Monday, January 22, 2007

A Freedom Ride: Israeli Apartheid Decree Challenged by Peace Activists

A Good Article
By Uri Avnery

"Mahatma Gandhi would have loved it. Nelson Mandela would have saluted. Martin Luther King would have been the most excited - it would have reminded him of the old days.

Yesterday, a decree of the Officer Commanding the Central Sector, General Yair Naveh, was about to come into force. It forbade Israeli drivers from giving a ride to Palestinian passengers in the occupied territories. The knitted-Kippah-wearing General, a friend of the settlers, justified this as a vital security necessity. In the past, inhabitants of the West Bank have sometimes reached Israeli territory in Israeli cars.

Israeli peace activists decided that this nauseating order must be protested. Several organizations planned a protest action for the very day it was due to come into force. They organized a "Freedom Ride" of Israeli car-owners who were to enter the West Bank (a criminal offence in itself) and give a ride to local Palestinians, who had volunteered for the action.

An impressive event in the making. Israeli drivers and Palestinian passengers breaking the law openly, facing arrest and trial in a military court.

At the last moment, the general "froze" the order. The demonstration was called off.

THE ORDER that was suspended (but not officially rescinded) emitted a strong odor of apartheid. It joins a large number of acts of the occupation authorities that are reminiscent of the racist regime of South Africa, such as the systematic building of roads in the West Bank for Israelis only and on which Palestinians are forbidden to travel. Or the "temporary" law that forbids Palestinians in the occupied territories, who have married Israeli citizens, to live with their spouses in Israel. And, most importantly, the Wall, which is officially called "the separation obstacle". In Afrikaans, "apartheid" means separation.

The "vision" of Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert amounts to the establishment of a "Palestinian state" that would be nothing more than a string of Palestinian islands in an Israeli sea. It is easy to detect a similarity between the planned enclaves and the "Bantustans" that were set up by the White regime in South Africa - the so-called "homelands" where the Blacks were supposed to enjoy "self-rule" but which really amounted to racist concentration camps.

Because of this, we are right when we use the term "apartheid" in our daily struggle against the occupation. We speak about the "apartheid wall" and "apartheid methods". The order of General Naveh has practically given official sanction to the use of this term. Even institutions that are far from the radical peace camp did relate it to the Apartheid system.

Therefore, the title of former President Jimmy Carter's new book is fully justified - "Palestine - Peace not Apartheid". The title aroused the ire of the "friends of Israel" even more than the content of the book itself. How dare he? To compare Israel to the obnoxious racist regime? To allege that the government of Israel is motivated by racism, when all its actions are driven solely by the necessity to defend its citizens against Arab terrorists?....."


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