Monday, March 08, 2010

Some thoughts on Israel's 'Apartheid Week"

Israel’s neighbours from hell!

Imagine living, say,- in your ancestral beachside home with these kind of neighbours: terrorised by Hamasniks on the South side, Hitzbullah fanatics on the North side, PLO’s Fatah on the East side, the Khameini=Ahmadinejad ‘clan’ further down the road on one side, Bin Laden’s Al Queda on the other side and a whole lot of intimidated individuals in between.

What do you do? Run away into the sea, the only opening for you? Wait to be overrun and trampled to death?
Or build reinforcements and high walls around your ancestral home and “Compound” to try to protect your family and supporters within it, -living in the hope of eventual acceptance as a 'friendly neighbour'.

[Khamenei calls Israel " a perilous cancerous tumor inside the body of an Islamic community" (Guysen.International.News, 6/3/10)
Islamic Revolution leader Ayatollah Khamenei said " the fake, Zionist state of Israel was a perilous cancerous tumor inside the body of Islamic community."],

The only perilous cancerous tumour in our Western world today is the penetration of jihadist, fundamentalist, extremist Islamist groups into it.

Democratic Israel is the West’s front line of defence against them.
And if anyone wants to call Israel's fight for self-preservation ‘apartheid’, so be it I say!
Aren't we all entitled to that,- or should we allow ourselves to be overrun by those who want to destroy all our hard-won freedoms and democracies? Boundaries, borders, property and land ownership can be negotiated among sensible and friendly neighnours.

Not that Theocracy is the preserve only of Islam. Given half a chance, all religions have their fundamentlist groups, including those Israeli Haredim who would gladly impose their brand of religious dictatorship on all Jews. They have too much power as it is, due to a lack of religious pluralism in Israel,- i.e. there is a need for some religious competition for the minority ultra-Orthodox faith community of Israelis, when the majority of whom now consider themselves 'secularists', but have to be ruled by the strict adherence to Orthodox laws for all life-cycle events.

It's time to change the political-Orthodox stranglehold of the Israeli-Haredim minority in order to realize the true Zionist dream of all Jews, -diaspora Jewry as well as that of the majority of Israelis.

What about a Bill to allow full rights to the other streams of Judaism such as Reform, Conservative, Progressive Judaism
as practiced by the majority of Jews in the Diaspora? Is it better to have the majority of Israeli Jews be 'secular' and the Synagogues they don't attend to be only Orthodox, but which are totally funded by the State? Is it better for the institution of marriage to become obsolete so that women who think for themselves will dispense with it altogether instead of succumbing to the will of the Orthodox hierarchies in case of marriage breakdown? Conversions,- what's the point if they can be annulled,- again at the whim of some haredim?
The Orthodox establishment needs some competition for the Jewish soul of the Jewish medina. Allow Jewish pluralism in Israel because only then can it claim that true democracy flourishes in the Jewish State.

Some thoughts on ‘Israel Apartheid Week’

I prefer "colonialism" to "apartheid" when describing Israel’s W. Bank rule.

‘As long as in this territory west of the Jordan River there is only one political entity called Israel, it is going to be either non-Jewish or non-democratic. If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, it will be an apartheid state.”

Those are the words of Ehud Barak, defense minister and former prime minister, at last month’s Herzliya Conference, the country’s highest-profile gathering of VIPs. Barak’s statement begs the question: Seeing that Palestinians in the West Bank haven’t been able to vote in Israeli elections since the occupation started in 1967, isn’t he saying Israel has been an apartheid state since then?

So, putting Barak’s statement in the context of this week’s news, should people really be so outraged that a few dozen colleges overseas are staging “Israel Apartheid Week”?

Myself, I prefer the term “colonialism” to “apartheid” when comparing Israel’s rule in the West Bank to other regimes in world history. There are important differences between the occupation and apartheid – for one, apartheid was based on race, the occupation is based on nationality. Yet there are important, obvious similarities, too, the main one being that in both apartheid South Africa and the West Bank, one group of people harshly, systematically and “legally” keeps another group of people down.

Anyway, however different from apartheid the occupation may be, it’s definitely more like apartheid than it is like democracy.

AT THE same time, though, neither Barak nor I are saying that “Israel proper” – Israel in its pre-Six Day War borders – is an apartheid state, a colonial regime or anything but a democracy (albeit one with a great deal of discrimination). What each of us is saying is that the occupation is killing this democracy, but that if we set the Palestinians free, this democracy will thrive.

That’s the difference between Barak, myself and other Zionists, on the one hand, who want to save the Jewish state from apartheid, and the participants in Israel Apartheid Week, who think the Jewish state, even in Israel proper, is by definition apartheid.

They’re wrong. While it’s possible to compare the condition of Palestinians in the West Bank to that of blacks in apartheid-era South Africa, there’s no comparison between the way blacks were treated under apartheid and the way Israeli Arabs are treated in this country.

The most obvious difference is that the demand of the anti-apartheid movement was always “one person, one vote.” Arab citizens of Israel, by the starkest possible contrast, have had this right since the day the Jewish state was founded.

Another brightly-lit sign that Israeli Arabs aren’t living under anything like apartheid is their wall-to-wall opposition to becoming citizens of a Palestinian state – even, as Israel Beiteinu proposes, after a change of borders that would allow them to remain on their land. Israeli Arabs aren’t Zionists, and they have altogether legitimate complaints about discrimination, but the overwhelming majority are not out to dismantle the Jewish state, only to make it more fair and equitable. (As much as I wish foreign anti-Zionists knew this, I wish even more that Israeli Jews did.)

Still, I imagine a black South African, or a white South African who fought apartheid, challenging me: Why can’t Israel just do what we did – forget about Jews and Arabs like we forgot about whites and blacks, and just remake the system into a Western-style, nonsectarian democracy? Wouldn’t “one-person, one vote” be the fairest solution for Israel/Palestine, too?

And I imagine myself answering: In theory, yes; in practice, it would be a disaster. The difference between the situation for blacks in South Africa and for Jews in Israel is that you’re surrounded by hundreds of millions of blacks living in other African countries, none of whom think whites should rule South Africa – while we’re surrounded by hundreds of millions of Arabs living in Arab countries, all of whom think Arabs should be ruling Israel/Palestine.

Imagine if you were in our situation. Imagine if instead of South Africa being bordered by blacks, it was bordered by whites – whites who believed that their kind were the rightful rulers of your country, and who, if given the chance – say, through your color-blind immigration policy – would see to it that they ruled your country again.

If South Africa’s blacks were a tiny minority in a sea of white people who held such beliefs – in a sea of old-style Afrikaners, let’s say – how secure would you feel, as a black South African, living in a nonsectarian democracy based on ‘one person, one vote’?

Now maybe you see why the Jewish state, with all its inequities, is a better, fairer, safer solution for this sliver of the world than the one you South Africans chose – rightly and wisely – in your homeland.

AND SO much for my imaginary dialogue. In all, what I’m saying is that there’s only one way to go for Jews and Arabs here, and that’s with a Jewish, democratic state alongside a Palestinian one. The Jews who want to maintain the status quo will turn Israel into a pariah state, while the people pushing for one person, one vote will wreck it altogether.

What this means is that everyone who believes in Zionism, justice and peace has to oppose both the Jewish Right and the international Left. If either of these two forces prevails, sooner or later this land won’t be fit to live in for Arab or Jew.

No comments: