BYLINE: David Saks
A few weeks ago, US President Barack Obama addressed a largely Arab audience in Cairo, eloquently laying out his vision for a positive new era in international relations concerning the Middle East and his own country's interaction with the Arab and Muslim world.
Naturally, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict formed an important part of his address. Here, with admirable sensitivity and insight, he summed up the most pressing hopes, fears and grievances of all parties and what both sides need to do to bring about a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
Not everyone will agree with Obama's analysis, but who can deny his sincerity in seeking to mediate between the conflicting claims in a fair, balanced manner?
How very different to Obama's wise and fundamentally humane approach to this most vexed of international disputes was Ronnie Kasrils's article of June 17. At a time when a window of opportunity has opened for the different parties to begin reaching out once more across the gulf that divides them, all Kasrils can come up with is the same tired old anti-Israel rant, banging on like the proverbial broken record as he trots out the usual string of tendentious propaganda canards.
Kasrils's inconsistency is immediately evident in his calling Israel's defining of itself as a "Jewish" state "reminiscent of the worst days of apartheid". Apparently, he has no problem with the fact that numerous other countries define themselves in religious or ethnic terms. Egypt, Iran, Kuwait, Libya, Mauritania and Saudi Arabia declare themselves to be "Islamic". Bahrain defines itself as "an Arab Islamic State... its people are part of the Arab nation". Turkey defines itself as a Turkish state, even though a significant proportion of the population are not ethnic Turks but Kurds. In the Palestinian territories, Hamas envisions a state defined along religious, ie Islamic, lines, while for Fatah, ethnic Arab nationalism is the defining feature. In other words, Kasrils denies Israel's right to define itself as a "Jewish state", but allows other countries to define themselves however they wish. So much for "justness and fairness".
Kasrils describes the position of non-Jews in Israel as being similar to that of non-whites in apartheid South Africa. While space does not permit a detailed rebuttal of this ludicrous claim, consider the following: in South Africa, "colour bar" legislation restricted non-whites from most professions, and wage legislation fixed their wages at lower levels than whites. In Israel, access to all levels of the economic and professional sectors is open to all; under apartheid, public amenities such as parks, buses, hospitals, libraries and beaches were segregated, with whites enjoying the best facilities. In Israel, such discrimination would be illegal; only whites had political rights under apartheid, but all Israeli citizens have them; public education was segregated under apartheid, with race determining what school or university one could attend. Israelis can attend which-|ever school or university they wish (a right enforced by the courts); in South Africa, 87% of the land was reserved exclusively for white ownership, whereas in Israel (apart from the 13% owned by the Jewish National Fund, and even that is changing), the land is available for lease or purchase to all citizens and it is illegal to discriminate in this regard; apartheid prohibited racially mixed marriages and even sexual relations across the colour line, something entirely absent in Israel; unlike apartheid South Africa, Israel does not have pass laws and influx control based on race. …