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May 11, 2008

Pogrund to Ha'aretz: 'It's Not Apartheid'


Anti-apartheid activist and journalist Benjamin Pogrund explains why Ha'aretz's repeated description of Israeli policies as apartheid is wrong.

Twice within 10 days, Israel has been labeled as "apartheid" in Haaretz: in an editorial in support of former U.S. president Jimmy Carter's efforts for peace; and in a column by Yossi Sarid, the former Meretz leader. Two authoritative voices, both misinformed . . .

Some compare Israel's attempts to carve up the West Bank with South Africa's tribal mini-states, the Bantustans. This is wildly inappropriate. The Bantustans were devised to deny blacks South African citizenship, while continuing to exploit their labor. Blacks were penned in rural "reserves," and were allowed into white South Africa only when needed for specified jobs in factories, offices and homes and on farms. Israel's purpose on the West Bank is the opposite: to keep Palestinians there and to allow only an absolute minimum of them into Israel - and even them, reluctantly. Instead, the country's labor needs are met by importing large numbers of foreign workers. . . .

Calling it apartheid, however, is not only wrong but thoughtless - because it ignores what is happening in the world, and especially the imminence of the Durban Review Conference, due to be held next year. That meeting is to be the follow-up to the United Nations anti-racism conference in Durban, South Africa, in August-September 2001. The first part was an international conference of NGOs that went berserk in condemning Israel as "the new apartheid." The aim was simple: If Israel was branded like this, it would be as illegitimate as apartheid South Africa had been, and hence subject to the same severe international sanctions. Moreover, whereas the intention with apartheid South Africa was to force a change in regime, it is obvious that critics of Israel include those who seek the destruction of the state itself.

The recent pieces published in Ha'aretz are just the latest instances in which the Israeli daily or its editors have made such allegations. For instance, Danny Rubinstein of the Ha'aretz editorial board had earlier told a UN conference that Israel is an "apartheid state."

Posted by TS at May 11, 2008 06:22 AM


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