FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Apartheid’s Accidental Prophecy

The apartheid government of South Africa came to power in 1948, the same year that the State of Israel was created in Palestine. Having lived and witnessed the legacy of Zionism, I wonder sometimes if this shared birth year was not an accidental prophecy.

Both governments were born on the miserable premise of entitlement for a select group of people. This entitlement, to land rights and resources, spawned laws and societies that measured human worth by human irrelevancies. In the case of South Africa, it was skin color. In the case of Israel, it is religion. In both lands, the privilege accorded to the chosen group came at the expense and detriment of the natives–the ‘un-chosen.’

As if we were children of a lesser God, we were uprooted from our ancestral homes and piled like garbage into wretched refugee camps or exiled into drifting oblivion. As if they were not quite human, black souls of South Africa were dumped in abject ghettos. In the Holy Land, where religion has no physical features, everyone carries color-coded ID cards and drives cars with color-coded plates. That is how oppression discriminates there.

During the gist of Apartheid’s cruelty, Nobel Laureate and Archbishop Desmund Tutu went to the land of my mothers. He stood in Jerusalem on Christmas Day of 1989 and said before an audience “I am a black South African, and if I were to change the names, a description of what is happening in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank could describe events in South Africa.”

Last month, Desmund Tutu gave a lecture in Boston, where he affirmed Israel’s right to security, but added “What is not so understandable, not justified, is what it does to another people to guarantee its existence. I’ve been very distressed during my visits to the Holy Land; it reminds me so much of what happened to us, black people, in South Africa during the apartheid rule.”

Many have long pointed to the tragic parallels between Israel and Apartheid South Africa where one people cruelly control the lives and fate of another. In Hebron, where 600 Uzi-toting Jewish settlers live among 240,000 Palestinians, 85% of the water is diverted to the few Jewish settlers. The remainder is rationed among Palestinians. The reality is a cruel contrast between a people with swimming pools amidst green lawns and a people who must share bathing water.

The shared values of Zionism and Apartheid spurred the nostalgic reflection in Henry Katzew’s book, South Africa: A Country Without Friends, in which he said: “What is the difference between the way in which the Jewish people struggles to remain what it is in the midst of a non-Jewish population, and the way the Afrikaners try to stay what they are?” (Die Transvaler, quoted by R. Stevens in Zionism, South Africa and Apartheid.)

Most people no longer recall that Israel remained a close ally with South Africa when the world embarked on a global boycott against it. Few remember that the weapons used to mow down young boys in Soweto were supplied by the State of Israel.

And long after the injustice of Apartheid fell to its knees, Ehud Barak made an offer for a Palestinian State in the style of apartheid’s bantustans. He was widely hailed as “brave” and his offer as “far reaching.” But to those of us who saw the map or witnessed the reality, the “97% concession” was clearly apartheid, cleverly repackaged and renamed. His offer was a patchwork of isolated islands hemmed on all fronts by Jewish-only settlements and Jewish-only roads.

Author Breyten Breytenbach was dispatched in March to the occupied territories as part of a delegation from the International Parliament of Writers. Upon his return he wrote:

“I recently visited the occupied territories for the first time. And yes, I’m afraid they can reasonably be described as resembling Bantustans, reminiscent of the ghettoes and controlled camps of misery one knew in South Africa.”

Breytenbach, too, is familiar with apartheid. He spent seven years in prison under the “Terrorism Act” in South Africa-the same act under which Mandela was imprisoned.

Yet a brutal Israeli occupation endures long after apartheid collapsed and it builds tall barriers throughout the land, long after the world understood the wickedness of the Berlin Wall.

Israel’s ironic denial of Palestine’s right to life (repeated again this month by its ruling party) spurs the hearts that fought apartheid like few others.

In an open letter to Ariel Sharon Breyten wrote: “there can be no peace through the annihilation of the other, just as there is no paradise for the ‘martyr’ you have not broken the spirit of the Palestinian people.”

Desmund Tutu uttered the questions that baffle us all. “My heart aches,” he said. “Why are our memories so short? Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolition, in their own history so soon? Have they turned their backs on their profound and noble religious traditions? Have they forgotten that God cares deeply about the downtrodden?”

It makes my heart ache, too. The anger and helplessness I felt in Jenin and Ramallah subside now to a constant ache. But I keep looking to the final similarity between Zionism and Apartheid. The fruition of that accidental prophecy. The time when the subjugation of my people will end. When the institution of religious exclusivity will crumble in Palestine and Israel like apartheid did in South Africa.

Susan J. Abulhawa is a Palestinian living in Pennsylvania. She is the founder of Playgrounds for Palestine, a non-profit organization dedicated to building playgrounds and recreation areas for Palestinian children living under military occupation. To find out more about this vital project, visit: http://www.playgroundsforpalestine.org/

Susan can be contacted at: JABROLE@aol.com

This article originally appeared in Dissident Voice, a semi-regular newsletter dedicated to challenging the lies of the corporate press and the privileged classes it serves: dissidentvoice@earthlink.net

 

More articles by:

Susan Abulhawa is a bestselling novelist and essayist. Her new novel, The Blue Between Sky and Water, was released this year and simultaneously published in multiple languages, including German.

January 17, 2019
Stan Cox
That Green Growth at the Heart of the Green New Deal? It’s Malignant
David Schultz
Trump vs the Constitution: Why He Cannot Invoke the Emergencies Act to Build a Wall
Paul Cochrane
Europe’s Strategic Humanitarian Aid: Yemen vs. Syria
Tom Clifford
China: An Ancient Country, Getting Older
Greg Grandin
How Not to Build a “Great, Great Wall”
Ted Rall
Our Pointless, Very American Culture of Shame
John G. Russell
Just Another Brick in the Wall of Lies
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers Strike: Black Smoke Pouring Out of LAUSD Headquarters
Patrick Walker
Referendum 2020: A Green New Deal vs. Racist, Classist Climate Genocide
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Uniting for a Green New Deal
Matt Johnson
The Wall Already Exists — In Our Hearts and Minds
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Flailing will get More Desperate and More Dangerous
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party: Part Three
January 16, 2019
Patrick Bond
Jim Yong Kim’s Mixed Messages to the World Bank and the World
John Grant
Joe Biden, Crime Fighter from Hell
Alvaro Huerta
Brief History Notes on Mexican Immigration to the U.S.
Kenneth Surin
A Great Speaker of the UK’s House of Commons
Elizabeth Henderson
Why Sustainable Agriculture Should Support a Green New Deal
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion
Jeff Mackler
Trump’s Syria Exit Tweet Provokes Washington Panic
Barbara Nimri Aziz
How Long Can Nepal Blame Others for Its Woes?
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: When Just One Man Says, “No”
Cesar Chelala
Violence Against Women: A Pandemic No Longer Hidden
Kim C. Domenico
To Make a Vineyard of the Curse: Fate, Fatalism and Freedom
Dave Lindorff
Criminalizing BDS Trashes Free Speech & Association
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: The Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party: Part Two
Edward Curtin
A Gentrified Little Town Goes to Pot
January 15, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East
Howard Lisnoff
The Faux Political System by the Numbers
Lawrence Davidson
Amos Oz and the Real Israel
John W. Whitehead
Beware the Emergency State
John Laforge
Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness
Myles Hoenig
Labor in the Age of Trump
Jeff Cohen
Mainstream Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear
Dean Baker
Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?
George Ochenski
Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Glenn Sacks
On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years
Jonah Raskin
Love in a Cold War Climate
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party
January 14, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Tears of Justin Trudeau
Julia Stein
California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal
Dean Baker
Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail