Monday, May 5, 2014

Apartheid is Apartheid

I grew up in an apartheid system. My small South Carolina town was surrounded by African Americans in the 1930s and 40s, and I never knew them.  I had no black friends. Where would I have ever met one?  We were citizens of the same country but we lived in separate communities.  I went to the new high school on the highway while “they” attended class in a fire trap out of sight.  It was apartheid, only we did not call it that.  The appropriate term was “segregation,” or “Our way of life.”

It wasn’t even total segregation. Whites and blacks worked in the same mill, spent our money in the same stores and took the same drivers license test.  It was more like “sitting down segregation.”  We stood in the same lines in the bank, the Post Office and checking out at the grocers.   All that was OK, but our version of apartheid forbid our sitting down together in the same room. Doctors had separate waiting rooms. Restaurants served either blacks or whites, but never both. And never would “they” have come to “our” church.  Race separated us far more than our faith united us.

Apartheid has many faces.  We did not have twenty five foot walls or white only roads, but the people with power did create legal and social systems that favored the powerful and discriminated against those who were under our control.

Today, Israel screams when any hint of the word apartheid is mentioned, pointing out  small differences between its apartheid practice and that of South Carolina in the 30s and South Africa in  the 80s. However, Israel destroys Palestinian homes to build Jewish only homes in their place. They have Jewish only schools and spend $1,100 a year to educate a Jewish child and $190 for each Palestinian.[1]  Israel builds Jewish only roads on which a Palestinian is not allowed to drive or even cross and builds Jewish only cities that shrive on water taken from Palestinian aquifers.  So, what do you call it when a state strips a vast number of its population of their human rights solely on the basis that they are not Jewish?

Jimmy Carter called it apartheid.  Former prime ministers Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak    called it apartheid as did Israel’s chief negotiator, Tzipi Livni  Even John Kerry used the “A” word, until the Jewish lobby put the squeeze on him.  In fact, probably only those responsible for apartheid and benefiting from it refuse to call it what it is and they will punish anyone who does.

Still, the most charitable word to describe what is happening to the Palestinians under Israeli control today is apartheid.

Thomas Are
May 5, 2014

[1] Nada Elia, The Brian of the Monster, Cited in, The Case for Sanctions Against Israel, Edited by Audrea Lim  p. 58.

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