Tisetso Magama | 14 March 2017
This article was originally published in the Pretoria News newspaper on Tuesday 14 March

As he left office, President Obama had the guts, it would seem, to speak frankly about Israel and Palestine: “I don’t see how this gets resolved in a way that maintains Israel in a way that is both Jewish and a democracy. Because if you do not have two states, then, in some form of fashion, you are extending an occupation. Functionally, you end up having one state in which millions of [Palestinian] people are disenfranchised and operate as second-class occupants or residents. You can’t even call them citizens necessarily. The growth of the [Israeli] settlements are creating a reality on the ground that increasingly will make a two-state solution impossible.”

Obama’s conclusion is that Israel is not making the two state solution possible. Perhaps the one state solution should be considered? For far too long has the world been made to believe that Israelis and Palestinians are on the road to peace which will be achieved with the establishment of two states – Israel and Palestine – in historic Palestine (Israel and the illegally occupied territories). Since the inception of the Oslo Accords in the 1990s the idea of two states living peacefully side by side has become understood as the way forward – but are we really going forward?

On its face there is little that is objectionable of the support for two separate states. After decades of a brutal Israeli occupation, Palestinians are desperate to be free from their Israeli occupiers. And, Israelis, – or at least the Israeli state – certainly wants to maintain an exclusively ethnic and religious state (this is problematic but it is a discussion for another time).

What is remarkable about this line of political and international relations spinning is that it is simply not true. Whatever Israeli politicians may say about how committed they are to peace and a two state solution, this is Orwellian speak. The only consistent ideology underpinning Israeli conduct and laws is the most amount of land for Israel with the least amount of Palestinians on it – the most amount of land for the colonizer with the least amount of natives.

This is not a new dark side to Israel. It has always been there since before its inception in 1948 (yes, the State of Israel, which is different to the Biblical Land of Israel, was only created in the 1940s – the problem is not an age old one but a modern settler colonial problem that started half a century ago).

To the world, Israel talked of peace and two states but in reality it acted otherwise. Now, with uncritical continued support from its western friends, and especially in the age of Trump, Israel has become more emboldened in acting with impunity.

The ideology underpinning Israel is not a democracy for all but a democracy for a few. It is not peace but theft, oppression, colonialism and Apartheid. It is not two states based on the 1967 borders but one ethnically and religiously exclusive state which controls and discriminates against people who are not part of that group. It is the classic colonial trope: democracy and liberty in the home country, freedom and preferential treatment for settlers in the colonized territory and oppression, violence and incarceration for the indigenous population of the colonized land.

It is time for the international community to call out the lie and not to pretend that all’s well with the peace process and the two state theory. Decades of blatant occupation, incarceration without trial, torture and abuse, confiscation of land, discriminatory treatment, violence, harassment, military courts for Palestinian civilians, unequal resource allocation, water theft and mobility limitation are not the signs of a democracy seeking peace and self-determination for all people but rather an apartheid and ethnically / religiously exclusive state that exists on the exclusion of others.

One state, two state or many states – the solution for Palestine-Israel conflict lies with those who reside there – this should be our starting point. The oppressed Palestinians must provide direction for their own liberation. For now, the most urgent need is for us to act in concert to help bring an end to the brutal oppression and denial of the basic human rights and dignity of Palestinians. One concrete way of giving solidarity it to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel campaign. We, South Africans, more than anyone else, know the power of this non-violent strategy.

It is to be expected that, in a feeble attempt at obfuscation of the fundamental human rights issues that underlie the conflict, the Israeli Zionist Apartheid apologists will “cry wolf” and label the call for BDS as “anti-Semitic and an attempt to delegitimize Israel.” This propaganda act is straight from the Israeli state’s “Hasbara” playbook, an Israeli government propaganda strategy to attack all critics of Israel’s human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The Israeli propaganda war is not dissimilar to what South Africans were subjected to, it was a strategy whose hallmarks were “lie, buy, bribe, bluff and threaten” – culminating in the infamous “Muldergate” information scandal.

South Africans, possibly more than any other people in the latter half of the previous century, owes a great debt of gratitude to the international community for the freedoms we enjoy. For we are ourselves beneficiaries of the support of the international community, including Palestinians whose experiences mirror our own in many ways. History and posterity has bestowed upon us the obligation to take up the cudgels of the fight for freedom and global justice.

It is instructive that when western governments and their proxies did not support South Africa’s liberation struggle, in the same way that they fail to fully support the Palestinian cause for self- determination, it was ordinary men and women in foreign lands who embarked on a sustained campaign of countering Apartheid South Africa’s impunity with boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS). This tactic, in concert with others, forced the Apartheid government to the negotiating table- signalling the beginning of the end of Apartheid and the creation of a single democratic state for all people of this land.
The call to support BDS is therefore a call to dispense of our humanist and internationalist duties to bring an end to the suffering of a people that has gone on for almost 70 years.

Tisetso Magama is the former chairperson of Parliament’s international relations and cooperation portfolio committee and board member of BDS South Africa