The Apartheid Analogy

occ.gifAs I have written elsewhere, the apartheid analogy for Israel is incredibly discomforting for those on the left who while condemnatory of the occupation and the country’s internal faults, still believe that there is a change the country can become a country for all, and not for some.
The apartheid analogy is destructive because it simplifies the particular circumstances of Israel/Palestine into the particular circumstances of South Africa, when plenty of other regimes have displayed the same tendencies, but have not attracted the similar amount of contemporary protest. History as Irving Howe said, is a bitch, and this is a particularly horrible historically based bitch.
It’s also disastrous for Israeli critics to start examining Jewish religious or nationalist texts for ‘proof’ of innate tendencies to apartheid because all too often, that ends up in outright racism, or at least as analysis that is beloved and made available by the extreme right (or loopy left). We know all too well that this is a practice that is also applied to create hate against Muslims.
Thus, how politically expedient is the use of the A-word in developing productive dialogue and action to come to an agreement with Israelis and less rejection amongst Diaspora Jewish), for a settlement based on at least 1967 borders? As Chomsky has suggested, there’s a big difference between feel-good politics and good politics. My view is that those throwing around the A-word are shooting themselves in the foot, much as it makes for good publicity and protests for people looking for a cause in broader cultural wars against oppression, globalization etc. It also completely alienates most people in the international Jewish community who have, like it or not, a connection to Israel. It would be far better to just call the regime brutal, oppressive and racist, without associating it with a South African ideology that was a hop step and a jump away from Nazism.
Of course, there may be some who really don’t care if Jews/Zionists/Israelis are happy or not, but they, in my view, are a mirror image of how Zionist chauvinists think. Two forms of exclusionism, that condemn the ‘other’ to eternal damnation are not productive.
Furthermore, the use of the A-word and claims that it is setting up a movement paralleling that in South Africa is presented with a fundamental flaw.
In South Africa, the anti-Apartheid movement reached out to all communities with a vision of a new, non-racial South Africa. But in the case of Israel=Apartheid, there really is not an attempt to say to Israelis (and diaspora Jews) that in fact, the system which oppresses Palestinians is one which they should join in to oppose, in partnership, so that both sides are ‘liberated’.
Of course, it may be claimed that it is not the responsibility of Palestinians to liberate their oppressors, but that was the brilliance of the struggle in South Africa–it did incorporate all people, oppressors, and members of the oppressor community, and eventually it went through a process of reconciliation.
Is the Palestinian national movement capable of creating a trans-communal movement that will engender the trust of Israelis and Jews? Will each side be prepared to compromise?
I don’t have an answer. I’m just posing some questions.

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