Netanyahu Sets out on a Road to Nowhere

Cape Times (South Africa), June 17, 2009 | Go to article overview

Netanyahu Sets out on a Road to Nowhere


BYLINE: Ronnie Kasrils

Is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu really offering Palestinians anything to work with?

What is heard is the strident voice of a "Doctor No". No freeze on settlement construction. No to Jerusalem as a shared capital. No right of return of the refugees. No end to the siege of Gaza or occupation of the West Bank. No acceptance even of the two-state solution. No sovereign borders or air space in a nebulous territory he can hardly bring himself to name.

What he has announced, Palestinian representatives say, is a series of conditions and qualifications that render a viable, independent and sovereign Palestinian state impossible. This is no to peace, no to justice, no to security for Palestinians and Jews. It is a no to President Barack Obama if the American president is in fact serious about brokering a just solution.

For South Africans, Netanyahu's utterances are reminiscent of the worst days of apartheid when the dispossessed majority were warned to stay in their place and offered nothing but Bantustans. Netanyahu insists the Palestinians must accept Israel as the state of the Jewish people. This is of course integral to the Zionist myth claiming that only the Jews have rights to that land and ignoring the 20 percent Muslims who reside within Israel - never mind the rights of millions of Palestinians under military occupation or in refugee camps elsewhere. To accept the results of such dispossession and apartheid laws would have been tantamount to all South Africans agreeing with banishment to the Bantustans.

It is instructive to refer to a statement of Dr Hendrik Verwoerd's that "the Jews took Israel from the Arabs after the Arabs had lived there for a thousand years. Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state." (Rand Daily Mail, November 23, 1961)

Both apartheid South Africa and Zionist Israel qualify as colonial, settler states created on the basis of the dispossession of the land of an indigenous people by settlers. This is unblushingly documented in Israel's case from the time of Zionism's founding fathers to the present. Netanyahu's speech is illustrative of that legacy. To ignore this is to refuse to recognise the root cause of the conflict and to claim that everything must revolve around the rights of the Jews in Israel.

Both Israel and apartheid South Africa implemented a policy based on racial ethnicity; the claim of Jews in Israel and whites in South Africa to exclusive citizenship; monopolised rights in law regarding the ownership of land, property and business; superior access to education, health, social and cultural amenities, pensions and municipal services; monopolised membership of military and security forces; and privileged development along their own racial supremacist lines.

The fact that the Palestinian minority within Israel is allowed to vote hardly redresses the injustice in all other matters of basic human rights. Palestinians allowed to stand for election to the Knesset do so on condition that they dare not question Israel's existence as a Jewish state - and the conditionality is becoming stricter.

Verwoerd would have been well aware of Israel's dispossession of indigenous Palestinians in 1948 and with it the unfolding destruction of their villages, the massacres and ethnic cleansing in the very month and year his own party came to power in South Africa.

While Verwoerd did not live to see the division of Palestinian territory after the l967 Six Day War, and the subsequent enclosure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, he would have admired the machinations that ghettoised the Palestinians. This, after all, was the Verwoerdian grand plan, and the reason why Jimmy Carter could so readily identify the occupied Palestinian territories as being akin to apartheid.

In fact the Bantustans consisted of 13 percent of South Africa, uncannily comparable to the ever-shrinking pieces of ground Israel consigns to the Palestinians. …

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Netanyahu Sets out on a Road to Nowhere
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