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Comparison of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict with Apartheid South Africa

By Shimon Zachary Klein, from his blog on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict

Reproduced with the authors permission.

Comparison of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict with Apartheid South Africa

These days it is becoming very popular to compare the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict with apartheid South Africa prior to 1994. It is an odious comparison wreaked with many half-truths and clichés. Both situations are so different that when one examines the situation one can note major differences. The idea of using this comparison is to delegitimize Israel's right to exist within secure and recognized borders and to justify the Palestinian methods of terror in order to destroy Israel.

In apartheid South Africa prior to 1994 before the first democratic elections in South Africa 's history, there was this odious apartheid system. Its main purpose was to maintain white minority rule at all costs and to keep the black majority disenfranchised and without basic human rights. These blacks were a reservoir of cheap labour to operate the white economy and to ensure white prosperity at their expense. Blacks had suffered immense injustice under this system. White South African Government spending on black education and their general community welfare was minimal. The gap between the black situation then and slavery was not very large.

Social intercourse between whites and blacks in those days was a relationship between the white master and the black, underpaid servant. The situation for non-white people was intolerable and even cruel. It was against the law for Blacks to travel freely in the country of their birth except if they had a pass (dompas) from the white authorities. After 9.00 p.m., there was a curfew and blacks were forbidden in the streets after that dreaded hour in many towns. These people were not terrorists. They were not people who threatened the whites in any way. Denial of their basic human rights was commonplace. There was the dreaded Immorality Act, which prevented mixed marriages and sex beyond the colour bar. Those who contravened the law were imprisoned. There were separate public facilities for blacks and whites. Laws forbade blacks to eat in white restaurants. Separate transport facilities, which resulted in overcrowded conditions in buses and trains, were part of this evil, cruel system. It was common to see police officers abusing and ill treating blacks for not having their pass (identity or reference book) on their person when being searched. The police pushed them into the back of the police van, and drove them to the police station where they spent a night in the lock up cell. Usually their white employers bailed out these unfortunate persons when they produced a permit that they were in his employ legally. Blacks could not purchase property in white areas, as this was a contravention of the notorious Group Areas Act.

Anybody who opposed the apartheid system in those days – especially if he was black – was accused of being an agitator or communist. The police arrested him for 90 days without trial or recourse to a lawyer. This was increased later to 180 days detention and the police officer even had the power to keep a person imprisoned indefinitely without trial. These incidents occurred during the period of 1950 – 1990. Apartheid was at its zenith in those years. It was illegal to criticise the white government for its apartheid practices. There was limited criticism in those days by white opposition parties in parliament. However, the law controlled the limit of legal criticism. The abuse of prisoners for obtaining information was legal and encouraged. The police tortured the famous black leader, Steve Biko, to death when he was in prison for "anti-apartheid crimes" in 1977.

The majority of South African citizens was against apartheid and wanted to be part of a multi racial South Africa . The leaders of the liberation movements never spoke of destroying the white man and denying him rights in South Africa. Their fight was a justified fight for freedom and human rights as well as equality before the law.

If one were to contrast that with the situation in the Middle East, it is different. Israel 's Arab neighbours threatened her from the day of her establishment in 1948. There was never a desire to recognise Israel 's right to exist. What has this to do with South African style apartheid? Where is the comparison?

The blacks in their liberation struggle never targeted innocent people by suicide bombings or terror. There were sporadic incidents by some black extremists, but the mainstream liberation movements in South Africa went underground. Their leaders, who were living in exile, condemned this violence.

Perhaps, there may be a vague parallel of apartheid in the occupied territories since June 1967. The occupation is a complex problem that is the result of a war foisted onto Israel . Israel, being militarily superior, occupied territory in the Six Day War of June 1967 and made the fatal mistake of encouraging Jewish settlements there when it was obvious that there was no Arab partner who was willing to sign a peace treaty insuring the return of occupied territory as part of an overall peace agreement. The occupation and rule of the Palestinians is a tragic result of the wars that Israel fought for her survival/

However, had there been a willing partner on the Arab side who would come to terms with Israel's existence the seemingly "apartheid-like" situation would not have occurred. Israel never wished to conquer another people. This is contrary to the apartheid South African situation whereby the whites ruled and oppressed the blacks by force. They denied them their basic human rights. The intifida of 2000 resulted in a heavy spate of suicide violence against innocent Israelis, which resulted in heavy Israeli Army retaliation against armed Palestinian terrorists. The Palestinian terrorist groups had declared war on Israel and in a war; innocent people on both sides die and suffer.

The difference is that in South Africa both Whites and Blacks realized that their fate is dependent on one another. Both realised the importance of sitting down and negotiating a transitional period to end apartheid. Both sides were determined to rebuild the new democratic, multiracial South Africa . This feeling of mutual desire to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is lacking. The Palestinians have embarked on the road of terror and suicide bombings. This is their chosen path. It differs from the path that the freedom fighters in South Africa chose. Here there is no desire to come to terms with Israel 's existence that was always a "thorn" in Palestinian flesh. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have made this perfectly clear to the world. Their manifesto is no example in building an alternative democratic Palestinian society in a state replacing Israel.

Is there not a similarity to Nazism in the Hamas manifesto? Many Palestinian observers in the UN Security council accuse Israel of genocide. Is the Hamas Manifesto not promoting genocide of the Jewish People? Compare this to the ideals of those who opposed and fought the cruel racist regime of White South Africa during those evil, apartheid years. Their fight was a fight to attain equality for all South Africans irrespective of their skin colour. This is not the case in the Israel-Palestinian dispute. Here there is no desire in Palestinian street, as represented by Hamas and company, to come to terms with Israel's existence – let alone negotiate a peace treaty, which would eventually lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel . Genocide is more part of the lexicon of the Palestinian terrorist groups than in Israel . Perhaps from this point of view, there is a similarity between the Palestinians and the dominating whites of apartheid South Africa . Both peoples oppressed their citizens and denied them basic human rights. Both regimes were corrupt and were involved in feathering their own nests.

The similarity of apartheid South Africa to the Palestinian Authority, including their methods of torture of opponents, makes this comparison closer to the truth.

Where are human rights in the Arab countries? Where are woman's rights in Islamic Society? In Saudi Arabia , women are treated like chattels and do not even have the franchise. Why are the human rights organizations not taking any view on that?

Another very big difference between apartheid South Africa and Israel is the fact that there are no separate facilities for Jews and Arabs. Arab Israelis have equal rights and have the right to vote. There is no law preventing social mixing between the two peoples nor are there separate universities for Arabs and Israelis in Israel.

The comparison between Israel and apartheid South Africa shows total ignorance of the situation in both countries. After having been born and educated in apartheid South Africa and having opposed apartheid and racism all my life, I have come to realize how false and stupid this comparison really is. Much still remains to be done in the human rights area for Arab Israelis. There is some social descrimination in the job market and the situation is not as good as it could be. However, it is very far from the apartheid system of White South Africa where draconian laws were well set in place to separate blacks from whites.


Author biography

I was born in Cape Town, South Africa. Qualified as a pharmacist in 1972 at the Cape College for Advanced Technical Education in Cape Town. Arrived in Israel in October 1974. Married to Malka Tuitou and have 3 daughters, Limor (25 yrs), Ilanit (24 yrs) and Tohar (14 yrs). I am a practicing hospital pharmacist in Israel. My main interests are: writing commentaries on the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, politics, classical music, drug information and reading.



This article is (c) Shimon Zachary Klein.
You may copy this article to your own site provided it is reproduced in full and the author is acknowledged.
Links back to this copy or the original blog would be appreciated.

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