Friday, May 06, 2005
Opinion piece, Nov 2004
Israel: Apartheidic, Undemocratic, Unjust, and Denialist
Distressed as I am at the number of articles I have encountered in the past two months or so attempting to make truth-claims about Israeli democracy and justice and to void all comparisons with apartheid South Africa, I am glad that both sides have the opportunity to express their beliefs - something that is often not possible in Israel, at least not without grave consequences. Unless you are Jewish. Unless you are the “right kind” of Jew - politically, religiously, and racially. It is an undeniable fact that there is much discrimination in Israel, not only against Arabs, but also against non-Ashkenazi Jews. It has been established that Arab schools do not receive the proportional funding that they are entitled to. One only need look at reports condemning such intentionally designed differences in order to realise that Israel is one of the most unjust, racist, and undemocratic states in the Middle East.
I am speaking as an English-Armenian citizen of Lebanon. I am speaking as someone whose great-grandparents were given refuge by Kurds, Bedouins, Syrians, and Lebanese, during and after the Armenian Genocide that was planned and perpetrated by the Turkish government and army during WWI. I am speaking as a person who has lived in Lebanon almost all his life and not once treated differently or unequally, heard any racist statement, let alone being physically threatened. It seems a bit odd to me, given all the facts mentioned above, that Israel can be called a democratic, non-racist, even non-apartheidic state by the children or grandchildren of those who went through a similar fate as my great-grandmother. And here I am not even talking about the large number of apartheid-supporting, massacre-endorsing Israelis who have sold their conscience to bigotry. If you follow Israeli news, you must have heard of the Israeli officer who was reprimanded for having thrown his yarmulke on the ground after a soldier had said that “he would be willing to wipe an entire Palestinian village off the face of the Earth in order to save one Jewish life” (Ha’aretz, Nov. 17, 2004). Granted that the view of one person should not be taken as the view of an entire group of people, but the real issue here is not what was said, but what was done; in other words, who was reprimanded by the Israeli institution and who was not (and this would then give us an idea as to whether or not Israel is a racist state capable of adopting apartheid policies). The soldier who uttered that statement was not reprimanded. On the contrary, it seems to me that Israel encourages such statements by reprimanding those who argue against it on the grounds of morality as well as religion.
Does Israeli conscience apply only to Jewish suffering? Are we to divide the suffering of each group of people, thereby taking them out of the realm of “human suffering” and placing them into the realm of “racial suffering” or “religious suffering”? Wouldn’t this be the equivalent of neo-Nazist terms of superiority and inferiority: whether one group deserved to suffer and the other did not? Is Jewish suffering somehow more pressing and important than Palestinian suffering? Are Jews more human than Palestinians? Should Israelis be over and above any criticism no matter what they do (by virtue of their Jewish identity) - even if that is ethnic cleansing as ascertained by world opinion and various human rights organisations and in fact many Jews as well? Should we excuse the Israeli denial of the Armenian Holocaust? Would or should Armenia get away if it denies the Jewish Holocaust for “diplomatic and economic ties” with the enemies of Israel? Of course, Armenia does not deny the Jewish Holocaust. There is a level of morality that the Armenian government has adopted, one that is surprisingly (or should I say unsurprisingly, given the acts of ethnic cleansing and apartheid that Israel has been committing for the past 56 years) not adopted by Israel. To quote Shimon Peres (acting Foreign Minister of Israel at the time), “we reject attempts to create a similarity between the Holocaust and the Armenian allegations. Nothing similar to the Holocaust occurred. It is a tragedy what the Armenians went through, but not a genocide.” In other words, Mr. Peres is arguing that if it is not similar to the Holocaust, then it is not genocide. Should we see gas chambers, execution squads, deportation trains, and liquidation camps simultaneously in order to call it genocide? That seems to be a very narrow (and even Jew-centric) definition of genocide, given that almost everyone agrees that genocide is not about gas chambers, but about an attempt to wipe out an entire race or ethnicity. Statements such as the one by Peres are uttered by the Israeli government without any reserve. After all, isn’t Israel above the law, above any and all criticism? How dare we criticise Israelis, for they are supposed to have higher moral standards due to what their parents went through during WWII. However, such “higher moral standards” we are yet to see from Israel. In fact, proofs abound that the contrary is true - that Israel is an undemocratic, unjust, denialist, and apartheid state. Its constant denial of its racist policies and its massacre of Palestinian civilians is proof that something is horribly wrong.
There is something wrong with the Zionist Israeli or pro-Israeli conscience. This certainly isn’t the “Jewish state” that anyone had in mind. It has been Nazified. Jewish Palestinian (or Palestinian Jew) Uri Davis argues that Zionism has been transformed from the idea of a bi-national state with Jewish identity into an apartheid state; now this state lives off its “solutions” to the “demographic threat.” And doesn’t the latter term sound horribly similar to the “final solution”... But for Jewish Israelis and the Jewish supporters of the state of Israel, such terms are part of the daily reality and the essentials of survival for the “Jewish state” (and doesn't the idea of "living space" for Jews sound horribly similar to Hitler's "lebensraum", "living space" for Germans? Sadly, this is a reminder that moral codes and the terms that contain them are written by the victors, rather than being a product of an objective, absolutist attitude that does not differentiate between the mass murder of one ethnicity and that of another); it does not “ring a bell.” It does not make them realise that they have descended so low that many feel the need to call them the Nazis of the 21st century. A large part of the Jewish conscience has been devoured by this Nazified Zionism (but it could be argued that Zionism has always contained elements of fascism and racism). Granted that many Jews inside and outside of Israel have bravely stood up and said “not in our name,” protested in support of human rights and against the murderous regime of the Israeli government and Israeli Defense Forces, a large part of the Jewish population identifies with Israel’s actions, failing to realise that Israel’s existence is one thing, its actions are another, and in no way does the latter ensure the former - in fact, it works against it.
Yes, Israel is an apartheid state. Yes, Israel is undemocratic. Yes, Israel is unjust. Yes, Israel is denialist. No, majority and morality are not equivalent (and the Armenian and Jewish Holocausts are proof of this). Yes to peace between Palestinians and Jews. The myth of the apartheid wall being necessary for peace is a lie. Jews and Palestinians have lived together peacefully for many decades without an apartheid wall, and it is still possible. There is still a turning point; lives can be saved on both sides when a just, equal solution is implemented, and that is the one-state solution. One state for Jews and Palestinians. It is the only way to sow the seeds of tolerance. If Jews and Palestinians cannot live side by side peacefully in one country, how can they live side by side peacefully as two separate countries?
I just stumbled upon your site, and read about my failure to contact you last November around your submission. 'Just wanted to apologize. I was in quite a state of disarray at the time, and not nearly as reliably on top of my editorial responsibilities as I should have been. Your submission must have been missed amidst the daily flood of junk mail that the account I was maintaining through Excalibur received.
Anyway, neither injury nor insult was intended, and I apologized if that impression was given. Whenever possible at Excalibur, I tried to include in the paper decent analysis of both Israeli apartheid and the disgusting, persistent denial in some quarters of the Armenian genocide, a denial sometimes linked, as you mention, to the argument that the Nazi genocide against Jews was unique and should be considered as in a separate category from similar genocides committed against others. You've likely already looked into it, but Ward Churchill has done some decent work on this which I'm sure you'd enjoy. His is the only work I can remember reading regarding the alliance between deniers of the Armenian genocide from Israel and Turkey... at York, we saw a different variation of this, in the form of an alliance between certain campus Zionist groups and a right-wing Turkish association, which worked together to link the "terrorism" of the Intifada with Kurdish resistance while cheering on the repression of both. Anyway, I won't take up any more space in your blog, but just wanted to apologize, and let you know that my failure to respond to you last year should be chalked up to incompetence, not intentional censorship - more of an explanation that a viable excuse, really, but it's all I've got.
in apologetic solidarity,