‘I come from Apartheid South Africa. Arriving in your land, the land of Palestine, the sense of deja vu is inescapable.’

The following is an open letter from the South African Muslim scholar Farid Esack. It is currently being spray painted on the Separation Wall on a three kilometer section between Jerusalem and Ramallah by the Dutch-Palestinian collaborative project www.sendamessage.nl. (Thanks to JPN for sending out the text.)

Farid Esack: Open Letter, 2009

My dear Palestinian brothers and sisters, I have come to your land and I have recognized shades of my own. My land was once one where some people imagined that they could build their security on the insecurity of others. They claimed that their lighter skin and European origins gave them the right to dispossess those of a darker skin who lived in the land for thousands of years. I come from a land where a group of people, the Afrikaners, were genuinely hurt by the British. The British despised them and placed many of them into concentration camps. Nearly a sixth of their population perished.

Then the Afrikaners said, ‘Never again!’. And they meant that never again will harm come unto them with no regard to how their own humanity was tied to that of others. In their hurt they developed an understanding of being’s God chosen people destined to inhabit a Promised Land. And thus they occupied the land, other people’s land, and they built their security on the insecurity of black people. Later they united with the children of their former enemies – now called “the English”. The new allies, known simply as ‘whites’, pitted themselves against the blacks who were forced to pay the terrible price of dispossession, exploitation and marginalization as a result of a combination of white racism, Afrikaner fears and ideas of chosenness. And, of course, there was the ancient crime of simple greed.

I come from Apartheid South Africa.

Arriving in your land, the land of Palestine, the sense of deja vu is inescapable. I am struck by the similarities. In some ways, all of us are the children of our histories. Yet, we may also choose to be struck by the stories of others. Perhaps this ability is what is called morality. We cannot always act upon what we see but we always have the freedom to see and to be moved.

I come from a land where people braved onslaughts of bulldozers, bullets, machine guns, and teargas for the sake of freedom. We resisted at a time when it was not fashionable. And now that we have been liberated everyone declares that they were always on our side. It’s a bit like Europe after the Second World War. During the war only a few people resisted. After the war not a single supporter of the Nazis could be found and the vast majority claimed that they always supported the resistance to the Nazis.

I am astonished at how ordinarily decent people whose hearts are otherwise “in the right place” beat about the bush when it comes to Israel and the dispossession and suffering of the Palestinians. And now I wonder about the nature of “decency.” Do “objectivity,” “moderation,” and seeing “both sides” not have limits? Is moderation in matters of clear injustice really a virtue? Do both parties deserve an “equal hearing” in a situation of domestic violence – wherein a woman is beaten up by a male who was abused by his father some time ago – because “he,” too, is a “victim?”

We call upon the world to act now against the dispossession of the Palestinians. We must end the daily humiliation at checkpoints, the disgrace of an Apartheid Wall that cuts people off from their land, livelihood, and history, and act against the torture, detention without trial, and targeted killings of those who dare to resist. Our humanity demands that we who recognize evil in its own time act against it even when it is “unsexy” to do so. Such recognition and action truly benefits our higher selves. We act in the face of oppression, dispossession, or occupation so that our own humanity may not be diminished by our silence when some part of the human family is being demeaned. If something lessens your worth as a human being, then it lessens mine as well. To act in your defense is really to act in defense of my “self” – whether my higher present self or my vulnerable future self.

Morality is about the capacity to be moved by interests beyond one’s own ethnic group, religious community, or nation. When one’s view of the world and dealings with others are entirely shaped by self-centredness – whether in the name of religion, survival, security, or ethnicity – then it is really only a matter of time before one also becomes a victim. While invoking ”real life” or realpolitik as values themselves, human beings mostly act in their own self–interest even as they seek to deploy a more ethically based logic in doing so. Thus, while it is oil or strategic advantage that you are after, you may invoke the principle of spreading democracy, or you may justify your exploitation of slavery with the comforting rationalization that the black victims of the system might have died of starvation if they had been left in Africa. Being truly human – a mensch – is something different. It is about the capacity to transcend narrow interests and to understand how a deepening of humanness is linked to the good of others. When apartness is elevated to dogma and ideology, when apartness is enforced through the law and its agencies, this is called Apartheid. When certain people are privileged simply because they are born in certain ethnic group and use these privileges to dispossess and discriminate others then this is called Apartheid. Regardless of how genuine the trauma that gave birth to it and regardless of the religious depth of the exclusivist beliefs underpinning it all, it is called Apartheid. How we respond to our own trauma and to the indifference or culpability of the world never justifies traumatizing others or an indifference to theirs. Apartness then not only becomes a foundation for ignorance of the other with whom one shares a common space. It also becomes a basis for denying the suffering and humiliation that the other undergoes.

We do not deny the trauma that the oppressors experienced at any stage in their individual or collective lives; we simply reject the notion that others should become victims as a result of it. We reject the manipulation of that suffering for expansionist political and territorial purposes. We resent having to pay the price of dispossession because an imperialist power requires a reliable ally in this part of the world.

As South Africans, speaking up about the life or death for the Palestinian people is also about salvaging our own dream of a moral society that will not be complicit in the suffering of other people. There are, of course, other instances of oppression, dispossession, and marginalization in the world. Yet, none of these are as immediately recognizable to us who lived under, survived, and overcame Apartheid. Indeed, for those of us who lived under South African Apartheid and fought for liberation from it and everything that it represented, Palestine reflects in many ways the unfinished business of our own struggle.

Thus I and numerous others who were involved in the struggle against Apartheid have come here and we have witnessed a place that in some ways reminds us of what we have suffered through. Archbishop Desmond Tutu is of course correct when he speaks about how witnessing the conditions of the Palestinians “reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa…. I say why are our memories so short? Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation?" But yet in more ways than one, here in your land, we are seeing something far more brutal, relentless and inhuman than what we have ever seen under Apartheid. In some ways, my brothers and sisters, I am embarrassed that you have to resort to using a word that was earlier on used specifically for our situation in order to draw attention to yours.

White South Africa did of course seek to control Blacks. However it never tried to deny Black people their very existences or to wish them away completely as we see here. We have not experienced military occupation without any rights for the occupied. We were spared the barbaric and diverse forms of collective punishment in the forms of house demolitions, the destruction of orchards belonging to relatives of suspected freedom fighters, or the physical transfer of these relatives themselves. South Africa’s apartheid courts never legitimized torture. White South Africans were never given a carte blanche to humiliate Black South Africans as the Settlers here seem to have. The craziest Apartheid zealots would never have dreamt of something as macabre as this Wall. The Apartheid police never used kids as shields in any of their operations. Nor did the apartheid army ever use gunships and bombs against largely civilian targets. In South Africa the Whites were a stable community and after centuries simply had to come to terms with Black people. (Even if it were only because of their economic dependence on Black people.) The Zionist idea of Israel as the place for the ingathering for all the Jews – old and new, converts, reverts and reborn is a deeply problematic one. In such a case there is no sense of compulsion to reach out to your neighbour. The idea seems to be to get rid of the old neighbours – ethnic cleansing – and to bring in new ones all the time.

We as South Africans resisting Apartheid understood the invaluable role of international solidarity in ending centuries of oppression. Today we have no choice but to make our contribution to the struggle of the Palestinians for freedom. We do so with the full awareness that your freedom will also contribute to the freedom of many Jews to be fully human in the same way that the end of Apartheid also signaled the liberation of White people in South Africa. At the height of our own liberation struggle, we never ceased to remind our people that our struggle for liberation is also for the liberation of white people. Apartheid diminished the humanity of White people in the same way that gender injustice diminishes the humanity of males. The humanity of the oppressor is reclaimed through liberation and Israel is no exception in this regard. At public rallies during the South African liberation struggle the public speaker of the occasion would often call out: “An injury to one?!” and the crowd would respond: “Is an injury to all!” We understood that in a rather limited way at that time. Perhaps we are destined to always understand this in a limited way. What we do know is that an injury to the Palestinian people is an injury to all. An injury inflicted on others invariably comes back to haunt the aggressors; it is not possible to tear at another’s skin and not to have one’s own humanity simultaneously diminished in the process. In the face of this monstrosity, the Apartheid Wall, we offer an alternative: Solidarity with the people of Palestine. We pledge our determination to walk with you in your struggle to overcome separation, to conquer injustice and to put end to greed, division and exploitation.

We have seen our yesterday’s oppressed – both in Apartheid South Africa and in Israel today – can become today’s oppressors. Thus we stand by you in your vision to create a society wherein everyone, regardless of their ethnicity, or religion shall be equal and live in freedom.

We continue to draw strength from the words of Nelson Mandela, the father of our nation and hero of the Palestinian people. In 1964 he was found guilty on charges of treason and faced the death penalty. He turned to the judges and said: “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Farid Esack, 2009

About Adam Horowitz

Adam Horowitz is Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 51 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Mooser says:

    "Farid Esack" is really Richard Witty, huh? Did you think you could fool me, Richard?

  2. 5 dancing shlomos says:

    many of SA's "progressive" jews left their first apartheid state and moved to israel a more vicious apartheid state where they felt very comfortable and at peace.

  3. JES says:

    And just think, today South Africans go to the polls to elect Zuma, a rapist and someone who thinks that you can prevent AIDS by showering after sex. I'd say that's progress!

  4. rykart says:

    Did you say RAPIST, JES??

    Police back Katsav rape charges
    link to news.bbc.co.uk

    Eighth woman testifies against Katsav
    link to tiny.cc

    He's got plenty of competition in the sexual deviance category though, with all the other Israeli sexual predators around:

    Israel has recalled its ambassador to El Salvador after he was found drunk and naked apart from bondage gear.

    link to news.bbc.co.uk

    Nice cesspool you got there, JES.

    ENJOY!

  5. LD says:

    LOL@JES, Zuma like Moshe Katsav?

    It's pathetic how many logical fallacies Zionists employ in their attempt to denigrate the opposition.

    So first this clown, JES, conflates all SA with their political leadership and all their political leadership with this Zuma guy.

  6. Mooser says:

    "It's pathetic how many logical fallacies Zionists employ in their attempt to denigrate the opposition."

    Although I consider you, LD, sagacious and a real mensch besides, I can't agree with your contention of mendacious multiplicity. I would agree with this poster who says all Zionist apologetics is based on four simple axioms:

    link to jewssansfrontieres.blogspot.com

    It's like a giant fugue in four movements, each based on a simple theme.

  7. Mooser says:

    Jesus, JES, back in the day a true American Zionist Supporter wouldn't sully himself with even trying to prove he's superior to a schwartze, you know. Sort of stopping to conquer, aren't you, there?

  8. rykart says:

    Mooser…didn't you get the memo?

    They're not called schwartze anymore. That was back during israel's touchy-feely multicultural phase.

    Now the gloves are off:

    Settlers to Ethiopian troops: Niggers don't expel Jews

    link to ynet.co.il

  9. JES says:

    Hey, don't you guys read the newspapers? Katsav has been indicted for rape and will stand trial.

    So first this clown, JES, conflates all SA with their political leadership and all their political leadership with this Zuma guy.

    And you, LD (fright wig and big red nose), have conflated all Israel with their political leadership and all Israeli politicl leadership with Katsav (who will be standing trial when Zuma assumes office).

    Mooser, for your information, I am Israeli and I live in Israel. And I'm not trying to prove that I'm superior to anyone (and BTW, in my home, we never used the sch word). (But we did, on occasion, call someone a shmendrig which is what you are.

    Finally, Rykart, whose conflating here? You equate settlers with Israelis in general. Well, screw you!

  10. rykart says:

    Better quit badmouthing the Nazi settlers, JES.

    They're the reason you are able to live on someone else's land.

  11. JES says:

    They're the reason you are able to live on someone else's land.

    And why is that, Rykart?

  12. Susie Kneedler says:

    I'd like to talk about Farid Esack's admirable, brilliant letter, that describes how the oppressed become tyrants.

    "Then the Afrikaners said, ‘Never again!’. And they meant that never again will harm come unto them with no regard to how their own humanity was tied to that of others."

    "We have seen our yesterday’s oppressed – both in Apartheid South Africa and in Israel today – can become today’s oppressors. Thus we stand by you in your vision to create a society wherein everyone, regardless of their ethnicity, or religion shall be equal and live in freedom."

    "We as South Africans resisting Apartheid understood the invaluable role of international solidarity in ending centuries of oppression. Today we have no choice but to make our contribution to the struggle of the Palestinians for freedom. We do so with the full awareness that your freedom will also contribute to the freedom of many Jews to be fully human in the same way that the end of Apartheid also signaled the liberation of White people in South Africa."

    Esack points out the courage we need to work for liberation against the institutions of power, for the cause is never popular till it is won:

    "We resisted at a time when it was not fashionable. And now that we have been liberated everyone declares that they were always on our side. It’s a bit like Europe after the Second World War. During the war only a few people resisted. After the war not a single supporter of the Nazis could be found and the vast majority claimed that they always supported the resistance to the Nazis."

    Again, today, everyone celebrates the "winners," much like George W Bush never missed a chance to praise Nelson Mandela, even though his Republican Party came out against and Dick Cheney voted against sanctions for toward the South African apartheid government. The Republican scare-tactic then was to accuse the ANC of being "Communist"–the Bogeyman-equivalent of "Terrorist" today, that is, guilt by association. Meanwhile, we now see censorship and smearing of even so legendary a hero as Archbishop Desmond Tutu by the Likud right-wingers because they fear his ability to speak the truth.

    As Esack says,
    "[H]here in your land, we are seeing something far more brutal, relentless and inhuman than what we have ever seen under Apartheid. In some ways, my brothers and sisters, I am embarrassed that you have to resort to using a word that was earlier on used specifically for our situation in order to draw attention to yours.

    White South Africa did of course seek to control Blacks. However it never tried to deny Black people their very existences or to wish them away completely as we see here. We have not experienced military occupation without any rights for the occupied. We were spared the barbaric and diverse forms of collective punishment in the forms of house demolitions, the destruction of orchards belonging to relatives of suspected freedom fighters, or the physical transfer of these relatives themselves. South Africa’s apartheid courts never legitimized torture. White South Africans were never given a carte blanche to humiliate Black South Africans as the Settlers here seem to have. The craziest Apartheid zealots would never have dreamt of something as macabre as this Wall. The Apartheid police never used kids as shields in any of their operations. Nor did the apartheid army ever use gunships and bombs against largely civilian targets."

    Esack touches on the injustice of shoveling out the actual owners of the land, while giving instant citizenship to any Jewish person from anywhere around the world:

    "The Zionist idea of Israel as the place for the ingathering for all the Jews – old and new, converts, reverts and reborn is a deeply problematic one. In such a case there is no sense of compulsion to reach out to your neighbour. The idea seems to be to get rid of the old neighbours – ethnic cleansing – and to bring in new ones all the time."

    Esack asks the essential question:

    '"why are our memories so short? Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation?"

    Thanks, Mr. Esack and Adam.

  13. rykart says:

    Jeez JES..don't you pay attention to what your leaders past and present say?

    I do.

    "We are a generation of settlers and without the combat helmet and the barrel of a gun we will not be able to plant a tree or build a house." …Mosche Dayan

    as another effused, in breathless support of the Palmach terrorists:

    "This is a kind of existence that still arouses me to great admiration. The ideal and perfect fusion of the plow and the rifle. This is what we read about, talked about and sang about for so many years."

    ..as quoted in Uri Ben-Eliezer: The Making of Israeli Militarism."

    Save your soul, JES.
    Leave that cursed place.

  14. rykart says:

    Superb letter, susie..thanks you for posting!

    It's kind of amazing. Bt'Selem refers to Israeli apartheid. Tutu, Mandella, Ronnie Kasrill. Farid Esack and other eye-witnesses who suffered under apartheid call the situation in the occupied territories worse.

    But Jimmy Carter is an anti-Semite for daring to publish a book called Peace, not Apartheid.

  15. JES says:

    Rykart, I don't have to agree with every word that you can excise from every source from every leader. I also don't agree with your characterization of the Palmach as "terrorists". I also don't appreciate your admonition to save my soul.

    I'm certain that there is much that you need to learn about he history of the Zionist and Palestinian movements.

    BTW Rykart, who is the reason that you are able to live on someone elses land?

  16. JES says:

    But Jimmy Carter is an anti-Semite for daring to publish a book called Peace, not Apartheid.

    Perhaps, Rykart, it's because of Jimmy Carter's role in Zimbabwe:

    link to nysun.com

    And we all know how that turned out….

  17. rykart says:

    BTW Rykart, who is the reason that you are able to live on someone elses land?

    Obviously, because 200 years ago, the United States committed a racist genocide, very similar to the one your sick and depraved, disgusting and sub-human countrymen are CURRENTLY engaged in.

    That's why.

  18. rykart says:

    I cite the founders of the Zionist enterprise. You cite a nearly illiterate editorial in the NY Sun, attempting to smear a man who has done more for humanitarian efforts in Africa than your Nazi sewer of a country—reviled by the entire planet–could ever dream of.

  19. JES says:

    Well Rykart, let me just correct you on the chronology. That genocide was occured just a bit over 100 years ago.

    Now, as for the term "racist genocide", the definition of "genocide" is:

    Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group.

    For example, during WWII roughly half the Jewish population of Europe and one-third of the world's Jewish population was killed in just under a decade. Somewhere between 500,000 and 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Turks.

    According to US census figures, there were just under 2 million native Americans in 1990.

    Those are genocides.

    Now, by way of comparison, I and my fellow sick and depraved, disgusting and sub-human countrymen first began settling here about the middle of the 19th century (about the same time that the United States – I love the objectification you use, as if it's a country and not people who commit these crimes – was carrying out its "racist genocide"). At that time, it is estimated that the total population of Palestine was about 650,000. Today, the Palestinian population in Palestine is roughly 5 million. How is that a genocide?

    Either we aren't as sick and depraved as you make us out to be, or we're incredibly inefficient as genocides go.

    BTW, Rykart, I believe that you are an incredibly sick puppy.

  20. JES says:

    You cite a nearly illiterate editorial in the NY Sun, attempting to smear a man who has done more for humanitarian efforts in Africa than your Nazi sewer of a country….

    Yes, yes Rykart. We always blame our equipment when we can't get it up.

  21. rykart says:

    Are you referring to your foreign ambassador?

    Two weeks ago, El Salvador police found Raphael naked outside his residence, tied up, gagged and drunk, Israeli media reported. He was wearing several sex toys at the time, the media said. After he was untied, Raphael told police he was the ambassador of Israel.

    link to foxnews.com

  22. JES says:

    Gawlee Rykart, you really are scraping the bottom of the barrel here for arguments. How old are you anyway?

  23. rykart says:

    6 million Jews murdered and they let YOU live.

    Stay with your filth.
    We don't want you.

  24. Witty's anonymous critic says:

    JES, what was the point of your "Zuma is a rapist" remark? Do you mean that apartheid wasn't so bad after all, because post-apartheid SA has had one crappy leader (Mbeki) and may soon have another? So in your mind this means the blacks should have been happy to live under white rule?

    Apparently the same reasoning is at work in your Zimbabwe comment. A normal decent person would say that people like Mbeki, Zuma and Mugabe (though the first two don't deserve to be lumped in with Mugabe) demonstrate that ending one form of oppression doesn't necessarily mean everyone lives happily ever after. But a racist would say that it means white people are superior and blacks should be happy to live under their oppression.

  25. TGGP says:

    One difference: when the Afrikaners arrived, the only natives there were bushmen/hottentots (aka Khoi-San). Around that time the expanding Bantus had pushed the pygmies and Khoi-San out of their old territory to the south until a river separated them from the Bantu. It was after the Afrikaners discovered gold and built mines that Bantu-speaking people began to immigrate to work in the mines. Apartheid has origins in the Afrikaner labor movement, which sought to restrict competition from these new immigrants. Arabs, in contrast, lived in the middle east long before Herzl was born.

    If I were an Israeli, the lesson I would take would be that the Afrikaner labor movement was correct to believe that immigration was a threat, and that a fence should be built promptly. Philip and his supporters advocating a one-state solution need to explain why any Israelis would want to risk the fate of Rhodesia.

  26. Mooser says:

    "why any Israelis would want to risk the fate of Rhodesia."

    They don't, but it will be very difficult for them to avoid it.
    And it will be increasingly difficult for them to make the case it is our US responsibility to help them avoid it, on their terms. Anytime they wish to make significant changes, I'm sure they will entirely capture the public's sympathy. In spite of their awful manners, and passive aggressive social syndromes. We can overlook that.

  27. Mooser says:

    And I think the letter was a beautiful contribution, and Zionists will do anything but discuss it on its own merits.
    The signs of panic are palpable.

  28. Ross Gordon says:

    I have a major problem with the Palestinians in the brutal way they treat their 'own' people. When I think of what would happen in 'Palestine' then I think of what has happened in Zimbabwe and Iraq under Saddam , instead of comparing yourself to be the victims of apartheid, you should promote the benefits of what you would do for the region, you should be able to point out and enumerate and be able to prove the good that you have done by uplifting the lives of those you already have power over.
    You are like Mugabe in that like him you use the excuse of apartheid to oppress your own people, and you are like Saddam in the atrocities that you are responsible for.
    Please go back to where you came from and show me that you can do some good there.

  29. pulaski says:

    Beautiful letter. Thanks for posting it.

  30. LD says:

    The point of the 'Zuma is a rapist lulz SA' remark was to denigrate South African Muslim scholar Farid Esack.

    Like I said, Zionists regularly incorporate logical fallacies into their arguments.

    JES is so dumb though, that his fallacy is blatantly obvious.

    'Zuma is a rapist. Zuma is a SA politician. SA is home to rapist politicians. SA cannot be trusted. Farid Esack is from SA. Esack cannot be trusted.'

    So inanely idiotic.

    Anyways, just ignore this retard like we ignore Berel.

  31. Joshua says:

    TGGP's comment shares no relationship to reality at all and he even closes it with beaming support for Israel's separation wall, which is meant to keep "immigrants out" (talk of which sounds eerily familiar out in the states of Texas and New Mexico). What's pitiful is that Israel, while applying the lessons of Apartheid when it replaced the labour work of Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank with another set of immigrants coming from South Asia, is utterly dependent on immigration, and not only that, immigration of the sort that is called "aliyah" (yes, it's immigration still, no matter how you term Jews "going home"). In fact, this is one of the few states that carefully monitors immigration and emigration and makes a big deal about the numbers of immigrants, also forgetting about the way they treat the newer immigrants who are doing the menial labour work that the Palestinians used to have. In stark contrast, while desicively removing the native population, it erected a wall AGAINST the native population, not the threat of immigration.

    In a bitter final lambast, while Israel is always on the cusp when it comes to "demographics" and how it resorts to dubious means in their hopes to get more people into Israel, they do so while denying a certain population the right to do so on the basis of their religion. (Being Jewish or Zionist does not even apply much as the former Soviet influx showed. But being Palestinian does.)

    (This comment does not even touch on the subject of how futile a wall really is.)

  32. Chris Berel says:

    Futile? Terror attacks in Israel have been substantially reduced. Sounds like the barrier is a success.

    I see Rykart has proven himself to be an ignorant ass. Well done to JES for exposing the git.

  33. Joshua says:

    If the true raison d'etre for the "barrier" really was to minimise terror attacks, then why would Israel incorporate MORE Palestinians behind the wall?

    PS The reduction of violence of your's is specious reasoning. It says nothing of the uses of other means of resistance besides violence that the Palestinians have adopted. Secondly, it has been documented NUMEROUS times how ineffective the wall and checkpoints really are as anyone who was determined enough to commit a terror attack could do so with ease.

  34. Citizen says:

    So far nobody has negated the content of Farid Esac's letter.

  35. TGGP says:

    Joshua, I explicitly stated at the beginning of my comment that the two cases were different in that Arabs were already there. The bit about immigrants was to serve as an analogy.

    In fact, this is one of the few states that carefully monitors immigration and emigration and makes a big deal about the numbers of immigrants
    What states don't?

    (This comment does not even touch on the subject of how futile a wall really is.)
    The fall of the Berlin wall was significant precisely because it was NOT futile.

    If the true raison d'etre for the "barrier" really was to minimise terror attacks, then why would Israel incorporate MORE Palestinians behind the wall?
    Imagine there are two purposes: one is preventing terrorist attacks, another is stealing land. The government faces a trade-off. Evidently they think the size of the Palestinian population winding up on their side of the wall is small enough that they won't pose a major problem. I don't think that's a good idea, but the Israeli government never asked for my opinion. They had already built a smaller version of the wall which reduced attacks from that region, but it might have been like squeezing a balloon that just displaced it.

    Secondly, it has been documented NUMEROUS times how ineffective the wall and checkpoints really are as anyone who was determined enough to commit a terror attack could do so with ease.
    Would you care to give a cite?

  36. JES says:

    JES, what was the point of your "Zuma is a rapist" remark? Do you mean that apartheid wasn't so bad after all, because post-apartheid SA has had one crappy leader (Mbeki) and may soon have another? So in your mind this means the blacks should have been happy to live under white rule?

    No WACo, the point (which apparently flew right over your head) was that, despite the years of struggle and the efforts of two brave men (Mandela and de Clerc), South Africans still vote along purly racial lines, even when serious questions and legal charges have been raised against the ANC candidate.

  37. JES says:

    And I think the letter was a beautiful contribution, and Zionists will do anything but discuss it on its own merits.

    What's to discuss? It's obvious that Esak, while certainly well – meaning – is not really familiar with the region or its history, and the differences between Israel and South Africa. Here's just one example:

    The craziest Apartheid zealots would never have dreamt of something as macabre as this Wall. The Apartheid police never used kids as shields in any of their operations. Nor did the apartheid army ever use gunships and bombs against largely civilian targets.

    And neither did the "craziest Zionists" ever dream of building a barrier (Jabotinsky's referral to an "Iron Wall" was purely literary) until the terrorist attacks became unbearable (something that never really happened in South Africa). For the real crazies – the Greater Israel fanatics – the barrier meant the end of that dream, as it set up a clear boundary for a future peace agreement. They even said this at the time.

    [And yes, Joshua, it has and does work. Despite your assertions to the contrary, the barrier, wall and checkpoints have all dramatically reduced the number of terrorist attacks within Israel from several per day to one or two per year.]

    Perhaps the Apartheid police never seemingly used "kids as shields" or "targetted civilians" because they weren't faced with an enemy who hid among civilians in contravention to international law. While it is questionable exactly how much of this has gone on on the Israeli side, it is abundantly clear that in Gaza the Hamas was in significant violation of those rules. From safe in their underground bunkers, Hamas commanders:

    - issued orders that their men were to shed their uniforms and hide among civilians

    - issued fatwas that in response to warnings from the IAF about impending strikes upon homes being used for weapons storage, that the Hamas operatives were not to allow their families to leave

    - used homes and mosques as storage facilities for weapons

    - used hospitals to hide their senior commanders and political leaders

    In short, Mooser, Esak's letter is very beautifully written and very emotive, however there really isn't must substance there to discuss.

  38. JohD says:

    There is a principle i call the "Saints and Savages" divide, and it goes like this:

    whatever they do that is disgusting and evil, is because it is an intrinsic part of their nature and make-up. If we do the exact same thing, it is an exception and the work of a rogue member of our group.

    This is the essence of any apologia for bigotry.

    I like reading this blog, and in particular the comments section, precisely because so many examples of this type of thinking is prevalent – even from unexpected quarters.

    FYI, the comment that the British and Afrikaners found a land without a people, except for the most primitive kind, is complete and utter balderdash. The British, and the Dutch before them were fighting the first skirmishes of the Xhosa wars in Mossel Bay as early as 1678. The Xhosa are a Bantu tribe, and the Gouritsmaond river and its surrounds were already being used as grazing land then, and had been for hundreds of years. Mossel Bay is as close to Cape Town as you can get without having to use Cape Town’s Postal Code. This is along the Eastern seaboard. To this day, the Western Cape is relatively sparsely populated.

    An aside, Farid Essack is descended from the khoi-san people mentioned, as am I.

    Robert Mugabe is a prime vehicle for the implementation of the Saints/Savages divide principle, as is Ahmednejad. If they didn’t exist, then they would definitely be invented. Much about them is invented anyway;, or is a self-fulfilling prophesy – the demonization is in large part responsible for the debilitating effects of the rule of these people.
    It really amuses me when people go out of their way to ‘condemn’ such demons. Do you really think it matters, or will placate your ideological adversaries? They will simply then trot out another demon for you to condemn. Don’t play their stupid game. You are only responsible for what you can control – period. There is no rhyme or reason for you to condemn an endless list of past, present or future demons.

    Your ideological foes should be condemning their own self-professed and proudly re-iterated racism and bigotry. It is ridiculous that they demand you condemn a view expressed by someone you don’t support anyway, while they insist on preserving their own precious bigotry.

  39. Janey says:

    Palestinians have never been physically enslaved the way black South Africans were so therefore the occupation cannot be compared to South African Apartheid. (Palestinians actually enslaved Africans between the mid 1700's and 1948 so they have more in common with the light skinned European Colonizers than with Dark skinned victims.) Unlike Americans and Europeans, Arabs have never acknowledged, apologized for, or paid reparations for their brutal history so that puts them in an entirely different category than whites.

  40. JES says:

    Joshua,

    What constitutes a native? According to the latest census, more than two-thirds of Israeli Jews were born here, many second and third generation:

    link to haaretz.com

    And not only do most states "make a big deal about immigrants", the majority of European states give priority to those who can show some ethnic connection. You should take a look at Ireland, Germany and Greece for some pretty explicit examples.

  41. Shafiq says:

    Janey, you do know that Slavery in South Africa was abolished a hundred years before Apartheid and there is no link between the two?

    Jes, the fact remains that when Israel was created, nearly all Jewish migrants to Israel did not have any kind of ethnic connection to Israel. The Palestinians aren't foreigners and have a stronger ethnic connection to the land than Jews have. Even then, that didn't stop them from welcoming Jews to the area throughout the 19th century.

    And as for your statement about Germany, Greece and Ireland, I couldn't find any supporting evidence – Maybe you could highlight them for me. The Irish have traditionally welcomed immigrants with open arms because of their own emigrant history.

  42. JES says:

    the fact remains that when Israel was created, nearly all Jewish migrants to Israel did not have any kind of ethnic connection to Israel. The Palestinians aren't foreigners and have a stronger ethnic connection to the land than Jews have. Even then, that didn't stop them from welcoming Jews to the area throughout the 19th century.

    Shafiq, that is patently untrue on several counts.

    First, many Palestinians only came here at about the same time as the first wave of Jewish immigrants in the 19th century. The majority of the coastal villages were established by Egyptian peasants who arrived with Ibrahim Pasha when he conquered Syria in the early 19th century. Still others arrived from North Africa in the mid-19th century. These were Kabilye Berbers – not even Arabs. At the same time, Circassians arrived from the Causasus and even Bosnian Muslims arrived late in the century following the Balkan Wars. And despite all this immigration, the total population at the end of the 19th century was about 650,000.

    As far as welcoming the Jews, that also is not completely true. For example, at the end of the 19th century Muhammed Tahir al-Husayni, the Mufti of Jerusalem, called for all foreign Jews to be expelled after being terrorized.

    Germany, Greece and Ireland all have ethnicity-based immigration laws. You can google them if you like. I believe that Greece, in particular, requires proof of baptism in the Greek Orthodox Church. At any rate, I think you are mistake about the Irish having traditionally welcomed immigrants. They have, I believe, some of the toughest laws in the EU requiring proof that at least one grandparent was born in the "Old Sod".

  43. David says:

    Seems that Jes has fallen for Joan Peters' long since debunked mountain of mendacity, "From Time Immemorial" (1984.) Dr. Porath, Israel's leading demographic historian, called Peters’ book a "forgery… [that] was almost universally dismissed [in Israel] as sheer rubbish except maybe as a propaganda weapon."(New York Times, Nov.28, 1985) Rabbi Arthur Herzberg, vice-president of the World Jewish Congress, agreed: "I think that she's cooked the statistics…. The scholarship is phony and tendentious. I do not believe that she has read the Arabic sources that she quotes."(ibid)
    As anthropologists specializing in Palestine have stated, modern Palestinians are descendants of the Canaaites, the region's first permanent settlers (7000 BCE.) These ancestors of modern Palestinians had been living in the region for at least two thousand years when the Prophet Abraham is believed to have arrived from Mesopotamia (circa 1800 BCE) – if he existed – and for about three millennia when the Hebrews invaded (circa 1184 BCE.) A Canannite tribe known as the Jebusites also founded Jerusalem ("Rushalimum" or "Urussalim") more than 800 years before King David was born – if in fact, he ever existed.

  44. JES says:

    No David. I was not basing my argument to Shafiq on Peters. I was in fact basing it on, among others, Arieh L. Avneri's book "The Claim of Disposession" (which predates Peters by four years), as well as the works of Porath himself.

    Without getting into the Peters controversy, I tend to side with Porath in his basic argument: There are other factors that explain the bulk of the population growth. However, if you took the trouble to read Porath's critique of Peters, you would note that, in the introduction, he speaks of myths. Further, Porath (who has probably studied this more than any other scholar) says that:

    "It is true that in the middle of the nineteenth century there was neither a "Palestinian nation" nor a "Palestinian identity." But about four hundred thousand Arabs—the great majority of whom were Muslims—lived in Palestine, which was divided by the Ottomans into three districts. Some of these people were the descendants of the pre-Islamic population that had adopted Islam and the Arabic language; others were members of Bedouin tribes."

    (In a separate work, Porath describes how the Palestinian identity was, indeed, a reaction to Jewish nationalism.)

    Now, if you read my response to Shafiq carefully, you will see that I was simply responding to his assertion that the "Palestinians aren't foreigners and have a stronger ethnic connection to the land than Jews have." This is patently untrue.

    Not only are there some Palestinians who do not have a stronger ethnic connection to the land than do Jews, one could argue that, up until the late 20th century, there really wasn't a Palestinian "ethnicity" that separated Palestinians from other Arabs in the region.

    BTW, you can see the Circassian villagers at, for example, Kfar Kama and the descendents of the Bosnian Muslims in and around Akko. The descendents of the Egyptian peasants that arrived with Ibrahim Pasha in the 19th century are present in the al-Masri family (interestingly, nowhere in the Arab world have I heard of the family name al-Falastini).

    I like your "As anthropologists specializing in Palestine have stated…" lead in to the second paragraph. You forgot to include the word "some" in between "As" and "anthropologists". I have also seen studies carried out here (I was also in my previous life an anthropologist specializing in Palestine) that it was quite common for Arabs from the coast to refer to those in the mountains – and particularly in Hebron (al-Khalil) – as "Jews", and I have no doubts that many are the Arabized descendents of Jews.

    As far as the generalization you make that all Palestines are descendents of the Canaanite tribe known as the Jebusites, well this is precisely one of the Palestinian myths that Porath cites in the critique of Peters (if you had bothered to read it).

  45. Shafiq says:

    JES,

    Your comments distort the truth in so many ways:
    Very few Egyptians arrived with Ibrahim Pasha and very soon they intermarried with the existing Palestinians to become naturalised Palestinians themselves. The same with the Berbers and the Bosnians. The people living in the region saw themselves as Palestinians before any of these immigrants came to the region, and most modern day Palestinians can trace their lineage back some way or another to the original Palestinians.

    You're also distorting the Truth about Muhammed Tahir al-Husayni, who didn't call for all foreign Jews to be expelled, rather to stop any land being purchased by foreign Jews, who were locking the land so that in the future, it could only be purchased by fellow Jews. (This is still the case with 96% of Israeli land)

    And you're wrong about immigration to all three countries. I've googled them and all three's immigrant populations are increasing. Germany has many Turkish immigrants, Greece has Albanian and Macedonian immigrants and Ireland is more welcoming than most.

    It is easier to get citizenship if you have grandparents born there, but that is the case with all countries – I'm eligible for Indian citizenship through my Grandparents. You try to make this similarity with Israel but it falls down at the first hurdle seeing as nearly all the Jews that have migrated to Israel have not had any relative living on the land for the past 2000 years. The Palestinians on the other hand…

  46. wittys anonymous critic says:

    In making a point, it's customary to say something that actually incorporates it, but apparently you are unaware of that literary convention. That South Africa remains divided along racial lines is true–if you'd said that I wouldn't have objected. Instead, you typed something that implied there's been no progress at all in SA since apartheid days. I'd say the fact that blacks can vote constitutes some progress.

  47. JES says:

    I don't believe that my comments "distort the truth" in any way. Perhaps, by today's standards, the number of Egyptians who came with Ibrahim Pasha was small, and I will not argue with you that they may have even intermarried with the "local" population (although, as you probably know, marriage was primarily within the family and for economic and social reasons). Yet the villages of Jisr az-Zarka and the town of Um el-Fahm were founded by Egyptians. Kafr Misr, in the north, was also settled by Egyptians as the name implies, as were the urban areas, including Jaffa's Saknet al-Mussariya (lit. Egyptian neighborhood). Interestingly,

    "The Egyptians settled the six villages of Fejja, Jaljuliya, Ummlebis, Sumeil, Sheikh Muwanis and Salame…and drove away the indigenous population." (Avneri, 1980)

    And as Porath points out there was no clear Palestinian national identiy until about the mid-1930s (among the intellectual elite) and not until the mid-1960s for the rest of the Palestinians. Instead, the population saw themselves as being first members of a particular clan or extended family and then as residents of a town or village. (Hence the prepoderance of names such as an-Nabulsi and al-Khalili – but nowhere have I seen the name "al-Falastini".)

    "You're also distorting the Truth about Muhammed Tahir al-Husayni, who didn't call for all foreign Jews to be expelled, rather to stop any land being purchased by foreign Jews, who were locking the land so that in the future, it could only be purchased by fellow Jews. (This is still the case with 96% of Israeli land)."

    I don't believe that I'm the one who's distorting things. According to Mandel ("The Arabs and Zionism before World War I", UC Press, 1976, p. 41):

    "When this report [on how to deal with Jewish immigration] was place on the Administrative Council's agenda, the Mufti of Jerusalem… proposed that the new arrivals be terrorised prior to the expulsion of all foreign Jews established in Palestine since 1891."

    The Jews were not, as you say, "locking the land", they were inflating the prices making it difficult for the competing clans (principally the al-Hussaynis – to which the Mufti belonged – and the an-Nashashibis) to acquire land, thereby acquiring the loyalty of the tenants who worked that land. (It is interesting to note that members of both clans did, indeed, sell land to the Jews in secret.

    Just so we're clear about something: 93% (not 96%) of the land cannot be purchased by anyone – Muslim, Christian, or Jew. It can only be leased.

    One could also make the case that it is estimated that over 300,000 non-Jewish immigrants arrived from the Soviet Union. All I said was that Israel is not unique in having immigration laws that are based on ethnicity, because that was the original charge. You admit yourself that the same is true for India, and I think that how each country chooses to determine and implement who can cross its borders and become a citizen should be left up to the state itself!

  48. JES says:

    WACo, I thought that your questions were meant to be rhetorical and patronizing.

  49. Great post, thanks.
    However, I don't know what Esack means when he says black South Africans did not experience ethnic cleansing??? Actually, they did. Whatever happened to the forced mass-"relocations"???? The so-called "black spots" policy??! Unlike the case of the Palestinian refugees, though, that happened within the boundaries of the state and did not involve deportation across the borders.. Actually, the similarities between apartheid South Africa and occupied Palestine are too many to enumerate..I would also argue that Israel, which was the closest ally of apartheid South Africa (not surprisingly) — ditto for the Israeli lobby in the U.S by the way, which was exposed for gathering data on anti-apartheid activists in the U.S. — signed the Oslo Accords largely because it felt threatened by the turn of events in South Africa. And I would say that if not for the Oslo Accords, the situation in Palestine would have evolved in a similar direction… unfortunately it didn't, and we've all got the lousy sellout 'Arafat to thank for it.

  50. For more on the "black spots" policy, see:
    link to time.com

    Read it to see how eerily similar Israel's actions are to those of apartheid SA….

  51. Nina says:

    ” target=”_blank”>http://www.mererhetoric.com/archives/11275571.htm… US-Funded Racist “Palestinian-Islamic” Apartheid Government Will Execute Man Who Sold Land To Enemy Religion — No, this is REAL APARTHEID, this is not the usual buzz word of that “ficticious” apartheid slur on pluralistic democratic Israel, where its 20-25% Arabs are not only equal citizents but are often treated in preferencial treatment OVER Israeli Jws, such as in: court cases, in Hebron land issues and standards in the universities as “affirmative action”, not to mention the unfairness of Israeli Arabs NOT serving in the military yet having the same rights as Israeli Jews… — And those racist Arabs dare to shout “apartheid”???