Our South Africa Moment has Arrived*



As Israel shifts steadily to the fanatic, racist right, as the latest parliamentary election results have shown, Palestinians under its control are increasingly being brutalized by its escalating colonial and apartheid policies, designed to push them out of their homeland to make a self-fulfilling prophecy out of the old Zionist canard of “a land without a people.” In parallel, international civil society, according to numerous indicators, is reaching a turning point in its view of Israel as a pariah state acting above the law of nations and in its effective action, accordingly, to penalize and ostracize it as it did to apartheid South Africa.


Palestinian communities in Jerusalem, Jaffa, Hebron, the Jordan Valley and the Naqab (Negev), among others, have been recently subjected to some of the worst, ongoing Israeli campaigns of gradual ethnic cleansing intended to “Judaize” their space. Qalqilya is suffocated by the colonial apartheid Wall that surrounds it from all sides, while Nablus is under constant siege. A few months ago, the Palestinian community in Acre was brutally attacked by Jewish-Israeli fundamentalists and xenophobes in one of the worst pogroms witnessed by Palestinians inside Israel. Still, Gaza today stands out as the test of our common humanity and our indispensable morality. A thorough analysis of the role played by Western and some Arab governments in regards to Israel’s criminal war of aggression against Gaza will demonstrate a resounding failure on both accounts. Throughout the atrocious assault, the official West, along with the governments of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority and the UN leadership,[1] were willing accomplices in Israel’s grave violations of international law and basic human rights.


In words that can quite accurately be used to describe Israel, Robert Kagan, a leading neo-conservative ideologue, justifies hegemonic tendencies as a prerogative of the mightiest [2]:


"The United States remains mired in history, exercising power in the anarchic Hobbesian world where international laws and rules are unreliable and where true security and the defense and promotion of a liberal order still depend on the possession and use of military might."


True to this paradigm, Israel has for decades maintained a regime of occupation, colonization and apartheid over the indigenous people of Palestine through the “possession and use of military might,” in addition to the indispensable collusion of Western powers, whose unconditional largesse has for six decades enabled Israel to maintain and develop its multi-faceted system of colonial oppression against the Palestinian people.


By contributing to Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza and its criminal war against it, the EU and other Western states have reached a qualitatively different stage of complicity, becoming, more blatantly than ever, full partners in the US-Israeli policy of undermining the rule of law and espousing in its stead the law of the jungle, thereby promoting the Bush-Bin Laden self-fulfilling prophecy of a dichotomous world divided surgically into good and evil, with each side regarding the other as evil.


In response to this fatal alliance of savage capitalism in the West with Israeli racism, exclusion and colonial subjugation, the global movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions, BDS, against Israel presents not only a progressive, anti racist [3], sophisticated, sustainable, moral and effective form of civil, non-violent resistance, but a real chance of becoming the political catalyst and moral anchor for a strengthened, reinvigorated international social movement capable of reaffirming the rights of all humans to freedom, equality and dignity and the right of nations to self determination.



Gaza: the West’s Complicity in War Crimes


As early as 2007, Richard Falk, a prominent international law expert at Princeton University and the current UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT), called the Western-supported Israeli siege of Gaza “a prelude to genocide”[4] and, later, “a Holocaust in the making.”[5] Falk, who happens to be Jewish, argued that the siege is especially disturbing because it vividly expresses “a deliberate intention on the part of Israel and its allies to subject an entire human community to life-endangering conditions of utmost cruelty.”[6]


Using more diplomatic language, Sara Roy [7], a Harvard University expert on development in the OPT, accuses the EU, along with the US, of complicity in a deliberate Israeli policy of “de-development” of the OPT, killing any possibility of creating an independent and sovereign Palestinian state. By providing the Palestinians with “tangible benefits such as higher income and improved infrastructure,” Roy argues, the EU was hoping to buy Palestinian support for substantial concessions in the so-called “peace negotiations.” She concludes, “The logic of international law was abandoned in the interest of maintaining a failed political process.”


An examination of the Israeli siege of Gaza, most of whose population are refugees forcibly displaced [8] by Zionists — and later Israel — during the 1948 Nakba, can elucidate this “de-development” policy which amounts to collective punishment, as most legal experts agree. During this ongoing — now 21-month-old — siege, more than 80% of the 1.5 million Palestinians caged into the world’s “largest open-air prison” have been pushed into poverty and dependency on international humanitarian assistance; the entire economic infrastructure has been systematically decimated, with more than 95% of the factories forced to shut down, driving poverty and unemployment below sub-Saharan African standards; educational institutions have been unable to function properly due to lack of fuel and electricity for prolonged periods; the health care system is on the verge of collapse, and hundreds of patients in need of critical health care, particularly cancer and kidney patients, have died after being denied access to medical facilities outside Gaza.


The longer term effects of the siege are even more daunting.[9] According to the World Health Organization chronic malnutrition and dietary-related diseases have alarmingly increased, resulting in rampant low birth weights; anemia in more than two thirds of all children age one year and younger; and stunted growth in close to 13.2% of children under age five. Moreover, preventable diseases, caused by polluted water and inadequate sewage processing, started spreading wildly. Thousands, mainly children, have suffered serious hearing problems due to Israel’s once concentrated use of sonic booms for weeks on end. A whole generation of Palestinian children in Gaza will suffer severe developmental and psychological disorders for many years to come, health studies have shown. There is also a significant increase already in the rate of incidence of cancer and other deadly diseases directly related to Israeli-inflicted pollution and health care denial.


Reacting to the devastating impact of Israel’s siege, Karen Abu Zayd, the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, warned [10]: