“Many have drawn comparisons between Israeli occupation and South African apartheid. Such comparisons are instructive, not only as a moral gauge but in terms of offering solutions to the current crisis.”
By Sonali Kolhatkar truthdig.com August 14, 2014
A Palestinian boy holds an umbrella as he rests in front of the damaged Nada Towers in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday. AP/Khalil Hamra
The temporary end to the bombing of Gaza has enabled Palestinian residents to slowly return to normal. But “normal” is defined by a seven-year-long blockade, endlessly frustrating checkpoints, the threat of beatings and arrest by Israeli police, and of course recovering from the loss of nearly 2,000 people and thousands of homes. Today 8-year-olds in Gaza have survived four brutal military operations and know only what it is like to live under siege.
Many have drawn comparisons between Israeli occupation and South African apartheid. Such comparisons are instructive, not only as a moral gauge but in terms of offering solutions to the current crisis.
Subscribe or “Follow” us on RiseUpTimes.org. Rise Up Times is also on Facebook! Check the Rise Up Times page for posts from this blog and more! “Like” our page today. Rise Up Times is also on Pinterest, Google+ and Tumblr. Find us on Twitter at Rise Up Times (@touchpeace).
As part of its negotiations with Palestinian factions in Egypt, Israel wants a complete disarmament of Hamas, the militant political organization that has become the lynchpin of Israeli claims about self-defense. (While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently repeated the knee-jerk statement that Hamas “call[s] for the destruction of Israel and they call for the killing of every Jew,” he and others ignore that Hamas has for years publicly accepted the right of Israel to exist within its 1967 borders.) But, for many Palestinians, Hamas’ actions amount to self-defense. If an elephant is trampling on a bee, is it not the right of the bee to sting?
In his struggle against apartheid, South African leader Nelson Mandela said in 1980, “Between the anvil of united mass action and the hammer of the armed struggle we shall crush apartheid and white minority racist rule.” I am no fan of Hamas, primarily because I am turned off by religious ideology as a basis for nationalism. Nor am I a fan of today’s African National Congress, which Mandela once led but today is post-apartheid South Africa’s ruling party, wracked by charges of corruption.
But is it not up to the oppressed to decide what form of resistance to take against their oppressor? Blaming only Hamas for starting the war, sustaining it, tossing largely ineffective rockets at Israel, breaking cease-fire agreements, bringing about the deaths of Palestinians by Israeli forces, using human shields, and any other accusation that sticks, is akin to blaming the ANC for daring to resist apartheid. Would we blame the bee for doing its absolute best to cripple the trampling elephant with its tiny sting?
The belligerence of American comic Joan Rivers, as seen in this video in which she talks to a reporter, expresses some of the absurdity of pro-Israeli logic. When asked to comment on the Palestinian death toll, Rivers blames Palestinians for electing Hamas to represent them, saying, “You can’t get rid of Hamas. You have to say you do not recognize them, they are terrorists. They were re-elected by a lot of stupid people who don’t even own a pencil. … At least the ones that were killed were the ones with very low IQs.”
In fact, the ANC was on the U.S.’ list of designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations until as recently as 2008. Hamas was added to that list in 1997.
In an interview Monday on Uprising, Noura Erakat, a human rights attorney, activist and assistant professor at George Mason University, said it was “a ridiculous idea” that “if you vote [in] an irresponsible party … you are all legitimate targets.” Erakat reminded us that Americans “voted for George W. Bush twice. He waged an illegal war in Iraq and deluded the entire international community. Would anybody therefore accept that Americans become legitimate targets? This is nonsensical. It’s racist. It’s dehumanizing. Joan Rivers should be shamed.”
Rivers also echoes the naked racism being openly embraced by certain supporters of Israel in recent weeks (read my earlier column about Israeli racism here). She tells the reporter in response to a question about Palestinian deaths, “You’re dead. You deserve to be dead. You started it. You started it. Don’t you dare make me feel sad about that.” Anyone who might use such invective against Jews would instantaneously and universally be denounced as anti-Semitic and racist, and rightly so. But when Arabs are the ones who are cast as collectively deserving of death there is far less danger of being blacklisted or shunned by American society.
Residents of Gaza have been so thoroughly devastated over the past month that any lull in bombing is obviously a relief. But Israeli negotiators and their U.S. benefactors want to completely disarm Hamas and demilitarize Gaza. In return, Gaza could go back to simply living under a brutal occupation. Compare this to the prospect of the white South African leadership insisting on disarming the ANC in exchange for maintaining the system of apartheid.
According to Erakat, the cease-fire negotiations obfuscate the fact that Israel is a long-term occupier of Gaza. She asserted, “We should really be talking about what are Israel’s long-term violations that need to be addressed. … Instead the way that it is framed is that Israel is protecting itself … and attempting to use international law to justify its colonial domination, where such rights do not exist for colonial powers.”
Just as it was the right of black South Africans to demand an end to apartheid while maintaining their right to resist as they saw fit, it is the right of Palestinians to demand an end to Israeli occupation. Erakat confirmed this, saying, “International laws give a people under occupation the right to use armed resistance to shake off foreign colonization.”
As Gaza’s residents return to the rubble of what was once their homes and villages, they may have a strong legal case to take Israel to the International Criminal Court for possible human rights violations and war crimes. The United Nations has already convened a panel to investigate allegations of war crimes in Gaza by Israel (and also by Hamas), especially given that several U.N. shelters and facilities housing refugees were hit during Operation Protective Edge. The question is, will such an investigation make a difference?