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October 30, 2006

Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter

President Carter is starting a firestorm of rage amongst the Democrats. They're falling over each other to repudiate his new book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Since the book wont be available until November 14, I highly doubt all of the Dems have read an advance copy on which to base their commentary. Nevertheless, they're quick to defend the Israeli government and to deny the fact that "apartheid" describes its policies towards Arabs.

Jennifer Siegel wrote an article in the Jewish Daily Forward that rounds up the cat calls: "Carter Book Slaps Israel With 'Apartheid' Tag, Provides Ammo to GOP."

This article led to a flurry of emails within my organization, WILPF US, on whether or not to use the apartheid frame. The interesting thing is that none of us deny that apartheid describes what is happening. A few people question whether using the term will expand people's understanding of the situation. After all, if you are in complete denial of the effects of the separation wall, illegal Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory, Jewish-Israel-only highways, and the use of collective punishment, will the word apartheid change your opinion?

I wonder how early anti-apartheid activists felt. Did they care whether they were reaching mass audiences? Did they simply follow the path of nonviolent justice, sure that the world would eventually follow?

There is another book that analyzes the meaning of apartheid, using case studies throughout history. It concludes that Israel is an apartheid state. Alas, its author is not as famous as Carter and he is having trouble getting his opinion published. "Author of New Study on Apartheid in Israel and Elsewhere Decries Lack of Freedom of Public Expression in the Anglo-American World," from the Arab Media Internet Network describes the work of Dr. Anthony Lowstedt. Dr. Lowstedt defines apartheid:

The study views apartheid as a system of gross human rights violations, in line with the findings of international legal bodies. It identifies apartheid as attempts by an invading ethnic minority to take total control over violence, repopulation, citizenship, land, work, education, language, thought, and access to health care, water, and other social rights and privileges in the targeted society.
I hope that instead of arguing over language, we will begin to argue over solutions. The problem remains: how to get the US government and US population to acknowledge that Israel is an aggressive nation whose racist policies must be challenged? As importantly, how do we challenge US policy towards the Middle East in general? After all, the Israeli army is the USG gendarmerie, policing not just Palestinians, but all of its neighbors and the broader ME with its stockpile of nuclear and conventional weapons.

Posted by cj at October 30, 2006 10:50 AM


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