Israel, the next apartheid state – Mahir Ali

Wall dividing Israel and Palestine

Mahir Ali is an Australia-based journalist. He writes regularly for several Pakistani publications, including Newsline.“Like other presidents before him, Barack Obama has been keen to embellish his legacy with a lasting pact in the Middle East. Unfortunately, notwithstanding his lack of personal chemistry with Netanyahu and Tea Party-style racist hostility from Likudites everywhere, he has sought to do so by abandoning the progressive vibes he once imbibed from liberal Jewish and Palestinian friends and acquaintances.” – Mahir Ali

Nelson MandelaTwenty years ago, after watching a live transmission of Nelson Mandela’s inauguration as South Africa’s first post-apartheid president, I wrote an editorial for the Khaleej Times in which I speculated on what might have been going through Yasser Arafat’s mind as he witnessed the ceremony.

I imagined him wishing that the path to a Palestinian state could be as smooth and re­la­tively painless as the final phase of South Africa’s transition to an inclusive democracy.

My editor disagreed and insisted on dispensing with that portion of the editorial. He felt that the parallels were spurious. After all, the Oslo accords were less than a year old, and he thought a two-state solution would manifest itself in due course.

I wished he was right, but reserved my right to scepticism.

Archbishop Desmond TutuThe irrepressible archbishop Desmond Tutu was among the first public figures to articulate his impression of parallels between Israel’s attitude towards Palestinians and pre-enlightenment South Africa’s denigration of “kaffirs” [from the Muslim “kafir” for unbeliever].

In the past couple of decades it has become commonplace to refer to Israel’s pre­ferred path towards disengaging from the Occupied Territories as a recipe for Bantustans — the supposedly autonomous “homelands” set up to corral South African natives.

This is because each of the maps even the most relatively liberal Israeli governments have drawn up of a supposedly post-occupation scenario have envisaged a Palestine that would fall far short of a viable state.

Meanwhile, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, faced an inevitable backlash this week after stating in a leaked private conversation that a unitary Israel risked becoming an apartheid state.

This is a fairly mainstream opinion in Israel, given that it has been expressed by two former prime ministers — Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak. It’s anathema for Kerry to share their view, though; in the US, the retrograde Emergency Committee for Israel, chaired by the diehard neocon William Kristol, has already demanded that Barack Obama must dismiss his secretary of state.

Kerry’s remarks follow his futile mission, like so many secretaries of state before him, to breathe life into the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. It would be hard to enumerate the number of times such efforts have failed before.

None of them, though, has seriously deterred the US from essentially bankrolling Israel, particularly its military wing. This phenomenon is closely related to the strength of the Israel lobby in America — which, as Peter Beinart eloquently illustrates in his 2012 book The Crisis of Zionism, has been hijacked by short-sighted, narrow-minded Likudites.

Benjamin NetanyahuFrom Beinart’s self-professed Zionist viewpoint, Israel’s trend under Benjamin Netanyahu not only militates against the ideals of its founding fathers but poses a fatal threat to its democratic pretensions.

Netanyahu’s entirely predictable reaction to last week’s announcement of a unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas presaged the end of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, although it was already plain that the US-mediated process wasn’t going anywhere. But then, the Likud-led Israeli coalition has never had any intention of making the minimum concessions required for a two-state solution.

The more doggedly reactionary elements of that coalition make Hamas seem almost moderate by comparison — although one can be sure that Kerry’s mundane mention of apartheid will overshadow the demand by at least two of Netanyahu’s ministers that Israel should unilaterally proceed to annex 60% of the West Bank.

Like other presidents before him, Barack Obama has been keen to embellish his legacy with a lasting pact in the Middle East. Unfortunately, notwithstanding his lack of personal chemistry with Netanyahu and Tea Party-style racist hostility from Likudites everywhere, he has sought to do so by abandoning the progressive vibes he once imbibed from liberal Jewish and Palestinian friends and acquaintances.

Kerry, Abbas and  Obama in BethlehemMeanwhile, Mahmoud Abbas, the despondent president of the Palestinian Authority, has told a rabbi that he views the Holocaust as the 20th century’s most heinous crime against humanity.

That’s a worthy view, all the more so because it is so rarely expressed in the Arab world. It’s notable, though, that a Palestinian teacher who recently took his students on a tour of Auschwitz was widely excoriated, with some critics complaining he ought to have focused on the Nakba instead.

That pathetic view, though, emerges from an inability to recognise that monumental calamity as a cautionary tale against violating the basic rights of any segment of humanity, rather than a poor excuse for passing on the pain.

It is instructive to remember, though, as Primo Levi recalls in his searing Auschwitz memoir If This is a Man, that the term “used by the old ones of the [concentration] camp to describe the weak, the inept, those doomed to selection [ie extermination in the gas chambers]” was Muselmänner. – Dawn, 30 April 2014

» Mahir Ali writes a weekly column for Dawn that simultaneously also appears on famous left-wing site Znet. Presently based in Sydney, he is working with The Australian. Emailmahir.dawn@gmail.com

Wall dividing Israel and the West Bank

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