Quotes from South African sources are often used to support the comparison between Israel and apartheid South Africa. Some of the quotes are real, such as those from South Africa's loveable Archbishop Desmond Tutu; and some of them are fabricated, such as the fraudulent quotes attributed to Nelson Mandela.
Most people in prestigious positions often fall victim to their own importance, casting judgements on Israel before getting to 'know' Israel. Desmond Tutu fell victim to this. He denounced Israel as an apartheid state after a short visit to the region where he was hosted by Palestinian delegates. In fact, it is a little known fact that when he spoke for the first time in Bethlehem he did so under a PLO banner on which Arabic writing read 'first the Saturday people, then the Sunday people.'
One person who has perhaps gotten to 'know' Israel is former Umkhonto we Sizwe commander Major General Fumanikile Quiba. Since 2003 General Quiba has been the South African ambassador to Israel. Joel Pollak recently interviewed Major General Quiba. Pollak has published a quick quote-let from Major General Quiba where Quiba emphasises how his objective thinking has led to a paradigm shift about how he sees Israel.
|“Firstly, let's deal with one issue. Where people would say, you know, my belief was that Israel is the extension of the racist, white South Africa. Because that was my understanding before I came here. I regarded Jews as whites. Purely whites. But when I came here I discovered that, no, these guys are not purely whites. They are mixed. It's some kind of a, shall we say, a melting pot. You've got people from all over the world. You've got Indian Jews, you've got African Jews, you've got even Chinese Jews, right?”|
That forms the basis for my third and final entry in this recent series on debunking the illegitimate Israel apartheid slur. Whilst my last entry drew lessons from apartheid South Africa that could be applied to the conflict, this entry focuses on some key differences between the nature of apartheid South Africa and the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. I have chosen to focus on physical segragation and mental segragation in terms one's ability to control his or her own destiny (i.e. labour and education).
Segregation in South Africa was driven by an ideology of racist supremacy. In Israel however, segregation was created by a legal UN partition that sought to create two states for two separate peoples.
The Bantustan borders were arbitrarily constructed by the white minority, creating numerous superficial and illegal constructs. In contrast, the borders between Israel and the Palestinians are the result of the 1947 UN partition resolution 181 and the subsequent war that the Arabs launched against Israel after rejecting the partition.
Segregation between Israelis and Palestinians has since been enhanced by a security barrier (part wall, part fence), that has been created as a practical response to Palestinian terrorism. In South Africa a physical barrier was never required. The "unseen power of apartheid" (quote from the apartheid museum) is what kept black Africans from spilling over into the white preserve.
In South Africa Bantustans became the tool of grand apartheid giving blacks a foreign citizenship so that they didn't have a claim to South African suffrage. In Israel, Arab citizens have the vote.
Whilst the 1947 partition between a Jewish and Palestinian state was legally recognised by the United Nations, the Bantustans were never recognised.
Although international opinion tolerates the apartheid 'Bantustans' comparison this is typically empty window dressing designed for sensationalism (as Jimmy Carter basically admits). The actions of the international community are in contrast to the tacit acceptance of the apartheid comparison. I'll tell you why.
The international community never accepted the idea of South African apartheid and its heedless Bantustans. When the apartheid government tried to admit Transkei as a sovereign nation to the UN, the international community uniformly rejected this admission which would have legitimised the Bantustans.
Yet no one argues that representatives of 'Palestine' at the UN legitimise 'Israeli apartheid'.
Also, as opposed to the outright rejection of South African apartheid, the international community has formally accepted the 2 state settlement as a model to end the Israeli Palestinian conflict.
The Bantu Education act wrought complete control over the black education system into the hands of the government. Black education was designed to control the destiny of the native Africans - to ensure that they became nothing more than a pool of manual labour for whites – "hewers of wood and drawers of water" as the government put it.
In Israel Arabs have a relatively independent education system. They can control their destiny within Israel by designing their own education systems should they so wish. They can however, (and many do) attend Hebrew schools.
In the Palestinian territories the Palestinian Authority and not Israel, controls Palestinian education.
South Africa created rules ensuring that whites would have cheap access to black labour -- and they were dependant on this labour. In Israel, Israelis are not dependant on Arab or Palestinian labour. In fact, one of the pillars of Ben Gurion's Zionism centred around the idea of Jewish labour – Jews building up their own land.
And so it goes. These arguments, I realise, have zero propaganda value. The apartheid accusations will continue to be made. It is a powerful tool of demonisation that allows people to easily pick sides without requiring them to think. Like the South African ambassador, I can only hope that people remain objective and remember what apartheid really was.
Previous items in this apartheid series
IAS label - apartheid