Sunday, February 11, 2007

Call apartheid what it is

Robert F. Boyd

Boyd, of Daleville, was a professor and science writer at Marquette University before his retirement.

We usually define genocide as the deliberate and systematic extermination of a cultural, political or racial group. We have read how millions were killed and more millions of the survivors were left emotionally scarred by the killings of relatives and friends. In most instances the destruction of the flesh was enhanced by laying waste to the spirit, i.e. a strategy of humiliation.

One technique is to displace the indigenous peoples from their land to which many have been connected for centuries. This prevents the displaced from making a living in addition to separating them from their heritage and identity as a people.

The second technique is called apartheid, i.e. the creation of a legal framework for segregation based on politics, race, religion or culture. In South Africa, for example, blacks became "guest laborers" forced to carry temporary work permits. Consequently, blacks weren't citizens in their own country. Most countries ignored the problem, which included the U.S. whose Southern segregation policy most closely resembled that of South Africa's.

Another unspoken-of apartheid system has been operating for 40 years -- the one the Israelis use to humiliate Palestinians. The silence to this conduct is not because some have not been courageous enough to expose its perpetrators. No, the word anti-Semitic is used by Israeli apologists to silence those who even dare to discuss the reality of Palestinian life under Israeli rule.

It appears not even those who have retired from public life are safe from the Israeli defenders, as Jimmy Carter can confirm after his most recently published book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid." The president's attackers are well aware of the effect a well-placed negative political or religious label can be. It is especially productive when the public is ill-informed and is willing to ignore or deny the truth when it is presented.

Inflammatory words used to stereotype an opponent are nothing new, as those of us who remember Ronald Reagan can attest. His portrayal of Democrats as tax-and-spend, bleeding-heart liberals became the cornerstone of Republican debate. We know these representations are useful because they distract us from the real issues.

Likewise, those who recklessly use the anti-Semitic card do so to divert the audience's attention from the real issue of Palestinian plight to the dissimilar issue of Jewish hatred. They are not the same.

Shame on the media, Congress and the so-called Christian majority in this country for labeling Carter as being anti-Semitic.

For those who believe the term "apartheid" should not be applied to the Israeli-Palestinian situation, I suggest you read Carter's book. If that doesn't convince you, I further recommend you read the Sept. 11, 2006, editorial "The Problem That Disappeared" in the leading Israeli newspaper Haaretz. It reads: "The apartheid regime in the territories remains intact; millions of Palestinians are living without rights, freedom of movement or a livelihood; under the yoke of Israeli occupation."

One can understand basking in the glory of your children's accomplishments, a sports team's victories or pride in your nation's positive accomplishments. But with that reveling comes a price: recognizing and acknowledging their faults. That means not falling into the trap of being an apologist, a condition that affects too many of us humans.

Many who support Israel, right or wrong, believe they are strengthening the Israeli cause. It is just the opposite. My wife's metaphor best describes the situation, "You can poke a sharp stick at a dog only so long before it bites you." Israel has been poking sticks at Palestinians for more than 40 years, and our government, with our tax money, has been supplying them with the sticks. This kind of humiliation has poisoned the psyche of not only the Palestinians but Muslims everywhere. If this kind of treatment doesn't stop, Israel and the United States will be in a conflagration with no end in sight.

Why is Israel afraid of being castigated as a practitioner of apartheid? Apartheid is a human rights violations. According to the 1949 Geneva convention, practices of apartheid are considered a war crime. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be solved only when Israel recognizes international law and the latter can begin only when the United States assumes the same responsibility.

I hope the media can begin the process of accurate and truthful reporting of this issue. Only when the public is provided the reality of the conflict can cooler heads prevail, and a resolution be forthcoming.


BlueFox said...

There is a lot of poking of sticks going on by various politicians and leaders. They don't seem to care about this planet. I think they care more about "saving face" than anything else. All I can say, is stand back. When these dogs start fightning and you are in the middle somewhere - your gana be dead. World War III is going to be big!

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