Apartheid Analogy Fails for West Bank and Gaza

Israel and Apartheid: The Big Lie
Apartheid Analogy Fails for West Bank and Gaza
Posted: August 29, 2005

Neither does the apartheid analogy hold water in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, despite the undoubted hardships which Palestinians face in their day-to-day lives. Given the sizeable number of Israelis who support a withdrawal from some or all of these areas, as well as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s decision to disengage from all settlements in Gaza and parts of the West Bank, it is abundantly clear that Israel does not want to indefinitely rule over the Palestinian population of these territories. Israel’s stance in that regard was confirmed by its decision to sign the Oslo Accords, which created the Palestinian Authority, and in its peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan.

  • In South Africa, around 12 million disenfranchised Blacks were crammed into Bantustans (impoverished autonomous homelands whose borders were designed to exclude economically viable land) to be used as a reservoir of cheap labor. Four of the 10 Bantustans were proclaimed ‘independent’ – meaning that residents lost even the handful of limited rights they had in South Africa – but were not recognized as such by foreign governments.
  • Israel could not be further from imposing a Bantustan solution on the Palestinians. Not only has the Israeli government and the majority of the Israeli public accepted the idea of a Palestinian State but – as Israel has made clear in the past – genuine guarantees of security will result in important territorial concessions. Israel’s goal is to achieve both its own security and Palestinian self-determination. In direct contrast to the Bantustans, which were frozen in a legal no-man’s land, a Palestinian state will enjoy both international recognition and generous aid: recent pledges include $3 billion from the World Bank alone. Rather than being ruled by a puppet leadership appointed by Israel, the Palestinians elect their own leaders. Finally, it should be recalled that apartheid South Africa intended to deport all of its Black citizens into the Bantustans; in the case of Israel’s Arab citizens, such an idea is abhorrent to the vast majority of Israelis.
  • The importance of Israel’s security was noted by Nelson Mandela, the symbol of the struggle against apartheid, who remarked, in 1999, that he could not conceive of Israeli withdrawal ‘if Arab states do not recognize Israel within secure borders.

The world is rightly concerned about the humanitarian impact of checkpoints and curfews on the Palestinians. Such measures are driven not by a racist ideology, but, in the main, by legitimate security concerns on Israel’s part. These measures, along with the security fence, are the consequence of a campaign of terror by Palestinian groups such as Hamas and the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade, which, in deliberately targeting civilians, have claimed over 1,000 innocent Israeli lives.

Some analysts argue that Israeli policy is also informed by its need to secure a Jewish majority within defined borders. It is perhaps more accurate to say that Israel wishes to safeguard its democratic character and its status as a haven for the Jewish people. Permanent occupation of another people who wish to rule themselves is, therefore, not an option, which is why Israel has committed itself to disengagement and future negotiations.