The anti-apartheid movement which helped torpedo the racist white-minority regime in South Africa must serve as the inspiration for the Palestinian struggle for independence, says Haidar Eid, an Associate Professor of Postcolonial and Postmodern Literature at Gaza’s al-Aqsa University.
He says only civil society – including opposition parties, syndicates, unions, clubs, women’s organizations and others — is able to mobilize true support for an end to what he terms Israel’s “unprecedented crimes” against the three components of the Palestinian people: the Palestinians in the 1967 occupied territories, 1948 Palestinian citizens of Israel, and refugees in the diaspora.
“Our inspiration is the anti-apartheid movement, and the intervention of civil society was effective in the late 1980s against the apartheid regime. It can do the same thing in support of a just peace in Palestine. Nothing can force Israel to abide by international law except people of conscience and civil society.”
Betraying the cause
Eid says the official Arab World seems to be intent on betraying the Palestinian people through an ongoing process of normalization with Israel that was launched by the late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in the late 70s, continued by the Jordanians and the PLO in the early 90s, and just recently by the UAE and Bahrain normalising ties with Israel.
“Hence, the importance of the lessons we have learned from the South African struggle against the inhumane apartheid regime.”
Eid added that Palestinians are no longer interested in the “sterile opposition to the normalization process” initiated by the Camp David Treaty and the Oslo Accords, and solidified recently by the Gulf Sheikhdoms.
“Rather, we are keen on formulating the kind of response that could actually defeat the multi-tiered system of Zionist oppression: occupation, ethnic cleansing and apartheid.”
He says the moment the international community — civil society and governments — decides to act the same way that it did against the apartheid system in South Africa, Israel will succumb to the voice of reason represented by the 2005 call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).
BDS is a call issued by more than 170 civil society organizations and endorsed by almost all influential political forces in historic Palestine and the diaspora.
Abbas’ UN appeal
“How long do we have to wait until there is a just solution to the Palestine question, a solution guaranteed by international law,” Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine said in a a pre-recorded address to the United Nations General Assembly on Friday.
“How long will the Palestinian people continue to languish under the yoke of Israeli occupation, how long do we have to wait until there is a just solution to the status of millions of Palestinian refugees.”
President Abbas said the Palestinian people have lived in the land of their forefathers for 6,000 years, adding they will remain in this land and stand up to “occupation, aggression and betrayal,” until they gain their rights.
“In spite of the difficulties and the unjust blockade. We will not bow down, we will not surrender, we will not compromise… We shall triumph.”
Referencing US president Donald Trump’s so-called ‘Deal of the Century’ for Middle East peace, Abbas said Israel, with the support of the present US administration, “wants to substitute the basis for a just solution with the US ‘Deal of the Century,’ emphasising, “we have rejected this deal, as did the international community as it contravenes international law and UN resolutions.”
Professor Eid says says it took the international community more than thirty years to heed the call made by the oppressed people of South Africa, but that time is running out for the “oppressed people of Palestine.”
“How long will the world tolerate Israel’s blatant constitutional racism, ethnic cleansing policies, and settler colonialism?”
Eid, who has written widely on the Arab-Israeli conflict, says in spite of all these “long years of oppression and thousands of reports from mainstream human rights bodies, and the denial of basic rights to education, free movement, employment and health provision,” Palestinians are being blamed by their own brethren for not being flexible enough.
Palestinians are deprived of a normal life by more than 600 Israeli military checkpoints in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem; the medieval siege of Gaza (a 10-year land, air and sea blockade that has trapped almost two million people inside the 60-kilometre wall); and the official “apartheid discrimination” faced by Palestinian citizens in Israel itself.
Parallels between apartheid South Africa and Palestine
To put it bluntly, Eid says, “we are discriminated against because we are not Jews, just as Black South Africans were discriminated against simply because they were not white.”
“And exactly like the Blacks of South Africa before us, we rely increasingly on international law and solidarity for our very survival, especially from our own brethren.”
Israel, he says, is a “settler-colonialist, apartheid state and the tools used against apartheid South Africa can be the model in our struggle against apartheid Israel.”
One state solution
Eid says the official Palestinian leadership has been threatening to take some serious steps that may include doing away altogether with the Oslo process, but without reaching the only logical conclusion which is moving toward a one-state solution.
Israel has already started moving towards annexing 30 percent of the occupied West Bank in what is seen as a declaration of the end of the dream of an ‘independent’ Palestinian state on 22 percent of historic Palestine.
“It is the realization of this dream that pro-Oslo intellectuals elevated as the ultimate goal justifying the heavy price the Palestinians have been paying.”
Isn’t it high time that the Palestinian people move away from the illusion of the two-state solution and try a democratic approach, one that can guarantee their basic rights – freedom, equality, and justice?, the Gaza-based professor asked.
Transforming Israel from an ethno-religious, “apartheid state” into a genuinely democratic entity should be the objective of every single person who believes in liberal democracy, says Eid.
“We will continue creating life and hope under the flag of national unity and democracy,” Palestine’s president Abbas told world leaders at the UN, adding that Palestinians will remain faithful to peace, justice, human and national dignity.
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