bantustan

Israel is not an apartheid state.  To accuse it of such requires a real imaginative stretch. Presented here are the top five reasons why the apartheid analogy is fatally flawed.

Equality. During South Africa’s apartheid system, the majority black population was oppressed and persecuted by the minority whites.  In Israel, all citizens—including Arab citizens—are equal before the law, regardless of their race, religion, or minority status.  Of all the countries in the Middle East, Israel is the only true democracy with full freedom for its citizens.

Citizenship. In 1970s South Africa all non-whites were stripped of their South African citizenship. In 1948, Israel did the opposite. When the dust settled from Israel’s war of independence, Israel gave full citizenship to the Arabs who remained in Israel and did not flee.  They did this even though it was a defensive war.  Today 20% of the Israel population is Arab. That’s a million and a half Arab citizens living in Israel and enjoying all the same rights as Israeli Jews.

Democracy. In South Africa, non-whites were not allowed to be in government or even vote.  In Israel, Arabs have been represented since the very first Knesset. Israeli Arabs vote and have been elected to every level of local and national office, including appointments to the Israeli Supreme Court and government minister positions.

Freedom.  The South African apartheid regime strictly regulated the lives of non-whites with a host of separation laws.  Black South Africans were confined to Bantustans, defined labor areas that they were not permitted to leave. Israel, in contrast, has extensive anti-discrimination laws. Israeli Arabs work in all sectors, attend universities, and open businesses. While much of the Arab population lives in concentrated Arab municipalities in Israel, this is an informal segregation as a matter of choice. For South African blacks, segregation was a matter of force.

Security. The security fence separating Israel from the West Bank is often denigrated as the “apartheid wall.”  During Israel Apartheid Week, a common tactic on campuses is to build mock “apartheid walls” at protest sites.   Admittedly, Israel must strictly enforce border control between Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.  However, this restriction is due to their legitimate security concerns and not racism. The fence is credited for a drastic reduction in the number of mass-murder attacks carried out in Israel after reaching a peak in the second intifada.  In South Africa, racism formed the base of segregation, not terrorism.  Blacks living under South African apartheid did not seek the destruction of South Africa, only the regime of apartheid.

Perhaps the best proof that Israel is not an apartheid regime is the fact that the vast majority of Israeli Arabs want to retain their Israeli citizenship.

Israeli Arabs both privately and publicly say they would not want to leave Israel and move to a Palestinian state should one be created.  When former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert suggested in 2007 that he would hand over Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority, the Arabs in Jerusalem rose up in protest.   Nabil Gheit, an Arab mayor of one of these neighborhoods, said “If there was a referendum here, no one would vote to join the Palestinian Authority.

We will not accept it. There would be another intifada [uprising] to defend ourselves from the PA.”

Those who are demanding to “Stop Israeli Apartheid” from the comfort of their campus parade grounds, should first stop and ask the Arab citizens and alleged victims in Israel one question: Where in the Middle East would you have it better?

Can someone explain, to those of us who are confused, what Palestinian state that flag now flying at the UN represents? Is it the bantu state of Gaza which the UN says could be uninhabitable in less than five years? Where half a million people are displaced, homeless, & living in cement rubble? Where 75 percent of the households are “food insecure” & which Israel still controls with an economic blockade?

Or is it the West Bank bantustan under military occupation by Israel–the one surrounded by a cement wall where Palestinians have no rights, where settlers torch homes & mosques, poison water wells, uproot olive trees, brutalize & murder children with impunity? Where Israel keeps confiscating lands for Zionist settlements? Where Palestinian protesters are incarcerated for at least four years for throwing rocks against rubber bullets, grenades, tear gas, armored vehicles?

Or is it East Jerusalem where Israeli police are assaulting & rounding up Palestinians trying to defend the Al-Aqsa mosque from being vandalized?

Are we missing something in that flag thing or is it just another empty gesture? Because to some of us, that banner waving in front of the UN–which has stood solidly on the side of Israeli apartheid–seems like a mockery, a sarcasm, a slap in the face to justice & Palestinian self-determination.

Build the economic, cultural, & academic boycott of Israel & demand no aid of any kind to Israel.
(Photo of Palestinians living in their bombed out homes from EPA)

For 67 years, we as Palestinians have been forced to bear witness time and time and time again to the ethnic cleansing of our lands, to the subjugation of our brothers and sisters, and watch as it is all justified away, watch as religion is used to justify our slaughter, watch as we are blamed for our own oppression, watch as white-skinned invaders take over homes build by our parents and grandparents, parents and grandparents who wistfully recount their childhoods in a land that they will never again see. 

For 67 years our rage has built. Rage over the injustices committed against us while the world watches on, while the US continues to reward Israel’s ethnic cleansing with millions of dollars, with international protection and numerous UN vetoes. While the rest of the world voices support, but does nothing to follow through with it. We as Palestinians have been abandoned, written off as nothing more than a “people who will always be fighting”. 

For 67 years our rage has built, as generation after generation have given their lives to freeing our people and our land. It is this rage that we see today, men, women, and children, rising in unison on the streets of Palestine, on the streets of Israel, resisting the oppressive Israeli regime. We use rocks against their M16s, against their tanks, against their American-made bullets and tear-gas. We use the stones of our land, stones born of Palestine, to fight back these invading colonizers. 

For 67 years, Israel has perfected the art of violence against us. They deny our existence by referring to us as “Arabs”, they build nightclubs on our cemeteries, they shoot porn films in the ruins of our cities, ruins they created when they forced us out of our homes at gunpoint, they build illegal, Jewish-only settlements on our land. The land of my family, owned by us for generations, was stolen in order to expand these settlements that I am forbidden from setting foot in purely based on my ethnicity, on the fact that I am Palestinian. Violence is the natural product of violence. So long as Israel continues to violently erase our existence, so long as Israel continues to violently force us out of our homes, so long as Israel violently represses our people, this cycle of violence will continue. 

We are not a violent people, and our goal, our dream, is universal: we want nothing more than to live in our land in peace, to raise children in a land where they don’t have to fear being run down simply for being a certain race, and to grow old and not have to worry about having our homes destroyed to make room for people who don’t belong in the first place. We want to be able to move around freely, and not be caged into Bantustans and surrounded by Israel’s wall, a wall that DWARFS the Berlin wall, a wall that stretches 4 times as long as the Berlin Wall and a little over twice as high. We want peace. We are not inherently violent, as we are not a delusional people. We know that in any violent confrontation, it’s not Israel that loses, but us.

This month alone, over 30 Palestinians have been murdered, mostly children gunned down in cold blood. At least 6 Palestinians have been lynched by racist mobs within Israel. Numerous Palestinians have been killed for alleged knife attacks, but this is simply the latest false excuse, as no evidence has been presented in practically any of these cases. We don’t want violence, but when violence has been used against us daily for 67 years, it is simply the natural result. The result of occupation & settler-colonialiam is violence. 

We are asked “Where is the Palestinian Gandhi?” The answer is that Israel as probably killed him or jailed him. Israel claims to want peace, but theirs is an imposed peace, peace built on our subjugation, on our oppression, on our erasure. Israel speaks of peace, while at the same time forcing us off of our own land. Israel has a right to defend itself? Well what about us as Palestinians? Why are we not granted this same right? One million of us were forced out at gunpoint 67 years ago, and tens of thousands more in the years that have followed since. Do we not have a right to defend ourselves? To defend our land? So long as Israel continues to build itself at our expense, there will be no peace. No matter how many soldiers Israel deploys in the streets, no matter how many homes they demolish, there will be no peace. Only when the reactionary solutions cease, and when the root of the problem is addressed, will there be peace. Israel was never interested in two-states, because it knows that it’s unsustainable. The only solution for both people, is a single, secular state. A state in which the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish people can live under a single national identity, as they historically had.

This is why we call upon you not only as student organizers, but as Palestinians living in the diaspora, to rise with Palestine. Rise for our liberation, as there will be no peace until there is liberation, there will be no peace until every Palestinian refugee is allowed to return to their homeland, and there will be no peace until there is a single Palestinian state for all people. 

And until that day, we will not be erased, and we will continue to rise.