Universities across the country are taking part in public demonstrations for Israeli Apartheid Week, which kicked off this Monday and appears to have ruffled feathers.
The Politics Department, Muslim Student’s Association, and Palestinian Solidarity Committee at the university currently known as Rhodes have partnered with Boycott, Divest and Sanction – South Africa to set up a programme for the week.
If you aren’t too woke on the issues of Palestine and Israel, you probably don’t understand why this is something you should be concerned about. Israeli Apartheid Week was started as a campaign to educate South Africans on the similarities between Apartheid and the current Israeli regime on the Palestinian territories. As young South Africans, there is a general agreement we should be concerned about a modern-day Apartheid regime occurring under our noses, considering our own history. Some disagree on the comparisons, but others believe Israel is an Apartheid state which uses settler colonialism and ethnic cleansing as key methods in their control of territory in the Middle East. Don’t know what to think? Here are the facts:
The history of Israel is steeped in settler colonialism. After the Second World War and the devastating consequences of the Holocaust, Jewish refugees were shipped out to Palestine by the British after Europe decided it wasn’t interested in giving reparations and restoring the lives of the European Jewish people who survived. Based on the ideology of Theodor Herzl, who claimed Palestine was the Jewish homeland, European Jews were sent to Palestine without the permission of the Palestinian government or people.
Without going into too much historical detail, what happened was American and British powers forced Palestine to accommodate the refugees and established the State of Israel in 1948 – the same year Apartheid was legislated. Since then, the land belonging to Palestinians has gradually been stripped from them and incorporated into the growing Israeli territory. As on 2017, there are just Gaza and the West Bank left – two pieces separated by a huge space of Israeli land Palestinians need passes to get through. Within these Bantustan-like areas, Palestinians live under constant military occupation, and as Israeli settlements (which are illegal under international law) increase, the land belonging to Palestinians is shrinking indefinitely. During Apartheid, the Israeli government was one of the only supporters of the National Party’s laws. Israel was one of Apartheid South Africa’s biggest economic partners and supplied arms to the state’s army even after sanctions – which led to the South African occupation of Namibia and the invasion of Angola. In Israel itself, racist laws seem to be normalised. Jews of Ethiopian, Eritrean and Sephardic descent are treated like lesser citizens and African refugees from war-torn countries are kept in detention centres facing deportation or imprisonment. While Israel takes an increasingly protectionist stance against alleged “terrorist attacks” by Palestinian militant group Hamas, this is eerily similar to the Apartheid regime’s stance of uMkhonto weSizwe during the rebellion of the 1980s.
Due to the shared history of South Africa and Palestine, many feel South Africans need to join against Israel in an act of solidarity against oppressive regimes. Israeli Apartheid Week aims to generate a greater awareness of South Africa’s role in establishing a resolution to an ongoing human rights crisis. Want to find out more?