Israel’s acts against Palestinians exceed the worst of apartheid’s crimes, writes Iqbal Jassat

Building barriers to peace

Mar 31, 2010 10:07 PM | By Iqbal Jassat

The Big Read: I find the opinion piece by Benjamin Pogrund entitled “It still takes two to tango” (March 23) extraordinarily delusional.

This is to be expected ever since Pogrund migrated to Israel and commenced a public profile that many have come to regard as that of a spin-doctor for the Zionist regime.

Given his former past as a journalist constantly being confronted with hideous policies that sought to prescribe media practice under apartheid, I am disappointed to read that major Israeli policies which severely affected the civil liberties of Palestinians – whether in the occupied territories or in historic Palestine of 1948 – are treated as mere footnotes!

These are substantial issues for they represent the essence of the struggle for freedom: ethnic cleansing; apartheid; refugees; right of return; Jerusalem; political prisoners; military checkpoints; and the siege on Gaza.

Lamenting about the Oslo Accords, as Pogrund does, is futile. He ought to know that the facts surrounding this discredited process reveal how some Fatah elite were deceived to obtain its acceptance of Israel’s existence.

It’s no different to the wide-ranging schemes existing today whereby collaborators within Fatah are used as pawns to legitimise Israel’s brutal colonisation.

Allow me to remind Pogrund: During the Oslo period, Israeli settlements doubled in size and population from 200000 to 400000. During the same time as Israeli control was expanding, the Palestinian Authority was given the trappings of power over the shrinking and non-contiguous Palestinian land, being held out as the mythical future Palestinian State.

According to the Israeli Committee against Home Demolitions – the equivalent of South Africa’s ACTSTOP – since 1967 about 24145 Palestinian homes have been demolished, and more than 740 of these were demolished during the Oslo Peace Process.

I also find it disingenuous on his part to dismiss the apartheid comparison as “false”. Unfortunately for him, his flippant one-word dismissal will not efface from memory the terrible consequences of ethnic cleansing. Neither will it be embraced by the millions of Palestinians forced to face daily devastations flowing from apartheid policies. Nor will it prevent a host of courageous Jewish human rights activists and political commentators within the state from exposing the various layers of apartheid in Israel.

Apartheid in Israel is real! Discrimination and inequality arising from state policies impact unfairly on non-Jews that include Muslim and Christian Palestinians. They are the “other” whose access to education, work, healthcare and even marriage is either completely denied or at best severely restricted.

Many NGOs, whom I hope Pogrund would be familiar with, ranging from legal to social, have in their possession voluminous studies and documents detailing the ravages of Israeli apartheid.

I’m amused too at his reference to lessons from the anti-apartheid struggle. For instance about the need to make contact in order to create trust between whites and blacks, Pogrund claims that people “climbed over barriers and made friends”, yet ignores that this metaphor has a distinct negative connotation in the lives of Palestinians.

Herein lies the shocking naivety of Pogrund. Does he expect Palestinians to climb over these concrete monstrosities designed to snake through Palestine, adding more stolen land to Israel’s haul, and be shot in cold blood as suspected “terrorists”?

Instead of opposing this construction, which the South African government, to its credit, did, I am dismayed that Pogrund ignores it completely.

I have yet to read that the former deputy editor of the Rand Daily Mail has taken a public position against it. Theoretical rhetoric by his Yakar institution about whether “good fences make good neighbours” is a luxury that Palestinians struggling for liberty and justice can do without.

Though he concedes that Israelis are not allowed to cross into the Occupied Territories without permission and Palestinian entry to Israel is severely restricted, one wonders then why this ex-South African journalist fails to recognise the bitter legacy of apartheid in Israel?

While apartheid in South Africa imposed draconian measures to separate black and white, Israel applies worse tools from its military arsenal to keep Jews and Palestinians apart.

The ideological foundation of apartheid to divide and keep races and ethnic groups separated in a constellation of “Bantustans”, is the immoral rationale for what he advocates as the way out: “Two states”.

Pogrund’s challenge would be to acknowledge that his beloved Israel is not inclined to restore justice.

Instead it remains committed to pursue a single objective: Ethnic cleansing! Such barbarism, therefore, cannot be countenanced by any person seeking peace, equality and an end to oppression.

* Jassat is the chairman of the Media Review Network

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