I am so sick of seeing the words Israel and apartheid in close proximity with one another.
So sick, in fact, that I am, just by writing this piece, breaking a promise to myself. The promise not to write political blog posts for TOI.
The thing that changed my mind was reading about how Israel’s Deputy Ambassador to Britain’s speaking engagement at Essex University was <cough> unexpectedly <cough> cut short when the speaking engagement was overrun by pro-Palestinian protesters. As if that wasn’t enough, also this week British MP George Galloway walked out of a debate at Oxford University’s Christ Church College, when he learned that his debate opponent was an Israeli.
“…no recognition, no normalization, just boycott, divestment and sanctions, until the apartheid state is defeated,” was part of Mr. Galloway’s response posted on his Facebook page.
What I don’t get is what kind of message does Galloway’s exit make? Does it convince people that you have the right position? Wouldn’t have been more effective if he would have stayed for the debate and made an argument?
What has he accomplished? Has he struck a blow for the Palestinian cause? Has he moved the Palestinians further toward independence? Has he shown the world that the argument he has is stronger than the one his opponent may have had?
He showed himself to be a person who refused to play in the same sandbox with an Israeli and rather than take the perfect opportunity to present and get support for his views, he did what my daughter at 5, used to do so expertly, stomp out.
Reading the account of Mr. Galloway’s actions both during and after the debate brings another word to mind, also beginning with the letter a.
Over at the University of Essex, media accounts of the incident report that the Deputy Ambassador’s lecture was soon disrupted by pro-Palestinian students and the university could not control the crowd, preventing Mr. Roth-Snir, an invited guest of the university, to continue his engagement. He was eventually ushered off campus.
The President of Essex’s student union, who was incensed that an invitation was extended in the first place, Tweeted after the event that it had been “a great day, free Palestine.”
Again, what was achieved by stopping the talk? Wouldn’t it have been better if these protesters attended the speech and asked questions and challenged the Deputy Ambassador or peacefully demonstrated outside the venue and convinced people not to attend?
Both incidents mention their problem is that Israel is an apartheid state.
Um, have you looked up the definition of apartheid?
Apartheid, by its very nature, is racially based. The situation between Israel and the Palestinians is not racially motivated. The Palestinians are descendants of the Hashemite Kingdom and are ethnically Arabic people. There are plenty of Arabs who enjoy Israeli citizenship in Israel. Arabs serve in the Army, they serve in the Knesset and are full contributing members of Israeli society and enjoy the full rights and responsibilities of any other Israeli citizen. Israel guarantees freedom of religion. Arab Israelis have the same rights and benefits as any other Israeli. There is no difference, no segregation, absolutely nothing apart.
The situation with the Palestinians, to take all the emotion and chest thumping out of it, is a refugee situation. One that I personally believe has gone on too long and needs to be resolved. However the fact is that the Palestinians were not kicked out of their homes or stripped of their property. They left once the State of Israel came into being, sure that 5 Arab Armies would push Israel quickly into the sea. Israel never stripped them of their citizenship or their rights, they and their rulers did that when they encouraged them to leave their homes and wait for Israel’s ultimate destruction. Their leadership has refused statehood every single time it was offered. It’s a messy situation and Israel should be pushing harder for face to face negotiations, but they also bear responsibility.
If Mr. Galloway or pro-Palestinian university groups really want to have an impact, they shouldn’t run away from facts or a fair debate. They should embrace these opportunities.
Before they do that though, they should look up the meaning of the word apartheid.
Israel is not an apartheid state.