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Zionism and Apartheid: An Exchange

Author(s): Roy Brahen and Derek Choen


Source: Salmagundi, No. 160/161 (Fall 2008-Winter 2009), pp. 249-253
Published by: Skidmore College
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40550135
Accessed: 12-02-2016 17:11 UTC

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Letters 249

ZionismandApartheid:
An Exchange
To theEditor:

In "Zionismand Apartheid," SALMAGUNDI, Winter2008,


#157,DerekCohenseemsto me uncertainaboutIsrael'srighttoexistand
concerns himself a gooddealwiththemassivestruggles ofthePalestinians
to asserttheirindependence in spiteof Israelidomination. Apparently
Cohendoes notbelievethatthetwopeoplescan coexistwithinthepres-
entstateof affairs, notwithIsraelas a "Goliath"imposingapartheid on
a vulnerable PalestinianPeople.
Cohen'sassertions seemtomedubiousand,in severalrespects,
and I
insupportable, object theveryuse of thetermapartheid,
to which
vilifiestheStateofIsraeland setsthetonefortheentirearticle.
Apartheidis a termoriginating in SouthAfrica,describinga
species of racial separationdesigned to maintainthewhiteminority's
domination of thenon-white majority.To transferthetermapartheid,
whichbelongedto a singularhistorical phenomenon, to themiddleeast,
and thereby to comparethePalestinianstruggle to thatof theANC, is
to insultthethousandsof SouthAfricanfreedomfighters who died for
"equalityand dignity"withthegoal of eliminating a virulentformof
racism.
Of courseit is fashionablein somecirclestodayto equateZi-
onismwithfascismand withracism.Especiallyamongtheenlightened
in oursociety, whoregarditas unseemlyto issueexpresslyanti-semitic
sentiments, Israelhasbecomea moreacceptabletarget, andthistendency
has been fueledby an extremely cleverand cunningArabpropaganda
machine.Verymuchin keepingwiththistendency, Cohen castsIsrael

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250 Letters
as theprimary in themiddleeast, and recommends
cause of conflict a
largelyunexaminedpolicy of multiculturalism
to a countrysurrounded
byenemiesin no wayinclined-orculturallyequipped-to adoptsucha
program.
Whatis glaringly lackingin Mr.Cohen'snarrative is theother
sideofthepicture.Forsixdecades,sinceitsinception, Israelhas fought
offmultiple attacksaimedatitsannihilation. Itfacesan existential threat
fromIran.Current Palestinianmapsdo notshowtheStateofIsraelatall.
Andyetthenationsof theworldwantIsraelto pursuea two-state solu-
tiontotheproblem, andmanyin theIsraelileadership agree. The world
condemnsIsraelforerecting a fenceto stemtheinflowofdailyterrorist
suicidebombers.Butwhere,we maywellask,arethesecurity fencesin
surrounding Arab countries to their
protect citizens from Israelisuicide
bombers?Ofcoursesuch fences do notexist,not because theywouldbe
foundoffensive, butbecausetheArabcountries don'tneedthem,though
obviously Israel does. not
Why speak about the morethan7000 rockets
thathavebeenfiredatthesouthern Israelicommunity ofSderot,withits
21,000residents livingin constantfear?WhenIsraelrespondsto direct
actsofterror, itsresponse, intheworldtheatre, is calleddisproportionate,
though itis hard to understand how such a term canseemlegitimate when
rocketsareroutinely launchedagainstIsrael'scivilianpopulation.
AretheJewishsettlements an obstacleto peace?

1) Jewshave livedin Judeaand Samariafromancienttimes,


and wereprohibited fromlivingthere(by Jordan)onlyfrom
1948-1967.Thatsituationwas reversedafterthesix day war
of 1967.After1967,Israelisrightly arguedthattheJordanian
was
prohibition contrary to theMandate forPalestineadopted
the
by League ofNations in 1922, which providedfora Jewish
Stateandspecifically
encouraged "close settlementbyJewson
theland." Duringtheperiod1948-1967,whentheJewswere
forbiddento livethere,theArabsrefusedto makepeace.

2) In 1977Egyptian AnwarSadatsigneda peacetreaty


President
whilesettlement tookplace.
activity

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Letters 251
3) Israelfrozeall settlement in 1978afterthesigningof
activity
theCampDavid accords,butnoArabcountries werewillingto
makepeace withthe"Zionistentity."

4) In 1994 Israelsigneda peace treatywithJordanand settle-


mentswerenotan issue.

5) Between1992and1996theJewish populationinthesettlement
areagrewbyabout50%, butthisdid notstopthePalestinians
fromsigningthepeace treaty Oslo 1 in 1993orOslo 2 in 1995.
ruledoutviolenceas a negotiating
Oslo also specifically tool.

6) In 2000 PM Barakofferedtodismantlethesettlementsalong
withotherconditions, but thePalestinianleadershiprejected
theoffer.

7) The PLO was formedin 1964 withtheexpresspurposeof


Israel.Thiswasthreeyearsbefore1967,whenIsrael
eradicating
seizedtheterritories.

8) EssentiallythePalestinianshave notlived up to theOslo


agreements, againand againthatIsraelis theenemy,
insisting
andcannotbe a partner.

I amwellawarethatthesearewellknown, ifoftendisputed, facts,


butitseemsto me disturbing thatDerekCohendoes notfeelcompelled
to acknowledge or disputethemin his essay.Had he doneso, I believe,
theessaywouldnotbe cloudedwithdistortion.
The heartof thematter,unfortunately,was expressednotlong
ago by the GrandRabbi of GreatBritain,whonotedwhathe called"the
rottenheartofmodernanti-Semitism": "theChristianshave82 states;the
Muslims54; cannottheJewshaveevenone?"The answergiveninmuch
oftheworldis simplyNO! One JewishStateis too many.I am sorryto
saythattheCohenessayis partoftheconsensusthatcontinues to insist
on thatanswer.
RoyBrahen

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Derek Cohen respondsto Roy Brahen's Letter:

My articlein SALMAGUNDI is drivenbytheconviction that


nota singlegoodthinghas cometo Israelas a resultofitsoccupationof
theWestBankandGaza in 1967. On theotherhand,I believethatmany
bad thingshaveresultedfromthatsameevent. Not leastamongthese
is Israel'scomplicity withtheapartheid regimein theformof material
support including theprovisionof weaponry, militaryaid,Israeliadvis-
ersspecializedinthemanagement ofinsurgency,andco-operation inthe
manufacture ofnucleararms.
Whether IsraeliArabsaretreated equallywithJewishIsraelicitizens
is foreachofus todecidebasedon whatwe knowandobserve.I believe
thatthetreatment of theArabsof Israeland theoccupiedterritories by
theIsraeliauthorities is scandalous.PerhapsMr.Brahenknowsthings
thatI don't.
Mr.Brahen'sletter isanexampleofthekindofaspersion-monger-
ing about which I wrote. To disagreewithIsraelipolicyin theoccupied
territoriesis to riskbeingbrandedan anti-Semite or a self-hatingJew
(whatever thatmeans!). I am personally awareofhowthethreat ofthis
kindofslanderhassilencedmanya would-beJewishcriticofIsrael.Dis-
cerning readerswillobservethat,thoughhe doesn'tquitecomeoutwith
it,Mr Brahen all butcalls me an anti-Semite andclaimsthatpeoplelike
me are inspiredby "an extremely cleverand cunningArabpropaganda
machine."As I notedin myarticle,thisis theusualtacticofsupporters
of Israelipolicyin theWestBank,butit is a ratherdisgusting way of
the
neutralizing opposition. Who can recover from the charge anti-
of
Semitism, no matter howirresponsibly anddishonestly itis made? And
yet,as I makeclear,therearemanyJewishIsraeliswhofeelpreciselyas
I do aboutthepostureoftheirgovernment towardstheArabs. In Israel,
noone woulddaretocall thesepeopleanti-Semites: theretheyarecalled
traitors. Unfortunately they are notnumerous, thoughtheyarestrong.In

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Letters 253

myviewtheyaretherealheroesofthestruggle, as werethetinyminority
ofwhitepeoplein SouthAfricawhofought alongsidetheirblackcohorts
againstapartheid despitedraconianconsequences.MayI addthatI have
seensomeoftheanti-Semitic propagandathatcomesoutoftheMiddle
East. It is notcunninganditis notclever.
I am alwaysamusedbytheuse oftheanodyneword"fence"to
describetheBerlinwallthattheIsraelishaveerected.Wallsdon'twork,
as history has repeatedlyshown,and thisone won't. However,if you
wanta wall,putoneup byall means:butnotinthebackyardsandfarms
andschoolsandfootpaths ofpeoplewhodon'twantit,buthavenochoice
butto livewithit. Keep itinsideyourownterritory. The Wallis to me
a compelling symbolofthearrogance oftheIsraelioccupation.
Another thing.The famous denialbytheArabsofIsrael's"right
toexist."Do statesreallygo aroundgranting eachothertheright toexist?
Thisis anegregious evasion,designedtodeflect legitimatecriticism
ofthe
occupation.If,let'ssayCuba,deniedtheU.S. itsrightto exist,whaton
earth'sdifference wouldthatmaketo anything?Whyis thePalestinian
refusaltoacknowledge Israel's"right
toexist"a matterofevena moment's
concern?Israelexists;and no denialor affirmation of itsrightto do so
is goingto changethatfact.

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