Wednesday, January 28, 2004

The Head Heeb:

This is one of the reasons why I reject the analogy between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and apartheid-era South Africa. Implicit in the definition of apartheid is the notion of a stronger population oppressing a weaker one as part of a program of racial supremacy. To call Israel an "apartheid state" is to argue that it is occupying the West Bank and Gaza simply because the Palestinians are Arabs - an argument that implicitly renders the intifada, terrorism and Palestinian nationalism irrelevant to the conflict.

The apartheid analogy therefore promotes an inaccurate understanding not only of the causes of the conflict but of the factors that keep it going. It also unreasonably narrows the range of possible solutions, given that compromise between nationalisms is morally and politically possible while compromise with racism is neither. If the apartheid analogy is accepted, then the Palestinians cannot legitimately be asked to make concessions in return for peace and statehood - a position which gives aid and comfort to Palestinian maximalists but does little to advance the cause of peace. In a conflict as politically sensitive and morally complex as this one, such analogies are profoundly unhelpful.