On Comparing Israel to Aparthied South Africa

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Excerpt from the chapter "Canarabia Find Peace?" from my book "How Canada Could Rule the World".
The chapter can be found in full at
http://www.scribd.com/doc/76719875/Canarabia-Find-Peace

Although I have noted some similarities between the social issues in Israel and the social issues in apartheid-era South Africa, to simplify them as being exactly the same is inaccurate. The biggest difference that I can see is that while apartheid never granted full rights of citizenship to any portion of the black community, Israel gives citizenship to over one million Arabs. Israel is doing something that I suggested the old South African regime could have tried, namely seeming more inclusive while still ensuring a numerical majority of preferred citizens to preserve the political status quo. This does give the Israeli state more legitimacy than the old South Africa. Of course, to someone living in an overcrowded refugee camp, it might be little concession to you that someone who shares your language and religion has the chance at a decent life that you had been denied.

 

Apartheid South Africa put a lot of emphasis on saying that order had to be maintained. If anybody brought up the uncivilized actions the state was engaged in, the government could just reiterate the need to protect their homeland, as if you couldn’t have both order and fairness. When groups like the Concordia Hillel say they stand with Israel, as if that is the end of all discussion, with no mention of the occupation of the West Bank, it reminds me a bit of that. It should not be viewed as a choice between preserving peace and order in the Jewish state, and ending the injustices faced by the Palestinians.

 

There is one major parallel between the Israeli government and the old South Africa government that is overlooked. In fairness, it is a characteristic found in just about any state that finds itself in a position of dominance. This characteristic is an overestimation of your ability to hold onto your power indefinitely and as such fails to act on the opportunities presented to them to preserve whatever power for their own group of people they can. Just like the dream of a state where Afrikaner culture could be predominant, the Zionist dream is a ticking clock counting down towards zero.

 

With the exception of East Jerusalem, Israel has never officially annexed the West Bank, which it has occupied since 1967. Therefore, Palestinians born in the Occupied Territories outside of East Jerusalem are not given any of the benefits of Israeli citizenship, even though their lives are largely controlled by the Israeli authorities. Their movement across their own land is regulated by these authorities, who allow an Israeli minority to freely move through it on modern highways cutting through Palestinian land but that are for the exclusive use of Israelis. This gives Jewish settlers easy access to Israel proper, while the Arabs are subjected to multiple checkpoints, even when just traveling to different points in the West Bank. Israel even maintains control of the aquifers under the Palestinian’s feet, and rarely grants them permits for wells. A third of Israel’s water comes from the West Bank, and Israelis use five times more water per capita than the Palestinians (source: National Geographic Oct. 2002).  The only way Palestinians get integrated into Israeli society is as a cheap labor class. Israel as a whole might not resemble the old South Africa, but the realities of the West Bank certainly do.

 

Even though they have never officially annexed the West Bank, Israel certainly acts like it is a part of their country. Israeli maps usually depict the West Bank as a contiguous part of their country, just as Quebecois maps often do with Labrador. To reinforce their claim, over 100 Israeli settlements have been built. Even so, 40 years later they remain a minority in the West Bank. No matter how many times you say “Jordan is Palestine”, Arabs in Judea and Samaria are not going to magically disappear.

 

Israel really needs to either shit or get off the pot. If you are going to continue controlling the West Bank, you need to officially annex it already, and offer all of the people who live there the full freedom of movement, and rights and privileges, as Israeli citizens. This might seem unrealistic, since it would make Jews a much smaller percentage of the citizens of Israel. Well, if they can’t give all of the people in the West Bank civil rights while under their control, then they need to withdraw.

 

Israel has withdrawn from West Bank territory, but only partially. Full control by the Palestinian Authority is limited to non-contiguous areas with Israel controlling the corridors between them as well as the most strategically important territory.

 

Since the Israelis and Palestinians are acting like children, it seems reasonable to try and treat them as such and separate them. If one of those children dictates the terms of that separation however, you can guess who is going to end up with most of the toys. If the separation wall Israel has built directly followed the internationally recognized border, perhaps it would be fair. However it is built almost entirely within the West Bank, with twists and turns that divide the land into ridiculous shapes, to let Israel hold onto as much territory as it can, no matter how much it inconveniences the Palestinians. You would think that Israel could at least give those Palestinians living on the same side of the barrier as the Israeli settlements full citizenship, but even that is apparently too much.

 

Just like the apartheid government’s efforts at appeasing the international community, the attempts by the Israeli government at appearing fair are not nearly good enough. This is not to say that if the Palestinians were in their position that their proposal would be fair either.

Not only do the Palestinians want to see a removal of all of the Israeli settlements within the West Bank, but they also demand the Right of Return for the millions of descendents of the first generation refugees. The Palestinians in the West Bank are not being expected to tolerate a small fraction of the people living in their territory as non-Arab, but they expect Israelis to accept a population of refugees so large, that in a democratic system they would no longer be able to control their own government.

 

Others before me have pointed out that within the area controlled by the state of Israel, with its large Arab minority living within its internationally recognized borders and the millions of Arabs living in the occupied territories, in the near future Arab Muslims will be the numerical minority within the territory that Israel controls. When that happens, it will become a lot more difficult to repudiate the accusations from the international community that they are an apartheid state. These arguments could be one of the strongest for allowing the establishment of an independent Palestinian state outside of the control of Israel. However, Israeli nationalists seem to have a bad case of cognitive dissonance, like arrogant Republicans have with global warming. And like Republicans and global warming, they will ignore demographic trends as long as they can, and even when they can’t ignore it any longer, they will still maintain the same false logic that fueled their ignorance, and use it to come up with solutions that won’t work. Any efforts will be too little too late.

 

The demographic time bomb might eventually destroy the state of Israel, but this does not equal Palestinian justice. African colonies only gained their freedom after violence has destroyed most of their former infrastructure. I imagine that in the same pattern, an independent Palestine could resemble a larger version of the Gaza strip, with few people living above the poverty line, and the violence of the past occupation so engrained that infighting will continue among rival groups, even if there are no more Israelis. The chaos of war could also ensure that whoever rules over such a territory could be as despotic and dismissive of the populace as the IDF has been in the West Bank.

 

The Israelis would certainly not be in a better position than they are today either, since their state would cease to exist. Neither side will benefit from trying to hold on to the current status quo. This precious time should be used to prepare for the creation of an independent Palestinian state, which will also give the Israelis time to be pre-emptive in ceding land that they can not hold indefinitely, so that there may still be some areas that can maintain a Jewish majority.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/76719875/Canarabia-Find-Peace


Submitted: February 04, 2012

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