F. W. de Klerk, South Africa’s last white president, explains why the “multi-state solution” to apartheid didn’t work in his country, and why it would probably fail in Israel/Palestine
One of the ways the whites in South Africa tried to preserve the ethnic separation of apartheid was by introducing autonomous regions for the black minorities, known also as Bantustans. Some of the Bantustans even received “independence,” and unlike the Israeli government, the South African actually tried to have the international community recognize them. It even wanted them to have a seat at the UN but the trick didn’t work – the Bantustans weren’t sovereign nor separate; it was just another form of ethnic segregation and ethnic control. Curiously enough, Israel was the only country in the world to express some sort of limited recognition of their independent status, and one Bantustan even opened a trade mission in Tel Aviv under its own flag.
In an interview last week, the last white president of South Africa and the man who canceled the Bantustans, F. W. de Klerk, told the BBC what made the South African “multi-states solution” fail:
What I supported as a younger politician was exactly what the whole world now supports for Israel and Palestine, namely separate nation states will be the solution. In our case we failed. There were three main reasons. We failed because the whites wanted too much land for themselves. We failed because the majority of blacks said this is not how we want our political rights. And we failed because we became economically totally integrated. We became an economic omelet and you can never again divide an omelet into the white and the yellow of the egg. And we realized in the early eighties we had landed in a place which has become morally unjustified.
Is this where the two-states solution is also headed? All evidence points at this direction. The Jews want too much land for themselves, and their power allowed them to bring the settlement project to the point of no return; despite efforts on both sides, the economies are still linked to each other. One could claim that Israel is not as dependant on the Arab work force as South Africa was on the black work force, yet it still desires the land in the West Bank and the resources that come with it. The only real difference is between the black leadership in South Africa, which didn’t play along with the idea of the Bantustans, and the PLO, which is only too happy to run its own fantasy of an autonomous Authority. It’s not just President Abbas: Palestinian politics is still very much committed to the idea of a nation-state.
According to de-Klerk’s logic, a shift in Palestinian politics towards a consensus around the one-state solution might be all it takes to end any possibility of an ethnic/demographic separation in Israel/Palestine.
Following my proposal for artists playing in Israel to insist on Palestinian attendance at their gigs, one of the reader posted this video clip, showing Dusty Springfield’s 1964 refusal to perform in front of segregated audiences in South Africa. According to her Wikipedia page, Springfield ended up being expelled from the country. She did, however, outlive Apartheid.
A new Knesset bill submitted by 25 Knesset members this week would make it illegal, if passed, for Israeli citizens to support or aid boycott on Israel or on Israeli products. Israelis who would initiate or help such boycotts – even if they deal only with the settlements – could be fined and forced to pay compensations to those hurt by the boycott.
The bill was initiated by Likud party members and supported by senior members of Tzipi Livni’s Kadima party, including party whip Dalia Itzik and Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tsachi Hanegbi.
As to individuals who are not citizens or residents of Israel, their right to enter the country will be deprived for at least 10 years should they be involved in a boycott. Another measure would ban foreign entities or anyone on their behalf from engaging in any actions using Israeli bank accounts, Israeli stocks, or Israeli land.
The bill’s initiators say the move aims to “protect the State of Israel in general and its citizens in particular against academic, economic, and other boycotts.”
Addressing the Palestinian boycott, MK Itzik said: “The Palestinians are causing harm with this attitude…issues of this type should be resolve at the negotiating table.”
The Hebrew version of the article cites MK Zeev Elkin (Likud), who innitiated the bill, explaining that the new law will specifically target Israeli professors who support academic boycott. But the problem with this bill goes far beyond the question of boycott. This is yet another attempt to limit political action in Israel and to prevent none-violent resistance to the occupation.
A few months ago Israel passed a law against mentioning the Nakba – the Palestinian disaster of 1948 – attacking the very core of freedom of speech, which is the right to hold one’s own historical narrative; now Israel is looking to forbid a universally accepted form of political action.
Most troubling is the fact that these measures enjoy the support of both coalition and opposition parties. It seems that there is an automatic majority in the Knesset for any bill that would criminalize ideas which are not well within the political consensus (and the public is only too happy to support these initiatives). Israel is becoming one of these democracies in which you are allowed to hold and express any sort of idea, as long as it’s the right one.
Israeli lawmakers are looking to apply political supervision even on what was considered the symbol of Israeli freedom of speech. a few weeks ago, the Knesset Education Committee ordered the Committee for Academic Education (the supervising body on all Israeli universities) to look into “the anti-Zionist political bias” of courses in history and Political Science in Israeli Universities. Here is a link to the protocol of the Education committee’s meeting (Hebrew). No immediate measures were applied, but just having such a debate – the committee members are actually debating how to force professors to put more Zionist material on their students’ reading lists – is dangerous enough, especially in a country in which academic education is sponsored by the state. And as we saw in the case of the Nakba bill, those kinds of debates tend to lead to legislative action.
Israel was never a democracy when it came too the Palestinians in the West bank and Gaza, who are subject to a separate legal system and have very limited civil rights. Now we are witnessing rapid erosion in the political rights of Israeli citizens as well. Personally, I get the feeling that Israel is following the steps of South Africa in the 80′s, where opposing Apartheid was considered as opposing South Africa itself, and dealt with accordingly. When an act like asking people not to buy settlements product becomes a criminal offense; and when even some of the stuff posted on this blog might be considered illegal, referring to Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East would look like a bad joke.
The real irony is that with every such measure, Israeli lawmakers are further justifying the very acts they want to ban.
The big question this morning in Israel is the probe. Yesterday, the UNHRC decided to form a fact finding mission of the attack on the Gaza bound flotilla, similar to the one which issued the Goldstone report. The US, together with Italy and Netherlands, opposed the resolution, and according to reports, suggested that Israel will lead the investigation, but that US observers will take part in it. VP Joe Biden proposed something similar on his Bloomberg interview yesterday, saying Israel would ran the investigation, “but we’re open to international participation.”
There are conflicting reports as to what Israel will agree to. The army, as always, wants to investigate itself. The IDF was able to block all suggestions of a civilian Israeli investigation into the war in Gaza or the events in Jenin in 2002 (it’s very hard to touch the army in Israel: it even blocks attempt to have external inquiries into fatal training accidents when those occur). But this time the IDF might lose the battle, the military blunder is so evident and as even Israeli sources are admitting that an investigation is all but inevitable.
Strangely enough, Israel might even agree to an international probe, and for the most cynical reason of all: an internal civilian investigation might force leaders to resign (as happened after the war in Lebanon in 2006), but an international one won’t have immediate political consequences for them.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu, as well as other officials, refused to address the issue at all.
UPDATE: both Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and minister Ben Eliezer spoke in favor of an Israeli probe with a foreign, probably American, observer.
More political fallout: the battle between Ehud Barak and Labor to Avigdor Liberman and Israel Beitenu has officially opened. After unnamed ministers called for Barak’s resignation two days ago, today Barak and his proxy, minister Ben-Eliezer, are publicly declaring that the attacks on Israel are the result of failed PR effort, or Hasbara, by the foreign office.
NY Times reports that the US wants Israel to abandon the siege policy:
The Obama administration considers Israel’s blockade of Gaza to be untenable and plans to press for another approach to ensure Israel’s security while allowing more supplies into the impoverished Palestinian area, senior American officials said Wednesday.
Nicholas Kristof (NY Times): “Saving Israel from itself: President Obama needs to find his voice and push hard for an end to the Gaza blockade.”
Cenk Uygur (Huffington Post): “If the Israeli government is convinced they took the appropriate action in this case, they can go a long way toward proving that by giving us the whole tape. If not, we have to assume they’re hiding something.”
Ari Shavit (Haaretz’s pundit and Netanyahu and Barak supporter until recently): “Instead of rallying the Palestinians, Syrians and Turks against Iran, Netanyahu is pushing them toward Iran. Instead of rallying the Europeans and Americans in Israel’s favor, he is inciting them against Israel. The process reached a frenzied peak with the flotilla.”
Haaretz editorial: “Like a robot lacking in judgment, stuck on a predetermined path – that’s how the government is behaving in its handling of the aid flotillas to the Gaza Strip.”
Daniel Machover (Guardian): “This was almost certainly a breach of international law and Turkey has the right to take charge of a criminal investigation.”
Moshe Yaroni: flotilla fallout: winners and losers of the raid (very good analysis, with an emphasis on US reaction).
Harold Meyerson (Washington Post): The collateral damage from Israel’s raid (a look on the US Jewish community’s trends).
How could Israel keep millions of Palestinians without civil rights for more than 42 years? Yoel Marcus – a centrist veteran pundit for Haaretz, not some lefty anti-Semite – comes up with a provocative answer:
The leaders of pre-state Israel who were prepared in 1949 to give up large sections of the land in return for recognition from the Arabs took advantage of the Arab’s refusal to expand. It was the left’s leaders who started the settlements. A settlement policy was never on the right-wing Revisionists’ list of things to do. Slowly, war after war, and in the 60th year of its establishment, Israel remains the only country in the world without permanent borders.
The [Israeli] politicians have been lucky over the generations that the United States supports Israel. During one of my visits to South Africa, a tough Afrikaner said to me that if they had had 5 million Afrikaners in America, they would never have given up South Africa. Maybe this is so and maybe not. But there is no doubt that the American Jews’ strength has caused even those presidents who have not especially loved Jews to support Israel, or will win their support for Israel in the future.