The Apartheid Pillory: tempting fate

The pillory was a device made of a wooden or metal framework erected on a post, with holes for securing the head and hands, formerly used for punishment and often further abuse, sometimes lethal.  However, the main purpose in putting criminals in the pillory was to publicly humiliate them. On discovering that the pillory was occupied, people would excitedly gather in the marketplace to taunt, tease and laugh at the offender on display.

The question arises why anyone would deem it necessary to physically place himself within the entrapment of such a device, laugh in the face of his audience and invite them to slam the shackles shut and witness what follows.

In our case Netanyahu and Lieberman do not place only themselves into the pillory. They gamble with the Jewish State and the fate of the Jewish people at large by gratuitously remonstrating the world as to who is right, led on by the notion that has brought down empires and civilizations: that we have God on our side.

Two possible reasons may be offered. One could be sheer stupidity. Another may be pure arrogance: that the pillory is not real. It’s an illusion. We determine our own fate. The pillory is a lie without cause or reason. It is conceived by the ill will of nations. It neither locks shut, nor holds its hostage captive nor places its victim onto a stage reserved for shame and isolation. We shall place our head and hands in it for the key is safely within our reach.

A third explanation seems more likely. A combination of stupidity and arrogance.

The milestones on the way to Israel’s diplomatic bankruptcy indicate that this is the case. The appointment of a foreign minister who suggested that the Aswan dam should be bombed and later that Mubarak should “go to hell” and who has pedaled in ethnic divisionism in his rise to power subsequently openly contradicts his government on the issue of peace at the UN. It is enough to see the embarrassed smiles on the faces Israel’s closest allies who have shaken his hand out of necessity and respect for the state of Israel and its people, to understand the farce and absurdity that Israel’s number one diplomat from a settlement deemed illegal by international law, now determines policy.

A milestone to diplomatic bankruptcy is undoubtedly found in the case of the flotilla fiasco, one of the most unplanned, uncalculated exercises in arrogance and lack of understanding of how to engage a hostile civilian initiative.

Then we have the Romney romance. At the age of 64 should Israel not exercise a little more restraint than passion that could only end in embarrassment?

Gaza. As retired Israeli diplomat Ilan Baruch states in his recent article in Haaretz:

In Operation Pillar of Defense, the leopard initiated a confrontation with a fox. It ended in a tie. In this kind of match, a tie means victory on points for the fox.

But of course it gets worse. Israel’s public thrashing at the UN General Assembly vote elevating Palestine to non-member state with observer status was met with a bizarre response: simply to isolate itself further by announcing massive settlement expansion thereby accentuating the apartheid narrative. Ramallah’s policy makers could not be happier.  The US, Canada and Great Britain, the last of Israel’s staunch supporters have begun to walk away. It seems that the key to opening the shackles of the pillory Israel’s leaders are locking their country in, will ultimately lie on the floor of the Pacific Ocean somewhere between Palau and Micronesia.

Israel is not an Apartheid state. It is however in danger of being recognized as such.

  • By defying the paradigm that a future agreement will be based on ‘67 borders with mutual land swaps, concomitant with ongoing rampant settlement, the Green Line is erased both diplomatically and de facto
  • This in turn leads opinion both within Israel and abroad to the conclusion that the concept of a Greater Israel dominates policy
  • Such a reality by default leads to a Jewish minority ruling an Arab majority devoid of full civil rights and thus reminiscent of Apartheid South Africa
  • Israel’s constant settlement in occupied territory and the arrogation of land for housing and infrastructure creates a cantonized Palestine reminiscent of the Bantustan policy of the later Apartheid years.
  • The use of resources whether land, natural resources such as water or cheap labor in an exploitary fashion points to classic colonialism and gives credence to the Apartheid analogy
  • The differential use of law, one for Jewish settlers and another for Palestinian residents is deeply indicative of discriminatory policies practiced in South Africa.
  • Biblical entitlement offered up by ultra nationalist settlers and religious fanatics as justification for rule was a factor that lay at the heart of Afrikaner domination in South Africa.

At the core of this conflict lies a very different reality to that of Apartheid South Africa and that is one of conflict and war which existed before and after the creation of the state of Israel. Palestinian rejectionism and the ethos of terror cannot and must not be forgotten. However as long as Israel has maintained the moral high ground, the Apartheid analogy has gained little or no traction. Today Israel’s moral beacon flounders, obstructed by diplomatic imprudence and by interminable occupation without a clear vision for peace.

Apartheid week on campuses will not be the catalyst for Israel’s isolation. Israeli policy if it continues on its current path will do that. BDS was a factor in changing South Africa. It was not the only factor, but it was brutal and it crushed a burgeoning economy.

For a country whose population is barely the size of most major metropolises in the world, heavily dependent on Europe, it could be lethal. We need to extricate ourselves out of the pillory while there is still time.

Leave it for Assad, for Al-Bashir and for Ahmadinejad.

About the Author
Originally from South Africa, Jonathan made aliya in the seventies, and lived and worked on a kibbutz for several years. He has a graduate degree in business from Boston University and is a managing partner of an Israeli based business. He was a co-founder of the Forum Tzora peace action group and participates in the Geneva Initiative workshops. He is the author of the book “Valley of Heaven and Earth”.