Posted by: Lister | March 5, 2009

Said Rhateb and Arthur Goldreich

From Chris McGreal’s article in the Guardian:

The Israelis drew a line on a map – a new city boundary – between Beit Hanina’s lands and most of its homes. The olive groves and orchards were to be part of Jerusalem; the village was to remain in the West Bank.

The population was not so neatly divided. Arabs in the area were registered as living in the village – even those, like Rhateb’s parents, whose homes were inside what was now defined as Jerusalem.

[…] Four decades later, the increasingly complex world of Israel’s system of classification deems Said Rhateb to be a resident of the West Bank – somewhere he has never lived – and an illegal alien for living in the home in which he was born, inside the Jerusalem boundary.

Jerusalem’s council forces Rhateb to pay substantial property taxes on his house but that does not give him the right to live in it, and he is periodically arrested for doing so. Rhateb’s children have been thrown out of their Jerusalem school, he cannot register a car in his name – or rather he can, but only one with Palestinian number plates, which means he cannot drive it to his home because only Israeli-registered cars are allowed within Jerusalem – and he needs a pass to visit the centre of the city. The army grants him about four a year.

There is more. If Rhateb is not legally resident in his own home, then he is defined as an “absentee” who has abandoned his property. Under Israeli law, it now belongs to the state or, more particularly, its Jewish citizens. “They sent papers that said we cannot sell the land or develop it because we do not own the land. It belongs to the state,” he says. “Any time they want to confiscate it, they can, because they say we are absentees even though we are living in the house. That’s what forced my older brother and three sisters to live in the US. They couldn’t bear the harassment.”

[…] There are few places in the world where governments construct a web of nationality and residency laws designed for use by one section of the population against another. Apartheid South Africa was one. So is Israel.

[…] There are conspicuous differences, of course. Arab Israelis have the vote, although they were prevented from forming their own political parties until the 1980s. They are mostly equal under the law and these days the Israeli courts generally protect their rights. Jews are a majority in Israel; white South Africans were a minority. And Israel spent the first decades of its existence fighting for its life.

But for some of those with a foot in both societies, the distinctions are blurred by other realities. Some Jewish South Africans and Israelis who lived with apartheid – including politicians, Holocaust survivors and men once condemned as terrorists – describe aspects of modern Israel as disturbingly reminiscent of the old South Africa. Some see the parallels in a matrix of discriminatory practices and controls, and what they describe as naked greed for land seized by the fledgling Israeli state from fleeing Arabs and later from the Palestinians for the ever expanding West Bank settlements. “Apartheid was an extension of the colonial project to dispossess people of their land,” said the Jewish South African cabinet minister and former ANC guerrilla, Ronnie Kasrils, on a visit to Jerusalem. “That is exactly what has happened in Israel and the occupied territories; the use of force and the law to take the land. That is what apartheid and Israel have in common.”

Via JSF, which links to more articles discussing the comparison to Apartheid. My own opinion is that Hafrada is worse than Apartheid. (That post was written about the way Israel treats Palestinians in the occupied territories. Some of the recent comparisons have been about Israel itself).

McGreal’s article continues (and has a part two).

He writes about Arthur Goldreich, a Jew in South Africa, who wrote a letter to the Prime Minister in which he refused to be taught German.

Goldreich got his way and was headed on a path that tore his life between two struggles; against white domination in South Africa, and for the survival of the Jewish state in Israel.

In 1948, both of Goldreich’s worlds were transformed within a few days of each other. Israel declared its independence on May 14, a fortnight before the apartheid Nationalist party won South Africa’s election and the men who backed Hitler came to power. Goldreich had already determined to go to Israel and fight to save it from strangulation at birth. “The reason I went was the Holocaust and the struggle against British colonialism but, of course, the Nats winning the election left me in no doubt about what I had to do,” he says.

Goldreich returned to South Africa in 1954 to join his other struggle. After a few years of political agitation, he became an early member of the African National Congress’s military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, led by Nelson Mandela.

[…] There was a time when he believed the young Jewish state might provide the example of a better way for the country of his birth. As it is, Goldreich sees Israel as closer to the white regime he fought against and modern South Africa as providing the model. Israeli governments, he says, ultimately proved more interested in territory than peace, and along the way Zionism mutated.

Goldreich speaks of the “bantustanism we see through a policy of occupation and separation”, the “abhorrent” racism in Israeli society all the way up to cabinet ministers who advocate the forced removal of Arabs, and “the brutality and inhumanity of what is imposed on the people of the occupied territories of Palestine”.

Then McGreal moves on to differences in living conditions:

The contrast between West and East Jerusalem is not as stark [as in Johannesburg], but the disparities between Jewish and Arab neighbourhoods are underpinned by attitudes, policies and laws similar to those used against Johannesburg’s black population.

Most of Jerusalem’s Jews never cross the “green line” – the international border that divided the city until 1967 – and many of those that do go only as far as the Wailing Wall to pray. If more Israelis were to travel deeper into the city they claim as their indivisible capital, they would encounter a different world from their own, a place where roads crumble, rubbish is left uncollected and entire Palestinian neighbourhoods are not connected to the sewage system.

According to the Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, Jerusalem’s Jewish population, who make up about 70% of the city’s 700,000 residents, are served by 1,000 public parks, 36 public swimming pools and 26 libraries. The estimated 260,000 Arabs living in the east of the city have 45 parks, no public swimming pools and two libraries. “Since the annexation of Jerusalem, the municipality has built almost no new school, public building or medical clinic for Palestinians,” says a B’Tselem report. “The lion’s share of investment has been dedicated to the city’s Jewish areas.”

[…] During the 1990s, about 12 times as many new homes were legally built in Jewish areas as in Arab ones. Denied permission to build new homes or expand existing ones, many Palestinians build anyway and risk a demolition order. Israel’s former prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, routinely defends the demolitions by arguing that any civilised society enforces planning regulations. But Israel is the only western society to deny construction permits to people on the grounds of race. Until 1992, so did South Africa.

Much later, still:

[…] The US state department’s annual human rights report – not a document known for being hostile to Israel – concluded that there is “institutionalised legal and societal discrimination against Israel’s Christian, Muslim and Druze citizens”. “The government,” it says, “does not provide Israeli Arabs, who constitute 20% of the population, with the same quality of education, housing, employment and social services as Jews.”

In the 2002 budget, Israel’s housing ministry spent about £14 per person in Arab communities compared with up to £1,500 per person in Jewish ones. The same year, the health ministry allocated just 1.6m shekels (£200,000) to Arab communities of its 277m-shekel (£35m) budget to develop healthcare facilities.

[…] The Israeli education ministry does not reveal its budget for each of the two systems, but 14 years ago a government report concluded that nearly twice as much money was allocated to each Jewish pupil as to each Arab child.

A Human Rights Watch report two years ago said the situation has not significantly changed and there remain “huge disparities in education spending” and that “discrimination against Arab children colours every aspect” of the education system. The exam pass-rate for Arab pupils is about one-third lower than that for their Jewish compatriots. In 2004, a threat by angry Arab Israeli parents in Haifa to register their children in Hebrew-language schools so shocked Jewish parents that the authorities quickly took steps to improve Arab schools there.

[…]

[…] Under Sharon’s tenure as prime minister from 2001, new forms of discriminatory legislation were passed, including the now notorious Nationality and Entry into Israel Law, which bars Israelis who marry Palestinians from bringing their spouses to live in the country. The legislation applies solely to Palestinian husbands or wives.

[…] the past few days alone, the police have arrested eight women, the Palestinian wives of Arab Israelis, in the Israeli village of Jaljulya and deported them to the occupied territories. Among women living under the threat of future deportation is the wife of an Israeli football player. MPs say the law has nothing to do with discrimination and everything to do with the security threat posed by Palestinians.

The second part of the article talks about Afrikaner anti-semitism and the eventually close relationship between Israel and the Apartheid regime.

Don Krausz, chairman of Johannesburg’s Holocaust survivors association, arrived in South Africa a year after the war, having survived Hitler’s camps at Ravensbruck and Sachsenhausen when much of his extended family did not. “The Nationalists had a strongly anti-semitic platform before 1948. The Afrikaans press was viciously anti-Jewish, much like Der Sturmer in Germany under Hitler. The Jew felt himself very much threatened by the Afrikaner. The Afrikaner supported Hitler,” he says. “My wife comes from Potchefstroom [in what was then the Transvaal]. Every Jewish shop in that town was blown up by the Grey Shirts. In the communities that were predominantly Afrikaans, the Jews were absolutely victimised. Now the same crowd comes to power in 1948. The Jew was a very frightened person. There were cabinet ministers who openly supported the Nazis.”

[…] Many South African Jews were soon reassured that, while there would be Nuremberg-style laws, they would not be the victims. The apartheid regime had a demographic problem and it could not afford the luxury of isolating a section of the white population, even if it was Jewish. Within a few years many South African Jews not only came to feel secure under the new order but comfortable with it. Some found echoes of Israel’s struggle in the revival of Afrikaner nationalism.

Many Afrikaners saw the Nationalist party’s election victory as liberation from bitterly hated British rule. British concentration camps in South Africa may not have matched the scale or intent of Hitler’s war against the Jews, but the deaths of 25,000 women and children from disease and starvation were deeply rooted in Afrikaner nationalism, in the way the memory of the Holocaust is now central to Israel’s perception of itself. The white regime said that the lesson was for Afrikaners to protect their interests or face destruction.

[…] Israel was openly critical of apartheid through the 1950s and 60s as it built alliances with post-colonial African governments. But most African states broke ties after the 1973 Yom Kippur war and the government in Jerusalem began to take a more benign view of the isolated regime in Pretoria. The relationship changed so profoundly that, in 1976, Israel invited the South African prime minister, John Vorster – a former Nazi sympathiser and a commander of the fascist Ossewabrandwag that sided with Hitler – to make a state visit.

Leaving unmentioned Vorster’s wartime internment for supporting Germany, Israel’s prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, hailed the South African premier as a force for freedom and made no mention of Vorster’s past as he toured the Jerusalem memorial to the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis. At a state banquet, Rabin toasted “the ideals shared by Israel and South Africa: the hopes for justice and peaceful coexistence”. Both countries, he said, faced “foreign-inspired instability and recklessness”.

[…] [Alon Liel, a former Israeli ambassador to Pretoria says:] “At the UN we kept saying: we are against apartheid, as Jewish people who suffered from the Holocaust this is intolerable. But our security establishment kept cooperating.”

So did many politicians. Israeli cities found twins in South Africa, and Israel was alone among western nations in allowing the black homeland of Bophuthatswana to open an “embassy”.

[…] When Israel finally began to back away from the apartheid regime as international pressure on the Afrikaner government grew, Liel says Israel’s security establishment balked. “When we came to the crossroads in ’86-’87, in which the foreign ministry said we have to switch from white to black, the security establishment said, ‘You’re crazy, it’s suicidal.’ They were saying we wouldn’t have military and aviation industries unless we had had South Africa as our main client from the mid-1970s; they saved Israel. By the way, it’s probably true,” he says.

Then there is this:

In 2004, Ronnie Kasrils visited the Palestinian territories to assess the effect of Israel’s assault on the West Bank two years earlier in response to a wave of suicide bombings that killed hundreds of people. “This is much worse than apartheid,” he said. “The Israeli measures, the brutality, make apartheid look like a picnic. We never had jets attacking our townships. We never had sieges that lasted month after month. We never had tanks destroying houses. We had armoured vehicles and police using small arms to shoot people but not on this scale.”

More than 200 South African Jews signed a petition that Kasrils co-authored with another Jewish veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle, Max Ozinsky, denouncing Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and drawing a parallel with apartheid. The document, called A Declaration of Conscience, prompted a furious debate within the community. Arthur Goldreich – one of Mandela’s early comrades-in-arms who also fought for Israel’s independence – was among those who signed but he attached an addendum recognising the impact of the suicide bombings on how Israelis view the Palestinians.

And then a list of Israeli MPs who advocate moving the Arabs:

Sharon recruited into his government men who openly called for wholesale ethnic cleansing that would more than match apartheid’s forced removals. Among them was the tourism minister, Rehavam Ze’evi, who advocated the “transfer” of Arabs out of Israel and the occupied territories. Even the Israeli press called him a racist. Ze’evi was shot dead in 2001 by Palestinians who said his policies made him a legitimate target.

[…] In 2001, Sharon appointed Uzi Landau as his security minister, a position from which he openly advocated that Palestinians should be forced to move to Jordan because they were in the way of Israeli expansion in the West Bank. “For many of us, it’s as though they [the Palestinians] are encroaching on our very right to be there [in the occupied territories],” he said.

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