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Apartheid

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Sign declaring a South African beach for use by white persons only. Photographed in June 1985.
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Apartheid[Note 1] was the codified system of racial segregation founded on principles of white supremacy that was in effect in South Africa from 1948 to 1994.

The term has in recent years been used to describe situations outside of the South African context, notably by opponents of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories.

Its nature[edit]

While similar in spirit to laws that limited the rights of African-Americans until the passing of the Civil Rights Act, apartheid encompassed a far stricter set of rules; it denied non-whites any sort of participation in the democratic process, limited where people could work and live, and went so far as to prohibit sexual liaisons across racial lines. Essentially antebellum America without the slavery.

Official South African government policy during this time was to racially classify the South African population into four groups: whites, "coloured" (i.e. those of mixed ancestry), Indian, and "Bantu" (a Bantu language word meaning "people," but in apartheid parlance meaning all blacks). Only whites were allowed participation in the South African government,[Note 2] and the four groups were assigned separate neighbourhoods, beaches (and guess whose beaches got the shark nets), and so on. People had to have special permission or passes to enter areas assigned to another racial group, i.e. to work there.

As blacks made up 3/4 of South Africa's population, starting in 1951 the government set aside Bantustans, or black homelands. Black people were then granted "citizenship" in their respective Bantustans, and their South African citizenship was revoked, as a way of codifying their lack of voting rights in South Africa. Indians and "coloured" were not assigned any homelands at all. Starting in the 1970s South Africa embarked on a policy which would grant national independence to the Bantustans, leaving the rest of South Africa sans the Bantustans for whites, who were only 10% of the population. They only got as far as declaring four of the Bantustans independent nations, none of which received any international recognition as such, before international pressure and tensions between the South African government and the four independent Bantustans (South Africa kept invading them to restore "order" after their governments had the nerve to actually act as independent nations instead of merely puppet governments) convinced them they really didn't want to continue to go down that route.

During most of the apartheid era, South Africa's neighbors included countries friendly to their apartheid policies such as Mozambique (then a colony of the right-wing Portugese regime), Rhodesia (also ruled by a white minority government), and South-West Africa (a protectorate of South Africa, now Namibia). However, by 1980 both Mozambique and Zimbabwe were independent, followed by Namibia in 1990, and South Africa found itself increasingly isolated and fighting its neighbors, now ruled by post-colonial (in many cases Communist) governments. International pressure to end apartheid became a major issue in the 1980s. At the same time, Cuba fought a proxy war against South Africa in Angola and Namibia, which exposed the limits of South African power, culminating in the Battle of Cuito CuanavaleWikipedia's W.svg in 1987-88.[1]

Jerry Falwell's good Christian response to apartheid, in 1985, was to declare Desmond Tutu a "phony," denounce the U.S. Congress's move to enact economic sanctions against South Africa, and encourage people to buy South African Krugerrand coins. This was in keeping with his earlier denunciations of the US Civil Rights movement (starting in the 1950s) and more liberal clergy who supported it (like many others, he did a quick about-face and recalled the newsletters in which he made these statements after the wind had firmly blown the other direction).

Apartheid ended in 1994 thanks in large part to black leaders like Tutu and Nelson Mandela, as well as President F.W. de KlerkWikipedia's W.svg realising that the whole situation was untenable. Although of somewhat less significance to the anti-apartheid movement a few white South Africans also condemned apartheid, and a few, such as Manfred MannWikipedia's W.svg, left the country as a result of their disgust.

The fact that Apartheid ended at the time it did is no coincidence. The Apartheid regime got caught up in the cold war and one of the first "white"[Note 3] allies of the ANC in their political struggle was the South African Communist Party, and hence several Western leaders feared that the collapse of Apartheid would result in a communist South Africa, just like independence or majority rule in Angola, Zimbabwe and Mozambique had resulted in regimes mostly friendly to the Soviets. This also explains how P.W. BothaWikipedia's W.svg (who stepped down in 1989) was a hard line Apartheid supporter early in his reign yet enacted some token reforms later on, mostly due to the sanctions hurting the country. When after P.W. Botha suffered a stroke, de Klerk took over, he almost immediately started negotiations with Mandela about his release from prison and free elections. Curiously enough there was a whites only referendumWikipedia's W.svg in 1992 on whether to end Apartheid. The referendum was handily won by the reformist faction led by de Klerk and by 1994 Mandela was President with de Klerk as Vice President.

Canadian self-congratulation moment[edit]

One of Canada's first big moments as an independent actor on the international stage took place in 1960, when it played a determining role in ousting South Africa from the Commonwealth after the Sharpeville massacreWikipedia's W.svg, over the objections of the Aussies (this was at the tail end of the White Australia policy era), the Kiwis and the Brits (who themselves were having serious troubles adapting to an influx of Black folksWikipedia's W.svg).

This was a huge foreign policy coup for Canada, helping to establish it as a middle power that could act independently of Britain (and maybe the U.S.) It was also a stopped clock moment for the Conservative Party of Canada.

A second coup, and a second broken clock for the Tories, came in the 1980s, when Brian Mulroney, Canada's second-worst Prime Minister (the worst being Stephen Harper) was a constant thorn in the side of both Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher over apartheid policy.

Apartheid and the American right[edit]

Many prominent conservative and religious right figures supported the apartheid regime to varying degrees, including Ronald Reagan, Dick Cheney, Jesse Helms, Phyllis Schlafly, Jerry Falwell, P-Rob, and Grover Norquist.[2] A few others on the right, most notably Newt Gingrich, got on their colleagues for this atrocious lapse in judgment.

Apartheid apologism persists in the American far right to this day, typically based on an argument that it was a just measure to protect the white minority from being overrun by the black majority. One fringe right group, Youth for Western Civilization, claimed that apartheid helped prevent homosexuality and moral decay.[3] Because, you know, seeing black people makes you gay. Conservapedia claims that Reagan opposed apartheid and that South Africa has turned anti-white under the ANC, but it goes unnoticed because the MSM is also anti-white.[4]

British supporters[edit]

Apartheid South Africa was quite popular on the British right in the 1970s and 1980s. There were various reasons for this: anti-communism; support for the British empire and its (white) leaders; overt racism; annoying liberals. Among the prominent friends of white South Africa were:

  • The Freedom Association which lobbied on behalf of the South African cricket team and also supported Ian Smith's racist government in Rhodesia.
  • The Conservative Monday Club, which was founded to oppose Harold Macmillan's policy of decolonialism in Africa. It supported the apartheid regime and Ian Smith. Prominent members included Teddy Taylor, John Bercow (now speaker of the British House of Commons), Norman Tebbit, Harvey Proctor, Rhodes Boyson, Neil Hamilton, Peter Bottomley, Nicholas Winterton, and Alan Clark (who later left, declaring "They are all mad ... a prickly residue in the body politic, a nasty sort of gallstone.").[5]
  • The Western Goals Institute, originally anticommunist but from the mid 80s increasingly anti-immigrant and anti-black, with members including Antony Flew, Walter Walker, Patrick Wall, Nicholas Winterton, Neil Hamilton, and Bill Walker, as well as South African Conservative MP Clive Derby-Lewis. The WGI also supported the French Front National and had links to Italian neo/post-fascist politician Alessandra Mussolini.[6]
  • The British Conservative Party, with Margaret Thatcher a supporter of the government and opposed to sanctions.[7] David Cameron in his youth visited South Africa, paid for by a pro-apartheid group, but later admitted he and his party were wrong.[8]
  • Laurens van der Post, an Afrikaner writer and paedophile[9] who was friends with Prince Charles and knighted by Margaret Thatcher. He supported white Rhodesia and was closely involved with South Africa, promoting it to Thatcher.

Apartheid and religion[edit]

Besides its other nastiness, the National Party (South Africa's ruling party 1948-1994) was also extremely socially conservative, crusading among other things against religions other than Calvinism, television, homosexuality, the English language and pretty much anything that wasn't a white heterosexual, church-going, Afrikaans-speaking social conservative of no Jewish ancestry whatsoever. Apartheid was frequently "justified" with religious claims or imagery and with the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa (NGK)Wikipedia's W.svg among the longstanding supporters of Apartheid. That said, other churches were notably more critical of Apartheid, including Anglican bishop Desmond Tutu. Individual Jews were also more likely to oppose Apartheid than support it as they were seen skeptically by the National Party and had some experience of discrimination themselves, both in South Africa and in the places they or their ancestors had migrated from.

Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories[edit]

Okay, first to get this out of the way, Israel has about 20% Arab Israeli citizens and while the various ethnic and social groups don't always get along perfectly and discrimination does occur, no sane person argues that non-Jewish citizens of Israel inside the pre-1967 territory of Israel have it any worse than e.g. black citizens of the US or Muslim citizens of Spain. However, there are some arguments about Israel's conduct in the territories it acquired in the Six Day War of 1967 and has not since left. Those territories fall are basically five separate pieces of land. The Sinai peninsula, which was returned to Egypt in a "land for peace" deal, the Golan Heights which were annexed by Israel and are still claimed by Syria, East Jerusalem, which was annexed by Israel, the Gaza Strip which was neither annexed nor returned and the West Bank which was similarly neither annexed nor returned. Israel has offered citizenship and permanent residency to pre-existing residents of the annexed East Jerusalem and Golan Heights. However, the majority of the residents of those areas did not apply for Israeli citizenship then and few have since. Israel's unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights were also not recognized by much of the rest of the world. but this has little consequence in practice. In the Gaza Strip there were slightly less than 7000 Jewish settlers until Israeli disengagement from GazaWikipedia's W.svg in 2005. The Gaza Strip has since been taken overWikipedia's W.svg by the radical Islamist group Hamas, which has since been in an on-again, off-again war against Israel. The border between the Gaza Strip and Israel on the one hand and Egypt on the other hand as well as its territorial waters have been shut for most of this time with a brief exception during the time when Mohamed MursiWikipedia's W.svg was president of Egypt. The West Bank meanwhile is home to just over 380 000 Jewish settlers as of 2015 as well as its roughly 2.9 million Palestinian residents. Both of those figures do not include East Jerusalem.

Israel's system of separation between the Jewish settlers and Palestinians in the West Bank which entails occupation to protect its settlement-building through confiscation of Arab land,[10] as well as the occupation of the Gaza Strip, has been labeled as an example of modern apartheid by Archbishop Desmond Tutu,[11] ex-Israeli attorney general Michael Ben-Yair,[12] former president Jimmy Carter, and the head of the United Nations Human Rights Council.[13][14]

Gaza Strip[edit]

As mentioned above, Israel does not currently control the Gaza Strip. It does - together with Egypt - control legal access and delivers certain goods (excluding those that can be used for weapons) across border crossings which it controls. However, since the takeover of Hamas an unknown number of tunnels have been constructed which serve the purpose of smuggling goods and people that Israel would not let through. Hamas rules its territory with an iron fist and it is quite safe to assume that it controls the tunnels, or at least most of them. Unfortunately for the people in the Gaza Strip, Hamas finds it more important to smuggle weapons and parts of weapons than civilian goods and similarly most concrete is used for tunnels instead of housing. Hamas also employs a dual strategy releasing propaganda videos about Gaza as a nice place to live at the same time as they turn around and say that it is an "open air prison" and "worse than what the Nazis did".

At any rate, while Israel may be able to exert limited control over who enters or leaves the area, Hamas calls the shots when it comes to such things like the consumption of alcohol, homosexuality, television or Judaism in the Gaza Strip.

The West Bank[edit]

Arabs in the area live under military rule and law, while settlers live under Israeli civil law, despite both residing in the same area of land. Arabs are also segregated from the Israeli settlements.

Palestinian Arabs are prevented from using certain Israeli-only and settler-only roads,[15][16] are severely restricted in their freedom of movement through military checkpoints,[17] must ride separate public transportation from that used by settlers,[18] have unequal water allocation compared to Israelis and settlers,[19] are restricted in their cell-phone coverage compared to that of the settlers (capacity 2G vs. 3G/4G networks),[20] need permits to enter certain areas of their territory (military zones), are ocassionally pulled from public areas (i.e. pools) for the benefit of the settlers[21] and are under threat of eviction because of discriminatory allocation of permits which impedes their development of buildings (which can include hospitals and schools alike).[22] As B'tselem concludes in its 2002 report Land Grab;

The fundamental truth is that the growth of these settlements is fueled not only by neutral forces of supply and demand, but primarily by a sophisticated governmental system designed to encourage Israeli citizens to live in the settlements. In essence, the process of assimilation blurs the fact that the settlement enterprise in the Occupied Territories has created a system of legally sanctioned separation based on discrimination that has, perhaps, no parallel anywhere in the world since the apartheid regime in South Africa.[23]

The Palestinian Authority, who exercise control over areas A and B that resemble enclaves, function as a kind of Bantustan government reliant on Israel[24] to suppress political resistance similar to the governments of Transkei and KwaZulu. "One of the meanings of Oslo," former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami wrote, "was that the PLO was . . . Israel’s collaborator in the task of stifling the first intifada and cutting short what was clearly an authentically democratic struggle for Palestinian independence.".[25]

Proposals to annex the West Bank[edit]

Unlike South Africa, which never contemplated giving any rights to the black majority, there is a significant minority in Israeli discourse - both on the political left and on the right - that advocates for annexing the West Bank and granting Palestinians Israeli citizenship. Among them is Caroline GlickWikipedia's W.svg and several on the extreme left who advocate for a "post-Zionist" "Isratine" (a promanteau of "Israel" and "Palestine") or a similar construct where the state would forego being a "Jewish state" and instead become "a state of all its citizens". However, Israel in its pre 1967 already is a state of all its citizens, so besides semantics there is no fundamental difference in the outcome of annexing the West Bank and offering its residence citizenship or creating "Isratine".

Why many call it apartheid[edit]

Israeli de facto control of Palestinian lands share the same spirit of exclusion, appropriation and marginalization with South Africa's defunct apartheid regime; a smaller ethnic group rules over a larger ethnic group across a variety of factors, a rule enforced with a military occupation designed to protect this institutionalized system of domination. Even within Israel the fear is found that the country has become an illiberal democracy, or an ethnocracy.

In October of 2015, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented his policy views to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and stated about the occupied territories: "Israel “must control the entire area for the foreseeable future.” The Israeli newspaper Haaretz editorialized that Netanyahu had:

acknowledged Israel’s total domination over the territories, discarding the dual pretense of a “temporary war-like situation,” which the state has regularly presented to the High Court of Justice for decades, and the pretense of a Palestinian Authority supposedly enjoying autonomy in managing Palestinian affairs, as Israel likes to present things. The regime described in Netanyahu’s vision has a name – it’s called apartheid. There is no other term for two populations living in the same area, one with political rights and the other under perennial military occupation.[26]

Notably, in a recently discovered 1976 interview, Israel's soon-to-be prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, declared the then-nascent (now robust and entrenched) West Bank settlement movement “comparable to a cancer,” and warned that Israel would become an “apartheid” state if it annexed the West Bank’s Arab population.[27]

But there are some differences between South African apartheid and the oppression of the Palestinians. For example, South Africa relied on black workers to sustain its economy. Israel, on the other hand, thanks to globalization does not necessarily need Palestinian workers in great numbers as they can rely on foreign nationals. Zionism was also - even in its kookiest forms - pretty adamant that Jews were to do all kinds of jobs and be found in all strata of society, including agriculture, industrial labor and the likes. In part this was due to the discrimination that Jews had had to endure for centuries that forbade them from working certain jobs and in part this was certainly done to reduce any dependence on local non-Jews.

South African views[edit]

South Africans who lived under apartheid are somewhat divided about comparing their former oppression with that of the Palestinians, but the African National Congress strongly advocates that Israel is an apartheid state and supports the Boycott and Divestment and Sanctions (of Israel) movement.[28] To that end, it hosts events for the annual "Israeli Apartheid Week," stating;

For South Africans and our liberation, people of the world mobilized in their hundreds of thousands – if not millions – during the 1980s: they held protests, rallies, concerts, free Mandela events, lectures, film screenings and a host of other events and campaigns to raise awareness of Apartheid South Africa’s racist policies and to build support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Apartheid SA. Today we have the opportunity to “give-back” by joining the international movement in solidarity with the indigenous Palestinian people (and their progressive Israeli allies) who are struggling against Israeli Apartheid – participating in Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) is one such form of solidarity.[29]

For context, bear in mind that this is the same bunch of geniuses who elected Mummar Ghadaffi king of kings.

Nelson Mandela supported the two-state solution and declared that "we identify with the PLO because, just like ourselves, they are fighting for the right to self-determination."[Note 4] Mandela, at an the International Day of Solidarity for the Palestinians in 1997, said that "our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians".[30]

On the other hand, Rev. Dr. Kenneth Meshoe, another South African Member of Parliament and part of a Christian fundamentalist political party, eschews a comparison between South Africa and Palestine, arguing that

[a]s a black South African who lived under apartheid, this system was implemented in South Africa to subjugate people of color and deny them a variety of their rights. In my view, Israel cannot be compared to apartheid in South Africa. Those who make the accusation expose their ignorance of what apartheid really is."

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. From Afrikaans "apart" = separate and the substantivizing suffix "-heid" roughly equivalent with "-ness", hence "separateness".
  2. Although in the waning years of Apartheid a "tricameral parliamentWikipedia's W.svg" gave some token pseudo-representation to "Coloureds" and "Indians" while still excluding the vast black majority from even token representation.
  3. Though officially multi-racial.
  4. He added that although he believed Israel had a "right" to exist, "that we carefully define what we mean by secure borders. We do not mean that Israel has the right to retain the territories they conquered from the Arab world, like the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the West Bank. We don’t agree with that. Those territories should be returned to the Arab people."http://ushypocrisy.com/2014/05/19/nelson-mandela-faces-off-against-imperialists-on-the-ted-koppel-report-1990/ Mandela called the peace process "hollow if Israel continues to occupy Arab lands," while maintaining that he "[understood] completely well why Israel occupies these lands", and that he could not "conceive of Israel withdrawing if Arab states do not recognize Israel within secure borders." http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Op-Ed-Contributors/Mandela-and-Israel-334174

References[edit]

  1. Apartheid's Last Stand, Jeremy Harding, London Review of Books, 2016
  2. Brian Tashman, "Remembering The Religious Right's Attacks On Nelson Mandela," Right Wing Watch, 12/5/2013.
  3. Right wing watch: Youth for Western Civilization: Apartheid Apologists
  4. cp:Apartheid
  5. See the Wikipedia article on Conservative Monday Club.
  6. See the Wikipedia article on Western Goals Institute.
  7. Margaret Thatcher's shameful support for apartheid, Mail and Guardian, 2013
  8. Cameron's freebie to apartheid South Africa, The Independent, 25 April 2009
  9. See the Wikipedia article on Laurens van der Post.
  10. http://www.btselem.org/topic/settlements
  11. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/apr/29/comment
  12. http://www.timesofisrael.com/ex-attorney-general-urges-eu-to-recognize-palestine/
  13. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/24/us-palestinians-israel-un-falk-idUSBREA1N19I20140224
  14. http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/CurrentMembers.aspx
  15. http://www.btselem.org/freedom_of_movement/checkpoints_and_forbidden_roads
  16. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdLDv8JNnMA
  17. http://www.btselem.org/topic/freedom_of_movement
  18. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/9906113/Israel-launches-Palestinian-only-buses-amid-accusations-of-racial-segregation.html
  19. http://www.btselem.org/topic/water
  20. http://visualizingpalestine.org/visuals/3g-cellphone-coverage
  21. http://www.btselem.org/south_hebron_hills/20150604_birkat_al_karmel
  22. http://www.btselem.org/topic/planning_and_building
  23. http://www.btselem.org/download/200205_land_grab_eng.pdf
  24. http://visualizingpalestine.org/visuals/palestinian-authority-occupied?locale=en
  25. Shlomo Ben-Ami, Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab tragedy (New York: 2006), pp. 191, 211.
  26. http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/1.682912
  27. http://www.timesofisrael.com/in-1976-interview-rabin-likens-settlements-to-cancer-warns-of-apartheid/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter
  28. http://www.bdssouthafrica.com/post/anc-ngc-affirms-support-for-boycott-of-israeli-linked-companies-and-solidarity-with-palestinians/
  29. http://www.bdssouthafrica.com/israeli-apartheid-week/
  30. http://anc.org.za/show.php?id=3384
  31. http://removethewall.org/the-wall-is-the-moroccan-version-of-apartheid/