The Coastal Post - November 1999

Apartheid In Israel

By Edward W. Miller

"All the animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than the others."
-Animal Farm, George Orwell

This last week former South African President Nelson Mandela made his first trip to Israel to end the bad feelings between the Jewish state and his African National Congress. Israel was supplying South Africa's apartheid regime with arms and military training, while Mandela, working from his jail cell for almost three decades, forged alliances between African states to form his African National Congress and bring apartheid to a close.

In many ways it was a curious meeting, for though Mandela publicly forgave Israel for her earlier support of racism and inequality in his Africa, this world-renown former South African president was well aware that his Jewish hosts in Tel Aviv, at that very moment, were fashioning their own apartheid state in Israel. At a conference table in Israel's Foreign Ministry, Mandela said it clearly: "Talk of peace will remain hollow if Israel continues to occupy Arab territories ...if there is going to be peace, there must be complete withdrawal from all those areas."

Observer groups around the world, disheartened at the intransigence of the new Barak regime, have likened the new Prime Minister to a Netanyhu wolf in Barak's sheep's clothing. Following the September 15th "Final Status" meeting, leaders in both camps told the press that "Oslo was back on track." With a new Declaration of Principles in the Framework Agreement on Permanent Status, everything looked rosy as President Clinton again shook Arafat's hand at the White House. Barak, however, had already promised his cabinet that Palestine's four million or so refugees "would never be allowed to settle within Israel's borders," and speaking at Maa'leh Adumin, the largest settlement camp in the territories (23,000 settlers), Barak had promised "every tree planted here, every house and stone here is part of the State of Israel forever." Almost the same week, Peace Now reported that in the first three months under Barak, Israel had issued tender for the construction of 2,600 settlement homes as well as five by-pass roads, outnumbering by far the construction rate recorded under the Netanyhu regime.

Refusal by Netanyhu to implement his Israeli government's signed Oslo Accords, followed by a similar rejection of the signed Wye Agreement, which drew a suppressed but angry response from the Clinton Administration, had convinced the Palestinians that they had again been abandoned and reminded the world that the Israeli government was not to be trusted.

Since Barak's dark beginning, however, there have been some flashes of light at the tunnel's end. First, the so-called "safe passage" for Palestinians traveling between the two separated sections of their promised homeland (Gaza Strip and West Bank) opened amidst the usual Jewish haggling over details. Tentative agreements have also been signed to allow the Palestinians to build a seaport on their eastern Mediterranean coast.

Shabak, the Israeli secret service, will monitor the just-opened passageway as well as determine to which Palestinians the electronic ID cards will be issued. The two sides are still at impasse over where to locate the joint Israel-Palestinian control post. Even with these cards, the time to pass checkpoints into Israel is often protracted, and with over 20,000 Palestinian workers a day passing between their homes in the West Bank or Gaza and Israel proper, it is often late before the labor force is back home, angry at those twice-a-day demeaning inspections.

As for the settlements (The New York Times no longer refers to these as "illegal settlements"), Barak publicly called for removing a few of recent hilltops seized by those Jews responding to Cabinet Minister Ariel Sharon's call to grab as much land as possible before the final accord. Since then, Barak has reneged, pulling back only a few mobile homes while promising the settlers space elsewhere, deja vu Netanyhu.

It will be impossible for Israel to either maintain or fund the settlements as they presently exist. Most West Bank settlements connect to East Jerusalem by highways guarded by gun-wielding settlers and denied to any Arab. Each settlement will require its own military outpost, staffed 24 hours a day. Moreover, these by-pass roads divide Palestinian farms and create almost daily confrontations which are not going to disappear. Washington, pressured by our Jewish lobby, kept silent for over 32 years while this tragedy-in-the-making unfolded following the '67 war. The only humanitarian solution would be to allow Palestinian refugees, scattered worldwide or in refugee camps, to retrieve their land promised by the UN in 1947. It will take a Solomon to address this problem.

Last week Israel's Supreme Court outlawed the "torture" of political prisoners after the Court's earlier refusal to interfere. A barrage of angry response in the Knesset threatens to reverse this ruling by legislative fiat. Time will tell. As reported from West Jerusalem by Haim Baram (Middle East International), "The Prime Minister did not conceal his rage at the [Court's] decision. The great champion of peace and enlightenment praised the independence of the Israeli courts, but said, curtly and angrily, that "Israel is not the Netherlands."

The demolition of so-called "illegal" Palestinian homes, which over the past several years have suddenly and cruelly tossed more than 2,000 Arab families with their children into the streets in all kinds of weather, are being criticized by an "anti-demolition lobby" within Barak's cabinet. While the new Justice Minister, Yossi Beilin, along with Police Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, demands an end to demolitions and a retroactive legitimization of these contested structures. (Tel Aviv, Oct. 18), the Israeli police have at times flatly refused to protect the demolition crews from angry Arab crowds, so Ehud Olmert, Jerusalem's frustrated and strongly Zionist Mayor, has now threatened to hire his own armed guards.

That timeless, low-level warfare in southern Lebanon continues with Israel concentrating now on aerial assaults, having lost too many men on the ground to the Hezbulla militias defending their turf. Though Barak has promised to withdraw, nothing has really changed.

Israel still identifies this nine-mile-wide area as a "security zone," though the world knows the Jews are reluctant to pass up the valuable irrigation waters from the Litani River basin which was their real reason for seizing that region. In recent weeks Israel has also been stealing the rich topsoil from southern Lebanese farmers and trucking it to Israeli farms.

That last "retaliatory raid" on southern Lebanon in which the Israelis killed several civilians, put an electric generating plant out of commission, and blew up three bridges along the coastal highway, to halt north and south travel, may be settled in the world court. Many Americans feel the cash to rebuild should be subtracted from United States' largess to Israel, especially since the income of the average Jewish family in Israel today matches the average income of an American family. Our taxes are still paying for Israel's unwarranted military excursions. The total dole to Israel since 1948, not including our military support, amounts to well over $91 billion.

As for Syria, Barak has not moved to accept President Assad's offer to negotiate. Meanwhile, to interfere with any prospective agreement with Syria, Israel today is building 53 new homes on the Golan Heights. Israel needs to get completely out, now. Her insistence that the Golan Heights were seized in the 1967 war as a necessary shield against future Syrian aggression, like so many Israeli lies, was finally laid to rest a few months ago when an interview given by Moshe Dayan, Israel's General and Defense Minister some months before he died, was released to the press by his daughter Yael, a leftist Knesset member.

In that interview by Jewish journalist Rami Tal, which had been kept from the press at Dayan's request, the former Defense Minister admitted that his seizure of the Golan was "one of the most serious errors of his life." Dayan went on to say that the Heights has no significant defense capability for Israel, but was seized from Syria only in response to political pressure from the Kibbutzin representatives in the Knesset. Those immigrant Russian farmers had long yearned for the fertile Golan soil with its easy access to Jordan River water. (See David Landua, Jewish Telegraph Agency, May 30, 1997.)

Other major issues to be settled in the final rounds include water rights. At present many Palestinian towns on the West Bank are served by a central village water pump or faucet from whence the women carry the family's water back home. In sharp contrast, in those hilltop settlements visible to Palestinians, Jewish settlers enjoy showers, swimming pools and lush flower gardens. Water distribution is totally disproportionate to the needs of both groups, and disregards the relative shortage of this vital support system.

As for the thousands of Palestinian refugees who fled Jewish terror in the 1948 war, scattered around the world or still surviving in refugee camps, their needs will also have to be addressed in the final agreements. UN Resolutions state clearly that Israel must either allow these Palestinians to return to their homes and businesses from which they were scattered, or recompense them financially. So far this humanitarian tragedy has been totally ignored by a Jewish population which tirelessly seeks its "Holocaust Funds" and recompense from German defense firms for "slave labor."

This habitual attention to their own perceived angst while completely ignoring the humanitarian needs of neighbors and their captive populations helps explain much of the "anti-Semitism" of which Jews continuously complain. ADL full-page ads and other multi-billion public relations campaigns will never erase these feelings. Only a sincere and continuing application of the Golden Rule will enable Israel to become that "light unto the nations" of which their Torah speaks.

In the on-going negotiations with the Palestinians to determine the "final status" of the territories, Barak and his government can begin to treat their Palestinian neighbors as equals, or continue those apartheid schemes which over the last half century have produced nothing but misery for both peoples. Security for either side in the presence of such oppression will remain an impossible dream.

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