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CAUT Bulletin Archives

September 2009

Ill-founded claims

I’m shocked by Heinz Klatt’s letter “No apartheid in Palestine” (Bulletin, May 2009). Some of his statements are so ill-founded as to leave one wondering where to begin.

He reduces the political and moral wrong of apartheid South Africa to only a question of race. This implies segregation and deprivation of rights on grounds other than race are permissible. He further confuses collective and categorical segregation with individual segregation, especially the kind that occurs in most democracies under condi­tions of due process, such as limits to freedom of movement for prisoners, the infectiously sick in quarantine and dependent seniors in nursing homes.

Such muddled thinking leads to racist affirmations, such as “Palestinians have a penchant for targeting innocent civilians” and Palestinians should “behave like civilized people. So far they have consistently thwarted rather than supported the Israelis…” Similarly the Wall of Shame is simplistically justified as protecting Israel against the unci­vilized Palestinians, at least, “(e)very half-enlightened person knows full well that… Israel sees no other way to protect its citizens from criminal terrorist attacks.”

Minimal reading on the Israel-Palestine conflict reveals the separation wall is not just about “protecting Israelis.” It is about confiscating Palestinian land and transferring it to Israelis; confining Palestinians to a shrinking share of their former territory; creating ecological dis­asters; destroying ecosystems; spreading economic subversion by denying Palestinian farmers access to their land and adding Palestinian workers to the ranks of the unemployed; expanding Israel as a settler state by establishing more and more illegal settlements on Palestinian land and isolating and circumscribing Palestinian communities into Bantustans to facilitate access to Israeli settlements.

The wall and subsequent colonizer communities will transform East Jeru­salem from a largely Palestinian city to a largely Orthodox Jewish city with Palestinians increasingly isolated and marginalized.

Some 1,000 kilometers of modern highway networks, reserved mostly for Israelis, cut through valleys, separate farmers from their fields, children from schools, people from food and health services, and act as barriers between Israelis and Palestinians while further fragmenting Palestinian communities.

Israeli controlled water distribution allows settlers in colonies to use nearly seven times more water than the Pal­estinians; settlers irrigate 60 per cent of their arable land compared to 45 per cent in Israel and to only six per cent for Palestinian cultivated land in the West Bank.

The Palestinian population has its political problems and incoherence. But to equate “all Palestinians” to terrorists reflects a racist ideology which leaves little room for the more than one million Arabs and non-Jews currently living in Israel. Will they be moved behind the wall? The denial of their rights within Israel reflects a colonial mentality and domination.

According to Majid Al-Haj, vice-president and dean of research at the University of Haifa, Israel’s intolerance of Palestinians is explained largely by the nearly total absence of the Palestinian narrative in Israeli schools. Absence of this narrative from most Wes­tern media helps to explain the per­vasive racism, as expressed by Klatt, which is consistent with the notion that the ultimate goal of Israeli leadership is to appropriate all of Palestine without the Palestinians.

Wilfrid Denis
St. Thomas More College
University of Saskatchewan

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