Apartheid

I have never completely understood apartheid. Probably not a great area of ignorance considering my fiance’s South African upbringing. But from what I gather, there was a government in South Africa that treated whites as a privileged population and blacks as a disenfranchised population. When Nelson Mandela was elected, he made great efforts to see that the new country was truly democratic and not just a reversal of the power structure. And the international community says apartheid is a bad way of approaching government.

Mike Huckabee, a prospective candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, visited Israel recently. He commented on Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Territories. He was quoted as saying “To tell Jewish people, ‘You cannot live here, you cannot raise your children here,’ this is the true racism, this is apartheid.”

Is it just me, or is this a perverse twisting of logic? Israel has encouraged the colonization of land outside her own borders, within an occupied territory. These settlements are off limits to Palestinians, are connected by a series of Israeli-only roads, and as the settlements grow, the occupying military closes roads that merely run near the settlements. We are not talking about Israeli settlers trying to live together, side-by-side with their Arab Palestinian neighbors. This situation seems more reminiscent of the American frontier and the relentless displacement of the Native Americans.

The use of roads in the West Bank was a great surprise to me. As per the Oslo Accords, Palestinians are restricted to roads in area B for moving between cities. However, these roads may be closed without warning by the Israeli military to accommodate their use by expanding settlements, or merely to discourage Palestinian traffic near to settlements. Palestinians are resourceful, and find all sorts of back routes and roundabouts. But when everyday is a struggle, with an arbitrary closure or new checkpoint, it weighs heavily on the populace.

As I understand it, the 1967 Mandate established the “Green Line” around the Palestinian Territories. International law has ruled that Israel cannot colonize, or establish settlements, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The idea is that you can’t just conquer a neighboring country and move all your own citizens onto the foreign territory. You can’t build your house in your neighbor’s backyard. This is a relatively new concept in the modern world. Most modern nations have a remote history of colonization, including America and Britain. However, international law is toothless without the backing of the UN security council, and US foreign policy does not favor any sanction of Israel.

But that is all legal mumbo-jumbo. Huckabee’s quip equates halting Israeli settlement with racist apartheid, and his comment was short enough to fit in the distractible American consciousness between episodes of “Keeping up with the Kardashians”. The accuracy of his statement matters less than the mental image it raises of Israeli families being forced to leave their homes.

Which brings us to the negotiations. Palestinians need a damn country. Until then, they have only humanitarian law on their side, and very little voice in the UN. They are the orphan Arab children of the world.

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Comments
2 Responses to “Apartheid”
  1. Heidi says:

    Believe it or not, Huckabee has actually said even crazier things, probably on the same visit: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fact-checker/2011/02/huckabee_of_judea.html

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