This review was first published in Palestine Chronicle, 2014 01 10.
Why Israel? The Anatomy of Zionist Apartheid - A South African Perspective. Suraya Dadoo and Firoz Osman. Porcupine Press, Melville, South Africa. 2013.
Why Israel? is a large work of enormous value for the study of events within Israel and the Middle east. The title question is answered relatively easy, as it is one of the many counters that Israeli supporters use to try and divert attention away from their transgressions. Yes, there are many other states in the world where racism is evident, where oppression and some form of apartheid is applied.
The reason of why Israel is simply a matter at looking at where one can place their time and resources, for what one believes is more important relative to another situation, and for where that time and effort will produce the most effect. While it is possible to be aware of all the other global situations, there is only so much time within which to focus one’s interest and energy.
Just inside the cover of the book is another powerful message. Three maps are drawn: the first showing Palestine before the nakba, with a few areas of gray showing Zionist settlements; the second map is the ‘green line’ map, the areas conquered by Israel in the 1948 war; the third map shows the current situation. The latter is alarming for anyone who retains the naive belief that a two state solution is in the works.
The third map shows small squiggles of territory that are still supposedly under Palestinian control (albeit under the quisling power of Abbas supporting Israeli suppression of dissent) plus the narrow Gaza strip. It would be impossible from these small areas to create a “contiguous and sovereign” state of Palestine. These non contiguous areas, along with the open air concentration camp known as Gaza, are the separate little bantustans that are being created in the racist apartheid state of Israel.
It is difficult to find a single word to describe this work. As I read it, many descriptors came to mind: concise, precise, comprehensive, unequivocal, intense, relentless, encyclopaedic, powerful, accurate, authoritative (the latter two from the well referenced information and the extensive bibliography). At times the work is clinically analytical and at other times creates a reaction of chilling disgust. It is a work, that along with many recent works, has reached beyond just creating awareness of Israel’s false historical narrative into the realm of analyzing it as a racist and apartheid state.
Being as comprehensive as it is, Why Israel? begins with a short historical section and a short section on current events within Israel - essentially from the 1980s onward. Throughout the rest of the work, historical perspective is presented as required by the focus of a particular occurrence or line of argument.
There are thirteen “parts” to the book, essentially chapters, each containing shorter sections on more narrowly defined aspects of the overall part. In general the authors have worked from the short history, through the current aspects of apartheid and racism within Israel, on to the manner in which it is supported both militarily, psychologically, and politically. Included in this is the media control and political control that Israel is able to exert on other countries mainly in western Europe and North America (Canada and the U.S.).
The BDS movement is highlighted as the being the most effective means of working against the apartheid state. Militant movements have realized that violent actions are counterproductive, and those that are attempting to work through international law and international jurisdiction have been mainly defeated by courts manipulated by governments that have caved in to Israeli threats or inducements.
The definition of apartheid is clearly stated and defined. The examples presented are obvious contraventions of this international law. An essential element of this are comparisons between South Africa apartheid and that of Israel. While not identical, the similarities are many, and fit the definition of apartheid: racial profiling, physical segregation, and laws and policies. The main difference noted by the authors is that South Africa wanted a black population it could exploit; the Israelis want to eliminate the Palestinian population and expel them from Eretz Israel.
While discussing the maintenance and reinforcement of apartheid, the first enforcer is aggression, highlighting the nakba, the intifadas, Sabra and Shatila, Jenin, the al-Aqsa mosque, and on to Cast Lead (2008-09) and Returning Echo (2012). Other means of reinforcing apartheid are assassinations of political leaders, the global security of Mossad, the special relationship with the U.S. (AIPAC) and the U.K., along with its global lobbying reach, from the death squads of South America, to its influence on India/Pakistan/Kashmir.
Israel’s ongoing colonial settlement expansion, its racial separatist policies, as well as its violent militarism would not be possible without the US’ unequivocal military, economic, and diplomatic support….the international impunity Israel enjoys for its consistent violations of international law is mainly due to the protection that its special relationship with the US affords it.
The counter arguments presented by Israeli supporters and the state of Israel , are
not to fight anti-Semitism, but rather to exploit the historical suffering of Jews, particularly the Holocaust, in order to immunize Israel against criticism, especially in the media.
The media is controlled in Israel through intimidation, embedding and other access control, bureaucratic obstacles, targeted violence, censorship (the “Shin Bet state”) through the military, the courts, the Knesset, all intended to intimidate and delegitimize the reality of apartheid.
The final sections of Why Israel? look at the BDS movement and its successes around the world in face of strong Israeli opposition, from which ironically, even more attention is drawn to the topic with more and more people recognizing the true nature of the Israeli state. Complicity with apartheid comes from mainly the corporate and political elites, mainly in the realms of construction (settlements), security and surveillance (the “war on terror”), transportation, and anything military.
The main success of the BDS movement is not so much financial as much as “to expose the nature of Israel’s regime over the Palestinian people as one that combines military occupation, colonisation, ethnic cleansing, and Apartheid. Israel’s carefully-cultivated decades old image as a ‘democratic’, ‘peace-seeking’ state has suffered irreparable damage.”
To what end?
The author’s conclude that the two state solution is not possible, that while ‘negotiations’ have been ongoing for several decades, Israel has used that as a cover simply to build more and more settlements. The only choice, other than a strictly militarized apartheid state is a single state solution, with democracy and equal civil rights for all its people.
Palestinian misery is not a coincidence - but a calculated Israeli strategy. The Israeli government hopes that it will force ‘soft transfer’ - mass emigration of Palestinians to wherever in the world they can find jobs...It is abundantly clear that the idea of creating a viable Palestinian state on pre-1967 borders is not possible.
Returning to their South African roots, the authors say,
South Africa’s relatively smooth transition from Apartheid to democracy has often been touted as the ideal model for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The basis of South Africa’s success was its dismantling of its Bantustans…and the formation of one state with equal rights for all its citizens.
There is no way this review can properly define the power and clarity of this work. Along with other recent works I have read (Goliath and Generation Palestine) it solidifies the case against Israeli apartheid. Anyone discussing or presenting information on Israel/Palestine needs to add Why Israel? to their library.