What are your thoughts on calling Israel an 'Apartheid State'? Is the Barrier an 'Apartheid Wall' or a 'Security Fence'?

I am writing a paper at the moment for presentation in a conference in 12 days and I still can't coherently formulate my argument against Diasporas engaging in dialogue from the position that Israel is an 'Apartheid State'. My thoughts thus far are that while the occupation, the "Matrix of Control" as Jeff Halper calls it, is suffocating and inhibits Palestinian statehood, not to mention breaching human rights and human dignity, using the analogy of apartheid in South Africa obscures the historical context of the I/P conflict. This has two downsides. For one, it undermines historical reasons for the current state of the conflict and obscures legitimate Israeli security concerns, assumes that Israel's reasons for erecting the Barrier were for racist reasons, and in the process attributes the whole of the conflict to skin color or religion over territory and nationalism. Two, it overlooks the specificity of Palestinian suffering, and the use of 'rights discourses' of Apartheid doesn't fully do justice to the totality of the conflict, the refugees, and Israeli Arabs in particular. So what I'm trying to say, I believe, is that on the one hand it downplays certain factors that shouldn't be overlooked while sensationalizing 'Apartheid' as a loaded political term, utilizing its expedience, dehuminizing lives lost over causes overshadowed by the analogy, on the other. I think in the case of Diasporas and dialogue the 'Apartheid' analogy is unhelpful because it doesn't lead to mutual understanding but rather engages the 'Other' in a disposition empty of trust and full of anger and hatred. I don't see how anger and hatred will facilitate a starting point to dialogue. But what do you think?

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I honestly do not think that I am avoiding the point. I responded honestly with what I now perceive/assess to be the essence of the answer to your question.

That question was: "Paul, would you care to explain why the Palestinians are suffering?"

I understood that you were talking about now.

My brief and pithy answer was and is that: "The Civil War that started in 1947 is still going on on the West Bank". To that I'll add now that that Civil War is till going on in the psyche and soul of many Palestinian People and Israeli People and Jewish People.

Why do I think that "The Civil War that started in 1947 is still going on now"?
  1. There is no Peace Agreement.
  2. The main related military actions may well be over. The low grade related armed skirmishes and police actions continue, with the occasional larger-scale flare ups like with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, and so on.
  3. There is the universally unique and perpetually open issue of the "Palestinian Refugees".
  4. There is no confidence that any future Palestinian State will be peaceful and so on..
  5. Until there is a peace agreement which both sides are prepared and willing to implement, both sides will continue to manoeuvre to try to improve their political and territorial positions. That is just a continuation of the Civil War.

The last point above is why I think that what is now is just a continuation of the civil war.

Basil: I am not avoiding an answer. Your answer may well be different from mine. I also think that my answer is NOT political. :-)

I hope this helps...
-- Paul R
Well i start to count this "war" since 1920. Sinve creation of palestine mandate.
That certainly is another rational way of looking at it. :-)
I decided to look up the definitions of these words.

Apartheid is the Afrikaans word for apart-ness or seperateness.

Civil war is war within a single nation between two factions. The term civil war is often determined by the victor. For instance, in the American Civil War, the Confederate States of America claimed to be a seperate nation, whereas the northern United States claimed to be one nation. The northern States won and defined the war as a civil war. If the one-state solution pans out, this will all have been a civil war. If the two-state solution pans out, it will be defined as a revolutionary war.

Genocide is when an ethnic or religious group is targeted for elimination.
Dear Basil,

Thanks for responding.

About many of the points you raise above you and I really agree. I see it all as a continuation of the Civil War. You don''t.

So we disagree about the why and not really about the what. That conceptual difference between us is just that: conceptual. That does not really change the practical issues and problems now.
For certain, Israel didn't build the wall/fence "for racist reasons". Israel actually had very good reasons to protect its citizens from suicide attacks on its ground, killing innocent civilians and creating widespread fear. Every human being - wherever he/she lives - must be allowed to sit on a bus and not fear that it will be blown up by a terrorist.

It's equally true, however, that the wall/fence aggravates the sufferings of many Palestinians. Farmers need to till their fields, families must have the opportunity to visit relatives and so on. What for the Israelis is a legitimate security measure, is for Palestinians an 'apartheid wall' as many Palestinians don't understand why their lives seem to be less important than the lives of Israelis. My main concern is that while suicide attacks have indeed almost stopped since the wall/fence was being erected, the security situation for both sides could become worse in the end. Israel says that the wall is built as a temporary measure, but - with people like Lieberman in government - could Palestinians really believe this?

However, Israel is not South Africa. You're right - the context of the conflict is very different. Arabs with Israeli passports, for instance, are not kept separated, as was the case in S. Africa. Mutual trust and understanding are nevertheless far from being achieved - in my view, only strong civil societies can really 'drive' reconciliation and rapprochement. It is important what you learn about the 'other' - thus ways towards dialogue start at school or even earlier. The politicians who one day have to decide whether to maintain or demolish the wall/fence might be the today's students. Therefore, the perception of the 'other' plays a great role - how to approach the other side and how to develop different security measures also depends on what the other side means to you and to what extent you know its protagonists.
Yes! :-)
Hello Matt, your entry raises two points: one on comparison and one on nomenclature. And there's a third underlying point was highlighted by Oliver Haack, that of the specificity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (which is true, but I don't believe it invalidates nomenclature or comparisons).

Any comparison is valid as long as it is useful. So the question that one should ask himself is the following: does it allow the speaker to make a point clearer. This can only be answered by looking at the audience too (how receptive is it to a comparison, how does it react to the use of such word...).
One can only judge a comparison by looking at the points that are being compared. Apples and Oranges are not the same (not the same shape, not the same texture, not the same colour), but it can sometimes be interesting to compare them because they are both fruits, because they both have vitamins... other times, such a comparison won't be interesting...
In this present case, any comparison between South Africa and Israel will undoubtedly bring about a meaningless debate on the differences between the two countries (which is not your topic, because comparisons can only be judged on similarities... and one cannot compare two identical objects because it won't be a comparison).

And now for the nomenclature. As Shakespeare put it: That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet. The barrier's nature will not change depending on the name you give it.
- "Apartheid Wall' is the preferred term used by Palestinians when talking to a foreign audience.
- "Security Fence" is the preferred term used by Israelis when talking to foreign audience.
I don't believe you can ignore either terminologies because they are used by the local actors for a specific reason. They highlight one element (or effect, or "expected effect") the wall has on the side that is using the terminology; exclusion, dispossession and enclosure for Palestinians, security for Israelis.
I personally prefer a combination of the two expressions that are used by Israelis and Palestinians when they are talking to their respective audiences:
- גדר ההפרדה (the fence is used to downplay the size and extent of the construction)
- جدار الفصل (separation wall).

So I'll go for "separation wall" because it translates quite well the very nature of the wall. It is meant to keep the two populations apart. Just like "disengagement", it is seen as an instrument for ethno-demographic engineering. And this is just one part of a larger separation policy that is enforced by the courts, by executive orders within "Israel" (I put Israel in between quotes because the territorial definition of the State is constantly shifting) and between "Israel" and the "disputed"/"occupied" territories.
Thanks for these thoughts. I really appreciate all responses but yours really resonated. I'm not sure if you are well read on the subject but if you have any journalistic or scholarly sources for me to look at (this goes for anyone!) I'm always open to reading more material.
In particular, I really want to iron out how factions of the Israeli government are able to support the settlements, their security, water, electricity, etc. I can't seem to find a connection in print.



Is there a (civil) War on the West Bank?

Why is the West Bank under Israel's control? Decreasingly so now it seems.
Hi Basil,

The Road Map is simply a confidence building guideline and NOT a law.

I see what's going on in the West Bank as a continuation of the Civil War that began in 1947. The West Bank is still disputed territory until self-determination aspirations and related agreements are made and implemented and, if recessionary, de-facto enforced by the peoples involved.

The self-determination aspirations of the people living in Gaza is no longer disputed. And so Gaza is a de facto separate entity now even though the leadership of Gaza disputes the existence of Israel. The hostilities (war really) like that between Gaza and Israel is just (like a) a war and related disputes between any two independent States.

Now I am NOT a lawyer. So I am simply writing above what I understand the real rather than imagined relevant international and Common Law (precedent based law) to be. Also please note that in this case, what I write immediately above has nothing to do with justice or morality.
Basil, I'm not sure if Paul was sufficiently explicit in stating his answer to your question: The civil war he is referring to is not between Palestinian factions, but between the Jews and the Arabs of Israel/Palestine. That, I believe, is what he means by "the Civil War that began in 1947." A civil war paradigm, unlike a colonial one, sees both parties as indigenous, though both involve fighting for land and resources

Paul, please correct me it I've flubbed it.

question of whether the Jews of that land are indigenous to it is a central one (though not the only central question) to one's view of the historical causes and development of the conflict and how one assigns moral responsibility. Those are questions over which people often get stuck in arguments that I think may sometimes (often?) occlude their greater degree of commonality about how to move forward.

Seems virtually useless to me for us to try to persuade each other about such questions, but valuable for us to listen well and try to understand each other's differing viewpoints and how we each came by our own perspective honestly, no matter how incongruent they may seem to each other.




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