Israel and South Africa: Zionism=Apartheid?The analogy between Israel and apartheid South Africa does not usually help those who raise it to understand either; generally it functions as a short-cut to the boycott conclusion. Instead of helping us to think through the question of how we can fight for a just peace between Israel and Palestine it offers us a ready made cliché. Of course it is possible for this analogy, as others, to shed light; but in the political world which currently exists the analogy nearly always functions as a way of demonizing Israel. We all know that apartheid was evil and that it had to be defeated; we all know that this was achieved partly by means of an international boycott. If people can be encouraged to think of Israel as apartheid, then it will be thought of as evil and people will naturally believe that Israel needs to be defeated and isolated.
But Israel is not an apartheid state and justice will not come to the Middle East by isolating and defeating Israel.
The idea that Palestinians can only be free when they finally and totally defeat the 'evil' of Zionism does the fight for peace and justice a huge diservice. We need to support people in both Israel and in Palestine who fight against the demonization of the other; we should not support those who demonize the other nation and long for its complete defeat. Israel is not about to be defeated. And it is inconceivable that the defeat of Israel, if it were possible, could lead either to peace or to justice.
Here is some helpful writing on the apartheid analogy:
David Hirsh - comment piece in the South African Mail & Guardian here. (3 October 2008)
An excellent and clear piece by John Strawson on the Israel - South Africa analogy. Here. (May 06)
Franchising “Apartheid”: Why South Africans Push the Analogy - Rhoda Kadalie & Julia Bertelsmann
A detailed critique of PACBI's (Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) call for "BDS" – "Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions" – which relies on the 'Israel is an apartheid state' misrepresentation. Here. (David Hirsh, September 06)
'Why depict Israel as a chamber of horrors like no other in the world?' – Benjamin Pogrund on the apartheid analogy. Here. (February 06)
Israel is a democracy in which Arabs vote – Benjamin Pogrund. Here. (December 05)
Ralph Seliger on the apartheid analogy. Here. (February 06)
The Guardian: Israel and something worse than apartheid – Mark Gardner. Here. (February 06)
Did South Africa's Jews 'Benefit and Thrive' Under Apartheid? Here. (Nancy Tenenbaum, February 06)
Palestine: Occupation not Apartheid, by Moises Salinas. Read it here. (April 07)
Academic boycott of Israel in the light of the academic boycott of South Africa - Mira Vogel