Dr. Abdul Wahid
Earlier this week a poll published by Haaretz found that a majority of Israelis favour ‘apartheid’ policies.
- Over 65% say West Bank Palestinians shouldn’t be allowed to vote if the area was annexed by Israel.
- Over 30% want Arab citizens within ‘Israel’ to be banned from voting in parliamentary elections.
- Around 75% believe segregated roads are desirable.
- Almost 60% say Jews should be given preference to Arabs in government jobs.
- Almost 50% say Jewish citizens should be treated better than Arabs.
- Around 40% don’t want to live in the same building as Arabs, or to have their children attend the same schools as Arab kids.
- Almost 60% believe Israel already practices apartheid against Palestinians.
The commentator Gideon Levy, speaking about the poll, said
”Israelis themselves … are openly, shamelessly and guiltlessly defining themselves as nationalistic racists … It’s good to live in this country, most Israelis say, not despite its racism, but perhaps because of it. If such a survey were released about the attitude to Jews in a European state, Israel would have raised hell. When it comes to us, the rules don’t apply.”
MK Jamal Zahalka, the head of the Balad party said “The survey symbolizes the end of the era of hypocrisy and the removal of all masks. We’re talking about racism, pure and simple. The Israeli regime isn’t a carbon copy of South Africa’s apartheid, but it is certainly from the same family.”
Tzipi Livni, the politician who formerly led the Kadima Party and is now considering a return to active politics, expressed shock at the results of the survey and called for an immediate revival of the two-states-for-two-peoples initiative.
Livni’s reaction is surprising, whilst the findings in this poll are not.
Speaking in December 2008, Livni said of so-called Israeli Arabs citizens: “The national solution for Israel’s Arabs lies elsewhere: in order to maintain a Jewish-Democratic state we must constitute two nation-states with clear red-lines. Once this happens, I will be able to come to the Palestinian citizens of Israel, whom we label Israel’s Arabs, and tell them that their national solution is elsewhere.”
The occupying power in Palestine, which calls itself the ‘state of Israel’, was founded on a principle that one race has a divine claim on the land. The rhetoric of being a beacon of civilisation in the Middle East is clearly nonsensical when measured against the reality of what Israel really is.
The parallel with apartheid South Africa is not misplaced, and it is worth recalling the two powers were allies.
Back in January 1986, the President of apartheid South Africa P.W. Botha made a landmark speech arguing he might allow Nelson Mandela’s release if the Soviet Union were to release the dissidents Andrei D. Sakharov and Anatoly Shcharansky. Media reports at the time revealed this speech was the product of negotiations between Israel, South Africa and the Soviet Union.
South Africa backed the establishment of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and many years later, at a time when deeply racist and oppressive South Africa had become increasingly isolated in the world, one of its few overt backers was Israel.
But the history of racist states is that they are unsustainable. The contradictions and hypocrisies that emerge when peoples are oppressed and treated unjustly by minorities through the power of force – or when the issue of race and tribe trumps matters of principle – erode the fabric of any society. As sure as day follows night, such a situation precedes real liberation for oppressed masses.
The only question that would remain is how many outside the region will continue to defend the indefensible for the sake of their own interest and prejudices.
Dr. Abdul Wahid has been published in The Times Higher Educational Supplement and on the websites of Foreign Affairs, Open Democracy and Prospect magazine. He can be followed on Twitter @abdulwahidht or emailed at [email protected]