Dear Haidar Eid,
We don’t know each other. I only know that your name is Haider Eid and just heard of your name this month, when your letter written in response to Miss South Africa’s attendance at the Miss Universe pageant held at the Port of Eilat, on the Southern Negev desert and Red Sea, appeared on social media.
I understand the area was once named Umm Al-Rashrash, and designated as part of the Jewish state in the 1947 UN Partition Plan, and at the time, apparently ‘consisted of one or two police huts’, and was formally granted to Israel in the 1949 Armistice Agreements.
You claim the area was ‘ethnically-cleansed’ and the result is an ‘apartheid state’, and that you, at the very outset, are somehow an expert on the subject of apartheid, since you “spent six years in South Africa” where you apparently received a “Ph.D. degree and even citizenship”.
If indeed you have doctoral qualifications on the subject, (or are reading for a Ph.d ) then you will understand that not one Palestinian was arraigned by the apartheid state on treason charges, and that Jews, including Zionists, overwhelmingly contributed to the struggle for freedom. The fate for example of Arthur Goldreich, one of the 13 Jewish treason trialists in 1956 is illustrative of the diverse cross-section of Jews who were imprisoned for their belief that ‘all humans are created equal’.
As a humble dissident with merely an undergraduate degree conferred by the UCT Centre for African Studies (see below), I find absolutely no evidence of any tangible support for the struggle within South Africa from either the PLO/Fatah or Hamas, but rather observe that Nelson Mandela was very much a supporter of self-determination for both parties to the conflict. It was Mandela who explained his position on the Ted Koppel show:
“We identify with the PLO because just like ourselves, they are fighting for the right of self-determination. I went further however to say, that the support for Yasser Arafat and his struggle does not mean that the ANC has ever doubted the right of Israel to exist as a state, legally. We have stood quite openly and firmly for the right of that state to exist within secure borders.”
Far from delaying liberation from the racist regime as you suggest, I believe Mandela meant that South Africa’s unique expression of human rights and freedom as enshrined in the Freedom Charter and our constitution, would invariably be delayed by the failure of Israel and Palestine to come to a similar accord, and that it was incumbent upon our country to do everything possible to assist the resulting peace settlement?
I therefore challenge you as a Gazan, to meet the liberal values of our constitution, or to provide at very least, a similar Freedom Charter including support for women rights and LGBTIQ+ rights in your future Palestinian State?
You claim to “live in the Gaza concentration camp which has been under a medieval siege imposed by apartheid Israel since 2007.”
There is no conclusive definition of the use of apartheid in this context as anything more than an analogy — a highly flawed UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) report for instance, examining the policies of Israel within the context of apartheid was withdrawn by UN Secretary-general Guterres in 2017, while the Goldstone report was similarly retracted in part. You as an ‘associate professor of literature’, should know the term ‘concentration camp’ is ordinarily applied to emergency measures to keep civilians concentrated inside a designated area within national borders, not outside national borders.
Since the UN refuses to recognise Gaza as anything more than an extension of Israeli territory, despite its disengagement and withdrawal in 2005, I can understand why you may be less than academic in your use of the definition, and are surely upset at being used as a pawn in an obvious power-play over territory claimed for the future ‘State of Palestine’?
Be that as it may, the fact remains that you still share a border with Egypt, a country which you ignore, perhaps due to its peace treaty with Israel? Gaza, though denied access to Israel proper, is not surrounded by the Jewish state in anything resembling a “medieval siege”. In this sense your siege is metaphorical, rather than literal, in the same way your use of the term apartheid, is merely analogous, and not substantive.
For the record, no inhabitants of any of the former apartheid bantustans ever complained of being under occupation, nor lamented about living in ‘concentration camps’, an emotive and tragic term, given the Palestinian leadership’s attendance at the 1942 Wannsee Conference where Hitler’s Final Solution was formerly adopted, and where Zionists were sent to the gas chambers alongside Non-Zionists.
Similarly, the “All-Palestine” government which ruled Gaza from 1948 -1958 was not created by Israel, but rather the Arab League. Unlike the apartheid-era bantustans, the current Hamas government is not a puppet of Tel Aviv.
Nothwithstanding, one must and should express support and sympathy for the children of Gaza who suffer needlessly from malnutrition as the result of the policies of politicians. As I have long maintained, when it comes to the Middle East, this is a war being fought by adults against children, in a situation of injustice vs injustice.
It is saddening to hear that “the 2 million people living in the strip do not have access to electricity, clean water, medicine”. I however fail to grasp your need and desire for Israeli consumer goods? As you may know, there is a waning boycott of Israeli consumer goods in my country, as well as an arms embargo.
Whither the cultural boycott?
That you appear to go the extra mile in demanding at the very outset a cultural boycott, in this instance, a boycott of a Miss Universe pageant, is highly problematic for a number of reasons, the least of which is the failure, or rather the inability of BDS and its proponents, to distinguish between Zionists and Non-Zionists, in the same manner that many Palestinians fail to appreciate the difference between Theist and non-Theists.
Given the religious and cultural issues surrounding contemporary Jewish secular identity, and the de facto banning of my Jewishness (as opposed to other’s official religion) I can only speak from my own experience.
Despite my early academic journey, in which I, at one time, provided unconditional support for the Palestinian struggle, only to experience campus exclusions, academic sanctions and bannings of anti-apartheid organisations, (you can read my response to Seth Rogen here) I was nevertheless, and despite my beliefs and outlook, subjected to an obscene, racist religious inquisition by South Africa’s corrupt legal authorities in 2010 — resulting in a complete reappraisal and alteration of my position — the more so, when it comes to contemporary post-Enlightenment, democratic values.
I have noticed that when it comes to women and gay rights, Palestinian leadership fails miserably. According to Amnesty International, women in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority continue to face discrimination and violence, including killings as a result of gender-based violence. An Hamas-run Islamic court in the Gaza Strip ruled in February that women require the permission of a male guardian to travel.
On the ‘moderate side’, President Mahmoud Abbas amended an election law in March, raising a quota for women in the West Bank, Palestinian Authority legislature to 26%, ‘not the promised 30%’. This is still a far cry from the 50% female quotient of the population, and the result devalues women.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, & transgender (LGBTIQ+) persons in the “State of Palestine” face legal challenges and discrimination not experienced by non-LGBTIQ+ residents. The Amnesty 2020 report on Palestine states: “Section 152 of the Penal Code in Gaza criminalizes [male] consensual same-sex sexual activity and makes it punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment.” In 2019, the Palestinian Authority police banned the activities of queer and feminist rights organization Al Qaws and demanded that residents report ‘suspicious’ activities.
Several reports on the subject of so-called Israel Apartheid have been discredited in recent years, since clearly nations are not races. While ethnicity plays a part, there is no science to back up the claim.
David Robert Lewis
Dissident, living in a Free “Secular” Country.