Don’t steal Apartheid from black South Africans

Written by Josh Benjamin in Opinions

When the dust of historical calamities settles, there is no more pressing and pertinent responsibility than to preserve the history of the persecuted. 

 

It is of grave concern when a generation not only fails to do so, but effectively robs the persecuted of their surviving solace, their story of persecution. 

The Israel Apartheid Week, 

a worldwide campaign, not only distorts history and current affairs,  but also robs black South Africans of their story of suffering under a genuinely racist regime. 

If the status quo in Israel does resemble Apartheid, the black South African narrative must then, in order to represent a true parallel, change accordingly.

Instead of one where black people had little or no rights, it would tell of one where their freedoms surpassed those of their immediate neighbours. Instead of prohibition from benches and public amenities and exclusion from education and public discourse, Apartheid would instead have been the story of individual democratic leverage so high, a black judge could have prosecuted Verwoerd.  

The campaign targets “Apartheid” Israel and its “racist” policies, whose democracy allowed for the Israeli president to be sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment by an Arab judge.

Or consider the South African tricameral system, which would similarly be replaced by a story of equal representation in parliament, through a fair and all-inclusive electoral process – just as the Israeli process is indiscriminate towards its 23% Arab population.

The campaign to isolate South Africa through sanctions and boycotts would not have occurred externally, but rather by black people from leading academic institutions within South Africa itself – just  as the BDS (Boycotts Divestment and Sanctions) was launched by Arab-Israeli Omar Barghouti from Tel Aviv University. 

These examples demonstrate that this flawed attempt to place two different historical stories in parallel succeeds at nothing more than robbing a persecuted people of their history. 

This is not to overlook the brutalities that Israel has committed, but to reject a false analogy which does little to resolve a volatile conflict.

Just as Israel represents an actualisation of a collectively-held Zionist dream, the Palestinian people must have their dream of self-determination actualised. Their right to statehood is inalienable. 

This  will not be achieved through false analogies which promote polarisation and isolate the other side. 

It should not exclude the Israeli camp from discourse based on accusations of Apartheid – a twisted irony, considering how white racists attempted to exclude non-white South Africans through demonisation.

If South Africans care about respecting those who tragically suffered under a genuine system of Apartheid, it is our duty to condemn Israel Apartheid Week in the strongest manner possible. 

 

Josh Benjamin is Chairman of the South African Union of Jewish Students

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