October 31, 2012

Can you be anti-apartheid but pro-zionist?

Well you can certainly try if your name's Benjamin Pogrund. You see there's been a little wave of panic sweeping over the zionist movement since a poll established that rather a lot of Israelis favour a formalised apartheid system if they found themselves in a Jewish minority situation.  This is rather like saying that if the ethnic cleansing lets them down they could get really nasty.

But anyway, Benjamin Pogrund was born and grew up in the old apartheid South Africa and now he has exercised his privilege as a Jew to live in occupied Palestine, aka, The State of Israel.  Here he is in The Guardian's Comment is Free section explaining how his personal background equips him for this rather tricky hasbara exercise:

I know about apartheid. I was born in South Africa and spent 26 years as a journalist specialising in reporting apartheid; I have also written several books about it. I only left South Africa because my newspaper, the Rand Daily Mail, of which I was then deputy editor, was closed down by its commercial owners under pressure from the government. We paid the price for being the country's leading voice against apartheid.
I also am familiar with Israel. I have lived in Jerusalem since 1997 and for more than 12 years was founder director of the Yakar Center for Social Concern whose purpose was to promote dialogue between Jews and Christians, Jews and Muslims, and Israelis and Palestinians. I was surprised by the survey's findings: could it really be true that most Jews in Israel support apartheid?
Ultimately he is saying that Israel isn't an apartheid state and that its Jewish population doesn't particularly want it to be and he should know because he lived under apartheid as a dissident working for a dissident newspaper. As luck would have it, Ben White has made quite a speciality out of exposing the apartheid nature of the State of Israel before and after the occupation of 1967 and here he is on the al Jazeera website explaining what Benjamin Pogrund ought to know. It is not addressed to Pogrund but it could be. Here's a little taster:

Firstly, a clarification about terminology. To talk about Israeli apartheid is not to suggest a precise equivalence with the policies of the historic regime in South Africa. Rather, apartheid is a crime under international law independent of any comparison (see hereherehere, and here). As former UN Special Rapporteur John Dugard put it in the foreword to my first book: "It is Israel's own version of a system that has been universally condemned."

It is impossible to understand this "system" without remembering that its foundations were laid by the ethnic cleansing that took place in the Nakba. With the establishment of Israel in 1948, up to 90 per cent of the Palestinians who would have been inside the new state were expelled, their properties confiscated, and their return prevented. As these refugees were denied citizenship and their right to return ignored, Israel passed legislation to open up the new borders to Jews everywhere.

 Benjamin Pogrund has some form for this defence of zionism using his former opposition to apartheid.

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