To the Editor:
The Yale Daily News’ “View” of the past Monday (“The Israeli divestment debate at Yale,” 10/14) is based on two simple but unequivocally false premises: (1) the term “apartheid” can only represent the particular form of debilitating structural discrimination perpetuated in South Africa by the Afrikaner National Party, and (2) that the movement which seeks to divest from Israel compares the plight of the Palestinians to the struggle of black South Africans without exception.
As an attendee at the Divestment Conference, which the editors discussed, I can firmly say that no one attending asserted either that the historical process which led to Israeli apartheid or the particular form of that apartheid is completely equivalent to its South African counterpart. As with all analogies, it is imperfect, but I do not believe that it can be casually tossed aside as “the rhetoric of old paradigms.”
The policies and practices of the Israeli state towards Palestinians both inside and outside Israel recreate the structural racism at the heart of South African apartheid. How else can one justify that Palestinians inside Israel, a full 20 percent of the citizenry with a continuous history of residence for hundreds of years, are denied the right to purchase or even settle on 92 percent of the land of Israel, while a Jewish Russian who has never been to the Middle East can become an Israeli citizen and purchase land overnight? Furthermore, every official map of the Israeli government delineates the borders of Israel as including the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights, yet the 3 million Palestinians living there are not only completely excluded from any form of participation in the shining “democracy” of the Middle East, but they are also subject to constant and sweeping 24-hour lockdowns, travel limitations, house demolitions, land confiscation, colonization (in the form of Jewish-only settlements and the Jewish-only bypass roads that connect them), and targeted assassinations of their political leaders. This immoral (and illegal) “separateness” in the eyes of the ruling authority was the root of the injustice perpetuated by South African apartheid, and it is that same injustice which now rears itself again, this time with the Palestinians as its victims.
As Desmond Tutu in his piece “Against Israeli Apartheid” writes, “yesterday’s South African township dwellers can tell you about today’s life in the Occupied Territories.” This shared experience is precisely what allows us to call Israel’s policies by their true name, and compels us to demand that our University divest.
Badr Albanna ’04
October 14, 2002
The writer is a member of Students for Justice in Palestine.