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CAUT Bulletin Archives

May 2009

No apartheid in Palestine

Randa Farah (Letters, April Bulletin) says “Israel is not really like pre-1994 apartheid South Africa, it is worse.” Furthermore, she quotes ANC parliamentarian Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge saying that “the absolute control of people’s lives, the lack of freedom of movement … was not the case in South Africa.”

It does not make sense to apply the apartheid label to the Mideast. What was wrong about apartheid in South Africa — morally and politically — was not that blacks were segregated and deprived of equal rights but that they had to suffer their fate because of their race. Racism, a prejudicial ideology, provided the motivation for the segregation, and that was repugnant.

Every society practices segregation by confining criminals in prisons, by quarantining the infectiously ill, by creating communities for the elderly, etc. It is the underlying motivation that makes one kind of segregation acceptable and another one reprehensible. The Berlin Wall was not in itself ob­jectionable, but the reason for it was, i.e., the determination to prevent people from fleeing a tyrannical communist regime.

Did Israel build the wall and establish countless checkpoints because of racism or totalitarian impulses? Every half-enlightened person knows full well that, after so many other less in­trusive methods have failed, Israel sees no other way to protect its citizens from criminal terrorist attacks. Palestinians have a penchant for targeting innocent civilians, the most odious crime of all. No one has ever claimed apar­theid in South Africa was established because of such odious behaviors by blacks.

Lastly, blacks in South Africa could do nothing to improve their lot. Pales­tinians, to the contrary, know they can change the situation tomorrow if they opt to behave like civilized people. So far they have consistently thwarted rather than supported the Israelis in every concession they have made. When Israel withdrew from Gaza it was not supported in any way, but hit harder by more attacks from the newly-liberated territory. Under such circumstances, how could Israel relax her rules?

Heinz Klatt
King’s University College at the
University of Western Ontario

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