Israeli Apartheid Week 2008

I have some observations I’d like to point out, but for now this video will have to do. Enjoy!


Last Wednesday, Zionists at York organized a display in Vari Hall, labeled “Islamic State Apartheid.” The aim, a Zionist acquaintance of mine told me later, was to trivialize the use of the word “apartheid” when associated with Israel. By pegging every problem in Muslim societies — and make no mistake, these problems are real — as “apartheid,” the idea was to deflect attention away from Israel and focus it, instead, on Muslim societies. There is an implicit assertion here that there is a more-or-less homogenous application of “Islamic” values within these countries, that the racism, sexism, etc. prevalent in some of these countries is a result of “Islamic culture.” There is no attempt at an actual, historical analysis of what these terms mean and how they play out in these countries. For instance, racial discrimination in Saudi Arabia has less to do with skin colour, as such, and more to do with national origin. The roots of this racial discrimination lie in the systemic super-exploitation of migrant labour from the rest of Asia (including other parts of the Middle East). Xenophobia doesn’t take on the same terms as it does in the West, but it exists, and populists try to enact policies of “Saudiization” of the work force.

The systemic racism we see in Israel is of a very different sort. It is that of a colonial settler state, one established by the forcible displacement of the local population in 1948. The refugees have no right to return to their homes. Moreover, the local inhabitants who did stay behind are discriminated against systemically, their land taken away from their control and relegated to the authority of discriminatory institutions (e.g., the Jewish National Fund) whose very mandate it is to serve Jewish people (although, it is noted, in practice they have sometimes leased land to Arabs as well; but this is kind of like the situation in North America where the land is taken away from the Natives, they are relegated to reserves and ghettos, and then the government turns around and says that they are welcome to buy or lease the land — systemic racism is hardly eliminated). The situation is far worse in the so-called Occupied Territories, under the longest military occupation in modern times: enclosures, checkpoints, Jewish-only roads, ethnically-exclusive settler towns and villages, stealing of water-resources, and did I mention a constant and continuing military occupation? And, of course, there is a giant wall whose sole purpose is to protect the Jewish population from attacks from Palestinians. It may well succeed in doing so, but the question arises, who is supposed to protect Palestinians from the attacks of Israel?

(I should point out, however, that the kind of racism that surrounds migrant labour is very much alive and well in Israel, too. Israelis hire, perhaps strangely enough, a whole lot of migrant labourers from other parts of Asia.)

That’s the difference between racism, as such, and apartheid. One might ask if I’d consider the North American states apartheid states. The answer, unequivocally, is yes. Just like apartheid South Africa, the point isn’t to eradicate the settler population (so, no, no driving Jews into the river and the sea), but to eradicate a system of discrimination and marginalization. That’s it. A state where all people have full and equal rights, yes, but also full and equal humanity and dignity. This means, then, not just the dismantlement of de jure discrimination, but de facto discrimination on the basis of race, class, gender, etc. In that way, the ultimate goal is hardly any different from what some of us socialists call for all the time: socialism. this!

2 Responses so far »

  1. 1 the wind » “But you know what else shattered -” said,

    February 13, 2008 @ 4:11 pm

    [...] Update: Noaman has a video up of the rally and some of the lectures that preceded it. [...]

  2. 2

    nomes » Reflections on Israeli Apartheid Week: Zionists retreat, Islamophobic racism at UofT said,

    February 17, 2008 @ 3:25 am

    [...] as I described in my last post, on Wednesday February 6, Zionists set up a display about “Islamic State Apartheid” in [...]

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