Saturday, February 18, 2006

Evil?

A few weeks ago Idiot/Savant posted a pair of articles about Israel and South Africa. The first article compared the effect of policies in the two countries, and the second talked about the relationship between Israel and South Africa.

I'd meant to write about the first article when I read it; I found it fascinating how state apparatus that I usually think of being mostly benign (like town planning) can be used as a weapon:

One method of preventing further construction by Arabs in the east of the city has been to declare many open areas to be "green zones" protected from building. Bollens says about 40% of East Jerusalem is designated as a green zone, but that this is really a mechanism for land transfer. "The government calls it a green zone to stop Palestinians building homes there, and then when the government wants to develop an area [as Jewish] it lifts that green zoning miraculously and it becomes a development place."
Of course I realised that I knew town planning isn't benign even in New Zealand (no by-pass), but I just didn't think about it.

But now there's an interesting post about it on Alas, which seems to argue that people shouldn't make comparisons between South Africa and Israel, because it'll upset those who disagree with the comparison, and so they won't listen:
I'm also distressed by the Apartheid angle because Apartheid is one of our iconic images of "evil perpetuated by a state." Using such an iconic, stark image of evil to describe the Israel/Palestine conflict has the effect of covering up the extent to which some Palestinians - those that commit or support terrorism - are morally co-responsible for creating the current, appalling situation.
Even ignoring the morally co-responsible bit (which I totally reject, I don't think oppressed people who resist and morally co-responsible for their oppression), I actually think it's a problem if South African Apartheid, or any other regime is considered so awful that it must stand alone and no other regime can be compared to it. It was an actual regime, not an iconic evil. I don't think we should ring-fence anything people have done as too awful to examine, too awful to learn from.

2 comments:

  1. Tefnut8:47 pm

    hmph. I am an Israeli, 29 years-old, and at the end of a long and painful journey from passionate support for everything the Israeli government does in the name of Security to..well...not.

    In an interesting coincidence, I also grew up (ages 10 to 16) in South Africa, experienced the tail-end of Apartheid, and was there when Mandela was released.

    Two days ago, my husband and I went for a tour around the proposed Security Fence layout in Jerusalem, and heard a bit of background from a representative of ir-amim (http://www.ir-amim.org.il/. Check it out. They do good work). I am sorry to report that "Apartehid" is indeed a good word for what's happening here.

    Now - I understand why people resent that comparison: the prejudice and discrimination shown by the SA government was clearly, bluntly and unashamedly due to different treatment for different races, with legislature containing references to the "childish and violent" nature of Black people (that's from a law stating that a PG-13 age restriction in movies also prohibits Black people from watching said movies due to their "childish.." etc.)

    Isreali legislature is different, with lots of pretty words regarding liberty and justice for all and such. Also no different laws for Arab Israelies (with the exception of mandatory military service - Arab Israelies are exempt. Which of course bites them in the ass later, when they want to enter high status positions in the market, and are told that it's for "veterans only." Of course, since Arabs don't serve in the IDF that's a nice way of saying "no Arabs," but whatever). But. Take East and West Jeruslaem. West Jerusalem is predominantly Jewish. East Jerusalem is predomionantly Arab. The Arabs in East Jerusalem are Israeli citizens and recognized Jeruslaem residents - but they can only vote in municipal elections, not in anything national. Why? good question.

    Also- no new building has been authorized in East Jerusalem since 1967. The Arab population there has grown from 70,000 to 240,00. What are those surplus people supposed to do? build illegaly. They pay taxes for their illegal buildings (....em...property tax? I'm not sure what the English equivalent to "Arnona" is), but whenever Somebody doesn't like what they're doing - whoops! the houses are demolished.

    West Jerusalem residents have no problems getting building permits. And also, when Jewish settlers buy land in East Jerusalem, suddenly they can build too!! And even if they don't get permits - for some reason their houses aren't demolished. Remember that brooha about the settlement in Amuna? (http://www.peacenow.org/news.asp?rid=&cid=1028) that settlement was just a bunch of illegal houses, similar to those built over the years by Jerudalem Arabs. This was the first such JEWISH enterprise to be demolished. It nearly tore the country in half. It happens EVERY WEEK to Arab citizens, many of the East Jerusalem residents. I don't remember many mass demonstrations and outcries in the national press on that issue.

    Garbage is not collected in East Jerusalem. Mandatory Education is not enforced (there are about 30,00 children of school age unaccounted for in East Jerusalem as re: education), the electricity, water, and waste disposal grid is ridiculous...which might be explained by the fact that an area holding 30% of Jerusalem's residents gets about 9% of the city budget.

    This is true not just for Jerusalem, but for Arab municipalities, cities, and villages throughout Israel, but none of it is OFFICIAL. None of it is codified...so I guess that makes it OK.

    And btw, I did not even go into the ridiculous "Jews-only" roads around the settlements and Jeruslame (I kid you not - there are roads that only Jews are allowed to drive on. For security reasons, of course).

    But yeah. Apartheid.

    It's hard to criticize my country in this way. I believe in Israel, I believe in a Jewish homeland.... but like South African writer Donald Woods wrote in "South African Dispatches" the words "My Country, Right of Wrong" were a Nazi slogan, and some of the most evil words ever written. It's "My Country, Right or LET'S FIX IT."

    I want to fix it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow tefnut - thank you so much for your comment.

    One of the reasons I don't write that much about Israel and Palestine is that I think that people who live there's opinion is much more valuable than mine. One of the things that I should write about more is people there, like you, who are trying to find an alternative.

    (I was talking about Nelson Mandela being released yesterday, because the day he got released I was at Circus Oz and they played 'Free Nelson Mandela')

    ReplyDelete