You can be sure that when Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the United Nations General Assembly today, he will ramp up the rhetoric against Iran. With all this saber rattling, the plight of the Palestinians in the occupied territories has taken a back seat.
Now a new documentary called Roadmap to Apartheid by Ana Nogueira (a white South African) and Eron Davidson (a Jewish Israeli) returns that issue to the forefront as it explores the striking parallels between the former apartheid regime in South Africa and what is currently taking place in Israel and the occupied territories.
The film’s website is here and you can see the trailer.
The use of the word apartheid to describe the state that currently exists in the occupied territories was controversial when first uttered but is now routinely used because the parallels are so obvious and cannot be denied. Back in 1997, Nelson Mandela himself linked the two issues:
When in 1977, the United Nations passed the resolution inaugurating the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, it was asserting the recognition that injustice and gross human rights violations were being perpetrated in Palestine. In the same period, the UN took a strong stand against apartheid; and over the years, an international consensus was built, which helped to bring an end to this iniquitous system.
But we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians; without the resolution of conflicts in East Timor, the Sudan and other parts of the world.
One has to only look at a map of Israel and the occupied territories over time to see the steady encroachment of Israel into Palestinian lands.
If you take away the land that is now controlled by Israel, this is what you get.
The Palestinians have become squeezed into an archipelago of landlocked islands that require them to endure harsh Israeli security checkpoints to go from one region to another. The parallels with the Bantustan enclaves in apartheid–era South Africa are striking.
Back in July, Stephen M. Walt wrote about the fact that part of the blame for this appalling state of affairs has been the bogus narrative that we in the west have been fed.
One of the more enduring myths in the perennial debate on the Israel-Palestine conflict is the claim that Israel has always been interested in a fair and just peace, and that the only thing standing in the way of a deal is the Palestinians’ commitment to Israel’s destruction. This notion has been endlessly recycled by Israeli diplomats and by Israel’s defenders in the United States and elsewhere.
Of course, fair-minded analysts of the conflict have long known that this pernicious narrative was bogus. They knew that former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (who signed the Oslo Accords) never favored creating a viable Palestinian state (indeed, he explicitly said that a future Palestinian entity would be “less than a state.”) The Palestinians’ errors notwithstanding, they also understood that Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s offers at Camp David in 2000 — though more generous than his predecessors’ — still fell well short of a genuine two-state deal. But the idea that Israel sought peace above all else but lacked a genuine “partner for peace” has remained an enduring “explanation” for Oslo’s failure.
Over the past several weeks, however, the veil has fallen off almost completely. If you want to understand what’s really going on, here are a few things you need to read.
Read Walt’s full article to see why the two-state solution, long favored by many as the only way to resolve the issue, in now being seen as increasingly hopeless.
You cannot have what is an increasingly theocratic state that discriminates on the basis of race and religion and still maintain the institutions of democracy. Former Israeli speaker Avraham Burg warns of all the ominous signs that Israel’s democracy is fading
Israel arose as a secular, social democratic country inspired by Western European democracies. With time, however, its core values have become entirely different. Israel today is a religious, capitalist state. Its religiosity is defined by the most extreme Orthodox interpretations.
The winds of isolation and narrowness are blowing through Israel. Rude and arrogant power brokers, some of whom hold senior positions in government, exclude non-Jews from Israeli public spaces. Graffiti in the streets demonstrates their hidden dreams: a pure Israel with “no Arabs” and “no gentiles.” They do not notice what their exclusionary ideas are doing to Israel, to Judaism and to Jews in the diaspora. In the absence of a binding constitution, Israel has no real protection for its minorities or for their freedom of worship and expression.
If this trend continues, all vestiges of democracy will one day disappear, and Israel will become just another Middle Eastern theocracy. It will not be possible to define Israel as a democracy when a Jewish minority rules over a Palestinian majority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea — controlling millions of people without political rights or basic legal standing.
Christopher Hitchens said that religion poisons everything, and the situation in the Middle East provides incontrovertible evidence in support of that.