Apartheid Israeli-style

Posted: June 14, 2010 in International politics, Media & Journalism

As the World Cup 2010 kicks off in South Africa, the pundits reflect on how far the country has come since the dark days of Apartheid etc. Apparently, we’re now living in a world where such an iniquitous system of ethnic segregation can no longer be tolerated. Except, we’re not. And it is: in the occupied West Bank of Palestine, where Palestinian majorities are separated from Israel settler minorities by a system of “sterile zones”. The Irish, Sunday Tribune, yesterday  (13 June),  carried a feature on the city of Hebron, a typical example of how the system is enforced throughout the West Bank. In what is an ancient city of densely packed streets, Palestinians (170,000)  must navigate their way around without entering a “sterile zone” occupied exclusively by Israeli settlers (1,000).  If they do and they’re caught, they face arrest and punishment. So for many whose front doors face on to a forbidden zone, they must exit via rooftops or other ingenious routes until they can descend onto a street in their allotted zone.  Where else would this be tolerated? What other country could sustain such a system and get away with it? Serbia’s policy of ethic cleansing after the break up of Yugoslavia incurred the wrath of the “international community” to the point where it was finally bombed for its activities in Kosovo. Ex-Serbian leaders, Milosevic and Karadzic,  have been arrested and brought to face international justice.

Israel is exceptional, though. It is the only country in the world that can practice Apartheid, steal land, defy countless UN resolutions (to the envy of Saddam Hussein no doubt), attack ships in international waters (the recent Flotilla incident had plenty of precedents), invade and/or bomb its neighbours in defiance of international law, slaughter thousands of civilians, and torture us with its annual entries to the Eurovision Song Contest, yet continue to enjoy immunity courtesy of its powerful patron, the US.  Expectations that President Obama, with a political career steeped in the traditions of the black civil rights movement, might take a very different tack on Israel have been confounded. Israel has already humiliated him, given the two fingers to him, and carried on regardless. 

Speaking of attacking ships in international waters, the latest incident raises the question: when an ally is not an ally? When it’s attacked by Israel apparently.  NATO works on an one-for-all, all for one policy . So why did it allow Israel to get away with attacking a Turkish ship in international waters without at least a stern warning to back off? Can you imagine similar circumstances in which the Iranians, say, had boarded an vessel registered to a NATO country? A different, more belligerent response, perhaps?  Hmmmm.

Just one more thought before I go.  We depend on our news media for some understanding of what’s happening in the Middle East in our name. More fool us. Western  journalists appear to accept Israeli propaganda and media restrictions without question. For example, the Sunday Tribune feature I’ve just cited assumed the Orwellian language of apartheid without attribution and without reflecting on what the term “sterile zone” really means, which is to be cleansed of impurities or contaminants, in this case the “contaminants” being the majority Palestinian population that has been there for generations. (The Israeli settlers “moved in” by force only a few decades ago). The Tribune reporter also mentioned how she was forbidden to enter Gaza so went to Hebron instead. No harm to her but it seems ironic when one thinks of all those daring journalists who defy similar restrictions of movement in Iran or North Korea, going in disguise with hidden cameras, risking danger to themselves (and, more so, their trusty local guide) to get at the truth of these countries and their terrible human rights abuses. Mind you, Gazans have trouble getting out of  Gaza. And getting back in as well. 

So forget about the mainstream media. Read David Hirst’s excellent history of Israel’s violent foundation, The Gun and the Olive Branch,  Noam Chomsky’s The Fateful Triangle; and also Bad News From Israel by Greg Philo and Mike Berry. Or try something a little more first hand such as the excellent site, The Electronic Intifada:

That’s it for now. Back soon I hope.

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