If Palestinians were black, the Guardian notes, Israel would now be a pariah state subject to economic, political, social, and diplomatic sanctions by the international community. Its expansion and Settlements on the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem would be seen as a system of Apartheid, in which the indigenous population was allowed to live in a tiny fraction of its own country, in self – administered Bantustans with ” whites” monopolizing the supply of water and electricity.
And just as the black population was allowed into South Africa’s white areas from disgracefully under-resourced townships, so Israel’s treatment of Israeli Arabs (Palestinians)- fragrantly discriminating against them in housing and education spending – would be recognized as scandalous too. These internal refugees numbering about a million in Israel, by definition a ” Jewish State”, in which a non-Jew can only be a second – class citizen.
All the essential features of Apartheid – exclusivity, inequality, separation, control, dependency, violations of human rights and sufferings – are an integral part of the Jewish state. Except, in the opinion of the leading anti-apartheid veterans such as former president Nelson Mandela, Bishop Tutu and others, the situation in Palestine is far worse. Coming from them, this is as severe an indictment as one can imagine. To quote minister Ronnie Kasrills:
“The South African Apartheid regime never engaged in this sort of a repression that Israel is inflicting on the Palestinians. For all the evils and atrocities of Apartheid the government never sent tanks into black towns, it never used gun ships, bombers, or missiles against the black towns or Bantustans. The Apartheid regime used to impose sieges on black towns, but these sieges were lifted within days. Soldiers used to search homes and conduct a variety of punitive measures, but none of these can be compared with Israel’ s repressive actions and its siege of entire towns and villages for months on end”.
Unlike South Africa where we mange to fight back against eviction and extermination, Israel is the only successful settler colony of the 20th century, evicting the majority of the indigenous population, subjugating the remaining segments, and transplanting on the Palestinian land populations which originated elsewhere. The great majority of the Jewish population of Israel is descended from families that were not resident there 50 years ago.
The desperate legitimate struggle of the Palestinians to free themselves from the yoke of Israeli oppression over the last 54 years has been dealt a severe blown with the latest brutal massacre in Jenin. The world watched in horror as the Israelis invaded the occupied territories and indulged in mass slaughter. The anguished cries of the innocent men, women and children failed to arouse the international community to assist the victims.
For decades the Palestinians watched the world betray them, the League of Nations the Arabs, the British the UN and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. They endured appalling tragedies such as Deir Yassien, Qibya and lost almost 80% of their land. Over 10 000 homes have been demolished, more than 500 villages obliterated and more than one hundred thousand Arabs have been maimed and killed. Today there’s nearly 5 million Palestinian refugees scattered throughout the world.
In December 1987 Palestinian rage exploded against the Zionist oppressors. They stunned their enemy with their sheer determination and fearlessness, armed with nothing but their faith and stones. It had finally dawned on Palestinians that the Zionist, being a racist, colonialist and expansionist enterprise, was not interested in peace. The Palestinians resoluteness to die on their feet rather than remain subjugated on their knees as slaves forced the Zionist regime to rethink their strategy.
Embroiling a corrupt PLO in an interminable “peace process” that promised a Bantustan the Palestinian people came to the realization that there is no alternative other than sustained resistance. The so-called ” peace process” removed the right of the Palestinians to return to their homeland granted to them under the UN Charter, international law and the Geneva Convention, they had to forego Jerusalem, no independent foreign policy, no army, no free trade and in effect, a non- viable Palestinian “state”. No self respecting and dignified nation could accept such a deal.
The Israelis responded ferociously and ruthlessly to their uprising or intifida. Authoritative statistical data, endorsed by the Israeli Human right group B’Teslem cite that the number of Palestinian civilians killed was 2166 by the Israeli defense force and settlers. In the last six moths alone the total number of Palestinians civilians seriously injured by Israeli youth of live ammunition, rubber/plastic bullets, teargas, shrapnel and bomb fragments amounts to 18761.
It is matter of record that Hamas targeted only Israeli soldiers and settlements during the period of the first intifada – 1987-1993. It began to attack individual Israeli civilans after a Jewish settler, Baruch Goldstein, gunned down 29 Muslim worshipers in the Ebrahimi Mosque in Hebron. Sheikh Ahmed Yasin, spiritual leader of Hamas stated: “the Zionists are killing our children, destroying our homes, uprooting our trees, and laying siege on our towns and villages and refugee camps, simply because we want to be free from their grip.. This is the real terrorism. Their terror is the cause, our resistance the effect.”
Hamas has made it clear that it now attacks civilians only because Israeli troops and armed settlers routinely attack Palestinian civilians. “As long as they target our civilians we will target their civilians. When they stop. We stop”
Hamas emphasizes that these martyrdom operations represent an exception necessitated by the Israeli insistence on targeting Palestinian civilians and by Israel refusal to agree to an understanding prohibiting the killing of civilians on both sides – an understanding comparable to the one reached with Hizbullah and Israel in Southern Lebanon.
No amount of Israelis state terror will suppress the burning desire of the Palestinian people for justice and freedom. As long a Palestine is occupied, every Palestinian men, women and child will resist occupation with the only – the ultimate – weapon in their possession, namely, their life.
(Mr. Firoz Osman is Secretary of the Media Review Network, which is an advocacy group based in Pretoria, South Africa.)