This week the Mail & Guardian (M&G) have published an unprecedented 7000 word article by their Jerusalem correspondent Chris McGreal comparing Israel with Apartheid South Africa. This mammoth piece unjustly maligns the Jewish State while at the same time belittles the suffering endured by millions of Black South Africans.
The article needs to be dealt with in its own right, but for now, I will deal with the appalling M&G editorial, entitled ‘Separate but Equal’, designed to introduce McGreal’s piece.
The editorial continues the now fashionable trend of preempting criticism from South African Jews by complaining in advance of the flood of ghastly letters the M&G will surely receive, accusing them of anti-Semitism. These kinds of letters, they claim, are a ploy by Jews particularly the South African Jewish Board of Deputies to stifle debate.
How ironic, for the M&G are guilty of what they accuse their Jewish readers of. It is the M&G that is stifling debate by only portraying the Palestinian narrative of the conflict. Do Jews not also have a right to give their perspective?
If the M&G truly believed in debate then they would have included a Jewish response. One such option could have been to publish Benjamin Pogrund’s counter to the McGreal article which was published in the M&G’s sister newspaper the Guardian. (Benjamin Pogrund was the editor of the liberal Rand Daily Mail newspaper during Apartheid. He now runs a centre for Jewish/Arab co-existence in Israel.) That would come closer to debate – although the Pogrund response comes nowhere close to 7000 words.
Here is the editorial-intro to the 7000 word McGreal article in which the M&G reveals it own biased prejudices.
|This week the Mail&Guardian publishes a 7 000 word article on the question of whether Israel can fairly be described as an apartheid state. In it The Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent Chris McGreal finds differences but also substantial parallels.|
No doubt this decision will provoke the same flood of letters and debate as when it was first published in The Guardian. No doubt some readers will accuse us of anti-Semitism for this publishing decsion as they have done on other occasions.
They are entirely off the mark. We believe that in the 21st Century the need for open debate and constructive criticism is more necessary than ever.
Our aim is firstly to open up debate on one of the world’s most intractable conflicts. In South Africa there are efforts to shut down this debate. The Jewish Board of Deputies believes articles like these which criticise Israeli policies amount to anti Semitism because they create conditions in which Israel’s legitimacy is questioned.
The M&G follows the South African government in believing that the only realistic hope of peace lies in creating viable sovereign states for both Palestinians and Jews. But minunum conditions for this are Israel’s recognition oft he Palestinians elected representatives followed by complete withdrawal frorn fhe occupied West Bank and the acceptance of East Jerusalem as the Palestmian capital. Even Hamas has set this as a bottom line for a “truce”.
The glare from their bias is burning. Are the Palestinians devoid of any responsibility? Israel has recognised the need for a Palestinian state. They signed the Road map to peace calling for a two state solution. The M&G makes all these demands of Israel but neglects to mention the most basic demand of all …the need to recognize the other sides fundamental right to exist. While Israel categorically recognises the Palestinian people, Hamas unashamedly refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist! How can the M&G expect us to believe that they are merely trying to create debate – when they place demands upon only Israel whilst Hamas shout from the rooftops that they will never recognise Israel?
I don’t quite get their statement “even Hamas has set this as a bottom line for a ‘truce’. Even Hamas? So even the “moderate” terrorists have set Israel’s’ relinquishment of all her negotiating assets as a bottom line for a truce? Not for a peace between equals – but for a “truce”. A cessation of hostilities until they are again able to build up their terrorist infrastructure and finally achieve their dreams of destroying Israel?
Perhaps one of our readers can have a go at explaining that statement. Otherwise I will have to write it off to the M&G’s “fevered hatred” account.
|Yet Israel refuses to speak to Hamas. Indeed it is trying to isolate it internationally while planning to starve Palestinians into switching their support to Fatah in a fresh election.|
Hamas is refusing to negotiate with Israel as well. The lack of logic is bewildering. Israel must speak to people who won’t acknowledge they exist?
|It continues to build houses in East Jerusalem and expand West Bank settlements. Israeli leader Ehud Olmert has announced that his govemment will unilaterally set borders that would annex more than half the West Bank.|
|Such measures are a guarantee of continued conflict with Palestinians and the Arab world. |
McGreal’s special report will spark much discussion for the parallels and differences that it finds between Israel and South Africa.
But we believe the time is right for Israelis and Palestinians to emulate elements of South Africa s political settlement: hard, honest talk and the ability to give up in order to gain.
The “give in order to gain” principle is the foundation for a future peace treaty. Both sides need to give up on their absolute dreams and focus on the absolute needs. “Needs” not perceived “rights”. But the M&G distorts this important principle by applying it only to Israel. A one-sided application of this principle hardens the line taken by both sides. The Palestinians won’t give up anything because they believe that they can hold out for everything. The Israelis won’t give up on anything because they believe they will lose everything.
Furthermore they ignore the fact that Israel has displayed the will to “give in order to gain” in 2000 when the Labour PM of Israel, Ehud Barak, agreed to withdraw from 97% of the disputed territories. He also agreed to split Jerusalem allowing for East Jerusalem to be the capital of the Palestinian state. These offers, represented by an acceptance of the Clinton Parameters in December 2000 were rejected outright by Yasser Arafat. View the maps as depicted by former US lead envoy to the Middle East, Dennis Ross.
But then again, when a newspaper allows opinion pieces that celebrate the death of Israelis, what more can you expect? Who will forget this piece in the M&G in 2002?
|Finally, let us now be honest. Who on the left did not feel a sense of Schadenfreude at the sight of the World Trade Centre towers crashing to the ground? It is the same instinct that now leads us to quietly celebrate the news of an Israeli casualty. In the end, oppression and its appeasement can bring out the "terrorist" in all of us.|
Tips on how to respond to these spurious "apartheid" accusations in reasoned letters will follow. For now, check out the IAS apartheid category - listed as an "answering apartheid accusations" link on the Bar-Ilan university's Abusing Apartheid website.