In the Hague tomorrow, debate will begin on Israel's security barrier, erected to stem the tide of hundreds of suicide bombers, who have killed close to a thousand Israelis since the start of the Intifada in late September 2000. This morning brings news of the latest atrocity, the murder of 7 Israelis, mostly young students, whose crime was traveling on a Jerusalem bus. Municipal authorities in the Hague announced today that they will allow family and friends of some of the terror victims to rally outside the Court where the hearing will be held, holding pictures of the murdered Israelis. Israel, which believes the Court has no jurisdiction over the matter, will boycott the hearing.
Increasingly, the security fence (it is a wall for only about 3% of its length) is described by critics as Israel's 'apartheid wall.' The language is carefully chosen, and deliberately provocative. Some Israel haters have at times compared Israel's behavior in the territories to the Nazis. This language, while having a shock effect, has tended to embarrass the critic, more than Israel. There is still something despicable and shameful, at least for most fair—minded people, about comparing the people in the state created for the remnants of the Holocaust in Europe with the manufacturers of genocide.
When NPR's chief of international news, Loren Jenkins, compared Israel to the Nazis for their invasion of Lebanon in 1982, it served primarily to identify Jenkins as an enemy of Israel, and probably a Jew—hater, and made it easy to understand the problem at NPR, where Jenkins has kept his job, despite his profound bias, for many years. The news on Israel at NPR doesn't just happen — it is created to fit a worldview.
So too, the use of apartheid language is part of a systematic campaign to de—legitimize Israel and prepare the way for a single Arab majority Palestinian state, from which Jews would be wise to leave. South Africa and apartheid stand for two things in the world today. The first is the evil of apartheid — a white minority—ruled government, which became a pariah nation, and eventually succumbed to international pressure and domestic resistance, and which eventually ceded power to the black majority.
But the second global meaning of South Africa is reconciliation. The fact that Nelson Mandela's South African leadership did not expel the white minority after it came to power, but created power—sharing in government and some protection for whites' economic interests, is enormously important.
There is a certain romanticizing of just how well things have gone in South Africa since apartheid's end. In many ways South Africa is not a very pretty picture at the moment. The country has one of the world's highest murder rates: ten to fifteen times that in the United States. The crime problem is so severe that many whites have hired their own private security forces to guard their homes and farms. A quarter of the adult population may be HIV infected.
But clearly South Africa, for all its problems, is not Zimbabwe. There are some protections for all citizens, and there is a commitment to law and order, however fragile the results so far, Most importantly, the country has attempted through various commissions to get the story out about what happened during the apartheid era, and achieve some reconciliation among the races after decades of bitterness and fighting.
It is this last aspect that is critical to the campaign against Israel. Israel's security barrier is the 'apartheid wall,' since this can be presented as the last vestige of a dying colonialism. The occupation and the settlements which seize Palestinian territory and oppress the local population are implicitly the vestige of an atavistic racial order by this comparison.
In yesterday's Boston Globe and earlier articles, Israeli ultra leftist Jeff Halper decries the 'apartheid wall.' When an Israeli Jew uses this language, it becomes much easier for those critics of Israel who may not be merely confused, but truly ill—intentioned to repeat the slander.
As most who have studied the history of this conflict know, the 1967 lines separating Israel from Jordan in the West Bank, and Egypt in Gaza were armistice lines from 1949, and not permanent borders. Neither the occupation of the West Bank by Jordan, nor Gaza by Egypt was internationally recognized. The territories, in both cases, are legally disputed, not belonging by law to either Israelis or Palestinians.
The 1967 war, which brought control of these territories to Israel, was a war begun by Egypt, and resulted in Arab losses on all fronts, including Syria in the Golan. There are consequences to starting and losing wars. Ask Germany about East Prussia, if you care to dispute the point. The winners are not obligated to return to the previous lines.
UN resolution 242 from November 1967 made no such demand on Israel, and anticipated modifications from the armistice lines of 1949, if that would lead to a more stable peace between the parties. But today, any incursion by the security barrier beyond the armistice lines is accused to be a land grab, part of a plan for permanent Israeli occupation.
In the black—is—white world of the Middle East, Prime Minister Sharon's decision to unilaterally abandon most, if not all, Gaza settlements is criticized by the Palestinians and their allies as unilateralism. For years, of course, the Palestinians have demanded that Israel first withdraw from the territories, and then the two sides could negotiate (about dividing Israel presumably).
The real fear of Israel's enemies, is that Sharon's Gaza plan might take some international pressure off of Israel, just as the Court in the Hague was turning up the heat. So too, Israel's security barrier is attacked for only one substantive reason — that it might actually be successful in limiting the Palestinian terror weapon. The Palestinians have successfully inculcated their population with Jew—hatred, and established a death cult sanctifying murder. Many thousands dream of being martyrs and giving their lives to slaughtering Jews. There is a big supply of killers, and the Palestinians worry about how to use them if the security barrier makes it harder for them to succeed in their missions.
But the South African model of reconciliation is also in play in the new campaign to acknowledge that the two state solution is dead. Here the 'apartheid wall', and the 'land grab' and the continued growth of settlements, are used to argue that Israel's encroachment into the West Bank has become too deep for any two state solution to succeed. This of course ignores the Israeli offer to create a contiguous Palestinian state on virtually all of the West Bank and all of Gaza at Camp David and Taba three years ago.
A mini—state in Gaza and the West Bank has never been the Palestinian goal. The goal is a single Palestine in which the much higher Arab birth rate plus the return of refugees will enable the Palestinians to quickly gain the upper hand. Under those circumstances, Jews, who understand that Palestine is not South Africa and Arafat is not Mandela, will come to their senses and leave. This is and always has been the Palestinian goal. Not two states living side by side in peace or one state for two people, but one state for one people (perhaps with a small Jewish minority praying in Jerusalem, for appearances sake, but which does not threaten Arab control).
The use of the South African analogies, 'apartheid' for the security barrier, and 'reconciliation' after the single state solution, are both lies. But they serve to pretty—up a miserable Palestinian history that has been defined above all by terror, and also slamming the door shut on any compromise resolution of the conflict.
In my judgment Prime Minister Sharon has correctly recognized that the conflict is not resolvable at the moment. So he is seeking to minimize the areas of provocation, conflict and terror. That is wise, and statesmanlike. If Palestinian leaders had ever behaved the same way, there would be no refugee camps today, 55 years after the end of the war in 1949. Generations would not have been sacrificed as political pawns, and their offspring turned into murderers. As Golda Meir said, when the Palestinians love their children more than they hate Israel, this conflict will end.