were under Jordanian rule, and as far as I know, there hasn't been a single Palestinian village or city whose population has been "moved".
- The point made about the welfare state for Jews only, that would be the counterpart to the whites only one in SA, is also problematic. From what I know, the majority of people who get welfare from the state Israel are Haredi (ultra orthodox) Jews and Arabs. This is of course assuming that by welfare state he actually means the regular use of the word welfare, and not simply "living well"...

There's obviously tons more stuff we could discuss. In the end, I guess that whether we chose to call the situation in this or that name, it's intolerable and should be changed. "How?" is a great question...

A Conformer said...
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Amy said...
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Amy said...

I wondered why I never got any notifications of new comments. Boy, this is annoying! I am curious what others have said and hope that Blogger fixes this soon.

L-girl said...

Amy, comment notifications have been working. That doesn't seem to be involved.

L-girl said...

Amy, to clarify, comments have been posting as usual, and notifications have been coming through as normal. This morning, a new function on Blogger deleted 25 comments from the blog, but you can still see where they were.

L-girl said...

Comments that Blogger deleted from this post, part 1

I've reconstructed these from email as best I could. Some may be repeated, but they seemed to be similar, but not identical.

Comments are separated by **** .


A Conformer:

- From what you say, I understand that the apartheid situation in Israel refers only to the situation from 67 onwards, since all Arab-Palestinians that lived within Israel in the years 48-67 received citizenship. It should be mentioned that the large mobilization of population (man, that sounds whitewashed as hell... but I'm using Kelly's terminology) occured around 48. Since 67, there's barely been any mobilization. Palestinian cities are still in the same place they were when they were under Jordanian rule, and as far as I know, there hasn't been a single Palestinian village or city whose population has been "moved".
- The point made about the welfare state for Jews only, that would be the counterpart to the whites only one in SA, is also problematic. From what I know, the majority of people who get welfare from the state Israel are Haredi (ultra orthodox) Jews and Arabs. This is of course assuming that by welfare state he actually means the regular use of the word welfare, and not simply "living well"...

Posted by A Conformer to we move to canada at Thursday, August 12, 2010 3:47:00 AM

****

A Conformer:

There's obviously tons more stuff we could discuss. In the end, I guess that whether we chose to call the situation in this or that name, it's intolerable and should be changed. "How?" is a great question...

As of right now, from what I can see, the boycott campaign is having an adverse effect. It's strengthening the nationalistic, fascistic side, and people's sense of "the whole world is hypocritical, is against us and hates us" is growing. Still, in polls I've seen of the Israeli public, there's more (a tiny bit more...) than 50% support for a two state solution, but if you ask me, both governments have a lot of good reasons to not advance in that direction, and continue making only token, empty gestures, while keeping the populations separated.

Posted by A Conformer to we move to canada at Thursday, August 12, 2010 4:04:00 AM

****

L-girl said...

Reposted comment after Blogger delete

A Conformer:

Hey, L. This was a very interesting read. I've always seen the use of the word apartheid when it came to Israel as distracting and populistic, and as mainly being used to cause a controversy. The way I see it, there are important similarities but also important differences, and the analogy can either fail or succeed according to what information you decide to put the spotlight on. From what I know of SA (which is admittedly not much), the situation here is in many ways better, and in other ways worse. Reading a thought out, detailed argument for the use of the word was, as I said, definitely interesting.
A few notes:
- The occupation used to be very much about cheap labor, too. From 67 till 89 (the dates are not clear cut, but it's roughly true), lots of Palestinians worked in Israel, and at that time also had a lot more freedom of movement (not total freedom, of course). After the 1st intifada, and during the peace process, Israel disengaged economically (again, far from completely, but to a large extent) from the Palestinian territories.
I wouldn't say cheap labor was the main reason behind it, but let's call it a "happy" side effect.
- I think the obsession with security here goes a lot deeper and is older than the occupation. The way I see it, the clear and strong sense of real, tangible, impending doom inherent in Jewish and Israeli culture should not be underestimated, and it's impossible to understand the conflict without it. After all, the majority of Jewish people that came to Israel before 48 were fleeing pogroms, violence and hostile governments in their birth countries. Add the holocaust to that, and voila- you've got a deep-rooted paranoia and obsession with security, and an ongoing feeling that no matter how stable and safe things seem, they're gonna come down crashing any minute.

Posted by A Conformer to we move to canada at Thursday, August 12, 2010 3:45:00 AM

L-girl said...

Reposted comments after Blogger delete

Amy:

Interesting material, and it does help to see how apartheid can be used as a descriptive term, not simply as an inflammatory one. Of course, most people hear it only as the latter and react emotionally to its use.

I find Ofer's comments helpful as well. As JohnGoldine pointed out, comparisons do have to take into account all the particular circumstances, and the historical basis of security concerns of Israel are different from the concerns of the majority in SA during apartheid. That does not excuse everything done in the name of security, of course, but it does add historical context.

Posted by Amy to we move to canada at Thursday, August 12, 2010 8:03:00 AM

L-girl said...

Reposted comments after Blogger delete

L-girl:

"Security"

Another key feature of apartheid, crucial to the comparison, is the emergence of a militarized state obsessed with the internal security of the racial elite state who had democratic citizenship rights. You have democracy for one class of people and a dictatorship for everyone else.

And "everyone else" - those who live under a dictatorship - have been defined as "outsiders" and deemed dangerous, precisely because they are being denied citizenship rights. Thereby they need to struggle - whether by violence, peaceful protest or labour action - to win back their citizenship rights. So what is seen as a dangerous terrorist movement is, in fact, a struggle to win back citizenship rights.

The reason a close look at "particular circumstances" is so deceptive, is one can always use some specific circumstance to explain things away.

Rather than "we need this for security," we might ask, "Why is security such an issue? What are these people so upset about?"

There's another simple question that we all should ask ourselves.

Would I be satisfied to live like the Palestinians do?

Posted by L-girl to we move to canada at Thursday, August 12, 2010 8:18:00 AM

****

L-girl:

Of course, most people hear it only as the latter and react emotionally to its use.

I guess by this you mean most people you know? Or most Jews? Or... something else?

Most people I know use the term and feel it is accurate, as do millions of people around the world.

Posted by L-girl to we move to canada at Thursday, August 12, 2010 8:19:00 AM

L-girl said...

Reposted comments after Blogger delete

L-girl:

That does not excuse everything done in the name of security, of course, but it does add historical context.

But where does one choose to start the historical analysis?

As a child, I was taught that Israel was born in 1948. No one ever talked about who was already living in that land and what happened to them.

I have tremendous for both John and Amy, but the notion that "historical context" precludes the use of the word "apartheid" is complete and utter bullshit.

In my view, calling the use of the word apartheid "ahistorical" is either denial or an outright lie.

Posted by L-girl to we move to canada at Thursday, August 12, 2010 8:25:00 AM

****

L-girl:

Hey, L. This was a very interesting read. I've always seen the use of the word apartheid when it came to Israel as distracting and populistic, and as mainly being used to cause a controversy. The way I see it, there are important similarities but also important differences, and the analogy can either fail or succeed according to what information you decide to put the spotlight on. From what I know of SA (which is admittedly not much), the situation here is in many ways better, and in other ways worse. Reading a thought out, detailed argument for the use of the word was, as I said, definitely interesting.

Thank you, Ofer, and thanks for all your comments.

For me the similarities and differences between Israel and SA are less important than seeing apartheid as a system that can be used by any society - rather than something particular to one time and place. Mike, above, noted that the description of apartheid sounds very like what Canada has done to the indigenous population here, and he's right. Just another example.

Posted by L-girl to we move to canada at Thursday, August 12, 2010 9:22:00 AM

L-girl said...

Reposted comments after Blogger delete

L-girl:

I guess that whether we chose to call the situation in this or that name, it's intolerable and should be changed.

Yes.

Posted by L-girl to we move to canada at Thursday, August 12, 2010 9:23:00 AM

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johngoldfine:

I'll certainly agree to being in denial about the value of 'apartheid' as a useful term to describe Israeli oppression. For me the term is inexorably bound to another country, another time.

I'd like to say we're arguing semantics, but clearly the issue is not hairsplitting over some word: if one calls it 'apartheid,' then what necessarily follows is a advocating a movement like the one that transformed SA. The term itself implies certain actions and understandings, and no other term would be such a powerful rallying cry.

Posted by johngoldfine to we move to canada at Thursday, August 12, 2010 10:17:00 AM

****

L-girl:

Naturally, by "in denial," I did not mean merely denying something one believes to be untrue.

I was using the term as it is normally used: to connote a defense mechanism used to ignore a painful reality one would rather not confront, whether consciously or subconsciously.

I agree this is not a matter of semantics, just as it is not (in my view) merely a political tool designed to inflame.

Posted by L-girl to we move to canada at Thursday, August 12, 2010 11:54:00 AM

L-girl said...

Reposted comments after Blogger delete

****

johngoldfine:

Re denial: I know, l-girl--cheap debater's trick on my part, its shoddiness not lost on you!

Posted by johngoldfine to we move to canada at Thursday, August 12, 2010 12:10:00 PM

****

L-girl:

Really shoddy. Not amusing, and a waste of my time. Please don't. Thanks in advance.

Posted by L-girl to we move to canada at Thursday, August 12, 2010 12:13:00 PM

****

johngoldfine:

We all have our less-than-stellar moments, sometimes ones we don't see until they are pointed out to us, as you did quite rightly with mine. You called me on it, I 'fessed up.

But there was no prior intent to jerk you around or waste your time, l-girl. I am always mindful of the ground rules here, would not want to be unwelcome at wmtc, so am always trying to be careful when I post, but the sometimes juvenile and sophomoric cast of my mind occasionally makes me forgetful abnd stupid.

Posted by johngoldfine to we move to canada at Thursday, August 12, 2010 12:25:00 PM

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L-girl:

the sometimes juvenile and sophomoric cast of my mind occasionally makes me forgetful abnd stupid

Since you've gamethreaded with me, you know I suffer from the same malady!

Thanks, John. It's no problem and I know you to be a respectful - and important - contributor here.

Posted by L-girl to we move to canada at Thursday, August 12, 2010 12:38:00 PM

L-girl said...

*** All comments restored to this post ***

Amy said...

I guess by this you mean most people you know? Or most Jews? Or... something else?

Yes, I meant most of those who get upset by the use of the term apartheid, which would mean many if not most Jews.

I have tremendous for both John and Amy, but the notion that "historical context" precludes the use of the word "apartheid" is complete and utter bullshit.

I was not suggesting that the term should not be used. I was just suggesting that most people who are upset by its use may not understand exactly what the term means and thus hear it as inflammatory. I also was not suggesting that the historical context precludes its use, just that there is not an exact parallel between SA and Israel and that I personally have more understanding of the security concerns in Israel and how they make people insecure, paranoid, as Ofer suggested.

Amy said...

I realized I had forgotten to subscribe initially. Thus, I did not receive notifications of new posts before. I am all set now. Thanks! :)

L-girl said...

Yes, I meant most of those who get upset by the use of the term apartheid

Ah, that's very different. I thought you were saying "most people" in general, not those who object to the term. Gotcha.