Returning to visit his native South Africa, Peter Beinart writes in Haaretz about the the changes, but misses the point:
The South Africa I visited as a child was a brutal, isolated place… In today’s South Africa, by contrast, multiculturalism is a state religion. The country is awash in tourists and has become a kind of global mascot for the values of equality and reconciliation.
What does this have to have with Israel? Nothing and everything. Israel, as I’ve argued repeatedly, is not an apartheid state. If it were, Ahmed Tibi would be in jail, not in the Knesset. Nor is South Africa’s transformation a model for Israel’s.
Beinart’s liberal Zionist blinders prevent him from seeing clearly: Israel, as a whole and even within the long-erased Green Line, is an Apartheid state, and has been since it expelled the majority of the indigenous population 66 years ago. How can Israel not be an Apartheid state when the majority of its rightful citizens are denied the right to vote in elections, and even the right to live in their homes? Permitting the minority of Palestinians who were not expelled to vote and serve in Parliament doesn’t change the fact that Israel at its founding created a system of ethnic exclusion and rigged elections that meets the international law definition of the Crime of Apartheid.
Beinart’s vision for the future is quite muted and unhopeful, as well it should be for a liberal Zionist clinging to the failed remains of an anachronistic non-solution:
I don’t think a Palestinian state will entirely end the struggle between Palestinians and Jews that has for more than a century bloodied the land between the river and the sea. I don’t know if an Israeli-Palestinian two-state solution will prove as successful as South Africa’s one-state solution
Gideon Levy, an Israeli journalist who has begun to leave behind the old false paradigm and learn the real lessons of South Africa, sees a future far more compelling than his colleague:
An unjust state becomes a just state; discrimination and dispossession are replaced by equality and democracy. The scowling faces tell of South Africa’s backwardness and rising crime, which are serious problems. But they don’t reduce the enormity of the historic achievement and its lesson for Israel: When a country turns from unjust to just, everything else is dwarfed in comparison.
Mandela proved that the dream is realistic, that what seemed like a fantasy only 20 years ago is achievable, and without much bloodshed. He showed that enemies of the past can live together in one country and even have equality; that a new chapter can be opened against all odds….
If there are no two states, there is only one state. If there is one state, then the discourse must change: equal rights for everyone.
The problems are many and complicated, and like them so are the solutions: division into districts, federation, joint or separate governance. But there will be no demographic change here – because the state has long been binational – but rather just a democratic and conscious change. And then the question will arise in full force: Why is it so scary to live in an egalitarian state? Indeed, all other possibilities are much scarier.
Gideon Levy charts path forward that his colleague refuses to see. Returning to Beinart, he writes:
In South Africa, whites and blacks negotiated the terms of a marriage. Israelis and Palestinians, by contrast – at least at this stage of history – must negotiate the terms of a divorce…
White South Africans desperately wanted divorce from blacks, but Mandela and the entire world demanded reconciliation, equality, and marriage, and got it. Will Beinart continue to fight for ethnic supremacy, and bar the doorway, insisting (more or less), “Jewish Majority Israel Now, Jewish Majority Israel Forever!” until the tide of history and equality overtakes him and the rest of the ‘liberal’ Apartheid apologists? No, I don’t think so: within a few years, the moral logic of equality will overtake Beinart, as it has for Levy.