The unfolding story of Jewish nationalism, as expressed by the State of Israel, affects primarily the Palestinian Arab people who have been dispossessed and exiled and, when still in possession of their land, become victims of legal and social discrimination.
But the other victim is the Jewish people itself, both in Israel and in other countries of the so-called Jewish diaspora. That a people who had known great persecution can now have resorted to such a crude and unjust means for redressing the wrongs done to them is no less shameful as the wrongs which they themselves have suffered. As a Jew myself, I am ashamed for the suffering carried out by Israel against the Palestinian people in my name.
Without doubt the Israeli state has not committed genocide in the physical sense but the expulsion of Palestinians from their land and the slow strangulation of their national character does fall under the broader definition of this term. As such, the blot on Jewish history is acute – and one which will take generations to expunge.
With this in mind, one is appalled at how the international community allows the current extreme right wing Israeli government to push on blindly with its program of expansion on the West Bank, its inhuman siege on Gaza and its reckless alignment with oppressive governments in many parts of the world.
The nature of Israeli Apartheid while different in some respects to the South African version nevertheless corresponds to its fundamental character: racial/ethnic streaming in almost all facets of life, physical ghettoization based on ethnicity and civil, legal and economic discrimination based on ethnicity and religion. The victims of these oppressive features are Palestinian Arabs, and to a lesser degree, ‘brown’ Jews who immigrated to Israel from Arab and African countries.
The Israeli state makes no apology for this denial of equal rights and has instead declared its objective of ‘Judaizing’ the entire historic land mass of Palestine. Notwithstanding the bantustanization of the West Bank in the form of a compliant Palestinian Authority which polices its own people in the interest of the Occupation, the Israeli state constantly demonizes the Palestinian leadership and people as anti-Semitic and inherently violent. This leads to untenable stresses on Palestinian society and perpetuates the myth that “there is no one to talk to” on the Palestinian side.
Israel Apartheid Week puts a very necessary focus on Israel’s human rights abuses and exposes the charade of it being a democratic state in the same way that South African apartheid while denying the vast majority of basic rights claimed that title.
Having said this, words are not enough and the international BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement offers a non-violent and effective means to put pressure on the Israeli government and Jewish society in general to recognise Palestinian rights on both the individual and collective levels.
And that is why, the organization of Jewish South Africans that I belong to, the SA Jews for Palestine, in the tradition of the Hebrew prophets who condemned all injustice, no matter the source, stands with all those who condemn and confront the gross reality of Israeli occupation and racism.
Allan Kolski Horwitz is an activist and a member of South African Jews for a Free Palestine