Monday, July 29, 2013

Why Israel? The anatomy of Zionist apartheid. A South African perspective

Why IsraelThis review was first published in Middle East Monitor here.
Author: Suraya Dadoo and Firoz Osman
Paperback: 659 pages
Publisher: Porcupine Press
Language: English
ISBN-10: 978-1-920609-00-9

Zionist narrative is imbued with an incessant and feigned amazement at Israel being declared an apartheid state. The complaint is taken up by its staunch defenders and is unchallenged by international organisations such as the UN, whose chastisement of Israel does not incorporate the crippling sanctions bestowed on other nations. Within this culture of impunity, the South African experience and memory of apartheid creates a conspicuous alternative. Regarded as a pariah by most of the international community, apartheid in South Africa was globally challenged and ultimately destroyed. Israel's apartheid, acknowledged bluntly by former South African Prime Minister Henrik Verwoerd, pointed to the contrast between international outrage at apartheid in South Africa and the lenience with which Israel was treated, despite obvious proof of violations of international law.

'Why Israel? The Anatomy of Zionist Apartheid – a South African perspective' is a comprehensive treatise which challenges the meticulously constructed myths supporting Israel's violations of international law. The initial portrayal of similarities between the South African and Israeli regimes eventually halts, with Israel committing excessive atrocities against the Palestinian population, effectively perfecting the initial apartheid practice. Weaving the historical process in a manner which contributes to the current, dominant narrative, Suraya Dadoo and Firoz Osman have presented an international approach which departs from the South African experience of apartheid, exposing the Zionist government's excessive collective punishment against Palestinians and its trepidation at the growing activist movement, particularly the BDS movement, which derives inspiration from the South African anti-apartheid movement.

Language and symbolism manipulation have become central to Israel's security propaganda. The global Zionist lobby - epitomised by AIPAC and supported by the US Congress - is fundamental to controlling and shaping the international debate. Dadoo and Osman shed light upon the South African Zionist lobby, which adopts the AIPAC strategy of eliminating the historical context of the occupation by slandering anti-Zionist activists, intimidating journalists, instigating smear campaigns against activist groups such as Media Review Network and strives to impart Israel's positive image by offering free trips to Israel to journalists.

From a historical overview of the myths concerning the allegedly barren land, the erroneous interpretation of Jewish nationhood and the foundations of the state of Israel 'as fulfilment of Jewish scriptures' and Western guilt in relation to the Holocaust, the book charts the ruthless land dispossession, forced exile and massacres of Palestinian people leading to the loss of self-determination. Massacres were justified as essential to the building of the Jewish state, in Menachem Begin's own words, 'The massacres were not only justified but there would not have been a state of Israel without the victory at Deir Yasssin'.

Israel's justification for its apartheid practices have not been adequately challenged by international leaders and organisations, a fact which portrays international complicity in aiding the Zionist occupation. Israel's disregard for UN resolutions was earlier expressed by David Ben Gurion, who declared, "After we become a strong force we shall abolish partition and expand [Israel] to the whole of Palestine." Aided by Western acquiescence and support, Israel obtained the undeserved glorification of 'the only democracy in the Middle East,' based upon a selective and biased interpretation of Israel's political dynamics which is completely disassociated from the reality of apartheid. Worldwide economic and military collaboration with Israel have ensured a growing instability for Palestinians, whose interests are relegated to an afterthought as international governments seek to consolidate ties with the apartheid regime, thus furthering international law violations and upholding Israel's stale rhetoric of security concerns.

The Likud charter states that 'The Palestinians can run their lives freely in the framework of self-rule, but not as an independent and sovereign state. Thus, for example, in matters of foreign affairs, security, immigration and ecology, their activity shall be limited in accordance with imperatives of Israel's existence, security and national needs.'

The alleged preoccupation with security exposes the difference between dependent politics and armed resistance, namely Fatah and Hamas. The Ramallah based government's dependence upon economic security has severely exacerbated Palestinians' options for self-determination, as evidenced during an interview in 2012 when Mahmoud Abbas appeared to relinquish his right to return. "I visited Safed before once ... but I want to see Safed. It's my right to see it but not to live there. I am a refugee, but I am living in Ramallah. I believe that the West Bank and Gaza is Palestine and the other parts are Israel." On the other hand Hamas, its insistence upon armed resistance and scepticism regarding peace initiatives have been deconstructed into a symbol of terrorism propelled by anti-Semitism based upon linguistics in the Hamas Charter, a document which has not been referred to since the emergence of the organisation as a political power which led to its distinction between Zionists and Jews.

As the book moves towards the ramifications of international law, the reader has been allowed to grasp the severity of human rights violations committed by the occupying power in a manner which leaves no doubt as to the urgency of establishing accountability. The RToP established that Israel's rule amounts to an apartheid regime and drew attention to the US, the EU and the UN as accomplices of Israel's international law violations. Efforts by Palestinians to seek justice abroad are viewed as threatening stances by Israel, which expects its culture of impunity to transcend its fluid borders. Aided by Western and imperial manipulation of justice, Israel's ally status has proven to be fundamental in ensuring the continuity of its aberrant actions and flagrant international law violations. Israel's vast propaganda, a concoction of security concerns pertaining to the apartheid state, the encouragement of Islamophobia and the alleged Iranian threat have promoted the myth that Israel is bracing itself to conquer the same concerns of the West. Demography remains a contentious issue with regard to the alleged 'anti-Semitism' which, according to author Phyllis Chesler, extends also to the West. "Who or what can loosen the madness that has gripped the world and that threatens to annihilate the Jews and the West?"

Dadoo and Osman have created an invaluable reference illuminating the imperial dynamics of power resisting a just implementation of international law, and activist strategies which are shaping the struggle against Israeli apartheid, thus challenging the intentional apathy exhibited by most world leaders and international organisations. The South African experience of apartheid also serves as a testimony, asserting the obvious but disregarded fact. Unlike the initial apartheid regime Israel is entirely protected by its adherence to security rhetoric endorsed by world leaders who have embraced alienation willingly. As Israel's allies willingly betray international law, peace remains an ambiguous commodity, thrust into the equation only in relation to the two state solution which fails to address the inescapable reality. Only the dismantling of the apartheid state can facilitate the process of self-determination for Palestinians. - See more at:

Pretending democracy: Israel, an ethnocratic state

This review was first published in Middle East Monitor here.

Editor: Na'eem Jeenah
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Afro-Middle East Centre; First edition
Language: English ISBN-10: 0620540427

Public space in the state of Israel remains a contentious issue. The purported Jewish and democratic nature of the state – a political bargaining tool in order to obtain the coveted legitimacy from other significant countries, entrenches the reality of a settler and ethnocentric state. Pretending democracy: Israel, an ethnocratic State (AMEC, 2012), a collection of academic papers examining the reality and consequences for Palestinians, exposes an ethnocracy which has sought to promote an illusion of democracy to conceal a 'selective openness' which facilitates marginalisation of the indigenous population.

The book is an invaluable treatise which delves into the importance of recognising Palestinian legitimacy in order to achieve 'political and constitutional claim'. Deriving both similarities and contrasts from the apartheid in South Africa, it is observed that South Africa was more explicit in implementing apartheid. Israel continues to avail itself of democracy rhetoric in an attempt to distance itself from unofficial apartheid policy, despite ample proof with regard to dispossession, massacres, settler violence and deprivation of socio-economic rights. An overview of Israel's 1992 Basic Law ascertains Israel's ethnocratic nature, containing legal provisions allegedly safeguarding Israeli citizens, while enshrining the state's values within the banner of 'Jewish and democratic', thus promoting a Jewish cultural hegemony.

Through a comprehensive discussion of various complications, including Israel's distinction between citizenship and nationality, incongruous borders, the subjugation of ethnic groups, alleged biological historiography and the legitimate right to oppress, the authors reveal the foundations of a state based upon selective fragments of history which are manipulated in accordance with Zionist ideology. Shlomo Sand's contribution discusses how Jewish acknowledgment of subjugation to greater powers shifted the dynamics of group solidarity to ethnic dominance. "Zionism from its inception was an ethnocentric nationalist movement that firmly enclosed the historical people of its own invention, and banned any voluntary civil entry into the nation its platform began to design."

Through this chronological fragmentation, the absence of nationhood promoted the conquest of the 'imaginary homeland', marked by the Palestinian Nakba and the incessant onslaught of violations. Jewish self-determination could only be supported by European colonialism, hence the settler culture of European Jews in Palestinian territory. As Ze'ev Jabotisnsky had asserted, Israel's expansionist programme was based upon 'a permanent alliance with European colonies against all the Arabs in the Mediterranean'. The use of force became a necessary strategy to ensure a weakened resolve of Palestinian, also portraying Israel's condescending attitude towards colonialism an apartheid, which it deems a 'legitimate right'. Oren Yiftachel's paper discusses the manner in which Israel, together with globalisation, have exacerbated inequality and the contradictions within Zionist discourse in stressing the need for 'peace' and agreements while implementing measures which further Israel's expansion into Palestinian territory, thus justifying the occupying power's rhetoric of security concerns. The geographical fragmentation of Palestinian villages, the deprivation of rights for Bedouin in the Negev, and the insistence of invoking militant rhetoric as proof of anti-Semitism are described as 'calculated changes' by Yiftachel, who elaborates further upon Israel's self-portrayal of democracy as a means to legitimise ethnocracy. The extraction of the Jewish state from Palestinian history also distances the occupying power from geography – an approach taken by intellectuals sympathetic to Zionism which allows a negotiating space for overlooking the ramifications of colonialism. The allegedly 'temporary' characteristic of Israel's occupation, reinforced by security concerns, has proven vital to retain a constant manipulation of international law.

Israel's 'settler democracy', represented by the occupation and its allies as a 'representative democracy', thrives upon an artificial majority. The illegal hegemony clearly demonstrates a demographic reality. Recognising the right of return for Palestinians would propel the sustained Jewish majority into a minority group. Daryl Glaser argues that settlers have availed themselves of a rejectionist approach by enforcing a control system. Having 'persuaded' the West of democracy, Israeli narrative ensures colonial survival by expounding upon civil rights in the region, in turn shifting attention to the Jewish state's internal and selective democracy. As Glaser states, "Another way to think about Israel's 'at least we're democratic' defence is that it implies that democratic rule over one's self legitimates non-democratic rule over others. In effect, democracy legitimates dictatorship."

The transformation wrought by a misrepresentation of democracy transforms the masses into 'collective tyrants'. In the case of Israel, the reluctance to define territorial borders as well as Zionist adherents has ensured the improbability of stability, aided by imperial interests and guilt in manufacturing an acceptance of apartheid by playing upon the history of the Holocaust as justification for atrocities committed against Palestinians. The alleged vulnerability of Israel, warranting defence by extreme militarisation, has convinced a considerable percentage of the Jewish population that Zionism provides protection against a repetition of Holocaust crimes, according to Daniel Boyarin exhibiting their inability to survive without the reality of state violence in order to ensure continuity of their identity. This tendency is contrasted with the fact that migration from Israel surpasses the influx of new settlers, thus invalidating the argument of state protection as a necessity.

"A new Palestinian-Israeli nation cannot be imagined if it implies the legitimation of land theft as is the case in various parts of the West Bank and Israel, or of the deliberate disadvantaging and humiliation suffered by Palestinians for decades." The Zionist 'ownership' of Judaism has resulted into a settler usurpation of land, a concept which frames the Hamas struggle against Zionist legitimacy. Expansion has encompassed Palestinian land, with adjustments being carried out in order to enforce isolation and possible displacement of the indigenous population. Reconciliation remains distant if Israel consolidates the historic denial of Palestinians, which hinders any possibility of constructing the ideology of a nation if the homeland of Palestine remains occupied within a physical and philosophical context.