Sunday, May 18, 2008

Former South African Journalist On Why Israel's Policies Are Not Apartheid

In an op-ed last month in Haaretz, Benjamin Pogrund responds to an editorial in Haaretz comparing Israeli policies to apartheid:
But to apply the apartheid label is wrong, both with regard to the territories (to which Haaretz and Sarid refer), or to Israel within the Green Line (where Arabs suffer discrimination, but to say it's apartheid would be laughable). Why do I say this with such certainty? Because I was a journalist with the Rand Daily Mail newspaper in Johannesburg for 26 years, and my special function was to report and comment on apartheid's evils. And for more than 10 years I have lived in Israel, and have been engaged in dialogue work.

The labeling is wrong because the situations are entirely different. Apartheid in South Africa, from 1948 until 1994, was a unique system of racial separation and discrimination, institutionalized by law and custom in every aspect of everyday life, imposed by the white minority and based on a belief in white racial superiority. Skin color decreed inferior status from birth until death for blacks, Asians and "mixed-race" coloreds. In contrast, West Bank oppression is not based on a predetermined racist ideology. It stems rather from historical factors such as Jordan's attack during the 1967 war and the resulting Israeli conquest of the West Bank. From that, the settlement movement has developed because of a mixture of religious messianism, economic greed and security claims.

Some compare Israel's attempts to carve up the West Bank with South Africa's tribal mini-states, the Bantustans. This is wildly inappropriate. The Bantustans were devised to deny blacks South African citizenship, while continuing to exploit their labor. Blacks were penned in rural "reserves," and were allowed into white South Africa only when needed for specified jobs in factories, offices and homes and on farms. Israel's purpose on the West Bank is the opposite: to keep Palestinians there and to allow only an absolute minimum of them into Israel - and even them, reluctantly. Instead, the country's labor needs are met by importing large numbers of foreign workers.
Read the whole thing.

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