Israel Is Not Apartheid

[Mail and Guardian-South Africa] David Hirsh - The Israel-apartheid analogy portrays Israel as an evil, like the South African apartheid regime, and so implies that Palestinian freedom requires the dismantling of Israel - an aspiration which the overwhelming majority of Jews strongly oppose - and with justification. The analogy is also a shortcut to the conclusion that Israelis should be boycotted. In truth, a mass movement for the exclusion of Jews, even if not all Jews, from the academic, cultural, sporting and economic life of humanity resonates with an altogether different memory from the boycott of white South Africa. There is a temptation to treat the Middle East as an empty vessel which we can fill with our own issues. In England thinking is often influenced by colonial guilt; in Germany Israel is understood through the lens of the Holocaust; in Ireland the Palestinians become Republicans and the Israelis Unionists. This kind of analytical self-centeredness is disrespectful to Palestinians and to Israelis; our thinking should not be about us but about them. We should be suspicious of a movement which seeks to appropriate the memory of the anti-apartheid struggle to do political work elsewhere. The apartheid analogy does not encourage us to think in terms of reconciliation and peace. Anti-Semitism has always thought of Jews as being decisive in everything bad that happens in the world. The apartheid analogy now tries to position Israel at the center of all that is threatening by building a global movement for its destruction. If we listen to Hamas we will be confronted by one key difference between Israel and apartheid. The Hamas Charter sows hatred of Jews and it promises a war against them to the finish. Veterans of the struggle speak with a moral authority when they talk about apartheid. It is important that they use that moral authority to help peace, not to single out the Jewish state as a moral evil on a global scale. The writer is a lecturer in sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London.

2008-10-06 01:00:00

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