Total land “occupied” by the state of Israel: 20 700 Km/sq, Total Jewish land confiscated by Arabs 100 000 Km/sq, Total Arab land abandoned and/or confiscated by Israel 16324. omino.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/61201e86bc8189f485256102005a8eab?OpenDocument
In 1994 Jordan and Israel signed a peace treaty. The treaty normalized relations between the two countries and resolved territorial disputes. There are some 2.7 million Palestinians living in Jordan, including some 1.5 million “refugees”, between 60-80% of the population in a country formed out of the partition of the British Mandate of Palestine.
In 1946 over 70% of the British Mandate of Palestine was granted to the Hashemite Kingdom. The remaining 30% was divided again, between Jews and Arabs, with a new separate entity under a failed UN partition plan simply called “Palestine”. Both Jordan and Palestine have the same flag, with the only difference being the addition of a white star to denote the Hashemite Monarchy in Jordan. Although controlled by the Hashemites, Palestinians are a majority in Jordan, and comprise a diverse culture, “descendants of Christians, Jews and other earlier inhabitants of the southern Levant whose core reaches back to prehistoric times.”
The resulting conflict and ideological battle over Palestinian and Israeli identity has been ongoing since the Israeli War of Independence in 1948. Following the war, Jordan annexed the West Bank and East Jerusalem, occupying the territory for a period of two decades from 1948-1967. Following the 6 day war of 1967, Jordan was forced to relinquish control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The dispute over the borders between Israel and the Palestinian State of Jordan were resolved in 1994. Israel and Jordan agreed to honor the Washington Declaration, signed July 25, 1994, and based on a U.N. Security CouncilResolution, they declared the termination of the state of belligerency between them and established peace between them in accordance with the treaty.
THIS is a war against children being conducted by adults on both sides of the conflict. Over the weekend, we heard of a BBC reporter in Gaza whose 11 month old baby child was killed by incoming IDF fire. A baby injured in Kiryat Malachi, where three people were killed after Palestinian militants fired rockets at the Israeli town, is one of many pictures of children wounded in the conflict which continues to take its toll on infants.
The Middle East conflict is no longer a news story about conflicting national identities. It is an ongoing and tragic tale of infanticide and the psychological maiming of future generations who are no more responsible for the conflict, than today’s generation are responsible for the Second World War.
The brutality with which the Israeli propaganda machine is meeting the naked hatred of Hamas al-Qassam brigades who in turn ring out the now familiar chant of ‘Death to Israel” is really turning the war into an offense against the human spirit. Where is the humanity left on both sides, these brutes who see fit to sacrifice each others children for political gain as if there is some form of moral equivocation, my child for your child, my eyes for your eyes?
In South Africa, where images of children massacred by the apartheid state became common place, we often had cause to remark that an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. For all the slaughter, our Freedom Struggle never stooped to this level of brutality. The only legitimate targets were the state. Care was always taken to avoid civilian causalities.
We therefore need to stand firm in our commitment to peace for future generations by saying no to war and military aggression. No to missiles, rockets, drones, combat aircraft, tanks, collateral damage, siege, bomb vests, landmines, barbed wire and hatred.
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.
THERE are a number of things which need to be said in regard to the recent action against Reggies, a Jewish-owned business operating in South Africa. Firstly it would appear that children are now being used as political pawns in a war being conducted by adults. Secondly, a boycott of Jewish Toys is ill-considered. It is one thing to tackle an adult beauty product on the basis of a dispute over the borders facing the Dead Sea, but another thing entirely to boycott toys for kids, on the grounds of a businessman’s apparant support of a fund ostensibly being used to plant trees in greater Israel.
The Open Shuhada Street Campaign against AHAVA which conducts some of its business in territories occupied by Israel and which are disputed in terms of international law, is most certainly a well thought out action aimed at bringing the territorial dispute to the attention of the general public.
The Reggies Boycott on the other hand fails to consider the ramifications of a broad boycott against Jewish business. Horwitz’s rationale behind the action is apparently due to Reggies owner Issy Zimmerman’s support of the Jewish National Fund (JNF). The fund is accused by the group of “being used by the Israel government to cover over the villages from which Palestinians were forcibly removed from land they’ve owned since the Ottoman times. And that continues we cannot allow this ethnic cleansing.”
Aside from the vigilantism inherent to this type action — there are legal options which have not been fully explored — the case against the JNF has by no means been decided in South Africa. The evidence referred to by Horwitz in his supposed correspondence with Zimmerman, has not been tested and has not received anywhere near the kind of open intellectual inquiry that would be needed to determine whether or not there is any veracity to any of the claims.
To give an indication of the kind of claims that would need to be tested in a court of law. The Stop the JNF website refers to trees planted on Mount Carmel in the District of Haifa, which is in the State of Israel. A booklet published by the campaign quotes Max Bluthenthal’s description of ” the environmentally destructive role of the JNF-planted pines in last year’s fire in Northern Israel that killed 42 people.”
“The JNF planted hundreds of thousands of trees over freshly destroyed Palestinian villages like al-Tira, helping to establish the Carmel National Park. An area on the south slope of Mount Carmel so closely resembled the landscape of the Swiss Alps that it was nicknamed “Little Switzerland.” Of course, the non-indigenous trees of the JNF were poorly suited to the environment in Palestine. Most of the saplings the JNF plants at a site near Jerusalem simply do not survive, and require frequent replanting. Elsewhere, needles from the pine trees have killed native plant species and wreaked havoc on the ecosystem. And as we have seen with the Carmel wildfire, the JNF’s trees go up like tinder in the dry heat.”
South Africans have no doubt witnessed similar debates about our local fynbos, in particular the controversy over Cecilia Forest, in Cape Town which has now been cut down and replaced with indigenous trees in a programme that aims to rectify water shortages and some of the supposed excesses of colonialism in Southern Africa. Unfortunately, the problem in Israel has absolutely nothing to do with British colonialism. Underlying the environmental issues, is the controversial issue relating to the recapture of land gained during successive periods of conquest.
To make a comparison, an equivalent scenario, would be if a group calling itself the Front for the Return of the Phoenician Empire, were now demanding that all land in the Cederberg be returned to the Phoenicians, since it is clear from historical data, that Phoenicians planted ceders there during their journeys around the African continent. There is a very good reason that people calling themselves “Palestinians” have been removed from Carmel. For starters, the land was gained through acts of colonial conquest, infanticide and outright murder.
Where did it all start? With slavery in the land of Egypt and an Egyptian Empire that murdered workers in order to prop up a tyrannical family posing as Gods? Or the Roman Empire which proceeded to destroy the Jewish State through acts of cultural genocide and expulsion? The province of Syria-Palaestina created by Herod following the defeat of the Bar Kokbah Revolt in 135CE was a concoction of the Roman bureaucracy which sought to destroy Judaism, lest its ideas of tolerance and egalitarianism be allowed to overthrow the Empire. In the end, an offshoot of Judaism known as Christianity succeeded where the Maccabees failed.
The State of Israel keeps reappearing throughout history. A map of the Kingdom of Israel shows the state on both sides of the Jordan River. This state was replaced by the Crusader Kingdom, which was destroyed by the Ottomans and then regained during World War 1. After the genocide of six million Jews during World War 11 and the murder of 100 000 Jerusalem Jews by the Ottomans, demands for the return of Israel to the Jewish people became hard to deny. Despite the Balfour Declaration and attempts by politicians to carve up the land of the British Mandate of Palestine into unequal pieces, with the vast majority of land being given to the Jordanian-Palestinians, the State of Israel was eventually regained by the Jews though a war of Independence. It is this war which Horwitz seeks to undo, in his ill-considered attempt to repatriate property to an illegitimate entity which seeks to destroy the Zionist State by replacing the narrative of Jewish Independence, with an Hamasist fable that ignores the existence of Jordan and other Palestinian entities.
He could do a lot better by simply demanding that Jews and Arabs receive equal treatment in a new dispensation which puts an end to the strife between Palestinian and Jew, and which seeks reconciliation in a new entity based upon fundamental human rights. Furthermore, there is no reason why Palestinians, under the current system should not be treated equally either as Israelis, or receive citizenship as Jordanians, in the land given to them by the British Empire.
UPDATE: An article carried by the M&G now refers to the judeafication of the Negev Desert, as if Jews do not have any right to the land granted in terms of UN Resolution 242. Whatever ones feelings about the plight of the Bedouin, who are now threatened by housing projects, the fact remains that Arabs already have over 75% of the British Mandate of Palestine. This fact is conveniently omitted in the propaganda war, which seeks the delegitimization of the State of Israel, on the basis of previous Empires acquisition of property via acts of conquest, as well as the removal of Jewish rights in the diaspora. Such conquests are specifically outlawed under international law, and is the basis for the dispute over the West Bank, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem.
NOTE: Lewis is an anarchist and progressive Jew, he does not support the state, but rather the idea of universal human rights. He is thus opposed to any dispensation which lacks a Freedom Charter. He wishes to express his outrage at having to reiterate common knowledge merely in order to demonstrate why statism on either side is bound to fail.
The Apartheid analogy is useful in describing what is occurring in Israel today. One cannot remain silent when pictures of Arab children massacred by the IDF find historical resonance in similar pictures taken during our own struggle. The tragic portrait of Hector Peterson is but one example. Unfortunately, like any analogy, the use of an emotive term such as apartheid is open to abuse, the more so when those who deploy the term, move from simple analogy to an outright revision of the historical record.
Blaming Jews for apartheid, like blaming Africans for slavery, is a form of apartheid denial which obliterates the memory of those most affected by the system of race segregation. A system which came about because of racist laws enacted under a Christian government. The role of the Dutch Reformed Church/Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk (NGK) in the creation of the apartheid system is well documented by scholars and formed part of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission Faith Communities hearings into the subject.
If the situation was 100% analogous to the South African situation, and anywhere correct from a semantic and heuristic point of view, both the PLO and Hamas would have a Freedom Charter guaranteeing rights for all, whether Jew or Arab. No such charter exists, instead, both organisations have highly inflammatory founding documents that are a far cry from the civil rights articles formulated in our own country, at Kliptown.
The founding documents of Hamas, for example, call for the subjugation of Jews, the total destruction of the Jewish state, and its replacement by an Islamic Republic. Israel, on the other hand, has an “emergent” constitution which still has a long way to go before it ranks in terms of our own constitution which guarantees human rights for all.
Calling what is happening in Israel and the “occupied territories” a civil rights struggle in the making is thus more accurate than abusing a term which inevitably ends up by denigrating the memory of the victims and survivors of the apartheid system.
Many Jews for instance were active in the civil rights movement, and are vocal supporters of the Communist Party and ANC. Jews were imprisoned alongside Mandela during the Treason Trials and are found on the left as much as the right, as is the case with any religious grouping. Instead of banding around apartheid terminology, we must therefore take care to distinguish the facts on the ground in the Middle East, unpacking what is similar from what is actual reality.
We must also remember Jews are a threatened minority group in South Africa, comprising less than 1% of the population. Despite this, our courts have consistently failed to protect diversity and divergence of opinion within the community (my own problems with Jazz discrimination at an apartheid media company is case in point ) — typically, the corrupt legal system of South Africa can’t be bothered with such details and refuses to recognise the idiosyncracies of the Jewish religion — I am a progressive Jew not an Orthodox Jew.
It is arguable whether or not our own struggle has actually delivered tangible freedom and rights for the black majority as well as the minority of minorities — Progressive Jews. Despite a constitution which ostensibly grants freedom of belief and religion for all, we are lumped into the same category as Zionists and the Ultra-Orthodox. Has apartheid ended? Are we suffering from a collective delusion in forgetting the importance of minority rights?
While the black majority in South Africa has freedom of movement and association and may now purchase land anywhere in the world, no such universal rights exist for Jews. Many of the Arab states for example, forceably expelled their Jewish communities resulting in what is known as the Jewish refugee problem.
Although most “whites” in South Africa trace their descent from Europe, many as former “colonialists”, and Jews as relative newcomers from Eastern Europe were classified “white” under apartheid, this is not the case for Jews from Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Ethiopia, Yemen, and the Arab Peninsula where Jewish communities have an entirely different culture and heritage and are not considered European. Apartheid denialists thus seek to diminish the existence of black Jews and the role of assimilated, non-white “whites” in the South African struggle while insisting on the validity of the apartheid race classification system.
Since there are at least a quarter of a million black Ethiopian Jews, and 2.5 million Arab Jews living in Israel, admissions policies which give local communities autonomy in deciding who can and cannot settle in Israel are thus no more racist than similar admissions policies restricting immigration in our own and other countries.
The genocide of European Jews is often used by the right-wing to justify atrocities in the name of religion, undoubtedly Jews as a people have a right to self-determination, the more so in the light of the Holocaust. In contrast, the genocide of the Khoisan by Europeans as well as the Bantu has gone unnoticed in South Africa where whites own more than 60% of the land as a result of the 1913 Land Act. In Israel, the reverse is true and there have been no such race laws, rather expropriations of land in Jerusalem and occupation of land in the disputed territories are the basis for the ongoing conflict over borders since the “Jewish State” has yet to define its boundaries following the 1948 War of Independence.
The historical reality shows less than 30% of the former British Mandate of Palestine, a country created shortly after World War 1, currently under Israeli control, while the remaining 70% including the Kingdom of Jordan is in Arab hands. South Africa has abundant land available for redistribution, while this is not the case in the Levant. Maps show Israel existing historically, on both sides of the Jordan river, thus an entirely different geographic problem prevails.
Many Israelis believe Jordan today, to be the Palestinian homeland, over 40% according to a poll conducted by the Christian Science Monitor. The country has exactly the same flag as the Palestinian flag, with the only real difference being the addition of a white star, denoting the Hashemite monarchy. In 1950 Jordan annexed the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The country is home to some 2.6 million Palestinians and 1.5 million refugees from Palestinian West Bank and is 80% Palestinian Arab. The country later revoked citizenship of its West Bank refugees in order to prevent them from settling, using them as pawns in a power-play over control over precious land and natural resources in the Levant.
At no point has there ever been a separation barrier in South Africa. Apartheid instead used laws to segregate and de-emancipate people of colour. It oppressed black Christians as much as those from other groups who were not members of the NGK . The race-based political system denationalised non-Europeans and created bantustans which allowed Europeans to rule with impunity. This is precisely what the policies of Hamas and the PLO seek to do in their attempt to reclaim the Ottoman Empire (Turkey is a member of the European Union) while delegitimising the state of Israel in order to seek control over 100% of the former British Mandate of Palestine.
Flag of Palestine
How many Palestinian states does the world need? Why are their now three different Palestinian entities – Jordan, Gaza and West Bank? Are we not seeing the tragic result of the United Nation’s sponsored balkanisation of the Middle East?
Unlike the current Palestinian-Israel conflict, the freedom struggle in South Africa aimed to unify all South Africans under a common Bill of Rights. All the land was to be shared by all the people. It sprung into motion upon the motivation for class solidarity and equality for all and was not overly characterized by separatist calls for independence and self-determination by ethnic groups. This is why South Africa now has 11 official languages.
While the adoption of Hebrew as the national language of Israel has overtones of Afrikaner Volkstaat, it is the universal civil rights struggle which is most pertinent to the problem in the Middle East today, not our country’s historical legacy of race laws. In particular it is religion not race which is the political and social determinant underpinning the conflict. As can be expected, Israel remains the sole Jewish state and it is this claim which needs to be examined if we are to understand the root cause of the problem.
Why are there 9 Roman Catholic nations in Europe and South America, 4 Eastern Orthodox and 4 Lutheran in Europe and one Anglican country, the United Kingdom? Why are there 49 Muslim countries in which Muslims are in the majority?
Clearly, it is religious separatism which is the problem in Israel today. Yet calling this separatism, ‘religious apartheid’ results in a strange invective, in which one must undo history, first by denying the Covenant and then forgetting the blood libel against the Jews, who were accused of murdering Jesus Christ during the Middle Ages.
Yes the Jewish religion has retained its tribal identification with the Israelites of the Old Testament and does not proselytise because of the historical journey over the eons in which Christianity and Islam gained the upper hand.
The accusation that Judaism is thus inherently racist, since it generally refuses to induct gentiles should be seen for what it is, the tragic result of ongoing anti-Semitism.
Let’s look at the problem from another angle:
Is it also not the case that those who are not Hebrew-speakers suffer the most from lower status in Israel? An Arabic speaker is more likely to be searched when stopped at a check-point than a Hebrew-speaker.
The Haredim, a particular sect of Rabbinical Judaism involved in a recent controversy surrounding gender segregation on a Jerusalem bus, illustrate the complex problems found in a quixotic nation that is avowedly all about protecting the religious and linguistic rights of its Jewish citizens to the detriment of other groups. While the controversy has called into question Israel’s claim to be a modern democracy, tolerant of diversity and expression, unlike its neighbours Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran, where no such freedom exists, the incident has more in common with the civil rights movement than the apartheid struggle.
If the apartheid analogy truly fitted as anything more than a metaphor, one would expect race not religion, (comprising gender and linguistic dimensions) to be the important deciding factor in discrimination, discrimination which, since it is religious in nature, is lawful by any standard. One might as well argue for changes in laws restricting non-Muslim access to Mecca, and yet Muslims are allowed to visit Jerusalem, a city which is holy to all three monotheistic religions.
Has the apartheid label been misappropriated? How useful is the apartheid analogy when one constantly has to qualify it, with other terms that are more applicable to any analysis of the “holy land”, for example, religious apartheid?
As tragic as the 64 year old conflict is, and as terrible as the ongoing violence and aggression by religious fanatics on either side remains, the apartheid label does not serve as anything more than a metaphor, a loose analogy that expresses solidarity with an oppressed people in the face of military aggression.
We must therefore take care to avoid stripping it of its meaning, since doing so, destroys the historical narrative of those who directly experienced the apartheid system in South Africa.
This is my current Middle East Peace Plan. Show me yours?
ISRAEL is a false state and the Free Palestine movement is a false struggle. If we had to measure both the Israeli State and the Free Palestine Movement by the standards of our own democratic revolution, neither side would stand scrutiny. The shortcomings, not just of the Zionist version of democracy, but of the Palestinian version of struggle, are immediately apparent.
Whereas the South African liberation struggle had a Freedom Charter guaranteeing all its citizens human rights and took as a departure point, the American civil rights movement, the Free Palestine movement has little to offer in the way of founding documents asserting fundamental freedoms.
Aside from the past months humanitarian efforts, the Free Palestine movement has only the political ambitions of Hamas and Fatah for the return of Arab land gained during the Roman occupation (and subsequent periods of Ottoman, Mamluk and British rule), to show the world, — the assertions of the rights of the dispossessed over those in possession of land in a struggle which has been perverted by an infamous covenant setting out the destruction of Israel and its replacement with an Islamic republic.
Both Zionism and the Free Palestine movement are clearly the result of delusional nationalism, religious zealotry and the irrational quest for autonomy and self-determination in an increasingly interconnected world.
The state we know as Palestine was created in 132CE by the Emperor Hadrian in response to a revolt by Jews under Bar Kokhba. According to history books, the Romans joined the province of Judea (which already included Samaria) together with Galilee to form a new province, called Syria Palaestina.
It is this state which emerged out of the rubble of World War 1 when the Central Powers which included Turkey and Germany were defeated by the Allies.
Neither the State of Israel nor the State of Palestine however, existed in either their current form, or in subsequent forms, prior to 1948.
Both remain unable to guarantee fundamental freedoms and human rights for all. Whether it is the ethnically challenged Knesset or the Hamas and Fatah puppet governments — there is a huge gulf of distrust and aggression between what could be called acceptable democracy and the false democracy we see in the Middle East today. How much of what passes for politics in the region is merely the manipulations of stronger, more powerful states, such as Iran, Russia and the USA?
Comparing the South African struggle to the Middle East experience, measuring both states against our competing ideas of freedom, our Bill of Rights, is crucial if Jews, Christians, Muslims, and non-believers alike are to understand how it came about that the sixty-year old “Zionist State of Israel” is now referred to as “Apartheid Israel” while the “Free Palestine” movement is seen by the World’s press as the spiritual descendants and heirs of Nelson Mandela, despite its intended beneficiaries openly calling for the “elimination of the Jewish people”?
Unlike the ANC which had a reasonable and acceptable plan to create a majority rule government in which all people were accommodated, Hamas until fairly recently has demanded the creation of an Islamic republic, the dismantling of Israel, and the exile of Jews.
Zionism is not merely a form of religious fundamentalism but an attempt to recreate the Hebrew state of Judah before its dispersal in various forms. Both ideologies would appear to mimic each other in terms of their racial and ethnic exclusivity. However, unlike the Palestinian example, there are black Hebrews in Israel and about a quarter of a million Ethiopian Jews, many of whom serve in the IDF.
It is perhaps easier to attack Zionism in a knee-jerk reaction which equates Zionism with capitalism, than it is to criticise Arab nationalism, Islamic zealotry and the demands of Hamas and Fatah. But if we do not criticise, and instead shirk back from our responsibility, then we run the risk of feeding the grave possibility that any settlement or outcome to the conflict will not be the genuine peace solution so desired — the freedom in a “Free Palestine” – the freedom when we talk about “Freedom from War, Freedom from Want”. In all likelihood the reality will be yet another terrible tragedy in which an artificial government seeks to overcome a false state, albeit an ethnically-based multi-party-democracy, merely by asserting its own peculiar revolutionary but racist ideal, resulting in the inevitable destruction and loss of life on both sides.
What is wrong with Israel today? Is it the numbers game, in which an invisible population known as Palestinians (some 11 million if one includes the diaspora) do not enjoy basic human rights? Is it the bantustan policies of the Likud government which reduces Palestinians to guests in their own country and in which the newly created Palestinian entities are turned into client states, literally under permanent siege from the Israeli Army?
If Likud had proposed the same policies for apartheid-era South Africa, we would still have the Tricameral Party system introduced by P W Botha — close to democracy but no cigar. We would still have our bantustans and petty fiefdoms such as Transkei and Bophuthatswana. We would still be talking about “crossing the Rubicon.”
Again, if the Free Palestine Movement instead of the Anti-Apartheid movement had prevailed in South Africa we would also be found seriously lacking — we would not have a Bill of Rights alongside a federal solution in which provincial government competes alongside national government. We would not have multi-party democracy but a dictatorship. We would not enjoy fundamental freedoms like religious and other freedoms, and we would not have freedom of expression and a free press.
South Africa is only one of two sovereign states in the world whose founding documents begin with the words, “We the People.” As a country we have embraced a secular identity while enshrining religious and other freedoms in a constitution.
This is no accident. South Africa like other commonwealth countries fought alongside the allies to establish the United Nations, whose preamble also begins with “We the People”.
How then can South Africa assist the Israelis and Palestinians in achieving a peaceful solution?
For starters, we can brush up on our geography and knowledge of history in the region.
There are many Jews who complain they were forced to campaign for the establishment of the state of Israel because of the Nazi Genocide and not simply because of Zionism or belief in the State of Israel as literally ‘G-d’s will”. Such Jews use an argument of necessity to persuade themselves and others that Israel’s existence in its present form is a necessity for survival, in the same way oxygen is necessary for life on this planet.
Again, many Free Palestinian activists believe, rightly or wrongly, that it is necessary to destroy Israel in order for the state of Palestine to exist and for the great catastrophe of the Nakba and occupation to come to a final conclusion, in the fulfillment of Hadith.
The Nakba refers to the forced removal of between 650,000 and 750,000 Palestinians from Israel when the British mandate ended and the new states of Israel and Palestine were born, a period immediately following World War II. It also refers to the great catastrophe caused by the two states warring against each other, over subsequent years, to the point where the State of Palestine no longer exists in the form decreed either by the British mandate or by UN resolutions.
Mousa Abu Marzook, has described the Hamas party’s covenant as “an essentially revolutionary document born of the intolerable conditions under occupation”
Whereas most Muslims refer to the Nakba within a religious context, the term Nakba was first used in this way by Syrian historian Constanine Zureiq in his 1948 book, Ma’na al-Nakba (The Meaning of the Disaster) as an attempt to counter the moral weight of the Jewish Shoah. This is the great catastrophe which resulted in the murder of 6 million Jews by Adolf Hitler, which by the way included 100 000 Jews from Jerusalem under orders of the Mufti of Jerusalem – Hitlers now infamous Order 30. However shameful, the Nakba does not have the same resonance in the Christian or Secular world as does the Holocaust, and attempts to downplay the Holocaust have tended into the realm of absurdity with a denial of reality.
Although both sides have resorted to religious justification for their problems and have ample reason to distrust each other, depoliticizing or detheoligising one struggle or the other hasn’t succeeded either, since the holy land is precisely that, the Holy Land. Free Palestine activists bucking the trend, often refer to the “occupation” in intellectual terms, preferring to put aside religious differences in the interests of an “heroic nationalist struggle” to regain the land of Palestine as mandated by the British and the UN. Ultra-Orthodox Jews on the other hand point to the occupation of the Temple Mount in East Jerusalem by the Dome of the Rock (an Islamic holy site) as evidence that God’s promise has not yet been fulfilled. The issue of occupation, of who gets to claim Jerusalem as the centre of power thus drives all three of the world’s major religions into a frenzy. For every Crusade, there has been a counter Crusade and so it goes. Brother killing Brother in a monotheistic bloodbath created by competing teleologies.
Since the time of the Crusades is over, the British mandate of the colonial period no longer exists and the United Nations has proven ineffectual, we must ask some uncomfortable and difficult questions — exactly which state or world are we talking about, which struggle or future are we are supporting, if at all, and why?
In the secular context of the 21st century the “occupation” refers to Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Golan Heights, after the war of 1967 in defiance of the United Nations and international law. It may however also refer historically to the Roman Occupation or the occupation of Judah by Ottoman Turks and of Jerusalem by the Egyptian Mamluks during various colonial conquests and crusades.
According to the covenant of Hamas, occupation refers simply to the occupation by Israel of the State of Israel. Increasingly, as Israel is seen as the aggressor, and Palestinians as the victims, one finds calls for the total elimination of Israel, in its entirety, a revolutionary war in favour of a Greater Palestine, in other words a general call for the return of the Roman province of “Palaestina” at any cost, which in turn is met by a defence of Israel by Israelis at any cost.
The Free Palestine movement thus opens itself to some criticism, that under Hamas, both it and Islam are being cynically abused, since the party does not represent a genuine internationalist and non-racial grouping for a Free Palestine (a struggle for the greater good and for the return of the international order) but rather an exclusive and elitist Free Palaestina movement — all part and parcel of the ongoing Roman conquest and assertion of the Greco-Roman world-view over the entire globe — one may therefore question whether or not, it is the orders of Emperor Hadrian himself which are being carried out to their ultimate conclusion?
Doubtless, there will be those activists who believe such a criticism is a little harsh, especially in the view of Israeli fascism, aggression, militarism and the Islamophobia so tragically displayed in the unprovoked attack on a humanitarian flotilla, yet there are still Jews today who refuse to walk under the Arch of Hadrian, since it symbolises colonial conquest and subjugation of the Jewish people.
While postmodernists such as Shlomo Sand may question the existence of the Jews as a people (there are also many Jews for example, members of Neturei Karta along with anarchist such as myself who do no recognise the state of Israel) and deconstructionists disentangle the relevance of the 20th Century in the 21st, the current crisis is bringing a medieval fragmentation of the previous epoch.
The USA is not the only new empire builder searching to control its surrogate colonies in the Middle East. Turkey for instance has began drumming up support for the return of an empire lost during the Great War as various nation-states and members of the United Nations compete for influence and control in the region.
It is questionable whether the nation-state or the United Nations can ever protect us from war, but in a time of global television and internet connections, the idea of security behind borders is in reality, an illusion. The constant hammering out of UN resolutions critical of Israel has done little to quell Zionism or to change governments. In a recent poll by the Christian Science Monitor, 40% of Israelis expressed the strange view that “the Palestine Homeland is in Jordan”. Moreover, South African calls for sanctions without equal demands for concrete steps towards human rights on both sides, has merely emboldened and bolstered the siege mentality. Boycotts of Israeli goods have in turn produced a blockade of Gaza, which in turn has resulted in calls for more boycotts and sanctions.
Whereas the South African conflict was in all reality a struggle for the franchise and equality by those who were disenfranchised, the Israel-Palestinian conflict is far more complex.
The only equivalent period we have in our country’s history is the Anglo-Boer War, also known as the South African war, in which one half of the country was pitted against various autonomous republics in the interest of a union. Both the need for statehood and self-determination vexed us during the struggle, but since South Africans had already crossed a threshold of statehood as a nation, and calls for a separate “black only” Azania and a separate white only Volkstaat were few and far between, a period in which different parts of the country threatened to break away has already been averted.
I therefore encourage Medialternatives readers to come up with their own solutions to the crisis and to avoid the all-out propaganda war on both sides which is merely asserting the politics of a bygone era, an era in which both the United Nations and former colonial rulers, had a degree of clout in the region. Clearly, since so many peace talks have failed, and the two-state options and counter-options have simply drawn out the conflict, the world demands that we put our brains together to work out a peace deal which takes the peace of the entire world into consideration.
[NOTE: This blogger has already recommended a federal solution, or a three state-solution in the form of a new entity called Israelistine. I am sure there are other solutions, for example, an Economic Union with the European Union and so on.]
IT strikes me there is something pitiful about the two-state tango in which both Palestine and Israel are caught in an existential embrace from which neither country can extricate itself.
Sure, recognition of a Jewish State contingent on there being a democratic Palestine in which human rights are preserved. But this leaves out an important third grouping. Those citizens who identify with a broader social project in which both Jews and Muslims (as well as Christians) may find a home within the context of a secular/democratic society.
Such dreams of an Israelstine refuse to die out. They abound in the cherished ideals of those who seek a unitary state or one-state solution modelled upon the South African federal experience. South Africa is a unitary state with provinces that have a remarkable semblance of autonomy despite constant attack by those who wish to centralise power.
Could a tripartite or federal solution work in Israel? Can all three of the world’s religions be accommodated? What exactly would a three-state solution entail?
First off one would want to grant the Jewish people a state in which the halakha was practised and where Judaism was the dominant religion and legal code.
Next, you would want to ensure a state for Palestinians, in which democracy and human rights was guaranteed.
Finally, and crucially, you would want to accommodate those who fit into neither camp, either because they were not Jews per se, (not observant enough), secular Israelis or Palestinians who wished to live in areas not granted to the autonomous number 2 state. This would be the state on paper which together with the two states above, created a new state of Israelstine, a state which for now only exists in the imagination.
Now all three entities (and the citizens they contain) might argue as to the exact meaning and terms of independence. Undoubtedly the Jewish State and the Palestinian State would be independent and autonomous, however they would find themselves agreeing that the neutral third state also had rights and responsibilities necessitating some form of nation-building — a national anthem, even a new flag which might be an amalgam of both the current Israeli and Palestinian flags, or as some have found, a piece of white cloth with two blue stripes and instead of a lone Star of David, the Cross and Crescent Moon on either side.
Has time run out for the lone star state? Do we need a huge rethink about Israel and Palestine? Can there ever be security behind borders?
Such an Israelistinian affair would necessitate a constitution, a federal parliament in which all three states could meet an enact laws.
Since all three states would have enormous levels of autonomy, they might evolve like the European Union, as an economic entity first and foremost, with political issues secondary.
However which way it was organised, the new state of Israelstine would allow for the full expression of Jews, Israelis and Palestinians in a co-operative and non-violent manner. It would allow all three states to coexist with the Arab scene as well as the International community and Jewish Diaspora.
NOTE: Another exercise worth doing is to remove the religious divides completely. Let us think up a state in which only linguistic groups are accommodated. Since most English speaking Jews identify with the Diaspora, and not Israel, it makes sense to talk about the Hebrew State as opposed to the Jewish State. In fact a three-state solution might accommodate the religious in one state, while those who comprise a particular linguistic group would live in another state. Both states would be part of the third larger state in which secular and profane could coexist alongside the sacred and profound.
UPDATE: Belgium is an example of a three-state solution, in which the Flemish and Walloons, two completely seperate linguistic and cultural entities are accommodated within a third state, which is a state on paper, see my DIY Middle East Peace Plan