October 04, 2007

Israel "becoming" an apartheid state

Ha'aretz has editorialised that Israel has so "normalised" the occupation that the state that has segregated Jews from Arabs since it's inception is "becoming" an apartheid state.
The occupied territories and the Palestinians living there are slowly becoming virtual realities, distant from the eye and the heart. Palestinian workers have disappeared from our streets. Israelis no longer enter Palestinian towns for shopping. There is a new generation on each side that does not know the other. Even the settlers no longer meet Palestinians because of the different road systems that distinguish between the two populations; one is free and mobile, the other stuck at the roadblocks.

While the politicians argue over dividing the land between two peoples, the public is apathetic. The people feel that the division has already taken place. The disengagement from the Gaza Strip, the evacuation of Gush Katif, the construction of a separation barrier - the problem is solved to our satisfaction. The settlers are conducting a settlement policy of their own, taking over new areas, expanding settlements, anything to prevent a permanent solution. They are also satisfied with the status quo that relies on the Shin Bet security service and the Israel Defense Forces.

The de facto separation is today more similar to political apartheid than an occupation regime because of its constancy. One side - determined by national, not geographic association - includes people who have the right to choose and the freedom to move, and a growing economy. On the other side are people closed behind the walls surrounding their community, who have no right to vote, lack freedom of movement, and have no chance to plan their future. The economic gap is only getting wider and the Palestinians are wistfully watching as Israel imports laborers from China and Romania. Fear of terrorist attacks has transformed the Palestinian laborer into an undesirable.

There have recently been reports of a further "upgrading" of the occupation. Sixteen crossing points between the West Bank and Israel are now being controlled by civilians instead of soldiers. On the face of it, this is an act of normalization, similar to the situation at international border crossings. But in this case a country exists only on one side. In the absence of an agreed border, there is only a security border that Israel has unilaterally established. The frustrated and frightened soldiers checking every Palestinian have now been replaced by contractors hired by the Defense Ministry.

Their job is to check people holding permits; in other words, people the civil administration, under the Shin Bet's guidance, has allowed to enter Israel. The checks are being carried out by sophisticated means, almost without human contact, in reinforced, blast-proof structures. The new method has removed a burden from IDF soldiers but has created a distancing. The contact between the soldiers and the Palestinians at the crossings, precisely because it is so traumatic, has driven the Israelis and Palestinians to seek a political solution. The stories the soldiers brought home fueled public debate. Now the soldiers are stationed only at roadblocks in the West Bank, and there is less friction. So the discourse is also minimized.

Can this situation continue indefinitely? The more Israelis see less of the occupation, the easier it becomes to ignore. In September, 33 Palestinians and one soldier were killed in operations against terror and Qassam rockets. Only in the next intifada, or after missiles are fired at Israel from the West Bank, will we once again be reminded of the occupation.
But don't worry there is still some sanity in the Jewish media. Here's Forward, the used to be yiddischer leftist paper:
Sure, there are similarities between the lives of Palestinians under Israeli occupation and those of black South Africans under apartheid. Indeed, in certain respects, the conditions Palestinians face are arguably even worse. But while the Palestinians’ circumstances may resemble those once faced by blacks in South Africa, the apartheid analogy ignores crucial context for why this is the case.

Unlike South African blacks, Palestinians bear no small share of the responsibility for their plight. If not for repeated Arab threats and efforts to destroy the Jewish state, there would have been no occupation in the first place. And if not for wave after wave of terrorism, there would quite possibly be an independent Palestinian state today instead of a West Bank security barrier. And, it goes without saying, constant rocket barrages from post-disengagement Gaza do little to encourage Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank.
So, there we have it. The zionist movement never wanted the whole of Palestine but the Arabs goaded them into taking it all and more. And black South Africans never resisted apartheid by force of arms and were rewarded with the legal equality they have today. Except I ought to remind those on whom irony is lost, that the ANC did wage an armed struggle against apartheid and Nelson Mandela spent as long as he did in prison because he refused to renounce the armed struggle. And what did Lenni Brenner say? Forward is backward. He wasn't wrong.

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