Posts Tagged ‘apartheid’
Full address: Kairos SA to Parliament subcommittee solidarity conference on Palestine, Western Sahara and Cuba
FULL ADDRESS: Kairos SA to Parliament
PREPARED FOR: Solidarity Conference in support of the People of Cuba, Western Sahara and Palestine: South African Parliament, Cape Town, 6 February 2014.
TOPIC: Palestine: Intensifying the struggle for self-determination and efforts to bring about a lasting solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, by Marthie Momberg.
Honourable Mr Magama, Members of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Chair, Distinguished Guests: Thank you for this opportunity to present the views of Kairos Southern Africa.
Kairos Southern Africa is an ecumenical voice on local and international issues of justice from within the broader Christian community. We are connected to Kairos movements worldwide that are all inspired by the liberation theology tabled in the 1985 South African Kairos document. This includes Kairos Palestine and its declaration of steadfast faith, hope and love from within the suffering of Palestinians.
Our Christian message is that we need to love our enemy. In the spirit of this message we want to overcome the dualism that enables separatism. We recognise the humanity of both the oppressor and the oppressed, and our actions are informed by our vision for a reconciled, just peace between Israel and Palestine. This does not mean that we are prepared to compromise our message of vigorously opposing injustice.
Just over a year ago, Kairos Southern Africa accompanied a group of senior clergy from South Africa to Palestine and Israel. On their return, they declared that it “felt like walking into another apartheid ambush”. The group included the heads of the Methodist and the Uniting Presbyterian Churches, the Secretary General of the Evangelical Alliance of South Africa, the Deputy Moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church, and a representative of the South African youth. I read from their media statement:
We affirm the right to security, self-determination and dignity for both the Palestinians and the Israelis. Real security is only possible through the exercise of justice. We are conscious how a literal reading of the Bible, one where the Israel of the Old Testament is confused with the State of Israel, can result in the oppression of people. We confirm that the crisis in the Holy Land is in essence not a religious conflict, but a political crisis brought about by the violation of international law. As South Africans we believe we have a moral obligation to speak up and to stand with the oppressed. We do not want to side against the Israelis, but we do want to uphold international law and fight against any form of injustice.”
Today you will hear central themes from this message in our argument to support our request to the South African government.
- Whom do we regard as the People of Palestine?
- Before the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948, the land called Palestine was populated by several groups: descendants of Arab Muslims from the vast Arab/Islamic empire that dominated Palestine from the seventh century; Arab Christians who were the descendants of the world’s first Christians; and small indigenous Jewish communities that were remnants of Palestine’s ancient Jewish kingdom. These people were all Semites who lived together in harmony until the Western Jews began arriving in the late nineteenth century. Some of these Jews sought a safe haven, but some sought land to conquer.
- After the wars of 1948 and 1967, we call the following people Palestinians: the 4.4 million people in the occupied Palestinian territories (i.e. the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem), the more than 6 million people who became refugees as a result of these wars and who are prohibited by Israel to return, and the 1.4 million people who reside in Israel, where more than 50 laws regulate their status at every level of life, relegating them to second-class citizens, based on ethnic and religious identity. Approximately three-quarters of the entire Palestinian population worldwide are refugees. All of them, Muslims and Christians alike, are our concern. The over half a million Israeli settlers in the occupied territories are not Palestinians, but illegal inhabitants in breach of international law who nevertheless receive preferential treatment from Israel as the occupying force.
2. What do we mean by intensifying the struggle?
If showing solidarity with the oppressed means merely issuing declarations, we say it is not enough. If we as South Africans embrace the concept of Ubuntu, which emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu describes as part of our essential humanity as we participate and share in a network of interdependence and togetherness, then we cannot confine ourselves to mere talk. We have to be much more actively involved.
Moreover, South Africans have a moral obligation to act, given our history of apartheid. Did the world not actively help to demolish our apartheid through boycotts, divestment and sanctions? Now the Palestinian Christians have asked the South African Christian community directly to act against Israel’s unjust regime.
What would constitute an appropriate response? Let us consider the options of a small entity occupied by a regional military super-power backed by the USA:
- Is violent resistance against the violence of occupation a viable option? In 1985, the Kairos Document of 1985 recognised the violence of apartheid as the primary violence which elicited violent resistance from the liberation movements. The Kairos Document then, as Kairos Southern Africa does now, does not advocate violence. Instead we strongly advocate vigorous non-violent resistance. We agree with the views of the delegates at the Kairos for Global Justice conference who declared that:
“[s]ilence is an opinion. Inaction is an action … failure to resist the Israeli government…makes us accomplices in crimes against humanity, such as the crimes of apartheid and persecution as described in international law”.
- What about negotiations? Israel claims that it wants peace and does enter into negotiations, but insofar as it does enter into negotiations, Israel does so in bad faith, as Israel continues, at the same time, to expand its settlements. Is there currently enough pressure to ensure that both sides will bring all parties to the table and honour international law and the outcomes of an agreement? We do not think so. The USA can hardly be seen as an honest and impartial broker in the peace talks between Israel and Palestine. Israel receives 25 per cent of the entire US foreign aid budget. Since 1976, Israel has remained the highest recipient of US foreign aid in the world. Phyllis Bennis from the Institute for Policy Studies in the USA said that if the USA were serious about peace, it would tell Israel: “Stop building your settlements on Palestinian land.” Granted, the USA has made this request many times. If Israel continues to respond by refusing (as Israel has been doing all along), and if the USA is serious, it should then stop (1) funding to the State of Israel, and (2) protecting Israel in the United Nations. But the USA says and does none of this. The current negotiations are not bringing Palestine and Israel and the world closer to a viable peace.
- Finally what about the option of non-violent resistance in the form of boycotts, divestment and sanctions? This is indeed what the civil society of Palestine called for in 2005.
As South Africans, we should understand the urgency and the importance of Palestine’s appeal in the light of our own history. During the darkest hours of South African apartheid, an ecumenical group of South African theologians called the deepening crisis a Kairos moment of truth. They highlighted the danger of using literal, fundamentalist Biblical interpretations to rationalise theologies of oppression and state power. Such a Kairos moment, one which is decisive in history, may pass us by if we do not act timeously.
We are now faced by yet another form of apartheid, this time by Israel. We should note that it is not considered apartheid in terms of what happened in South Africa, but is classified as a crime against humanity as defined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and as described by, for example, the Russell Tribunal and South Africa’s HSRC. We do not carry the responsibility of all history. We are responsible for our times. In that sense this opportunity is unique, it is for us to see, understand, and act upon, through non-violent means.
However, the non-violent option of boycotts, divestment and sanctions is not favoured by pro-Israeli supporters. They tell us the situation is “complex” and that a “balanced approach” is necessary, hoping to lock their opponents into endless discussions to paralyse them. Their arguments also suggest that the two sides of the story carry equal weight and should be treated accordingly. Nothing could be further from the truth. How can Israel say that it wants peace, and simultaneously declare the construction of more settlement units, continue to build its Wall on Palestinian land, and continue all its other atrocities? Zionists argue that the people of Israel are “God’s chosen people” and that the “Promised Land” (which includes Palestine) was given to the Jewish people by God. They do not distinguish between the Biblical entity and the modern nation-state. They choose to read religious texts in a literal, divisive way in their justification of Israel’s attempt to transform the transnational and extraterritorial Jewish identity into a national, ethnocratic identity where Jewish citizens have more rights than others to establish political and economic control over the land. Like the South African theologians in 1985 who found the principles of love, inclusivity and pluralism in the Bible, rather than division, we reject fundamentalism and exclusivist interpretations of religious scriptures.
When one argues from the perspective of international law, the situation is actually very, very clear. Both Palestine and Israel need to adhere to international law, UN resolutions and other applicable legal rulings. Admittedly, there are periodically some incidents of illegal violence targeted at civilians by Palestinians, but these cannot be compared to Israel’s dedicated, discriminatory, systematic, systemic, institutionalised oppression of the Palestinians, which violates international law every single day and on multiple levels.
The Israeli regime is in breach of legal aspects such as those belonging to the special regime of occupation, international human rights law, international humanitarian law as specified in the four Geneva Conventions, as well as various rulings by the International Court of Justice and resolutions by the United Nations’ Security Council.
When South African apartheid violated human rights, the world quite rightly did not call for a “balanced approach” to the differences between the apartheid regime and the oppressed – the world condemned such practices unequivocally, as it should when human rights are violated in Israel/Palestine today.
3. Kairos Southern Africa’s views on self-determination
We also support the aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians for security and self-determination in line with what international law allows. With regard to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, we want to highlight five points:
- All violence against all civilians, Palestinian or Israeli, must end.
- Israel, a country that calls itself a democracy, must stop its discrimination on the basis of race, religion or any other factor against its Arab citizens. Israel must be held accountable for its violations of human rights.
- The more than six million Palestinian refugees have a legal right to return. A resolution of this matter consistent with international law and equity is necessary.
- The Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem must end. Until such time as this occupation does end, Israel as the occupying power must protect the Palestinian civilian population, administer the territory for their benefit, as specified by international law, and stop confiscating Palestinian land and resources under the pretext of “security”, or for any other reason.
- The USA should not be the only broker in the peace negotiations and deals. In this respect the UN needs to meet its responsibilities.
Palestine has been under military occupation since 1967 – for 47 years. However the illegal confiscation of Palestinian land started through the actions of Jewish militia before the State of Israel was declared in 1948. Since 1948 Israel’s land confiscation continues until this day as indicated by this map:
The illegal ways by which Israel occupies the Palestinian territories effectively diminishes the possibility of self-determination. We are appalled that Israel uses its occupying power to take more and more land from the Palestinians whilst simultaneously destroying Palestinian infrastructure and making living conditions unbearable for Palestinians.
In Gaza, the situation has reached an inhumane level. The living conditions, the depletion of livelihoods, and the decline in services and infrastructure for education, healthcare and water/sanitation are dire as a result of deliberate destruction. Miko Peled, a Jewish Israeli who served in the Israeli Defence Force, argues that Israel’s assaults on Gaza are part of a continuous campaign that started more than six decades ago with the infamous Unit 101, led by the late Ariel Sharon. It is one of the most densely populated areas on earth, it now doubles up as an open air prison, since Israel controls the air space, the coastline and all land entrances to this area. There is no escape. A one-ton Israeli bomb can destroy an entire city block – on the first day of the Operation Cast Lead in December 2008, Israel dropped 100 tons of bombs on Gaza.
In East Jerusalem and in the West Bank, Israel routinely demolishes houses, water wells and cisterns, roads, schools, animal shelters and other infrastructure; Israel displaces whole communities without offering them alternatives; the majority of Palestinians may not maintain or upgrade their own infrastructure; Israel confiscates valuable agricultural land in order to continue its building of the illegal Israeli Wall and settlements, and the movement of Palestinians is restricted by means of a series of checkpoints.Amongst the many examples of double standards are the different roads for Israelis and Palestinians, and differences in the allocation of water resources and access to electricity. There is a military court for West Bank Palestinians and a civilian court for Israeli settlers. In these military courts, Palestinian children as young as 12 years old can be prosecuted. Each year 500 to 700 children are prosecuted, commonly for throwing stones. They are frequently arrested and detained at night, and more than half of them are held in prisons in Israel where they are tortured, abused and denied the right to have a parent present. The proceedings are held in Hebrew, although the children speak Arabic. Over 99% end in conviction.
In the Jordan Valley, the Bedouin communities’ water consumption is about a fifth of the minimum recommended by the World Health Organisation. Nearby, the birds are singing in the lush green gardens of the settlements with their swimming pools and healthy crops. “They are stealing our water,” a Palestinian community leader told me when I visited the region in 2011. “They plant flowers in the settlement and we don’t have water to drink. The Israeli politics is to move us – should I then live in the air?”The Jordan Valley is the area furthest removed from the Green Line boundary with Israel, and it contains valuable agricultural resources. Israel controls 87% of this land.
In a village where the Israeli Defence Force routinely uses so-called military practices to harass unarmed villagers who have no criminal records or charges against them, a child told me: “Our minds are not with our teachers when there is [military] training happening.” Another said: “I started to cry when I arrived at my house after school and saw that it was demolished. We couldn’t remove anything from the house.”
“Our message to the world is to look at us as human beings” another community leader told me. “I am not a political person or a negotiator, but I need to feed my family. My message is for them to look at us as people who want our children to be educated. I now need to drive a 35-40 km detour each day when I take my children to school because they closed my gate. This means that our children are in the village while we are here and we cannot take care of them and their school work.”
Israel uses the pretext of “security” for its confiscation of land and its restrictions on where and when Palestinians may travel. Let me mention two examples that suggest another agenda:
- When I monitored human rights violations in the World Council of Churches’ EAPPI programme, we repeatedly reported that agricultural land which was allegedly confiscated by the Israeli Defence Force for military or security reasons was later used to plant settlement crops.
- In September 2012, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected a petition challenging the Israeli authorities’ refusal to let five women from the Gaza Strip travel to the West Bank to complete their master’s degrees. The Israeli Supreme Court accepted the Israeli’s position that allowing the students to travel through Israeli territory would “undermine the ‘separation’ policy which is based on both security and political considerations.” In doing so, the court effectively approved restrictions on civilian travel between Gaza and the West Bank, even where no individual security concerns are raised.
We need to ask ourselves whether the Israeli government’s and its supporters’ outrage at the escalation in BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) actions against Israel is not perhaps hypocritical in view of Israel’s own restrictions on, and its oppression of, the Palestinians.
5. A lasting solution
Kairos Southern Africa recognises that even ending the occupation and adherence to international law by both Israel and Palestine on its own will by no means solve all the problems. The acts of an oppressor injure not only the oppressed, but the oppressor too, and the oppressor’s partners or allies. Some Christians in the United States, for example, recently confessed to the role their country played in both the Holocaust and in Israel-Palestine. In South Africa we also have experience of how true this is.
At Kairos Southern Africa, we cooperate with South African, Palestinian and Israeli people who belong to the three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Islam and Christianity) and who advocate for a just peace. These are people who share our values of inclusivity, pluralism and human dignity. We are not fighting people, we are fighting a system. We ask ourselves what will be necessary to ensure self-determination after occupation, and we want to be co-travellers with those who are willing to open themselves up to the Other, so that jointly we learn from one another, reconcile, and live a lasting peace.
6. Kairos Southern Africa’s request
Any attempt to remain neutral in this kind of conflict is both futile and immoral. Neutrality enables the status quo of oppression to continue. It is a way of giving tacit support to the oppressor. We are not taking sides against the Israeli people, but we unequivocally reject the Israeli regime’s treatment of Palestinians. We want international law to be upheld, and join the struggle for justice by advocating non-violent resistance against any form of injustice.
In line with this endeavour, we ask you to actively accompany the Palestinian people in their quest for liberation and to be their voice in the international arena – as our late President, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, said, “we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians” and others in oppressive situations.
The role of the South African government is unique in the world, given our country’s history of apartheid and the ways in which we overcame the institutionalised injustices of this system. In 2014 we celebrate our twentieth year as a democracy, and the United Nations has declared 2014 a year of solidarity with the Palestinian people. By not responding when we know about the injustices and human rights violations suffered by the Palestinian people, we will be allowing and enabling an act of omission. By responding insufficiently, we will prolong the suffering and the damage. This is our Kairos moment.
Kairos Southern Africa expresses a moral standpoint. We are witnessing a worsening situation. We see Israel using negotiations to prolong the pain, to intensify the occupation and to confiscate more resources. All of this must now stop. We want all the injustices to stop now, as we wanted for ourselves during our own struggle.
For this reason we request the following from our government:
- We want complete military, diplomatic and financial sanctions against Israel until it complies with all applicable UN resolutions and international law, and ends the occupation.
- In the global arena, we want our government to lobby for the financial and other support for the Palestinians for socio-economic development after the end of the occupation.
- We want our government to implement the above two requests and to table these request at both the African Union and the United Nations.
- We also call on all political parties in South Africa to clearly communicate their stance on the plight of the Palestinian people and to make their views known timeously in the build-up to the 2014 elections.
 The Kairos Document is a theological statement issued in 1985 by a group of black South African theologians based predominantly in the black township of Soweto, South Africa. The statement challenged the churches’ response to what the authors saw as the vicious policies of the Apartheid state under the State of Emergency declared on 21 July 1985. The Kairos Document evoked strong reaction both in South Africa, and world-wide. This example of contextual theology served as an example for critical writing at decisive moments in several other countries and contexts such as in Brazil, the USA, India, Palestine, etc.
 Kairos Palestine. 2009. A moment of truth: A word of faith, hope, and love from the heart of the Palestinian suffering. Jerusalem. [Online]. Available: http://www.kairospalestine.ps. [2011, 20 December].
 8 December 2012, Jerusalem.
 With regard to 1948, there are two very different narratives: what Zionists call a War of Independence (“we fought bravely and won against all odds and by the grace of God”) is to Palestinians and supporters of human rights the Nakba (the Catastrophe).
 The total number of refugees is estimated at 9.8 million by the Badil Resource Center. [Online]. Available: http://www.badil.org/en/resources-for-visitors-journalists-a-activists. [2014, 3 February].
 The population of Palestinians around the world totalled 11.6 million in 2012, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. [Online]. Ma’an News Agency. 2012. PCBS: Palestinian population reaches 11.6 million in 2012. [Online]. Available: http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=552362. [2014, 3 February].
 In 2011, the settler population was estimated at over 520,000; the annual average rate of growth during the past decade was 5.3% (excluding East Jerusalem), compared to 1.8% for the Israeli population as a whole (ICBS), according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). 2012a. The Humanitarian Impact to Israeli Settlement Policies. [Online]. Available: http://www.ochaopt.org/ documents/ocha_opt_settlements_FactSheet_December_2012_english.pdf. [2014, 3 February]. All settlers in the occupied Palestinian territory “are illegal under international law as they violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the transfer of the occupying power’s civilian population into occupied territory. This illegality has been confirmed by the International Court of Justice, the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention and the United Nations Security Council.” UNOCHA. 2012b. The Humanitarian Impact of Israeli Settlement Policies. January. [Online]. Available: http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/ocha_opt_settlements_FactSheet_January_2012_english.pdf. [2012, 23 September].
Tutu, D. 2000. No Future without Forgiveness. London: Rider Books. (pp. 31, 166, 196).
 Although the use of arms against military targets is recognised as lawful under international law, as Bennis argues, we believe that the law only manages the conditions of war, whilst we want the war to stop. Bennis, P. 2012. Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict. A primer. Northampton: Olive Branch Press. (p..3).
 Kairos Palestine. 2011. The Bethlehem Call. (p.86).
“Launched on 9 July 2005 by more than 170 Palestinian parties, trade unions, refugee networks, NGOs and grassroots associations, calling on international civil society organisations and people of conscience to “impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era”. Barghouti O. 2013. Is BDS’ campaign against Israel reaching a turning point? Opinion piece in Aljazeera. [Online]. Available: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/12/bds-campaign-against-israel-reaching-turning-point-201312225320764121.html. [2014, 3 February].
 United Nations. 2002. Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. [Online]. Available: http://untreaty.un.org/cod/icc/statute/english/rome_statute%28e%29.pdf. [2012, 11 October].
Russell Tribunal on Palestine. 2011. Executive summary of the ﬁndings of the third session of the RToP. A systematic and institutionalised regime. [Online]. Available: http://www.russelltribunalonpalestine.com/ en/sessions/south-africa/south-africa-session-%E2%80%94-full-findings/cape-town-session-summary-of-findings. [2013, 21 September].
Human Sciences Research Council. 2009. Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid? A re-assessment of Israel’s practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law. Cape Town: HSRC.
Roadmap to Apartheid. 2012. [Documentary film] Directors: Ana Nogueira, Eron Davidson, Nathaniel Cunningham. Cinematography: Ana Nogueira. Narrator: Alice Walker. USA. English. Producers: Ana Nogueira & Eron Davidson.
 Rabkin, Y. 2010. Zionism a ‘terrible enemy’ of Jewish people. Cape Times, 10 March.
14 Braverman, M. 2010. Fatal Embrace. Christians, Jews, and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land. Austin, TX: Synergy Books. (p. 348); Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). 2010. An Unjust Settlement. A Tale of Illegal Israeli Settlements in the West Bank. Jerusalem: Emerezian Est.; Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). 2009. Silently Displaced in the West Bank. Jerusalem: Emerezian Est.; Oxfam. 2012. On the Brink. Israeli settlements and their impact on Palestinians in the Jordan Valley. [Online]. Available: 160 Oxfam Briefing Paper. Available: http://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/bp160-jordan-valley-settlements-050712-en_1.pdf. [2012, 1 August].; Russell Tribunal on Palestine. 2011. Executive summary of the ﬁndings of the third session of the RToP. A systematic and institutionalised regime. [Online]. Available: http://www.russelltribunalonpalestine.com/en/ sessions/south-africa/south-africa-session-%E2%80%94-full-findings/cape-town-session-summary-of-findings. [2013, 21 September].; United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 2012a. Demolitions and Forced Displacement in the Occupied West Bank. January. [Online]. Available: http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/ ocha_opt_demolitions_factSheet_january_2012_english.pdf. [2012, 2 February].; United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 2012b. The Humanitarian Impact of Israeli Settlement Policies. January. [Online]. Available: http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/ ocha_opt_settlements_FactSheet_January_2012_english.pdf. [2012, 23 September].; United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 2011. Israeli Settler Violence in the West Bank. November. [Online]. Available: http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/ocha_opt_settler_violence_ FactSheet_October_2011_english.pdf. [2012, 23 September].
 Protecting individuals in war and in peace.
 Covering civilians caught up in war and armed conflict areas.
 EAPPI. 2009:11.
 If Palestinians gain access to 50,000 dunums (12,500 acres or 3.5% of Area C) of uncultivated land, this could generate a billion dollars of revenue per year (The World Bank.) UNOCHA. 2012c. Humanitarian Fact Sheet on the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea Area. [Online]. Available: http://www.unochaopt.org/documents/ ocha_opt_ jordan_valley_factSheet_february_2012_english.pdf. [2014, 18 January].
 Peled, M. 2012. The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine. Charlottesville: Just World Books.
 Op.cit. 166
 Article 55 of the Hague Convention stipulates that “the occupying state shall be regarded only as administrator and usufructuary of public buildings, real estate, forests, and agricultural estates belonging to the hostile State, and situated in the occupied country. It must safeguard the capital of these properties, and administer them in accordance with the rules of usufruct” (EAPPI 2010:100). This stipulation is ignored, as is evident from Israel’s confiscation of land and water resources, the home demolitions and evictions, the harassment, violence, vandalism and incitement (EAPPI 2010:12-95), as well as from the illegal Israeli Wall and its associated regime, the many checkpoints and transport restrictions, and the discriminatory court system whereby illegal Israeli settlers have access to a civil court and indigenous Palestinians are put on trial in an Israeli military court (EAPPI 2009:24-79). Further evidence can be found in recent statistics on demolitions and forced displacements in the West Bank (UNOCHA 2012a).
 Military Court Watch. [Online]. Available: http://www.militarycourtwatch.org/page.php?id=a6r85VcpyUa 4755A52Y2mp3c4v. [2014, 18 January].
 The Jordan Valley and Dead Sea area covers around 30% of the West Bank, and is home to nearly 60,000 Palestinians. Of this land, 87% is designated as Area C, virtually all of which Palestinians are prohibited to use, It is earmarked instead for the use of the Israeli military or under the jurisdiction of Israeli settlements. The permitted water consumption is 20 litres/capita/day in most herding communities in the area, compared to the WHO recommendation of 100 l/c/d, and the average settlement consumption of 300 l/c/d. UNOCHA. 2012c. Humanitarian Fact Sheet on the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea Area. [Online]. Available: http://www.unochaopt.org/documents/ocha_opt_jordan_valley_factSheet_february_2012_english.pdf. [2014, 18 January].
 I served in 2011 in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).
 UNOCHA. 2013. Fragmented Lives. Humanitarian Overview 2012. [Online]. Available: http://www.unochaopt.org/documents/ocha_opt_fragmented_lives_annual_report_2013_english_web.pdf. [2014, 4 February]. The petition was jointly filed in 2012 by an Israeli and a Palestinian human rights organization (Gisha and Al Mezan) on behalf of the affected women. Four of the women, who are now in their 40s, were forced to discontinue their studies in 2000, following the outbreak of the second Intifada and Israel’s subsequent revocation of travel permits for many Gazans between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. All four women hold various positions in civil society organizations promoting democracy and women’s rights.
Is there a better adjective than ‘apartheid’ to describe Israel?
04 Oct 2013 00:00 Ran Greenstein
How can we sort out the conceptual mess that afflicts the debates around the comparison between Israel and apartheid South Africa?
Recent articles in the Mail & Guardian, in particular an interview with Benjamin Pogrund, have shown confusion regarding the meaning of the issue.
First, let us examine the meaning of apartheid. The term defines the regime of political domination and social exclusion that ruled South Africa since 1948.
Another definition emerged in international law, drawing on the South African example but gradually moving away from it. The 2002 Statute of the International Criminal Court contains no references to South Africa and regards apartheid as “an institutionalised regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group”.
We must also bear in mind that the 1965 international convention on eliminating racial discrimination extends the term to cover “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin”.
Biological differences In other words, it is not restricted to “race” in the common meaning that invokes real or imaginary biological differences in its definition.
Although apartheid remains associated in our minds with its South African origins, legally it has no necessary relation to South Africa.
The key question is the identification of a regime that practices systematic oppression and domination by one group over another. How then does it apply to Israel?
To answer that, we need to clarify another concept: Israel.
Although usually seen as residing within its pre-1967 boundaries, the Israeli regime exercises control over Palestinians in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza.
For the past 46 years, all residents within greater Israel have lived under the same regime, which claims to be the sole legitimate political and military authority.
The state controls the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, ruling over eight million rights-bearing citizens (75% of whom are Jews) and four million Palestinian subjects denied civil and political rights. Millions of Palestinian refugees (who were born in the territory or whose direct ancestors were) cannot set foot in their homeland, let alone determine its political future as citizens.
Insiders How is the notion of apartheid relevant to this reality? The Israeli regime is based on an ethnic-religious distinction between Jewish insiders and Palestinian outsiders.
It expands citizenship beyond its territory, potentially to all Jews regardless of their links to the country, and contracts citizenship within it: Palestinians in the occupied territories and refugees outside have no citizenship and cannot become Israeli citizens.
The regime combines different modes of rule: civilian authority with democratic institutions within the Green Line (the pre-1967 boundaries), and military authority beyond it.
In times of crisis, the military mode of rule spills over the line to apply to Palestinian citizens in Israel.
At all times, the civilian mode of rule spills over the line to apply to Jewish settlers.
The distinction between the two sides of the line is constantly eroding as a result, and norms and practices developed under the occupation filter back into Israel.
Israel as a “Jewish democratic state” is “democratic” for Jews and “Jewish” for Arabs.
Minority It is, in fact, a “Jewish demographic state”. The fear that Jews may become a minority is the prime concern behind state policies.
All state institutions and practices are geared to meet the concern for a permanent Jewish majority exercising absolute political domination.
These conditions are particularly visible in the occupied territories: Jewish settlers live in exclusive communities, from which all Palestinian locals are barred (except, occasionally, as “hewers of wood and drawers of water”). They drive on Israeli-only roads, enjoy Israeli military protection and access to all the privileges and services that come with citizenship rights, including voting for the Israeli Parliament.
Palestinian subjects have no say in the way they are governed. “No taxation without representation” is a noble political principle that does not apply to them.
What should we call a regime that leaves millions of its subjects with no political rights, that practises segregation in all walks of life and that denies them the basic right to determine their future?
True, there is a Palestinian Authority as well, but it has no power over crucial issues of security, land, water, movement of people and goods, industry and trade.
All that matters is controlled by Israeli military authorities, which operate on behalf and at the behest of settlers and Israeli interest groups.
That the territories have not been formally annexed to Israel is irrelevant – it changes none of the oppressive practices to which Palestinians are daily subjected.
Some people prefer not to term this regime apartheid because it is indeed different (not better) in some respects from what existed in South Africa before 1994. Fine, but what better term is there?
Professor Ran Greenstein teaches in the sociology department at the University of the Witwatersrand
Why the struggle for non-racialism must continue in South Africa: a discussion primer
In this week that we commemorated the launch of the UDF in South Africa, and as we move towards the 20th Anniversary of our democracy, it is important to understand and discuss what we mean by the term “non-racialism” and whether we have achieved non-racialism in South Africa. Or is apartheid in South Africa simply “under new management”, as some have claimed.
These questions are important if we are going to move significantly forward in our national life as South Africans, and if we are going to build some form of positive social cohesion.
It is also important to for South Africans to understand the distinctions between the following terms:
- Non-racialism (and integration)
- Multi-racialism (and assimilation)
These three terms are not the same and sometimes people use the one while they actually mean the other.
- The legal victory: Apartheid in its legal sense has been defeated. No-one can seriously argue (as some Israelis have tried to do this week) that South Africa is an apartheid state. In terms of our constitution, South Africa is no longer an apartheid state. But is it a non-racial state?
- In practice, much of what is done in this “new” South Africa is still done in racial categories. Official forms often require that we indicate whether we are white, coloured, Indian or African. This is justified by the slogan “we cannot manage what we cannot measure” and therefore if we want to for example measure how far “blacks” have moved away from poverty in South Africa, we need to be able to have statistics to back it up. From a purely practical perspective, this might then be necessary. But are we willing to put a deadline to this practice or will it be with us forever? Or are we willing to say that when x amount of people have moved out of poverty, we will drop this practice. This is something we as South Africans need to talk about. Trevor Noah is for example correct (since he has a white father and an African mother) to fill in that he is “white”. But equally he could fill in African or Coloured. But hopefully none of this will be necessary in the future.
- Also, in practice Apartheid is still being practiced by many South Africans: Unfortunately, despite the legal victory against apartheid, some South Africans continue to practice a form of apartheid in public institutions, especially at schools. Many people would want to deny that this is happening, but if we are honest enough with ourselves we will see to what extent Apartheid is being practiced and this must simply stop. This problem is probably as serious as the problem of not delivering textbooks on time.
- The Jimmy Manyi example: this young man got into trouble for merely expressing the logic of government thinking, although he over-reached himself (as many politicians do) by saying that the logical thing in South Africa [in terms of government thinking] would be that Coloured people should be more spread out across the country in order to reach the top positions in government. If you therefore take government thinking and processes to its natural conclusion, then Manyi’s comment about how the Western Cape is “overpopulated” with coloured people cannot be faulted since government cannot reach its targets in terms of its own processes and logic. Many “Coloured” people in senior government positions in the Western Cape find a ceiling above their heads because EE (Employment Equity) targets in the Province mean that there should be an “African woman” in the position above them. If the same person however moved to the Eastern Cape, he/she would probably become a DG because there the target is different because of the “spread” of the “population groups” in South Africa. It is of course also ironic that the person who heads up Stats SA (Min Trevor Manuel) was the one who strongly rebuked Manyi, since that is the Department that insists on measuring South Africans in racial categories.
- Besides having to fill in forms for statistical reasons, the use of racial and even ethnic terms in the new South Africa can be frustrating. In Apartheid South Africa, those of us who struggled for non-racialism would never have spoken about coloureds, for example. We would have said so-called Coloured or we would write the term coloured in brackets to show that it is not a term we are comfortable with. Having however won the legal battle against apartheid, we now find ourselves in a situation where the term is becoming more and more acceptable and widely used without brackets, not only in social circles but also in political discussions. Some people even use the term “bruin” while others use other terms. Did we really struggle against apartheid to make these terms more acceptable?
- Some interesting political twists we need to be aware of: The one twist is that some South Africans might think that this is acceptable/normal and therefore actively organise for “bruin” and “white” unity against the black masses, and this might lead or have already led to new alignments in our political life in South Africa. The second twist has to do with the issue of “bruin” people being the indigenous people of this land, but that is perhaps a topic for another article dealing with ethnicity, land, etc.
- Blacks in general and Africans in particular: Many of us (unless I speak only for myself) who were in the UDF did not struggle for the liberation of “blacks in general and Africans in particular”, but for the liberation of all South Africans, including the oppressors. But this is a term that is extensively used in and by the ANC today. The nett effect of this within the ANC is that it translates into who is in the top leadership of that organisation. This might once again be a mechanism used in a necessary “phase” but once again if this is a phase, it must be identified as such and there must be clarity about when this phase will end.
- One example to counter this: In 1985, the SACC decided to hand over the role of the General Secretary to Dr Beyers Naude. I was present when this happened, and Bishop Tutu made a very interesting comment that we South Africans are “crazy”. How can we hand this top position over to a white person as it was formerly occupied by a Black person. But this was the spirit of the SACC and the UDF at the time – for us it was not about race and colour, but about whether person x or person y is best suited for that post. This and other examples are in our national memory and we should retrieve it and build on it.
- The use of the term “minorities”: Some of us should perhaps say “we did not struggle to be part of a minority” but to be part of a South African majority. Just as we did not struggle to use the term “coloured” freely, neither did we struggle against apartheid only to be bundled with a group called “minorities”. This is a term often used by FW de Klerk in his insistence that minorities must be protected, but it becomes worrying when Julius Malema uses the same term when asking the question: “Why must all economic ministries be occupied by people from the minorities?” The one group that we would expect to be forward-looking would be the Youth league, but the use of these terms in their circles should be a warning to us that the struggle for non-racialism is still a long struggle.
- Attitudes: this is very difficult to counter or even quantify, but negative racial attitudes continue to be part of our national life. To some extent this should be expected since we are less than 20 years into our democracy, but work must be done to continue to counter these attitudinal issues, and the spirit in which it must be challenged should as far as possible not be judgemental, but in a loving way. One example of this is that the investigation of who murdered a black person in a township must be done on the same basis as the murder of a white person in a suburb. If there is any difference in the way these are dealt with, impunity will begin to take root and the violence in our society will continue to grow.
Quo vadis? What is the way forward?
- South Africans need to talk about this openly and understand the differences between the terms and the practical reasons why some of these terms are still part of our national life. Much of what we are doing is not non-racialism but multi-racialism, mixed salad – where you can take the different parts apart- rather than potjiekos, where everything is integrated. Ultimately, we should all become anti-racist, where we all agree that there are no races, but that there is only one race, viz the human race.
- We must strongly express the desire that the use of these racial terms will no longer be necessary and agree together when or under what conditions we will stop using these terms. It should not feature in our national life forever.
- Systems must be set up to ensure that there is absolutely no discrimination in who are allowed in our schools, and how services are rendered in society (eg murder investigations).
- We should all learn as much as possible about each others’ cultures and languages as possible and also appreciate the cultural differences.
- Closing the economic inequality gap, mainly through quality education but also through other means, is probably the quickest way to make the use of these terms unnecessary.
South Africa can become a great nation and we will be a gift to the rest of humanity if we deal with the issues of non-racialism, multi-racialism and anti-racism.
Written by Rev Edwin Arrison on 25 August 2012 (as a discussion primer).
Reverend Allan Boesak calls Israeli apartheid “more terrifying” than South Africa ever was .
Dr. Hanan Chehata http://www.middleeastmonitor.org.uk/resources/interviews/3079-reverend-allan-boesak-calls-israeli-apartheid-qmore-terrifyingq-than-south-africa-ever-was
Thursday, 17 November 2011 16:50 .
‘When we built up the sanctions campaign it was not with governments in the West.’
The Reverend Allan Aubrey Boesak is a veteran of the South African anti-apartheid struggle. He is the former president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and is a signatory of the South African Christian response to the Kairos Palestine Document. This year he gave expert testimony at the Russell Tribunal on Palestine session in Cape Town, at which he spoke to MEMO’s Hanan Chahata.
Rev. Allan Boesak said of the Israeli policy of apartheid: “It is worse, not in the sense that apartheid was not an absolutely terrifying system in South Africa, but in the ways in which the Israelis have taken the apartheid system and perfected it, so to speak; sharpened it. For instance, we had the Bantustans and we had the Group Areas Act and we had the separate schools and all of that but I don’t think it ever even entered the mind of any apartheid planner to design a town in such a way that there is a physical wall that separates people and that that wall denotes your freedom of movement, your freedom of economic gain, of employment, and at the same time is a tool of intimidation and dehumanisation. We carried passes as the Palestinians have their ID documents but that did not mean that we could not go from one place in the city to another place in the city. The judicial system was absolutely skewed of course, all the judges in their judgements sought to protect white privilege and power and so forth, and we had a series of what they called “hanging judges” in those days, but they did not go far as to openly, blatantly have two separate justice systems as they do for Palestinians [who are tried in Israeli military courts] and Israelis [who are tried in civil, not military courts]. So in many ways the Israeli system is worse.”
Hanan Chahata: You were one of the signatories of the South African Christian response to the Kairos Palestine Document. In this you said that the Palestinian experience of apartheid is “in its practical manifestation even worse than South African apartheid”. Can you explain what you meant by this?
Allan Boesak: It is worse, not in the sense that apartheid was not an absolutely terrifying system in South Africa, but in the ways in which the Israelis have taken the apartheid system and perfected it, so to speak; sharpened it. For instance, we had the Bantustans and we had the Group Areas Act and we had the separate schools and all of that but I don’t think it ever even entered the mind of any apartheid planner to design a town in such a way that there is a physical wall that separates people and that that wall denotes your freedom of movement, your freedom of economic gain, of employment, and at the same time is a tool of intimidation and dehumanisation. We carried passes as the Palestinians have their ID documents but that did not mean that we could not go from one place in the city to another place in the city. The judicial system was absolutely skewed of course, all the judges in their judgements sought to protect white privilege and power and so forth, and we had a series of what they called “hanging judges” in those days, but they did not go far as to openly, blatantly have two separate justice systems as they do for Palestinians [who are tried in Israeli military courts] and Israelis [who are tried in civil, not military courts]. So in many ways the Israeli system is worse.
Another thing that makes it even worse is that when we fought our battles, even if it took us a long time, we could in the end muster and mobilise international solidarity on a scale that enabled us to be more successful in our struggle. The Palestinians cannot do that. The whole international community almost conspires against them. The UN, which played a fairly positive role in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, takes the disastrous position of not wanting to offend its strong members like the United States who protect Israel. So even in the UN, where international law ought to be the framework wherein all these things are judged, where international solidarity is not an assumption but is supposed to be the very foundation upon which the UN builds its views on things and its judgements as to which way it goes, the Palestinians don’t even have that.
Palestinians are mocked in a way that South Africans were not. In a sense, the UN tried in our case to follow up on its resolutions to isolate the apartheid regime. Here, now, they make resolutions against Israel one after the other and I don’t detect even a sense of shame that they know there is not going to be any follow up. Under Reagan the United States was pretty blatant in its so called constructive engagement programme and in its support for the white regime in South Africa, but what the United States is doing now in the week that UNESCO took the decision to support the Palestinian bid for a seat in the United Nations, to withdraw all US financial support; to resort immediately to economic blackmail, that is so scandalous. So in all those ways I think we are trying to say that what is happening in Israel today is a system of apartheid that in its perfection of that system is more terrifying in many ways than apartheid in South Africa ever was.
HC: During an event celebrating black history month earlier this year you likened the US Civil Rights Movement to the South African struggle against apartheid. Would you liken both of those struggles to the Palestinian struggle today?
AB: I have just finished a chapter for a book that I hope will be out next year in which I speak of the similarities between the civil rights struggle, the anti-apartheid struggle, and the Arab Spring and the lessons we can draw from them.
I think it is fascinating in so many different ways. It’s almost as if I personally lived through the difficult choices that people have to make in North Africa and in the Middle East every day. As every day goes by my admiration for them grows. I see what is happening in Syria and in Yemen and that there is still relatively little violence on the part of the protesters. You can still see that their basic fundamental goal is to get rid of the tyranny through non-violent protest and it is amazing to watch. I do believe that there is such a thing as historic moments that never disappear from which people learn. South Africa learned so much from Ghandi in India; Martin Luther King learned from Ghandi; we learned from Martin Luther King and we had our own traditions and I’m sure the young Arab people who saw some of these things happening are drawing on that. 1994 (when the first democratic government of South Africa was formed) and the 1980s are not that far behind us. Many of those people who are participating today were sat in front of their televisions watching when we were in the streets day after day after day braving the dogs and the guns and the tear gas, burying our people, funeral after funeral. When I see the funerals taking place in the Arab world I think of the time Archbishop Tutu and I buried 27 people (actually 42 were killed but the police would not release the other bodies); I think of that when I see bodies being carried out to be buried Friday after Friday in the Arab world.
Our struggle had all sorts of political ideologies but it was never completely secularised. The faith, as Archbishop Tutu said this morning, that there is a God of justice who will help us sustain the struggle is an amazing thing. When I see all those thousands of Muslims go down and bow down before Allah I must say, when I saw it for the first time I looked at my wife and I said, I tell you now, if people sustain that, all those tyrants will be quaking in their boots and they know that they will not be able to hold out against that power.
I believe that, just as a few years ago the civil rights struggle in the United States, and then more especially the anti-apartheid struggle, became the moral standard by which the world was judged in terms of its taking sides in terms of right or wrong and getting on the right side of the human revolution for humanity and for justice and for the restoration of dignity and for the future for children; that particular moment in history where the world is invited to participate in this revolution for the sake of the good and for the sake of the future and for the sake of justice; and where that decision hinges upon evil and wrong on the one side and justice and right on the other side and will mark the world in a way that says this is a litmus test for international solidarity and for international law and justice, that test today comes from the Arab Spring.
HC: The Arab Spring or Palestine?
AB: You have the Arab Spring taking place but at the hub of it all is Palestine. I believe that what is happening now would not have happened if it had not been for the perennial struggle of the Palestinian people. They may not be mentioned every time but I can tell you now that if it was not for them, nothing like the Arab Spring would ever have happened in the Middle East.
Just as we thought, when we watched Martin Luther King or when we went through our own struggle, that the face and direction of history and the world, whether they like it in the West or not and whether or not they come to it with hidden agendas for the sake of greed or whatever, it does not really matter; what is happening in the end is that something fundamental is changing in the Middle East and thereby something fundamental is changing in the history of the world. Those people, I believe, who are going through that revolution now will, for instance, never make the same mistakes that their parents and grandparents made, thinking that the West is always good and that the deals we make with the West are always for the good of our people. There is a new critical element that has come in. Never again will people think the same; what I am hoping is that the Arab revolutions will be so sustainable and so successful and morally so strong that they will force the West to think differently about themselves in terms of the viewpoints and stands they take on events.
HC: Christianity is under threat in the Holy Land. People tend to forget that this is not an issue between Jews and Muslims; there are Christian Palestinians too. There has been a disturbing trend over the years, which has seen Christian Palestinians leaving the Holy Land because of the extraordinary difficulties that Israel has placed on their lives. In what ways has the occupation affected Christians?
AB: The Christian community in Palestine has been decimated in many ways. By doing this the Israelis are doing two things: they are simplifying the presentation of the struggle as if it is only between Jews and Arabs, with the result that Christians outside think that there is nothing and nobody for us to be in solidarity with. Hence, the Christian Zionists, those ultra conservative fundamentalists in the United States who have for so long helped to dictate foreign policy under the Bush and Reagan administrations, they can say “it’s not about us; it’s not about Christians and Christian witness, it’s about those Muslims”; that, I think, is the intention. I’m hoping that those of us who are Christians outside the Middle East will keep that fact alive and will find ways and means to inject that argument into every single political situation so that the discourse that goes forward and gives rise to action does not push aside the reality of Christians in the Middle East, especially in the Holy Land.
The second thing they are doing is that they are dislodging, not just denying, but dislodging the roots of the Christian faith in the Middle East; that’s where it all started. If you dislodge that it’s like cutting off your nose to spite your face – you are cutting yourself off from the most ancient roots of Christianity and that will set the Christian church adrift, and in the end that will not be good for Israel. So I’m glad to see that the World Council of Churches is rising up again. It is not nearly as radical as it should be, it’s not nearly as clear as it should be nor as hard-nosed as it should be on this issue, but at least it is taking up the Palestinian issue and responding to the situation in Egypt, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere where Christians are under pressure. In doing so they must remember that this is not just a Christian cause; it’s not important just because of the Christians involved, but also because the future of humanity is at stake.
HC: There are an estimated 50 million Christian Zionists worldwide. How would you counsel them with regards to their support for the state of Israel which is based, they would say, on Biblical reasoning?
AB: It’s like with so many things, it’s the way that people read and interpret the Bible and so we must just make sure that we are as clear and as enthusiastic and as open about our understanding of the Bible and as willing to engage our understanding of the Bible as they seem to be. There must be ways; we have just not been imaginative enough. I think one reason is because we have not, until very recently, realised the very dangerous nature of the views that those people hold, not just for Palestinians and for Muslims in general but also for the Christian Church itself. Now that we begin to see how deadly that kind of logic is, how absolutely anti-Christian and anti-human that logic is, we have no excuses left.
HC: Israel is demanding that Palestinians recognise it as an exclusively “Jewish state”. How would you respond to this demand?
AB: They can’t. There is no such thing as a specifically Jewish state. You can’t proclaim a Jewish state over the heads and the bodies and the memories of the people who are the ancient people who live there. That is Palestinian land we are talking about. Most of the Jews who are there come from Europe and elsewhere and have no claim on that land and we mustn’t allow it to happen to the Palestinians what happened to my ancestors who were the original people in this land (South Africa) but now there are hardly enough of them to be counted in the census. That is Palestinian land and that should be the point of departure in every political discussion.
HC: In the past you urged Western countries to impose economic sanctions on the South African apartheid regime. Would you support a similar call for sanctions against the state of Israel?
AB: Absolutely! Pressure, pressure, pressure from every side and in as many ways as possible: trade sanctions, economic sanctions, financial sanctions, banking sanctions, sports sanctions, cultural sanctions; I’m talking from our own experience. In the beginning we had very broad sanctions and only late in the 1980s did we learn to have targeted sanctions. So you must look to see where the Israelis are most vulnerable; where is the strongest link to the outside community? And you must have strong international solidarity; that’s the only way it will work. You have to remember that for years and years and years when we built up the sanctions campaign it was not with governments in the West. They came on board very, very late.
It was the Indian government and in Europe just Sweden and Denmark to begin with and that was it. Later on, by 1985-86, we could get American support. We never could get Margaret Thatcher on board, never Britain, never Germany, but in Germany the people who made a difference were the women who started boycotting South African goods in their supermarkets. That’s how we built it up. Never despise the day of small beginnings. It was down to civil society. But civil society in the international community could only build up because there was such a strong voice from within and that is now the responsibility of the Palestinians, to keep up that voice and to be as strong and as clear as they possibly can. Think up the arguments, think through the logic of it all but don’t forget the passion because this is for your country.
Click here to read the full South African Response to the Kairos Palestine document:
In hours, brave Palestinians will risk attack and arrest to board public
In the next few hours, history could be made in
Palestine. A small number of brave Palestinians will risk
attack and arrest to commit a forbidden act — they will board a public bus.
Lacking their own state, Palestinians are forbidden to use buses and roads
reserved for non-Arabs — part of a host of race-based rules that US President
Jimmy Carter has called “apartheid”. 50 years ago, African-Americans
in the US challenged these rules by simply and non-violently refusing to follow
them. In a few hours, Palestinians will take the same approach, and their
actions will be live webcasted by Avaaz teams at the link below.
As diplomats stall in the fight for a Palestinian state, the Palestinian people
are taking the fight into their own hands, one public service at a time. And
they’re doing it with the simple, elegant and unstoppable moral force of
non-violence in the tradition of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. The
Palestinian spring begins right now – click below to watch it LIVE, register
support, and give these brave activists the global solidarity and attention
they urgently need to win:
Non-violence is the game-changing force in this long-standing conflict.
Boarding buses is a symbolic act, but so was Gandhi’s salt march, and Rosa
Park’s own courageous ride on a segregated bus in the US. Just as non-violent
protest was able to topple dictators in Egypt and Tunisia, so can it finally
free the Palestinian people from 40 years of crippling military oppression by a
There are many dangers. Israel has been arming the extremist settler population,
a tactic which is likely, if not intended, to provoke awful violence that will
draw the news cameras away from the brave acts of non-violence. Even the
Palestinian authorities are pushing back on the action which they fear will
start a democratic protest movement that they cannot control. But these few
brave Palestinians have had enough, and if we stand with them now, we can
help them ignite a flame that will burn its way all the way to a free and
peaceful Palestinian state:
We have no idea what will happen in the next 24 hours. Maybe the authorities
will crush this brave action. Maybe it will spark into a massive conflagration.
Maybe it will sow the first seed of an unstoppable movement with tremendous
integrity. But we can watch it live, and lend our voices to the effort. And
maybe one day, we can tell our grandchildren that we were there when
Palestinians boarded the buses that would ultimately take them to freedom.
With hope and determination,
Ricken, Emma, Alice, Raluca, Pascal, Diego and the rest of the Avaaz team
I Woke Up This Morning with My Mind Set on Freedom
Freedom Riders: 1961 and the struggle for racial justice
Palestinian Freedom Rides echo the Civil Rights Movement
‘Freedom Rides’ to Resume in Palestine
This paper was delivered on 9 August 2011
FROM COLONIALISM TO PARTNERSHIP:
Learning From Our Past
A Theological Response to the
Report on the Approach of the Swiss Catholic Church to Apartheid in South Africa (1970-1990)
I can hardly find words to express how delighted I was to read this
record of the Swiss Catholic Church’s struggle against Switzerland’s support of the apartheid regime in
In the first place because the Church’s role in the struggle is so seldom
recorded and remembered anywhere even in South Africa itself. And in the
second place because of the unique role played by Swiss banks and Swiss industries.
More than any other country in the world Switzerland
propped up the apartheid regime by continuously rolling over South Africa’s bank loans, by continuing to
trade with South Africa and by being a centre for South Africa’s gold and diamond trade. When most
other countries in the world agreed to boycotts and sanctions against South Africa, Switzerland politely refused to do
so. Hence the crucial importance of the Swiss Church’s struggle to change this injustice.
The report was very informative and the details of your struggle as it developed over the
years were impressive and encouraging. Our response is first and foremost one
of gratitude to all those who were involved, individuals and groups.
Theologically and spiritually it was a magnificent example of courage,
perseverance and hopefulness.
At first sight it might appear as if, in the end, you failed. Neither the banks nor the
industries nor the gold and diamond traders changed their stance. But the
internal and external pressure on the apartheid regime from around the world
and the growing pressure of the Churches worldwide especially on the Swiss
banks and industries forced the apartheid regime to opt for a negotiated
settlement before it was too late.
However, what we are dealing with here is unfinished
business. In South Africa the struggle continues. “A Luta
Continua” , we say. And in Switzerland the struggle also continues. Because the bottom line in this struggle was, and
still is, money.
In 1988 in his famous sermon in the Jesuit Church in Lausanne, I
think it was, Bishop Mvemve pointed out that the common interest of apartheid South Africa and corporate Switzerland was
money. As I remember it he called the banks on the Hauptbahnstrasse temples
dedicated to the worship of money. Apartheid in the final analysis was also a system
founded on the worship of money. Apartheid was more than just racism and a
denial of human rights. Whites wanted to hold onto their power and privileges
in order to hold onto their money and wealth. The importance of boycotts and
sanctions was that these measures began to make it impossible for apartheid to
continue to be profitable for whites.
The internal struggle of demonstrations, protest marches, strikes and the attempts to make
the country ungovernable as well as the condemnation of apartheid by the Church
in South Africa all contributed to making the racial division unprofitable. The result was a
negotiated settlement, the dismantling of the racial system, and an enormous
improvement in the lives of very many people.
But there are also many millions of poor people who are still unemployed or are still expected to
live on starvation wages and still don’t have houses and other benefits. And
now they burn tyres to protest the never-ending lack of service delivery by the
The struggle against apartheid was the first step in the long struggle for liberation in South Africa. This
first step was a struggle against racial injustice and oppression. What we are
up against now is more obviously economic injustice and oppression. While more
and more black people have now become rich and the powerful, those who remain
poor feel that for them nothing much has changed. They are still poor. They are
Theologically speaking the Reign of Mammon continues – in South
Africa and in Switzerland, albeit in very different ways and with widely divergent results. We see the worship of money
not only in the activities of banks and big corporations but also in the
bribery and corruption, the fraud and the violent crime that is now so rampant
in South Africa. We are all part of one economic system in which Mammon reigns supreme.
But as Christians we believe that another world is possible, a non-racial, non-sexist world, a
more just and equitable world. A world in which God’s will is done on earth as
it is in heaven. We call it the Kingdom or Reign of God.
Yes, we need a post-colonial partnership. And as Church, as Christians, we need a new theology
– a theology that will condemn the worship of money and plot the way forward
towards a more equitable and just world, a theology that really challenges all
of us to co-operate and share with one another. The new partnership between the
Church in South Africa and in Switzerland
will have this very important theological dimension of condemning the worship
of Mammon and challenging us to listen to the cry of the poor in this day and