Michael Curtis is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Rutgers University, and author of Should Israel Exist? A Sovereign Nation under attack by the International Community.
It is saddening that the
latest celebrity to succumb to the fallacious Palestinian narrative
of the relationship between the Palestinian population and Israel is
Alice Walker, the distinguished Afro-American writer whose book The
Color Purple was a prize-winning contribution to American
literature. In a letter of June 9, 2012 to the Israeli
publisher Yediot Books she refused to allow the publication of a
Hebrew translation of her renowned book, dealing with racism in the
United States South, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in
Her letter is more based on fiction and misconceptions than on fact. She argues that “Israel is guilty of apartheid and persecution of the Palestinian people, both inside Israel and also in the Occupied Territories.” This goes even further than most of those who charge Israel with the appellation “apartheid,” since they apply the term only to the “Occupied Territories.” In addition, she writes that she supports the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS) because it will, she hopes, have an impact on Israeli society to change the situation.
Walker, who has visited Gaza and has participated in recent years in anti-Israeli activity, takes an unusually extreme viewpoint in her pronouncement by saying that Israel’s policies were worse than the segregation she suffered in her youth. She also relates conversations with unnamed South Africans who told her that those policies were worse than “apartheid.”
Like so many others, Walker does not appreciate that the goal of many of the supporters of BDS is not to improve the lot of the Palestinian population or to achieve peace between the contending parties but rather to eliminate totally the state of Israel.
Factual evidence and reasoned argument seem to have little impact on the critics and haters of Israel. Over and over again objective analysis has shown that apartheid, defined internationally as “inhumane acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group …over another racial group…and systematically oppressing them,” has no application to and is not consonant with the policies and actions of Israel.
Everyone will agree that inequities and problems exist in the relationship between Israel and Palestinian Arabs. The relationship exists in an imperfect society and imperfect people. Israel is a democratic society and like the United States is imperfect. Class and ethnic issues exist and are discussed freely in the Israeli press and on the floor of the parliament, and are acted upon, the only caveat being the need to protect the citizens of Israel from attack.
Imperfections do not constitute a situation of racism, discrimination, or segregation legally enforced. Reason is unlikely to persuade those who are the slave of passions or ideologically extreme, or those who are pathologically addicted to dislike or hatred of Jews. One can understand the moral value of empathy for those who are suffering. Walker, like so many other persons of good intentions, has swallowed the Palestinian assertion of victimhood, that they are an innocent people oppressed by a powerful country, supported by an international conspiracy on its behalf. If Palestinians are suffering this has been largely due to Arab unwillingness to reach a peaceful solution with Israel.
We need an explanation from Alice Walker of her passionate assault on Israel. Is she aware of the political and religion freedom of Arabs, Muslims and Christians, in the areas controlled by Israel? Arabs can build mosques and Christians can build churches in Israel, a religious freedom denied to Christians in many Muslim countries. Arabs are members of political parties, are members of the Israeli Parliament (Knesset), hold political executive positions throughout the country, are diplomatic representatives of the state, can study and teach at all Israeli universities, and can enter in to all professions. If she used public transport she would find that passengers, Arabs and Jews, are not segregated, as they were in South Africa or in her American South, but travel together freely.
If there is racism and discrimination in the area it is more pertinent to the words and actions of Palestinians than those of Israelis. One example may suffice. In a speech on July 11, 2010, Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian Authority, denied Israel’s link to Jerusalem. Judaization, he said, was stealing Jerusalem’s “cultural, human, and Islamic-Christian religious history…This land is Allah’s best land, for which He chooses the finest of His believers, as it is written in the words of the Prophet.”
How does Alice Walker’s accusation of apartheid apply to the reality of the recent Israeli case where a supreme court of two women and an Arab convicted a former president of the state of sexual offenses? Alice Walker appears to be so entrenched in her anti-Israeli views that she is apparently preparing to take part in another flotilla to Gaza. On the way there she may witness the 10.000 rockets in Gaza, some of which are deployed daily against Israeli civilians, the 50.000 missiles in the hands of Hezbollah in Lebanon, the absence of Israeli settlers in Gaza and in Sinai, the attacks on the pipeline in Sinai that exports gas to Jordan and Israel, and the fence that Israel is building to prevent the entrance of drugs and illegal immigrants.
Finally, Alice Walker may see some of the 120,000 black Africans from Ethiopia who are now citizens of the state of Israel. Whatever this remarkable assimiilation means it is not “apartheid.”