[saymaListserv] "Against Israeli Apartheid" by Desmond Tutu & Ian Urbina

Michael Austin Shell bright_crow at mindspring.com
Sun Jun 30 15:55:43 JEST 2002


I believe that this is an extremely important essay.  Please consider 
sharing it with others.

Blessed Be,



COMMENT | July 15, 2002

Against Israeli Apartheid

The end of apartheid stands as one of the crowning accomplishments of the 
past century, but we would not have succeeded without the help of 
international pressurein particular the divestment movement of the 1980s. 
Over the past six months a similar movement has taken shape, this time 
aiming at an end to the Israeli occupation.

Divestment from apartheid South Africa was fought by ordinary people at the 
grassroots. Faithbased leaders informed their followers, union members 
pressured their companies' stockholders and consumers questioned their 
store owners. Students played an especially important role by compelling 
universities to change their portfolios. Eventually, institutions pulled 
the financial plug, and the South African government thought twice about 
its policies.

Similar moral and financial pressures on Israel are being mustered one 
person at a time. Students on more than forty US campuses are demanding a 
review of university investments in Israeli companies as well as in firms 
doing major business in Israel. From Berkeley to Ann Arbor, city councils 
have debated municipal divestment measures.

These tactics are not the only parallels to the struggle against apartheid. 
Yesterday's South African township dwellers can tell you about today's life 
in the occupied territories. To travel only blocks in his own homeland, a 
grandfather waits on the whim of a teenage soldier. More than an emergency 
is needed to get to a hospital; less than a crime earns a trip to jail. The 
lucky ones have a permit to leave their squalor to work in Israel's cities, 
but their luck runs out when security closes all checkpoints, paralyzing an 
entire people. The indignities, dependence and anger are all too familiar.

Many South Africans are beginning to recognize the parallels to what we 
went through. Ronnie Kasrils and Max Ozinsky, two Jewish heroes of the 
anti-apartheid struggle, recently published a letter titled "Not in My 
Name." Signed by several hundred other prominent Jewish South Africans, the 
letter drew an explicit analogy between apartheid and current Israeli 
policies. Mark Mathabane and Nelson Mandela have also pointed out the 
relevance of the South African experience.

To criticize the occupation is not to overlook Israel's unique strengths, 
just as protesting the Vietnam War did not imply ignoring the distinct 
freedoms and humanitarian accomplishments of the United States. In a region 
where repressive governments and unjust policies are the norm, Israel is 
certainly more democratic than its neighbors. This does not make 
dismantling the settlements any less a priority. Divestment from apartheid 
South Africa was certainly no less justified because there was repression 
elsewhere on the African continent. Aggression is no more palatable in the 
hands of a democratic power. Territorial ambition is equally illegal 
whether it occurs in slow motion, as with the Israeli settlers in the 
occupied territories, or in blitzkrieg fashion, as with the Iraqi tanks in 
Kuwait. The United States has a distinct responsibility to intervene in 
atrocities committed by its client states, and since Israel is the single 
largest recipient of US arms and foreign aid, an end to the occupation 
should be a top concern of all Americans.

Almost instinctively, the Jewish people have always been on the side of the 
voiceless. In their history, there is painful memory of massive roundups, 
house demolitions and collective punishment. In their scripture, there is 
acute empathy for the disfranchised. The occupation represents a dangerous 
and selective amnesia of the persecution from which these traditions were born.

Not everyone has forgotten, including some within the military. The growing 
Israeli refusenik movement evokes the small anti-conscription drive that 
helped turn the tide in apartheid South Africa. Several hundred decorated 
Israeli officers have refused to perform military service in the occupied 
territories. Those not already in prison have taken their message on the 
road to US synagogues and campuses, rightly arguing that Israel needs 
security, but that it will never have it as an occupying power. More than 
thirtyfive new settlements have been constructed in the past year. Each one 
is a step away from the safety deserved by the Israelis, and two steps away 
from the justice owed to the Palestinians.

If apartheid ended, so can the occupation, but the moral force and 
international pressure will have to be just as determined. The current 
divestment effort is the first, though certainly not the only, necessary 
move in that direction.


More information about the sayma mailing list