Friday, January 12, 2007

Is it Apartheid?

Jimmy Carter has come under fire for suggesting in his book Peace Not Apartheid that the Israeli policies used to control the Palestinians in occupied territories amount to a system of apartheid. Fourteen members of his 200-member advisory board for the Carter Center have resigned to protest his book. The Lede, a New York Times blog by Tom Zeller takes note of the controversy this morning. Hoisted from the comment section:

I have recently returned from a two week trip to Palestine, staying predominantly on the east side of the Wall, though I did spend time in a Palestinian town in Israel. Having never been to that region before, I read President Carter’s book on the flight over.

The inferences I draw from my visit is that Carter is pretty darn close to right. The title is provocative, but the situation on the ground does look like a system of apartheid. The critics say that it is not “race” based and therefore unfair to call the policy apartheid. these critics have a very narrow view of race, and/or a very narrow view of the meaning of apartheid. Palestinians drive on different roads than the Israelis, Palestinians have “papers” that are required to pass through areas; Palestinians cannot live in the same area as Israelis (settlements); passage between two points in the West Bank is regulated by Israeli troops and Palestinians are subject to the checkpoint policy. Israelis never get on the roads that have the checkpoints. These policies and impediments are set up to regulate one group of people based on a cultural trait. If that is not a form of apartheid, what is.

Jimmy Carter’s book is provocative and presents a side of the argument that is rarely heard in the US — even though it is around the rest of the world. The reason it is rarely heard is in part because of the vigorous challenge to any discourse critical or Israeli policy with regard to Palestine. The peace process in the Middle East is strained because of behavior by both the Israelis and the Palestinians, but it is not correct to argue that the Isralis have continually held out the olive branch, only to have it rejected by the Palestinians. The Palestinian would argue that the Israelis have continually bulldozed olive trees, with the tacit approval of the US government. The settlement policy, today, might be the biggest impediment to peace.

I wonder if any of the critics of Carter’s book have ever spent time with people in the Palestinian territories, whether they have ever listen to the voices from inside the wall.

If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck...

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