Apartheid: An Israeli Sequel?

October 27, 2007 at 8:56 pm Leave a comment

The South African policies of apartheid outraged people across the world because these laws promoted an unequal relationship between blacks and whites. A survivor of the anti-apartheid movement sees a parallel in the Israeli treatment of Palestinians.

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize and keynote speaker at a two-day conference on Israel, Palestine and apartheid at Boston’s Old South Church this weekend, likened Israel’s stance to that of his nation under apartheid. “There are differences between the two situations, but a comparison need not be exact in every feature to yield clarity about what is going on,” Archbishop Tutu wrote in a Boston Globe op-ed on Friday. “Moreover, for those of us who lived through the dehumanizing horrors of the apartheid era, the comparison seems not only apt, it is also necessary. It is necessary if we are to persevere in our hope that things can change.”

States commit sins in the interest of national security. Israel establishes separate roads for its citizens and Palestinians in the West Bank and lops off Palestinian property in constructing its security wall. These measures, as well as numerous others, indicate that Israel views its citizens far more favorably than it does the Palestinian population it inherited in the Six-Day War of 1967.

The Palestinian cause is hardly blameless. Palestinians have responded to Israeli policies with equally odious measures, killing infants and the elderly in suicide bombings. As much as it has aroused outcry at The Hague, Israel’s security wall is thwarting suicide attacks and creating peace — albeit an unequal one — in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

And yet reports of injustice in Palestine show that Israel is purchasing this peace at a cost in international opinion. Televised images of dogs attacking civil-rights marchers horrified American audiences in the 1960s and helped solidify support for integration. Photos of civilian victims of US strikes turned Americans against the Vietnam War. When a cause becomes morally repugnant in the eyes of many, it grows difficult to rationalize in the diplomatic dodging of Machiavelli, Metternich or Kissinger.

If Israel’s government institutes apartheid in the West Bank, it must disengage from there as it did with the Gaza Strip in 2005. Israel can preserve its pre-1967 boundaries and ideals while helping Palestinians fulfill their own dreams of nationhood. The reality may be imperfect for both sides — especially Likudniks hoping for a Greater Israel and Palestinians seeking a Right of Return — but it will provide Jews and Palestinians with a better, fairer alternative.

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Entry filed under: international politics, Israel, Middle East, news, Palestine. Tags: , , , , , , .

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