Two researchers at local think-tank Media Review Network (MRN) recently co-authored a book on Zionist Israel, hoping to unpack a complex issue that sees no end in sight. Why ISRAEL? The Anatomy of Zionist Apartheid – A South African Perspective tackles a number of topics including military occupation, land seizures and house demolitions, job reservation, the unequal allocation of resources, the establishment of Bantustans, and a maze of pass laws, checkpoints and influx control that limit Palestinian freedom of movement and association and are horrifically reminiscent of South Africa’s Apartheid past.
MRN researcher Suraya Dadoo and her colleague Dr Firoz Osman co-authored the book, which Dadoo said was titled “Why Israel?” because it is a question they have heard time and time again through their work. “It is a question that many Israel apologists have asked us… why is Israel always a topic, why is Israel always singled out and why is Israel the subject of BDS? We thought a good idea would be to answer those questions, which is how the book came about.”
The book was compiled in three years through consultation with internet sources, academic analysis, reports from international NGO’s and reports from the United Nations, for a balanced account of the current Middle Eastern conflict. “The main reason for a South African perspective is that Israel has been labelled an apartheid state. The Russell Tribunal met in Cape Town in 2011 where they found Israel guilty of the crime of apartheid. In 2009, the Human Sciences Research Centre (HSRC) report found Israel guilty of practising some aspects of apartheid. In the last few years there has been an increasing connection of Israel as an apartheid state.”
Dadoo said very few people understand apartheid as well as South Africans. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has echoed that statement and a number of other high profile politicians, religious leaders and academics in SA as well as internationally. Despite many people thinking apartheid was just a form of racial separation, there are many other levels of apartheid that go beyond the “petty” apartheid often spoken about.
“There was a physical separation of the races, but that is not entirely what apartheid is about. The 1973 UN Apartheid Convention stresses that it can be used in a variety of ways. In terms of international law Israel foots the bill.” The book makes reference to Virginia Tilly who is the chief author of the HSRC report and displays how the SA apartheid and Israeli apartheid are on the same pillars.
“There is a racial segregation present in Israel between Palestinians and Israelis or Jews and non-Jews. There are certain differences, but at its core they are established and built on the same pillar.” Dadoo explained that Israeli apartheid is a lot more sophisticated and the state does not necessarily have signage stating “Israelis only”.
“It is a refined version of what we have had, which is why in some respects it has actually escaped the scrutiny or condemnation that the SA apartheid faced in terms of BDS and the world uniting against us.” The writing team gathered powerful quotes from researchers and academics which they thought required separate placement within the book to highlight their significance in a user friendly manner.
The book is clearly footnoted on each page, with an extensive glossary that will ensure that the source of the information within the book is clearly indicated. “We have been entirely transparent in where we got our information from and it is important for people who might want to accuse us of anti-Semitism, which is usually the first line of defence against any criticism of Israel. They can go to our wide variety of sources and see what they had written.”
The chapter related to Islamophobia and anti-Semitism brings to light the issue that is being portrayed across the world – that “Muslims are the new danger that the state needs to protect people from”. “In terms of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and defending the Israeli apartheid, because many Palestinians are Muslims, there is kind of an irrational fear of Palestinians with the thought that they are Muslims and extremists. We are trying to show how Islamophobia has been used to defend the Israeli apartheid.”
Some academics and a few journalists in South Africa constantly feed the fear of Muslims. “This is related to the larger issue of Israeli apartheid and is used to defend it. Any criticism of Israel, its government and policies are automatically viewed as anti-Semitic, even though Judaism and Zionism are two completely separate issues that are not related at all.”
Dadoo added that the term “Hasbara” is an Israeli propaganda initiative that is not just defending the Israeli state, but is also demonising Palestinians, the resistance movement and how people understand the peace process. “We are of the opinion that it is an equal peace process, with Palestinians and Israelis standing together as equal… it is not being done this way. The one state solution for example is a viewed as the destruction of Israel and throwing Jews into the sea, when this is not what that solution means at all.”
She said the Israeli propaganda machine has a different understanding of the Nakba in 1948, where they believe it was empty land that they settled on and the Palestinians that left did so at their own accord. “We look at how this has been framed in the media and what is being said. According to our research Israeli government justifies their apartheid using the same thoughts that the SA government did, calling for Western backing because they are the only source of stability on a continent rife with turmoil.”
Dadoo said the Israeli hasbara is saying exactly the same thing that the SA government said during apartheid, urging the US and UK to support them because they have resources and technological expertise. “The SA government used to say the same about their natural resources.” The book is available at The Book Lounge, Wordsworth, Exclusive Books or Timbuktu Books as well online. For further information visit www.mediareviewnet.com. VOC (Aqeelah Bawa)