The Cape Town World Music Festival (CWM Festival) has begun in the face of a call to boycott the festival. The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) has released a statement saying “We have recently learned that the Cape Town World Music Festival has crossed and violated the international-boycott-of-Israel-picket-line …Performing on a platform sponsored by Apartheid South Africa, or with a band from Apartheid South Africa, during the 1980s was to be on the wrong side of history. Today, performing on a platform sponsored by Israel, or with a band from Israel, is choosing to be on the wrong side of history. Be on the right side of history, don’t entertain Apartheid, and don’t collaborate with an Occupation regime. ” You can read the full statement on the website.
Aside from the strange assumption that Apartheid no longer exists in South Africa post-Marikana, and following the failure of the government to adopt recommendations of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the unwillingness of the ruling party to prosecute perpetrators of crimes against humanity, one has to question the credibility of the claim that what is occurring in Israel is Apartheid and that merely replicating the anti-Apartheid struggle along with sanctions and boycotts is the correct course of action. (please see my posting on the Apartheid Analogy also Good Jew, Bad Jew and Hadrian’s Flotilla – Zionism and a Free Palestine under scrutiny.)
As a member of ‘Artists against Apartheid’ during the 1980s, I participated in a number of such actions aimed at undermining the power and authority of the Apartheid state. We were guided by the principles enshrined in the Freedom Charter, in particular the promise that the “Doors of Learning and Culture would be opened”, and that all people, regardless of the colour of ones skin would be able to participate in a democratic country. I thus fought against racial segregation in a freedom struggle whose aims and objectives were the creation of a constitutional state with a Bill of Rights.
The Palestinian struggle has yet to produce a Freedom Charter. It has no such democratic goals, and does not aim to accommodate all people regardless of religious and ethnic identity. The illusion of a “Free Palestine” is exactly that, an illusion. It is a beguiling promise of a world free of the conflict that has raged on for the past 64 years, in which hundreds of thousands of people have been slaughtered in the futile search for a new world order. As much as one wishes the conflict were as simple as the black and white patina of the South African conflict, the truth is rather different. Israel is home to both black and white, Jew and non-Jew, it accommodates Arabs including 1 million Jewish Arabs, it is home to indigenous Jews, as well as Jews from the diaspora. In Israel, 75.4% are Jewish, 16.9% Muslim, 2.1% Christian, and 1.7% Druze, while the remaining 4.0% are not classified by religion.
It is easy to forget the expulsion of Jews from the Arab world after 1948 and the issue of Ethiopian Jews (over a quarter of a million of them) and other Africans living in Israel, many of whom have fled their home countries seeking refuge. Israel exists because of ongoing internecine strife in the Arab world, the inability to provide basic human rights, such as gender equality and freedom of sexual orientation. Although 37 000 people have died in Syria over the past year alone, there is no call from BDS for a boycott of Assad’s government. The Palestinian territories on the other hand, have no specific, stand alone civil rights legislation that protect LGBT people from discrimination or harassment. Same-sex acts are ostensibly legal in the West Bank, precisely because of the occupation.
The current dispensation, set in place after the Cold War took its starting point as the resolution of the conflict which began during World War Two. Resolution 242 upon which the current territorial demands of both Israel and Palestine are now based, specifically outlaws the gaining of territory by acts of war and conquest, and yet the Palestinian Struggle, for all intents and purposes, has merely turned into a battle for the conquest and reconquest of territory — current demands by Hamas are for the return of all land in Israel, including Tel Aviv and Haifa in order to recreate the Ottoman Empire, and more specifically to return Jerusalem to Dar al Islam, the Islamic Empire.
Nevertheless, we are told that if we do not support the Palestinian struggle, we are on the wrong side of history. While South Africa struggles to protect the rights of LGBT people in the face of corrective rape, the promise of religious freedom enshrined in the South African constitution has turned into nothing more than an unaffordible and inaccessible dream. One has only to look at the Robbie Jansen Scandal (see here and here) and my 7 year labour discrimination case against an apartheid media company which refused to participate in the TRC and which declined to apologise to the victims and survivors of the apartheid system, to realise that South Africa falls well short of the vision encapsulated by the Freedom Charter. The South African struggle is thus far from over.
NOTE: Medialternatives has proposed a compromise solution called Israelstine. I am also on record as being opposed to the separation barrier, and have actively campaigned for equal rights for Palestinians, Arabs and Jews, as well as being against the War in Gaza. I support UN Resolution 242 and do not support the latest round of claims with regard to the return of land held under the Ottomans.
UPDATE: It appears a redacted version of this letter was published by the Cape Argus, as can be seen from a google search:
alongside a piece written the same day
However, both articles have since been removed from the Cape Argus online edition in an obvious attempt to suppress the contents of the correspondence.