The Jerusalem Post - August 24, 2004
FOR THE PALESTINIAN CAUSE
by Gerald Steinberg
The 1975 UN resolution equating Zionism with racism was the opening shot in the political war to dismember Israel through what Palestinian leaders refer to as "the South African strategy." The process has continued, most notably in the 2001 Durban conference against racism and in the propaganda campaign that attempts to label Israel's anti-terror barrier as an "apartheid wall."
On August 24, Haaretz reported that South African law professor John Dugard, "the special rapporteur for the United Nations on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories," told the UN General Assembly that "there is 'an apartheid regime' in the territories 'worse than the one that existed in South Africa.'"
Although the comparison between Israel and the apartheid regime that ruled South Africa is entirely fictitious, the demonization efforts are propelled by repeating and reinforcing this analogy. The attempt to label Israel as an illegitimate "apartheid state" is the embodiment of the new anti-Semitism that seeks to deny the Jewish people the right of equality and self-determination among the nations.
The South African strategy is not simply based on rhetoric, academic boycott calls, and waving placards at Israel-bashing demonstrations so common in Europe and elsewhere. There is a vast network of powerful non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty, Christian Aid, and their Palestinian and Israel Arab allies, that are the main channels for spreading the big lies of "war crimes" and "apartheid." Similarly, the repetition of the rhetoric of demonization by Palestinian and Arab officials in the media helps to propel this strategy.
Their long-term goal is to use the UN to impose economic sanctions on Israel, widening the Arab boycott to encompass much of the world. Economic measures contributed to the downfall of the real apartheid regime in South Africa -- thus the appeal of this approach. The recent exploitation of the UN to indict Israel for building a security barrier, followed by a pseudo-legal endorsement from the misnamed International Court of Justice, are important elements in this game plan. Next on the agenda will be the introduction of a UN resolution to impose sanctions, citing Israeli rejection of the ICJ advisory opinion.
In reality, the analogy and rhetoric are absurd, and they demean Black victims of the real apartheid regime in South Africa. Zionism and the revival of national sovereignty in the Jewish homeland are not manifestations of European colonialism, in contrast to the white settlers (Afrikans, English, and others) who created Johannesburg and Pretoria. And while Black labor was exploited in slavery-like conditions under apartheid, in contrast, Palestinians are dependent on Israeli employment due to their own internal corruption and economic failures. Israel does not benefit from cheap and unskilled Palestinian labor -- rather, Palestinian dependency is a drain on both societies.
Similarly, while South African apartheid was based on denial of sovereignty for the Black population, Israelis accepted the "two-state solution" from the beginning, including the 1947 UN partition plan. Arab citizens of Israel have the same democratic rights as Israelis, including full parliamentary representation and free speech -- in sharp contrast to the Blacks under apartheid, or minorities in most Arab countries.
The politicized claims of Israeli "apartheid" distort the historical record and denigrate the suffering of Black South African victims of the real thing.
Indeed, the racism and denial of legitimacy characteristic of apartheid are actually applicable to Arab and Islamic rejection of Jewish rights. In the Middle East and the rest of the world, Jews are a tiny and oppressed minority, struggling to maintain cultural identity and survive in a hostile and violent environment. But these basic facts are politically incorrect and inconsistent with the demonization of Israel.
The "Zionism is apartheid" propaganda is also used to justify Palestinian terrorist attacks and the efforts to deny Israelis the basic human right of self-defense against being ripped apart in bus and caf bombings. In effect, the relentless barrage of the term "apartheid wall" by Palestinian propagandists, including Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, UN representative Nasser Al-Kidwa, and NGOs such as B'tselem, Mossawa, Adallah, the ISM, seek to keep Israelis exposed to terror attacks.
By screaming "apartheid" at every opportunity, the leaders of this campaign have succeeded in burying data showing that this barrier has saved the lives of many Israelis. In today's immoral political doublespeak, protecting Israelis from terror has become "apartheid."
At the same time, while there are legitimate differences over the wisdom of Israeli settlement policy in the areas captured in 1967 in the wake of Arab aggression, these differences are also unrelated to the political rhetoric of "apartheid." Ethno-national disputes, occupation, and charges of discrimination against minorities are also part of the conflicts in Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Kosovo and Bosnia, Sri Lanka, India/Pakistan, etc., but the demonization campaign is unique to Israel.
Clearly, the South African strategy designed to propel the political war against Israel has many weaknesses. For instance, faced with a campus divestment campaign, Columbia University president Lee Bollinger called the comparison of Israel to apartheid South Africa "grotesque and offensive."
It is necessary to expose the big lie at the center of the apartheid campaign. Beyond exposing the absurdity of the charges against Israel, it is time to put Arab and Islamic racism -- as shown in Sudan and elsewhere -- at the center of the international agenda. In political warfare just as on the military battlefield, the best defense is a good offense.
The writer directs the Program on Conflict Management at Bar-Ilan University and is the editor of the NGO Monitor.