Everyone should read Eva Illouz’s long important piece in Haaretz saying that the occupation is a form of slavery because Israel controls Palestinian movements, decisions, employment, even bodies. Illouz is particularly moving when she explains that a regime that has imprisoned 40 percent of Palestinian males is thereby seeking to control “basic” aspects of Palestinian existence and family life; or when she explains that from the price-tag attacks by settlers to the checkpoints, Israel is impinging on the “very essence of freedom.” So let us call this type of control what it is, slavery.
And Illouz says that the world sees this, though some Jews don’t: “Israel is dangerously sailing away from the moral vocabulary of most countries of the civilized world.”
I bring this piece up for the very specific business of my headline. The other day the NYT ran a somewhat illogical piece of pro-Israel propaganda by Hirsh Goodman saying that we Israelis are not practicing apartheid, but it sure looks like apartheid to the world, so gosh we better ease up some of the stuff we’re doing, so the label doesn’t stick.
Goodman argued that Israel isn’t at all like South Africa under apartheid:
Masses of black people were forcibly moved from tribal lands to arid Bantustans in the middle of nowhere. A “pass system” stipulated where blacks could live and work, splitting families and breaking down social structures, to provide cheap labor for the mines and white-owned businesses, and a plentiful pool of domestic servants for the white minority. Those found in violation were arrested, usually lashed, and sentenced to stints of hard labor for a few shillings per prisoner per day, payable to the prison service.
None of this even remotely exists in Israel or the occupied territories. But, increasingly, in the mind of the world it does.
Now no system of oppression is exactly like another, but throughout her article Illouz says that Israel controls Palestinian lives, often with violence; and she specifically addressed Goodman’s issue of splitting families as an element of that totalitarian system:
when it comes to marriage, here, too, the occupation has torn families apart. According to a report by B’Tselem – the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Israeli restrictions on the passage from and to Gaza Strip split families and force on couples – where one of them is from Gaza, and the other the West Bank or Israel – a series of bureaucratic restrictions, with no possibility of conducting a reasonable routine. The simplest thing – raising a family, living with spouse and children, and maintaining contact with families of origin of both partners – become unachievable.
In traditional Palestinian society, the custom is that the women will move in with the husband’s family, so the procedures established by the Israeli offensive affect mainly women: Married Gazans living in the West Bank are forced to leave their family and familiar surroundings, without any possibility to visit the Gaza Strip, except for the most exceptional cases. Those who failed to update their address are in constant danger of expulsion from their homes.
We can say conservatively and impressionistically that 70 percent of the Palestinian population live with a permanent sense of dishonor, conduct their lives without predictability and continuity, live in fear of Jewish terror and of the violence of the Israeli military power, and are afraid to have no work, shelter or family.
With tears in my eyes, I beg Americans to consider: Who is telling you the truth about this simple question, the leading American newspaper, or a paper in Israel? I have been to Palestine; I say Haaretz. And why is the New York Times failing even to offer its readers Illouz’s view of reality? And what should we as Americans do about these conditions that we support?
(P.S. A few years ago, speaking at the University of Michigan I lost my composure when a J Street member tried to temper my indictment of Israeli practices in the occupation. I basically jumped out of my chair and started screaming about How can we as Americans (and Jews) hear just some of the facts coming out of the occupation and tolerate these conditions in our name or affect complacence? I embarrassed the guy whose house I was staying in that night and scared people, and later apologized; for I was at the same time imploring and crying. Today I honor that response.)
Thanks to Michael Ratner, a friend of this site.