May 24, 2007

Israel is worse than apartheid?

I often wince when people compare Israel unfavourably to other bad systems like apartheid or the nazi era. Often these things are said in a knee-jerk fashion that crumples when challenged for a blow by blow explanation. I don't mind it when people explain their position though. For example, I'd say it's ok to say that Israel is worse than nazi Germany when you consider the fact that Israel's system couldn't be inflicted on the Middle East, in particular the Palestinians, without support from powerful allies whose professed values of democracy, liberty and the rule of law are completely at odds with Israel's zionist ideology. Also there's the fact that the crimes of zionism have been committed in the cold light of day for far longer (at the time of writing 5 times as long) than the crimes of the nazis. Comparisons with apartheid in the old South Africa too have to be explained lest the zionists try to undermine the case against their racist state.

Here's South Africa's Minister for Intelligence, Ronnie Kasrils, in the Mail and Guardian, demonstrating that Israel in 2007 is worse than apartheid.
The West Bank, once 22% of historic Palestine, has shrunk to perhaps 10% to 12% of living space for its inhabitants, and is split into several fragments, including the fertile Jordan Valley, which is a security preserve for Jewish settlers and the Israeli Defence Force. Like the Gaza Strip, the West Bank is effectively a hermetically sealed prison. It is shocking to discover that certain roads are barred to Palestinians and reserved for Jewish settlers. I try in vain to recall anything quite as obscene in apartheid South Africa.
I should point out here that Kasrils ends up by arguing for, indeed demanding, a two state solution, again invoking comparisons with another sectarian/racist system:
Within a few hours I am in Northern Ireland, a guest at the swearing in of the Stormont power-sharing government of Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness.

Not even PW Botha or Ariel ­Sharon were once as extreme as Ian Paisley in his most riotous and bigoted days. Ireland was under England’s boot for 800 years, South Africa’s colonial-apartheid order lasted 350 years. The Zionist colonial-settler project stems from the 1880s. The Israeli ruling class, corrupt and with no vision, can no longer rule in the old way. The ­Palestinians are not prepared to be suppressed any longer. What is needed is Palestinian unity behind their democratically elected national government, reinforced by popular struggles of Palestinians and progressive Israelis, supported by international solidarity.

South Africa’s stated position is clear. The immediate demands are recognition of the government of national unity, the lifting of economic sanctions and blockade of the Palestinian territories, an end to the 40-year-old military occupation and resumption of negotiations for a two-state solution.
But given Kasrils's own description of what's left of the West Bank, is a two state solution viable? Indeed, was it ever?

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