, commemorated in South Africa this week provided a lucid and golden opportunity to highlight Israeli strong-arming, and South Africa’s opposition party stance towards human rights violations in Palestine.
The call to paint over a wall after being titled hate-speech by DA counsellor Avrille Marcia Coen, though denied as the DA stance toward freedom of expression, proves the effectiveness of passive resistance in the form of art, journalism, boycotts and visible moral support. Often touted as white noise, passive resistance is the proverbial thorn in the claw of the bear, the David against Goliath.
Further, contrary to popular belief, respectful confrontational dialogue is not always a bad thing. Rather than tension and misgivings simmering under the surface, the DA’s explicitness in their ‘neutral’ stance toward the struggle of the Palestinian people, a struggle that is not religious, but universal, South African voters are in the powerful position to force the Democratic Alliance to alter their policy toward neutrality. Fence sitting is an overt way to rationalize Israel's racist laws and practices.
Those who oppose Israel being called an apartheid state say that Israel is no way representative of what South African’s underwent during apartheid. However, as mentioned by Judy Rebick, a country doesn't have to be exactly like South Africa to be characterized as an apartheid state, any more than a fascist state has to be exactly like Italy in the 1930's. If there are certain characteristics that define apartheid, Israel meets the vast majority of them. The United Nations General Assembly passed the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, which provides a useful definition that includes the phrase, "an institutionalised regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group."
The South African government led by the ANC has taken a clear stance in their support of the freedom of the Palestinian people. "Israel came to resemble more and more apartheid South Africa at its zenith -- even surpassing its brutality, house demolitions, removal of communities, targeted assassinations, massacres, imprisonment and torture of its opponents, collective punishment and the aggression against neighbouring states." - Former South African Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils from a speech at Israel Apartheid Week 2009. "They support Zionism, a version of global racist domination and apartheid based on the doctrine that Jews are superior to Arabs and therefore have a right to oppress them and occupy their country." - COSATU President, Sidumo Dlamini.
Though a solution to the conflict may not be imminent, a stance of denial as the DA has taken is insulting and counterintuitive. Neutrality means that nothing should ever have been said about the treatment of Australia's Aboriginals, the imperialists against the USA's African’s and Hispanics, the Tutsi’s of Rwanda (directly influenced by German and Belgian colonizers), the Kashmiri by Indian armies, the Kurds of Turkey, the Uighurs of China, the Tamils in Sri Lanka as a few examples. Sitting on the fence means we look on, in denial of the power we have as South Africans (emerging from a history of oppression) to prevent bullies from pummeling tiny children (who defend themselves) on bloody playgrounds.
Statements put forward by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and the DA’s Haniff Hoosen that this issue forces divide between religious groups in South Africa, diverts from the issue at hand. Whenever did the mere threat of division in dialogue and opinion force us away from Justice? This tacit logic indicates we have an infantile approach, unable to distinguish between apartheid Zionism and the Jewish religion, which is Abrahamic like our own. The Hindu killer of Mahatma Gandhi sought to justify his assassination on the argument that Gandhi in his support for a separate state for Muslims was responsible for the creation of Pakistan, and that the belligerence of Muslims was a result of Gandhi’s policy of appeasement. These distortions misguide the gullible just as the ‘threat’ of conflict does. The proposal for partition of the country via (colonial meddling) and violent reactions was hardly the role of Gandhi alone. Yet, Gandhi’s taking on a fast to death to promote what he believed in made him the Human Rights hero we laud today.
Another argument put forward is that by most standards, Israel has the best Human Rights record in the Mideast. In Israel, Israeli Muslim Arabs have the right to vote, they are represented in the legislature and they are represented in the judiciary. There are no laws that say Israeli Arabs cannot be employed in any professions and there are no civil laws preventing intermarriage as existed in apartheid South Africa. One answer to the following is that "Israel is more democratic within its own borders than other states in the Middle East, especially if you are Jewish. For non-Jews, and especially for Palestinians in Israel, it is another story. By the same means one could have argued that apartheid South Africa was more democratic than many African countries, if you were white.”
Israeli Apartheid week has created awareness and on-going dialogue as intended. As South African Muslim’s we need continue a proactive stance toward condemning all injustice worldwide, and not only the Palestinian cause that is close to our religious beliefs. Aptly mentioned by Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892-1984):
“First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
Umm Abdillah - Radio Islam Programming
March 13, 2013