Al-Ahram Weekly Online   11 - 17 September 2003
Issue No. 655
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Apartheid Israel

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Sir-- I would like to comment on Jonathan Cook's interview with Susan Nathan, 'Crossing the divide' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 21-27 August). It is, alas, not the case that "there is little in the law to prevent Arabs and Jews living together". It is, however, the case that there is little in the law to prevent Arabs and Jews living together in Arab localities. There is, on the other hand, a massive body of law to prevent Arabs and Jews living together in rural and suburban Jewish localities. Whereas the defining principle of apartheid in South Africa was 'White' versus 'Non-White', the defining principle of apartheid in Israel was, and remains, 'Jew' versus 'Non-Jew'.

Racism is not apartheid and apartheid is not racism. Apartheid is racism enforced by Acts of Parliament. In my view it is wrong to single out the State of Israel on the grounds that racism in Israel is significantly more rife than in many other member states of the UN. It is, however, right, correct and necessary to single out the State of Israel, alone or otherwise, on the grounds that after the demise of apartheid in the Republic of South Africa it remains the only, or near only, member state of the UN that regulates racism through Acts of Parliament (Knesset) and applies the force of the law to compel its citizens to make racial choices, first and foremost in all matters pertaining to access to land, housing and freedom of residence, correlatively criminalising humanitarian choices.

The list below represents the strategic legislative scaffold on which Israeli apartheid hangs:

1950 - Absentees Property Law; Law of Return; Development Authority Law;

1952 - World Zionist Organization -- Jewish Agency Status Law;

1953 - Keren Kayemeth Leisrael (Jewish National Fund) Law; Land Acquisition (Validations of Acts and Compensation) Law;

1954 - Covenant between the Government of Israel and the Zionist Executive, also known as the Executive of the Jewish Agency for the Land of Israel;

1958 - Prescription Law;

1960 - Basic Law: Israel Lands; Israel Lands Law; Israel Lands Administration Law;

1961 - Covenant Between the Government of Israel and the Jewish National Fund

In all matters pertaining to the question of settlement, cultivation and land development, Israeli apartheid is significantly more extreme than the now defunct South African apartheid. Whereas in apartheid South Africa 87 per cent of the territory of the republic was reserved by law for settlement, cultivation and development of 'Whites only', in the State of Israel, the combined result of the laws listed above is that 93 per cent of the territory of the State of Israel ('Israel proper', so- called, excluding the post-1967 occupied territories) is reserved by law for 'Jews only'.

The first significant challenge to this body of law was the Israeli Supreme Court ruling of March 2000 in the case of Qaadan versus the community settlement of Qatzir. The ruling, however, did not result in Qatzir allowing the Qaadan family of Baqa Al-Ghabiyya to build their home in the section marketed by the Jewish Agency 'for Jews only'.

I believe there is a worldwide consensus today that the anti-apartheid international solidarity movement, advocating the economic and cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa and culminating in UN sanctions against the rogue governments of the apartheid republic, played a critical role in the liberation of all the peoples of South Africa, including the Afrikaner people, from the ignominy of officially legislated racism. I would hope that a similar consensus soon develops, likewise resulting in the economic and cultural boycott of apartheid Israel and the imposition of UN sanctions against the rogue governments of the apartheid 'Jewish state', assisting in the liberation of all the peoples of Palestine, including the Hebrew people, from the ignominy of officially legislated racism, otherwise known as political Zionism.

Until the body of the laws listed above are removed from the law books of the State of Israel it is incorrect to refer to Israel as a 'democracy' in the liberal Western sense of the term. So long as the said laws remain on the law books of the State of Israel, Israel remains a 'herrenvolk' democracy -- an apartheid state.

Uri Davis

Moving concert

Sir-- 'No ordinary concert' by Tania Tamari Nasir (Al Ahram Weekly, 4-10 September) tells a moving story of how an Israeli concert by Daniel Barenboim attended by both Edward Said and Nasir resonated an effective peace initiative between individual Palestinians and Israelis, and how through the years of two Intifadas and so many atrocities from both sides the belief in peacemaking between valiant peaceful fighters like Said, Nasir, and Barenboim is bound to succeed.

I wish that this story could see the light in our papers in the US. The Bush administration is not for peace, and will not allow such stories to appear. Thank God for Al-Ahram Weekly and the Internet. 'No ordinary concert' is such a moving story that could cause a turn of events in the vicious cycle of violence in the Holy Land.

Kathy Murphy
Pittsburgh, PA

Trans-Atlantic solidarity

Sir-- First, I would like to applaud Edward Said for his eloquent stating of the facts in the Middle East in 'A monument to hypocrisy' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 13-19 February), and his courage in not turning from the moral and naturally right course for purposes of greed or expedience. His words summarise the incredible abuses that the US, through its political administration and the support of a corrupt media establishment, perpetuates on the Palestinians (through its proxy state Israel) and the people of Iraq.

It was apparent to a growing number of the new generation of Canadians the monumental falsehoods that are being carried out in our name. However, the power of the media is very strong; people do not know what to believe; few want to imagine that the American government could embody evil in this fashion; that their own government would lie to them at this level. And yet it is obvious to some -- essays like this one raise attention to what is really happening.

I want you to know that many in this country and others support your cause, and although many of us are now young, we hope to have a real effect before it is too late. It requires power and money is power; unfortunately many of us work in the lower niches of society and the means necessary to raise the profile of the issue in Canada eludes us. I hope that the people of the Arab states know that friends across the ocean and in every nation in the world condemn what is happening now, and hope in the future to forge a new world where colour of skin and country of origin are not barriers to success, and where life is valued regardless of race or nationality.

Colin Longhurst

Muscle flexing

Sir-- As the planet shrinks, so too does elbow room; where once we used words, now we use raw muscle. It is the Middle East's tool of choice. Day after day we see bulldozers crushing houses in Gaza and then, within days, or so it seems, we witness the bloody carnage of yet another suicide bomber. Muscle. Be it the polemics of Semtex, or the heavyweight statement of a 60- ton Merkava parked in your living room, it's muscle that carries the argument -- for a few hours at least.

On one side, a unified Israel backed and supplied by America's Zionists, on the other, the tragedy of the Palestinians whose chief suffering is disunity. There is a hunger for true leadership; Palestine needs to be led by someone, anyone, who can lead while having that rare virtue of honesty.

Neither side can claim the moral high ground, too much blood has been spilled, cruelty and ruthlessness have become a perverted norm. But at least history will say that it was the Israelis who stole Palestinian land and machine gunned its occupants -- while making political hay out of their martyrdom at the hands of the Nazis. How ironic it is that they should now inflict upon the Palestinians a portion of that which they once suffered.

Palestine needs an honest leader; and Israel needs a mirror.

Aaron Kfir

Sharon's madness

Sir-- It is clear to me that Ariel Sharon, the man so honoured by the United States, is a homicidal maniac.

The Belgians have declared that he is a war criminal and for the US to back him in his programme of Arab genocide makes this country complicit in his crimes.

Wilson Boozer
San Francisco, CA

Neo-con schemes

Sir-- Bush never understood and still is blind to the fact that Sharon is interested in nuclear domination of the Middle East and a "collapsible Bantustan" for the Palestinians, which would eventually "evaporate" and wind up in a "Jordan is Palestine solution".

There would be no Bantustan, no Abdullah peace plan, no nuclear weapons other than Israel's in the Middle East "till the end of time", enforced by America. As a secondary matter, it would perhaps give the US more leverage over oil/oil prices, ie the Cheney vision. The Feith/ Cheney/Netanyahu/Perle/Woolsey group has been strategising for a while about a wished for Caspian/Russian oil supply/oil pipeline system to replace OPEC.

This scheme would satisfy the Perle/ Netanyahu/Feith/Kristol vision of a "permanent campaign" against Arabs, Muslims and Third World nations so that the world becomes an American empire, dominated by an Israel/neo- con wire-pulling group "till the end of time".

In other words, a "clash of civilisations", a global civil war, leading to neo-con domination of the American global empire and Israel, de facto, annexing every inch of the territories and the Golan and winding up with the option of "transfer" for the Palestinians.

They also foresaw that this would "break" the Palestinians, once and for all, and that they would be forced to accept the "collapsible Bantustan", the prelude to "Jordan is Palestine", that Sharon has in mind, as his bottom line. Lastly, Perle/Netanyahu/Feith/Kristol also hoped that the current "security architecture" of the world: US/UN, US/EU, US/NATO would be shattered and replaced by a new structure, America plus Israel. In other words, the neo-conservative idea was to turn the world upside down with an America/Israel hegemonic alliance as the final outcome.

Richard Melson
Cambridge, MA

Tooth and nail

Sir-- With regard to the article 'Root and branch' (Al-Ahram Weekly, 4-10 September) by Ibrahim Nafie, I believe we all (the Arabs, and reasonable people of the world) know what this is about. The Zionists are about dominating the Arab intellect as well as Arab property and resources. This dominance will come at a high price for the Palestinians and the region in general. One thing the Zionists fail to realise however, is that they are not operating in a vacuum. Occupation, aggression and displacement of indigenous populations does not pay in the long run, as the indigenous populace will rise. Only cooperation and peaceable conflict resolution work.

Where are the reasonable Jews, where are the human beings? Have we forgotten the ills of yester pain and suffering to inflict such misery on others? The ideology that guides the Zionist movement is flawed and perpetuates archaic social models that destabilise instead of harmonise, and are not sustainable. We, as Arabs, have to counteract the Zionist forces and reveal their true aims in the region. The Jews are part of our Abrahamic family and will be safe among us; however, they need to change their ways.

Might in the Middle East is a fickle thing; only peace through justice will prevail in the end. If we follow the model of South Africa, then there may be a "saving face" solution for all parties involved and we can all move on to a more peaceful and prosperous Middle East for all inhabitants, may they be Jews, Arabs, or other ethnic groups. May we see true peace in our time.

Hadj Maaradji
Los Angeles, CA

Pulling the plug

Sir-- If the Palestinians want to win their fight against Israeli terrorism, what they have to do is shut down the companies which allow Israel to continue its terrorism against the Palestinians.

The biggest supporter of Israeli terrorism is Intel which has invested over $4 billion to support Israeli terrorism against the Palestinians.

The two Intel factories in Israel contribute close to US$3 billion a year to Israeli terrorism. Palestinians must convince Intel to shut down both its factories in Israel which would lead to the collapse of the financial support for Israeli terrorism.

Meryem Hasan

Lighting the way

Sir-- For more than ten years now we never failed to marvel at the weekly miracle -- in present day Egypt and perhaps beyond -- which is the Al-Ahram Weekly.

Having just returned home after a few weeks' absence abroad, we learnt with grief and sorrow the secret behind this great achievement: the unique qualities of the Weekly's creator and late editor Hosny Guindy. May the wondrous candle he lit never be dimmed nor snuffed out. That will be the task -- and honour -- of the remarkable family he gathered for the Weekly.

Fawzy and Gerda Mansour

Protecting the faith

Sir-- Mona El-Nahhas' 'A confusing fatwa' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 4-10 September) reveals more than first meets the eye. It bespeaks of a religious belief that is seriously in need of self- examination, and definitely a dose of humility. As long as Islamic religious leaders remain steadfast in arrogating themselves the oracles of God by designating themselves as spokesmen of God, and as long as they see themselves as possessing the monopoly of God's precepts, the faith they proclaim to promote will remain affronted not for want of integrity; by ways of integrity, Islam lacks none. What Islam lacks, and what its custodians need to inculcate are visions and virtues.

Calling non-Muslims as "enemies of God" casts a dark shadow on Islam itself. Such narrow-mindedness of belief reflects a deep sense of self-doubt in the faith itself. Islam will revitalise itself if its proponents start exercising unconditional kindness to all and a genuine tone of conciliation with others. No faith survives by projecting negativity in action and in tone. Islam and its ecclesiastical hierarchy need to realise this. Otherwise, the faith will degenerate to a culture of the Dark Ages when dogmatism and acerbic scriptural interpretations resulted in bloodletting and perpetual violence.

Tseggai Isaac
Rolla, Missouri

Garden jail

Sir-- It's been six miserable months since the start of the war against Iraq and we have been living under a state of siege, and the reason? Having the Americans and the British as our neighbours. This is Garden City, Cairo, Egypt. How many times have I come home after a hard day's work to be interrogated like a common thief regarding who I am and where I am going? And then there was an unforgettable day when the officer decided to arrest me (while I was trying to enter the garage where I always park) because he didn't find my car's license number on the list of vehicles allowed to enter the 'forbidden' area (the lists they have are for commercial vehicles only).

Is this possible? Or acceptable? Now, one of the options as we had suggested before, and which would make life easier for us, is to get us issued with permits indicating that we are residents of the area. And again, there is still a better suggestion, which is to move the two embassies far away to Qattamiya, for example, where they wouldn't be bothered by anyone or bother anyone and where they can live in their nice, cozy and safe cocoons. We can replace the embassies with green parks where the residents of Cairo can go for a breath of fresh air, and thus we can restore the 'Garden' to Garden City. Wouldn't that just be beautiful?

Sherifa Shafie

Bibliotheca's defence

Sir-- This letter is in response to Mrs Astrid Van Damme's letter 'Bibliotheca surprises' (Al- Ahram Weekly, 4-10 September). First of all, on behalf of my city Alexandria, I hope you had a nice stay and enjoyed your stay here; you are welcome again any time. As for the Bibliotheca surprises, you are right on some points but like any new project it has advantages and disadvantages. The good thing is there is always something new in the library for daily visitors. I signed up for membership at the Bibliotheca as soon as it opened because I wanted to be part of this historical event and use its advantages too.

At first I was amazed by the whole structure and prestige of the building, but then I realised some problems and asked for answers. Regarding the inability to bring in bags, on every floor in the adult section there are side rooms housing shelves, comfortable desks and computers. These are for post-graduate researchers and can be rented at the information desks for any period of time.

Alternatively, there are two photocopying centres to duplicate the necessary documents, and the staff at the Bibliotheca are very helpful. Other services at the library include multimedia, radio, videos and CDs, lectures, exhibitions including a permanent one of rare manuscripts. There is also a museum of antiquities, music concerts and various conferences held there.

Regarding the children's corner, I too was not allowed in but according to my younger brother, it is divided into many halls, at least one for reading and another for computer. There are also other activities for children such as various classes for skills and talents. My guess as to why we are not allowed in is to allow them to build their own personality and depend on themselves.

To be fair, I need to mention some of the disadvantages at the Bibliotheca which I hope will be resolved soon. There is a lack of references in some scientific fields such as agriculture, and the time allowed to use a computer is limited -- one hour -- and that is not enough time for researchers to complete their work. What is worse is that there is no means of saving the results of your research since the use of floppy disks is forbidden and there are no printers. In all honesty, this makes the access to the Internet useless.

But altogether, I believe the Bibliotheca Alexandrina is a great centre of culture which is on its way to improving.

Dalia Yacout

Al-Ahram Weekly reserves the right to edit letters submitted to Readers' Corner for brevity and clarity. Readers are advised to limit their letters to a maximum of 300 words.

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