We respond to the article, Israel’s apartheid label is a slanderous fabrication’ (Cape Argus, March 13th 2013), by Ben Levitas, Chairperson of the South African Zionist Federation.
In typical middle class fashion Mr Levitas tries to muddy the waters and divert attention away from the fundamentals of a very necessary discussion. Rather appropriately, Levitas admits that he was an apartheid-era author of textbooks. In the same vein that the old apartheid regime attempted to erase the history of the African masses and portray us as subhuman and incapable of independent thought, Levitas attempts to paint a similar picture of the Palestinians.
The United Nations website on refugees (http://www.un.org/en/globalissues/refugees/ ) lists the Palestinians as the biggest refugee group in the world. 4.7 million of the 43 million refugees in 2010, are Palestinian. Simply put, 1 in 10 refugees worldwide is a Palestinian.
The UN goes further to explain that their Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East was set up in 1949 for 58 camps in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and West Bank. The simple question is, where did these refugees come from? It is rather obvious that they came from the area which is geographically defined as Israel. From the date of the setting up of the refugee camps in the above areas, we can deduce that these millions of Palestinians were expelled from their homes in 1948 and subsequent months.
Levitas tries to obliterate this fact by arguing that the millions of Palestinian refugees should be integrated into the surrounding states. He even implies that these states are in the wrong for refusing to absorb the Palestinian refugees as citizens. Everyone else is at fault, according to Levitas, except the Israeli state.
How can Israel claim to be a ‘democracy’, as Levitas claims, when 4.7 million of its citizens are not only denied, for generations, the right to return home, but denied participation in every aspect of Israeli life?
Levitas raises the ‘right’ of Israelis to the territory that was Judea and Samaria of 2000 years ago. If one examines the maps from this time, one can see that this not only includes Gaza but also the entire West Bank right up to the river Jordan. What Levitas is thus arguing for, is the obliteration of everything Palestinian. Is this not promotion of ethnic cleansing? The presence of 23 Israeli settlements in the West Bank is a confirmation that the Levitas view, of the obliteration of anything Palestinian, is widely held by the Israeli ruling elite. Indeed, how can there be any talk of a contiguous ‘Palestinian state’, when all that is left, has more holes in it than the old patchwork of the Bophuthatswana bantustan.
If Israel was a democracy the first principle should have been for everyone who had been staying in that geographic area that they claim for themselves or who was expelled by force, to elect delegates, say about 1 per 500 people, to convene a Constituent Assembly, to write its Constitution and determine its form of state. Thus, not only the Palestinians in the refugee camps should be included in such a process but also the Palestinians in Gaza and West bank, something which Israel refuses to do.
Levitas claims that Israel is a Jewish state. By definition therefore, this means that anyone who is Muslim of Christian or has any other religious belief, is a second class citizen.
Israel claims to welcome any Jew from anywhere in the world as its citizen. Yet there are regular imprisonment and expulsions of African Jews from Israel. Further, when Israel invaded Lebanon in 1975, it was Palestinian fighters who protected the Synagogues in southern Lebanon from Israeli attacks. (at least one of the synagogues was bombed by the Israeli forces). There are also Jewish groups that oppose Zionism and the state of Israel. Thus the basis of the conflict is not religious at all.
In the wake of the Second World (imperialist) war there were several countries that were artificially divided up, as Stalinism and imperialism formed a united front against the threat of revolution from the masses. Thus Germany was divided in East and West; Palestine was divided into Israel and a rump ‘Palestine’. The history of the working class around the world, resisting capitalism in the capitalist crisis of the 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s, put the overturn of capitalist relations on the order of the day. In Palestine the general strikes of the 1930’s threatened British capitalist rule. Not only was historic Palestine balkanised but Israel was artificially created as imperialist’s policeman in the region to directly terrorise and subjugate the masses. The rule by the NP regime in SA, since 1948, ushered in a dictatorship which imperialism used to terrorise the masses in the entire Southern Africa.
The 1913 Land Act in SA was social engineering by the predecessor of the DA with the support of the old NP. This Act restricted 87% of the masses to 13% of the land- creating tribal slave labour camps- effecting the old imperialist policy of ‘divide and rule’. While tribal chiefs were supported in SA, like Matanzima, Sebe, Gqozo, etc, in the rump of West Bank and Gaza, the parallel Bantustan structure, the PA (Palestinian Authority) was created. Abu Mazen, the current Palestinian Bantustan leader, was recently in the USA asking for more weapons to control the Palestinian masses. The police of the PA are trained and armed courtesy of Israel, just as the old bantustans in SA were supported by the old NP regime. After the 1950’s when the liberation movements were smashed in SA, imperialist companies had a massive investment campaign here. For several decades, the US govt gives Israel annually about $2 Billion, primarily for armaments. Most of the diamonds mined in SA, Namibia and Botswana, is sent by Anglo American to Israel. This is an artificial mechanism to economically prop up the Israeli police state. More precisely, the declassed unemployed and impoverished Jew from around the world were gathered in Israel to act as the base of fascist Israel. It is ironic that during the Second World war, the US state denied access to millions of impoverished Jews who were fleeing the pogroms in Europe and in particular the Nazi terror.
We are not arguing for the expulsion of a single Israeli from their homes, nor even for a single settlement to be torn down. Let the people who are currently living in the area of historic Palestine, together with the 4.7 million Palestinians in the refugee camps, elect their own delegates to a Constituent Assembly, and determine their own future. Studies have shown that a full return of all the Palestinian refugees is physically and practically possible, even if many might not get back to their exact location of their original homes.
In 2011 hundreds of thousands of, mostly, young Israelis, started tent cities and mass protests, copying that of the Tahrir square uprisings in Egypt. They were revolting against unemployment and the high cost of housing- they were not demanding the demolition of Palestinian homes , nor for confiscation of Palestinian land. These protestors identified the Israeli state as their enemy, that it represented an elite, a capitalist class, and not the interest of the ordinary Israeli. For years now, the joint movement of Israeli and Palestinian against the Israeli regime, has been growing. Such resistance has been growing also on an international scale. This week marks 10 years since US activist, Rachel Corrie, was bulldozed to death by an Israeli demolition team hell bent on destroying a Palestinian home. Thousands of Palestinians are being detained without trial in the Zionist prisons. Many are on hunger strike, like Samer Issawi, and in danger of dying. Recently, we have seen the introduction of separate buses for Palestinians and Israelis. Palestinian Arab Israelis have suffered decades of restriction of rights.
In 1989 the Berlin wall fell and Germany was re-unified. Is it not time that the apartheid wall and fences in and around the West Bank and around Gaza, be torn down? Is it not time to dismantle the over 400 military checkpoints in the West Bank? Is it not time for the 4.7 million Palestinian refugees to be allowed to go home?
Why does the ANC govt still maintain economic, social and diplomatic links with fascist Israel? Why does the Argus give carte blanche to forces which stand for ethnic cleansing of Palestinians?
Workers International Vanguard Party