Friday, February 24, 2006

Veteran South African Journalist Allister Sparks Compares Israel to South Africa

In the waning minutes of an interview with Amy Goodman on the February 23rd edition of Democracy Now, veteran journalist Allister Sparks said "This [South African apartheid] was ... part of the divine ordinance of creation, that a people had a right to ... have their own land..., a contest of ownership over a country... And that is what you find between the Israelis and the Palestinians and the Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland. Those are the true analogies of the South African struggle... The solution if you were to apply it to the Palestinian-Israeli situation would be one secular country shared by all and ruled over by the majority. If people find that unthinkable, perhaps they have some appreciation of what we have done" in South Africa.

Mr. Sparks statements cut right to the point in the debate that many people in solidarity with people suffering in Palestine about the use of the word apartheid to describe Israel and the discussion about what tactics best serve a nonviolent agenda for peace and justice in the Holy Land. This debate has been especially strong within communities of North American Jewish activists. While many Jewish individuals agree that the Israeli rule over the occupied territories warrants a comparison with apartheid South Africa, a critical mass of Jewish people, even those who would not consider themselves "anti-Palestinian" argue that the comparison is unfair or even somehow essentially "anti-Semitic."

Furthermore, this comparison begs the question of whether a world wide divestment campaign, modeled after the campaign against apartheid South Africa in the 1980s, would be a fair and effective tactic for pressuring Israel to respect the Palestinians' human rights. While not answering the second part of that question, Allister Sparks suggests that such an action would be legitimate and should be very seriously considered. It also suggests that activists should not be considered "anti-Israel" for simply supporting divestment than Nelson Mandela would be considered "anti-South African."

Of course the formation of these two nations (or three, if one includes stateless Palestine) have as many differences as similarities. Though both are colonial projects born of European politics, Afrikaners and other European colonizers in Africa were not fleeing the aftermath of genocide as the Jews were. This fact adds a layer of complexity to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

In any case, the word of such a veteran South African journalist who wrote on behalf of truth and justice should go far to legitimizing the discussion over divestment in Israel to many who are still unwilling to consider it open for debate.

1 comment :

Thermblog said...

Allister Sparks' idiotic comments and plain stupidity actually do much to cast doubt on the integrity of those who opposed Apartheid in South Africa.

How can Israel get a fair shake when so many journalists have your attitude?