The charge of apartheid serves as a diversion | GARY ZATZMAN
The cause of Palestine consists of the restoration of the national rights of the Palestinian people and enabling the Palestinians to exercise their right of self-determination in their own territory. Theirs is the territory illegally mandated to Great Britain by the League of Nations in 1920-21 and subsequently “partitioned” by the United Nations in 1947 to establish a so-called “Jewish state” enclave for the Zionist movement. Enabling the Palestinians to exercise their right of self-determination in their own territory means implementing the Palestinians’ right to return to their lands and to be restored in the property/properties that were taken from them in the course of acts of conquest by the Zionist movement, and in clear cut violation of international law, during 1947-48 and again in June 1967.
Many activists in this highly just cause have been drawing comparisons between the regimen of bantustans and separate laws imposed on the native population by the tiny apartheid white-racist minority’s regime in South Africa between 1948 and 1991 and the “legal” regime by which the Zionists’ regulatory authorities at all levels – up to the Knesset/legislature and the Cabinet/executive, as well as throughout the armed forces – have continued to secure their own presence and dominance by extending their control over every possible aspect of Palestinians’ lives.
Although not identical, the colonialist and racist pedigrees and impacts of each system of oppression are structurally comparable. However, whereas the solution in South Africa always turned upon finding some new form of state in which majority rule would prevail and white-racist privilege be finally extirpated, the cause of Palestine entails eliminating the Zionist junta’s so-called “Jewish state” of European-American colonialist privilege and restoring to the Palestinians what the Zionists stole. How does disabling the racist provisions of the laws and regulations of the State of Israel, and reforming the “Jewish-only” element to become fully inclusive of the entire population, bring the Palestinians any closer to restoring what the Zionists stole?
The questions of justice involved – of compensation for damages inflicted, including restitution of what was illegally taken, destroyed or disabled – are very different in the two cases. For all its serious and undoubted evils and the numerous crimes against humanity committed in its name, including physical slaughters, South African white-racist apartheid was not premised on committing genocide. Zionism, on the other hand, has been committed to dissolving the social, cultural, political and economic integrity of the Palestinian people, i.e., genocide, from the outset, at least as early as Theodor Herzl’s injunction in his diaries that the “transfer” of the Palestinian “penniless population” elsewhere be conducted “discreetly and circumspectly.” The fact that the present day heirs of his outlook practice this genocidal policy in ongoing slow motion, so to speak, over decades rather than in one fell swoop, and that their assault on the Palestinians’ identity as a people is not confined to acts of physical extermination, does not make their practice any the less genocidal.
Strategically speaking, all those compelled to fight for their self-determination against imperialist oppression must rely on organizing and waging the struggle of their own people first and foremost. Utilizing contradictions among their enemies may become tactically highly important at very specific moments of these struggles. At such moments, the forces waging the internal struggle may indeed organize their own external front of support. However, actually to orient one’s strategy according to what use can be made of such contradictions is a waste of time that can even become fatal for people’s movements in our day. The world has already long been witness to what befell the momentum for national liberation in South Africa after international finance capital assembled a black-majority successor regime to white-racist apartheid behind a facade fronted by Nelson Mandela after 1991. The path to this betrayal was paved in the 1980s by the excessive focus on the role of international boycotts and other activities external to South Africa and — most importantly – beyond the control of the forces actually fighting for national liberation (the most effective were precisely those few actually organized by the fighting forces and their representatives).
Today, it is increasingly seen how many of those active in the cause of Palestine who have been eliciting or repeating the comparison of Zionist rule with white-racist apartheid rule are also advocating boycotts and similar methods in the name of “strengthening the external front of solidarity,” etc. Professor Ilan Pappe, for example, who has been supporting some forms of academic boycott of Israeli universities, has bluntly declared that the reason to pursue the route of building such external pressure is that the road of building such pressure “peacefully” within Palestine itself has come to an end! If, however, the road of building such pressure peacefully within Palestine itself has indeed come to an end, why not just as reasonably conclude that the time has come to ramp up the struggle for Palestinians’ national liberation by better utilizing illegal alongside all remaining legal opportunities to advance this struggle? The issue is neither “peaceful” versus “violent” methods of struggle, nor the form of struggle organized as external support (divestment, boycotts, etc.), but purely and simply: what force organizes?
The line of freelance organization of external “support” for the cause of Palestine is liberal Zionism at its most diabolical: it is liberal Zionism at work plotting to seize control of the Palestinian movement for national liberation on one of its most vital points. Organization of external “support” for the cause of Palestine is a matter for those actually waging the struggle for national liberation within Palestine to tackle, to give the direction and designate organizations and individuals to do it. Interestingly, the comparison of Zionist oppression with white-racist South African apartheid no longer passes muster with Archbishop Desmond Tutu or other prominent leaders of the ANC-led struggle against apartheid. The archbishop explicitly commented that what he was been able to witness and learn about daily life under Zionist occupation in the West Bank alone is already many times worse than anything he experienced during apartheid. If such a determinedly non-revolutionary activist has already seen through the falsehood of the analogy, the time would seem to have ripened to set this analogy aside once and for all and remain clear-eyed about, as well as vigilant against, the liberal Zionists’ aim and presence in the cause of Palestine.
Source: Dissident Voice, November 5, 2005
Gary Zatzman was contributing editor of Tony Seed (ed.), Dossier on Palestine, Halifax: New Media Publications, 2002.