Thursday, 24 July 2008

And Brown spoke unto the land of apartheid

Two questions.

What 'modern' country maintains a system of social separation which most of the world struggled to end in South Africa? And what kind of 'moral ' leader would speak in open support of such a country?

This week, a British Prime Minister, the first ever, stood before the Knesset, a parliament founded on the same 'participatory' ideals as Westminster, and told its assembled members that Britain fully backs the state of Israel. Citing his biblical upbringing, Gordon Brown reaffirmed his commitments to a state which has, in any true religious or moral sense, Christian, Judaic or otherwise, transgressed the most basic values of human decency.

Brown's cursory 'criticism' of Israel's West Bank settlements was of paltry significance in a speech unambiguous in its endorsement of a state which practices institutional racism. No amount of biblical reference can disguise the literal truth of Israel's crimes, including its apartheid containment of the Palestinian people.

Apartheid is apartheid

The word "apartheid" carries powerful connotations. How, the uninitiated might wonder, could such a label be applied to Israel, a country whose people 'look and sound' just like 'us' democracy-loving Westerners.

Yet, imagine, if you will, a 'liberal democracy' where racist separation of that country's ethnic majority from its ethnic minority is routinely encouraged. A country where discrimination and transfer of 'Arab Israelis' is endemic. Might we have cause to wonder at the true 'democratic' and 'liberal' claims of such a state?

Much of this mindset derives from the formative ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. But it also sits rigidly today as a de facto civil policy; part of an ongoing project to rid Arabs from Israel.

While religious freedom is nominally protected (under the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty), organisations like Yad L'achim are given wide scope to practice their doctrines of religious exclusivism and 'racial purity'. More specifically, its Anti Assimilation Department is tasked with preventing inter-ethnic development between Jews and Arabs. This is going on just now in places like Kiryat Gat under the approving eye of its local authorities and police.

Such groups may be regarded by more progressive elements in Israel as anachronistic. Yet, the state permits such activities as a way of helping to enforce social and ethnic separation.

Beyond the dark variations of racist ideology here in Britain, from BNP to Daily Mail hatemongering, there remains, at least, a healthy respect for multicultural principles. The idea of promoting ethnic or/and religious segregation of this sort would be regarded as not just racist but illegal. Yet, Israel disseminates this kind of ideology across the society, most notably in schools and workplaces.

It's why even the liberal Israeli media is prompted to report the appalling levels of racist sentiment towards Arabs. In one recent poll by the Association of Civil Rights Israel (ACRI), over seventy percent of Israeli respondents said they thought Arabs were "unclean" and wouldn't want to live in the same building as them. Over half believed Arabs should be denied the same civil rights as Jews.

Again, much of this civil racism stems from state policy:
"The ACRI says that bills introduced in the Knesset contribute to delegitimize the country's Arab citizens, such as ones that would link the right to vote and receive state allowances to military or national service. They also include bills that require ministers and MKs to swear allegiance to a Jewish state and those that set aside 13 percent of all state lands owned by the Jewish National Fund for Jews only."
Similar discrimination is occurring across the academic field, yet another area of civil separation ignored by Gordon Brown:
"The British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), the main organisation in the UK promoting the academic and cultural boycott of Israel, condemned the academic initiative announced by Gordon Brown in yesterday’s Knesset speech as “abject hypocrisy”. BRICUP called on British academics to refuse the “blood money” promised for Israeli-British collaboration through the Britain-Israel Research and Academic Exchange Partnership (BIRAX) which Brown announced will provide grants for joint scientific research and exchanges between Israel and Britain.

BRICUP notes that Brown had nothing to say about the systematic sabotage of Palestinian centres of learning and research by the Israeli separation wall, by military incursions and checkpoints, and by the detention of tutors and students. Mr. Brown spoke of peace and collaborative endeavour; he turned his eyes away from the cultural and educational deprivation, imposed as a matter of policy, on the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and from the Palestinians discriminated against in education and research inside Israel itself."
Little or nothing of this is being reported in the Western media. Which is why "Apartheid Israel" is also the great no-go label for the BBC and other obedient media.

Director of BBC News, Helen Boaden, recently dismissed as mere "opinion" the idea that Israel could be likened to apartheid South Africa. This despite the concise association being made by prominent international figures like Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter and UN human rights rapporteur John Dugard.

Israel's apartheid system needs to be called precisely that. It's a term that should be used openly and consistently, a valid identifier that would help focus the world's attentions on its dark policies of segregation, institutional discrimination and murderous Occupation.

Suffering Palestinians will, of course, wait a long time in the wilderness before the prophet Gordon and his media disciples ever concede this unholy truth. But it's a truth that can't be hidden. Israel is, by any reasonable definition, an apartheid state.


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