Vuvuzelas, Queer Toronto and Israel?
Activist pressure has once again defeated the apologists for Israel. Pride Toronto has now rescinded its ban of the words “apartheid Israel”. This post carries an expanded version of the statement that i would have sent to them, their statement and the Vuvuzela by John Greysonby film-maker John Greyson who is also a member of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. The QuAIA activists have again demonstrated that Israel apologists can be defeated. Their courage and success must inspire all of us. Even if you don’t read further please watch the video — it is great.
WHY I BELIEVE ISRAEL IS AN APARTHEID STATE
Our experience of global solidarity against apartheid South Africa demands solidarity with the people of Palestine, the Palestinians in Israel. It also demands solidarity with the Jewish people of conscience in Israel and around the world.
For many years and until the war against the people of Gaza, I resisted the use of the term apartheid to describe the Israeli state’s actions because I am wary of simplistic comparisons.
I now use the comparison because the Israeli Occupation is more cruel, systematic and perfected as a system of apartheid.
In 1994, the year of our freedom in South Africa, I turned 32. For 18 years, I contributed in a small way to the freedom of our country but nothing that I had lived could prepare me for the existential horror of the Palestinian people Christian and Muslim that I witnessed during a visit to Al-Khalil/ Hebron in 2008.
Desolate streets, eerily empty of people, the Magen David – Star of David painted on the doors of Palestinian homes and shops with graffiti “Death to the Arabs”, “Arabs are vermin”, “Arabs to the gas chambers” all confronted me. An Israeli soldier I spoke to was nervous and uncomfortable about his role in Occupation.
On another day, I listened to a Palestinian grandmother speaking of how her home regularly was raided and on a different occasion how she was stoned by a child no older than 12 years while Israeli soldiers and her settler parents watched.
Under apartheid except for a very brief period in Pretoria our people were never banned from streets. Black people had to use back-entrances to white people’s homes and even their shops but they were never forced to use the back-entrance of their own homes. In Al-Khalil/Hebron, I witnessed Palestinians using back-entrances or holes in walls to enter their own homes. Why? The Israeli army had boarded their front doors.
PASS LAWS AND THE PERMIT SYSTEM
Between 1890 and 1985, 19 million Black African people were convicted under Pass Law offences . The Pass laws were designed to maintain a cheap labour system and to prevent any family life and permanent settlement of Black people outside designated rural areas.
I witnessed cruel and barbaric pass law raids in South Africa as a child, visited pass law courts as a teenager and helped organise against the pass laws in the 1980s, they could never compare to the Orwellian Israeli permit system for donkeys, carts and people simply to cross roads to work their land.
THE APARTHEID WALL
The white minority government never built an Apartheid Wall even though they kept troops in the townships. The military check points were never a permanent feature of life and throughout most of apartheid did not prevent people who are ill from reaching hospitals. Apartheid never tried or could succeed in imprisoning a whole population. The Israeli State with the assistance of the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Jordan and the US has made the Occupied Territories a prison for all the people of Palestine.
My family and countless others were forcibly removed from their homes under the Group Areas Act but they were never expelled from the country of their birth such as the 2 million Palestinian refugees across the Arab world. In East Jerusalem, the attacks on the people of Silwan through forced removals could compare to the Group Areas Act because White minority regime wanted to “purify” the cities and towns. Apartheid removals were never effected through using terrorist groups such as the ElAd armed settlers funded through the so-called Jewish National Fund and right-wing Zionists in the United States of America.
Most importantly, the South African Defence Force with arms from Israel occupied our townships, shot children, the elderly and anyone who opposed them whether with stones or placards. This lead to a courageous campaign to end conscription by progressive White youth who refused to serve in the apartheid army. However, the apartheid army never bombed our townships in the way that the Israeli army bombs the people of Palestine or harasses them every day of their lives. Israel uses military rule against Palestinians and limited democracy for Jewish people who remain blind by consent.
THE FUTURE – JOINT STRUGGLE
In Palestine and Israel, I witnessed Mikhael Manekin one of the most courageous Orthodox Israeli who served as a soldier in the West bank and Hani-Abu Haikal a Muslim Palestinian whose ancestors have always lived in Al-Khalil working together. I saw young Palestinian activists and young Israeli anarchists place their bodies before the bulldozers and tanks of the Israeli armed forces. I saw families of the bereaved on both sides of the conflict committed to a politics of inclusion and mutual respect.
I saw this because there are Jewish Israelis who see Palestinians as human beings. There are also Palestinians with enormous generosity who see Jewish Israeli non-violent activists as human beings. This is the vision of a free, equal, sovereign and independent Palestine peacefully co-existing with a free Israel.
HOW CAN WE MOBILISE INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY FOR THE POLITICS OF INCLUSION AND MUTUAL RESPECT?
Article 1of the UDHR declares:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Resistance against Nazism, fascism and militarism gave birth to international human rights law and it is our duty to realise these rights in memory of the survivors and victims of the Holocaust and the war. We also owe this to the people of Palestine.
Everyone committed to freedom and equality regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability, nationality, ethnicity, marital status, non-belief or any other status must be won to the cause of Palestinian freedom. Their cause is not a religious war.
My generation who resisted apartheid learnt that the broadest possible coalition (based on this commitment to freedom and equality) can be united and built. This must be our aim in support of freedom in Palestinian.
I also learnt under apartheid that non-violent struggle as a principle expresses our commitment to the right to life and that the right to life also guarantees us the right to self-defence against attacks against our communities.
The unity of all people in South Africa regardless of race, the credo of our freedom struggle recognised the humanity of every person. In the same way, it is our duty to recognise the right of every Jewish person in Israel or anywhere to live without the threat or the reality of violence. Anti-semitism has no place in any struggle for freedom.
Israel is an apartheid state for the reasons I have outlined. It is also much worse than apartheid for many more reasons. A simplistic use of the comparison between Israel and South Africa would also demand the same solution that of a single unified state. I do not believe that the settlement in Israel can be the same as our negotiated settlement.
I recognise the right of Israel to exist as a democratic state committed to international law within the pre-1967. Every settlement must be removed under international supervision and those settlers who wish to remain must accept equal protection under Palestinian law.
The right to return to their national home must apply to all Palestinian refugees and recognised by all of us. All property seized within Israel must be returned or a settlement on compensation must be negotiated with the refugees.
All the major Palestinian organisations support the existence of two-states. Hamas has offered a 30-year ceasefire on such a basis. A minority of Palestinians and Israelis support the creation of a single, secular state with equal rights for all. The legitimate discussion of a one- or two-state solution should not divide us or divert our energies from building a movement for freedom, justice and peace with the people of Palestine and Israel.
We can all agree on the right of every person globally but particularly in the Middle East to freedom, equality and dignity.
For me, these principles are non-negotiable. Our strategies and tactics can diverge.
STRATEGY AND TACTICS
Mass non-violent struggle with the right of self-defence in both Palestine and Israel is the basis on which freedom will be won and international solidarity will succeed.
I support a targeted boycott of Israel’s academic and cultural institutions, sports tours and tourist sites. I also believe in full economic sanctions and restrictions of travel for every representative of the Israeli state. I believe that every Israeli war criminal must be prosecuted. No state should sell military equipment or buy it from the state of Israel. I also believe that military commanders in Palestine who have been involved in suicide bombing and war crimes against Israeli civilians must be prosecuted.
I will work with anyone who does not agree with the strategies that I adopt but subscribes to the principles of freedom, equality, dignity, non-violence and the right to self-defence as well as an end to the Occupation because we are all committed to a politics of inclusion and mutual respect.
Every person who struggles for the dignity of all people is part of the struggle for democracy, justice, self-determination and peace in Palestine, Israel and the Middle-East.
Recently, Pride Toronto banned the words “Apartheid Israel” under pressure from the apologists for Israel who threatened to withhold their funds. Anyone who knows the history of South Africa would know that the white minority regime banned words but they did not stop there.
Apartheid South Africa banned books, people and political parties struggling for freedom. Using words that were banned we resisted and we were detained imprisoned and tortured by the Apartheid State.
Our global allies in the anti-apartheid movement resisted their governments to support our struggle for human dignity and freedom. We won our freedom. Apartheid can be defeated in Israel and the Occupation can be ended in Palestine.
Queers Against Israeli Apartheid wins battle against censorship
June 23, 2010
PRIDE TORONTO BACKS DOWN ON DECISION TO CENSOR GROUP AT 2010 PRIDE PARADE
Queers Against Israeli Apartheid congratulates Toronto’s LGBT community for successfully reversing censorship at the 2010 Pride Parade. Pride Toronto announced today that it would not censor the term ‘Israeli apartheid’ from the parade.
“This is a victory for the Palestine solidarity movement, which has faced censorship and bullying tactics from the Israel lobby for far too long,” says Tim McCaskell, a member of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. “The Israel lobby learned a tough lesson today about our community’s proud history of standing up to censorship and human rights abuses.”
In May, Pride Toronto had announced that it would censor the term in response to pressure from the City of Toronto and Israel lobby groups. In response, Dr. Alan Li rejected the title of grand marshal for the 2010 parade and Jane Farrow refused her appointment as Honoured Dyke.
The decision to censor Queers Against Israeli Apartheid was met with widespread condemnation from the LGBT community, including Olympic gold medalist Mark Tewksbury, the 519 Church Street Community Centre, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and 23 current and former Pride honourees, who returned their awards in protest.