The South African contribution to international “Israeli Apartheid Week” (IAW) has come and gone. Each side will claim “victory” for whatever reasons they may choose. IAW, though, is about more than who wins or loses. The question should really be, has the..." /> Does ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ really matter? | ElSurveillance

Conflicts in Middle East Does ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ really matter?

Does ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ really matter?

clashes between Israeli occupation forces and Palestinian protestorsThe South African contribution to international “Israeli Apartheid Week” (IAW) has come and gone. Each side will claim “victory” for whatever reasons they may choose. IAW, though, is about more than who wins or loses. The question should really be, has the situation on the ground changed?

The Zionist lobby groups around the world, including South Africa’s, used the opportunity to try to shut down open debate on the Palestinian issue. The global Zionist conversation during IAW was not about Israel’s military occupation of Palestine, its illegal settlements and its human rights violations. Instead, its tirade accused all who dared to criticise Israel of being “Jew-haters”, “Israel-haters”, “Anti-Semites” and even “Holocaust-deniers”. Why? Quite simply, the pro-Israel Zionist lobby was always going to lose any honest debate about settlements and the occupation.

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A study concluded by the South African Human Sciences Research Council in 2009 (“Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid? A re-assessment of Israel’s practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law) stated: "Israel is clearly in military occupation of the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territories). At the same time, elements of the occupation constitute forms of colonialism and of apartheid, which are contrary to international law.”

All human beings are entitled to basic human rights, including Palestinians. The human rights violations against the Palestinians are well-documented by respected organisations, including B’Tselem and Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel. These organisations, plus some Jewish journalists, get attacked by the lobbyists, who claim that they are prejudiced and one-sided; sometimes they too are labelled “anti-Semitic”.

Reading the comments made by Zionist lobby groups in South Africa is bewildering. Even when the Israeli occupation forces are killing hundreds of civilians — including the elderly, women and children — in full view of the world’s media, the Zionists manage to convince themselves that they are the real victims in the Israeli state’s occupation, colonialism and Apartheid. It seems that they are uninformed about the origins of the conflict that engulfs their lives. Astonishingly, they fail — by accident or design — to understand who the Palestinians are, where they come from and what they stand for.

Gilad Atzmon, a British jazz musician who has renounced his Israeli citizenship, wrote in 2009: “They fail to grasp that for the Palestinians, Palestine is home. Amazingly, the Israelis manage to fail to grasp that Israel had been erected at the expense of the Palestinian people, on Palestinian land, on Palestinian villages, towns, fields and orchards. The Zionists do not realise that Palestinians in Gaza and in refugee camps in the region are actually dispossessed people from Ber Shive, Yafo, Tel Kabir, Shekh Munis, Lod, Haifa, Jerusalem and many more towns and villages.”

If you wonder how the occupiers don't know their own history, the answer is pretty simple. Either they choose to turn a blind eye and remain silent or have never been told. One thing is clear, though; the circumstances that led to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are well hidden within Israeli culture and Zionist narratives. Traces of pre-1948 Palestinian presence on the land have largely been wiped out in many areas of what is now Israel. Not only is the Nakba, the 1948 ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinians, not part of the curriculum in Israel, it is not even mentioned or discussed in any official or academic Israeli forum. Hence, the colonialists and settlers view themselves as the innocent victims and the Palestinians as thoughtless and ridiculous “terrorists”. However, the Palestinians’ message to the occupiers over the years has been and remains, “You out there, in Sderot, Beer Sheva, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Tel Aviv and Haifa; whether you realise it or not, you are actually living on land stolen from us.”

Herein lies the problem. Because of a lack of understanding of the conflict, the pro-Israel activists cannot envisage any resolution to the problem except the extermination and ethnic cleansing of the “enemy”. This is why they stepped up the war against the Palestinians; they drop bombs on Palestinians in order to wipe them out. They want the Palestinians out of the country, but it will not work because the Palestinians are determined to stay on their land. You cannot destroy the human spirit. Not only will they stay, but the day of the refugees’ return to their land is also coming closer. Israel may manage to kill grassroots leaders amongst the Palestinians, as it has been doing for years, yet the resistance and tenacity of the people is growing fiercer rather than weaker. In order to win, all the Palestinians have to do is to survive.

Israel has already tried everything, from unilateral withdrawal and starvation, to annihilation and killing. Nothing has worked. It is Palestinian determination and perseverance that will define the future of the region. The Zionists and their supporters hold a self-centred supremacist world-view; they are so utterly involved in their own perceived pain that they remain completely blind to the pain they inflict on others.

There is no easy way out of the spiralling terror and state brutality that confronts the Palestinians on a daily basis. They whose home has been usurped; whose loved ones have been brutalised and killed; whose anger is real and sharp, can home in accurately on the foolishness of the “Clash of Civilisations”. The Zionists, meanwhile, feed themselves regular doses of their own “good versus evil” narrative — no prizes for guessing which side they think they are on — while remaining a curiously insular people driven by a pernicious ideology.

This is why programmes like those of Israeli Apartheid Week are so important. The world has to be awake to the threat of Apartheid in all of its manifestations, wherever they may surface. Apartheid was defined as a crime against humanity by the 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. There can be no complacency in the struggle against racism; Israeli Apartheid Week is at the forefront of that struggle. So, yes, it does matter.

Ibrahim Vawda is a Senior Researcher at the Media Review Network in Johannesburg