Incompatible positions

In a recent piece on March 2nd Caroline Lucas put forward two incompatible positions.

First she put forward her support for dialogue with Hamas as long as Hamas recognises Israel:

“If the Palestinians can put together a government of genuine unity, based on tolerance, pluralism, and a commitment to previous peace process agreements that include the recognition of Israel, then it is the responsibility of the international community to accept it – regardless of whether or not it contains members of Hamas.”

Then she called Israel’s security barrier an “apartheid wall”.

The barrier was a response to terrorist bombers of the Second Intifada who deliberately targeted and killed hundreds of Israeli civilians inside Israel. Inside Israel (with some important exceptions, but with things moving in the right direction) Arab/Palestinian Israeli citizens, Jews and other minorities have equal rights. However, Israel’s conduct in its occupation of Palestinian lands and its dealings with Israeli settlers on the one hand and Palestinians on the other, are inherently racist. The separation and vastly different circumstances of Israeli settlers and Palestinians are blatantly obvious and appalling. The security barrier, while a response to terrorist incursions, was routed in such a way that it took in quantities of Palestinian land outside the Green Line. This deprived many Palestinians of their livelihoods. For example, the Palestinian village of Qalqilya, a longstanding site of attacks on Israel at its narrowest part (just 12km across), has become an encircled with a single Israeli-staffed passage to the outside world.

However, the term “apartheid wall” communicates a view that Israel and Palestine are, or should be, a single country, and this being the case, the barrier constitutes apartheid. I don’t think that Caroline Lucas tends to say that all borders constitute apartheid – only Israel’s.

It doesn’t make any sense to support recognition of Israel while in the same breath subtlely invalidating its existence. It’s no more possible to espouse peace without engaging seriously with the threats against Israel than it’s possible to espouse peace while turning a blind eye to the ongoing Israeli settlement activity.

6 thoughts on “Incompatible positions

  1. Pingback: A couple on Greens Engage « Engage - the anti-racist campaign against antisemitism

  2. Michael McNab

    Given, as you say, the wall does not in fact follow the Israeli border but cuts through Palestinian land, surely it’s possible to refute the legitimacy of the wall while recognising the legitimate borders of Israel?

    And if either the route of the wall or the conduct of the guards at checkpoints such as the one you describe mean that Israeli settlers are able to come and go more freely than their Palestinian neighbours, wouldn’t that constitute a kind of apartheid? Albeit this apartheid is in effect colonial rather than domestic: an apartheid imposed upon an Israeli-occupuied territory rather than on Israel itself.

    So it seems to me that Lucas is not saying that there should be no border between the West Bank and Israel, but that the West Bank should have no *internal* borders.

  3. Mira Vogel Post author

    Caroline Lucas doesn’t only question the legitimacy of the wall (which is necessary given its route – the Israeli Supreme Court has also ruled changes to the route, although this is an unsatisfactory, tortuous way to effect change).

    She calls it “apartheid”.

    If she means – as you suggest – that the WB should have no *internal* borders – particularly not those imposed by an occupier – then this point would be completely separate from any point about apartheid.

    Apartheid was a system of white South Africans imposing separation on other South Africans on the basis of not of security but an abominable idea of racial hygiene. In difficult situations where it was hard to tell whether a person should be designated ‘black’ or ‘coloured’, there was the pencil test – was the hair curly enough to support a pencil.

    Using apartheid with reference to Israel is false propaganda, and pretty disgusting to me.

    It’s a separation wall, a defence wall, and self-evidently an annexation wall, and should be opposed as such.

  4. bbm

    Apartheid consisted of several elements, so it seems to me you are picking some to discredit Caroline and obscure the valid comparison she was drawing.

    It would be like saying that under apartheid South Africa black people couldn’t sit on park benches reserved for whites (one element of petty apartheid) whereas in Israel &occupied areas Palestinians can’t use certain roads. And we all know that benches and roads are completely different structures. Ludicrous analogy.

    Or how about ethnic cleansing me certain areas and land? In South Africa it was done in the name of “self-determination” and “internal development”. In Israel it’s of course not ethnic cleansing at all because it serves a different purpose, security. It’s just a coincidence that the wall cuts into swaths of Palestinian land.

    And of course there’s no racism in Israel so we never hear diatribes against “Arabs” or demeaning jokes based on their ethnicity. Well, it’s different because those jokes aren’t based on hair curliness.

    Unlike apartheid South Africa you would never get a situation where a whole ethnic group could be barred from voting for example. Or if you did it would be for different reasons, not ethnic superiority?

  5. Mira Vogel Post author

    Hello Big Blue Meanie.

    Sarcasm doesn’t suit you. Look. The roads discriminate on national, not ethnic, grounds – the ethnic discrimination is definitely there but it is indirect and not codified in law. The occupation is wrong, we agree. The wall’s route is a travesty, as is the ongoing settlement activity. Of course there’s racism in Israel – and a lot of it, and it cuts different ways which is why the one-state proposers are cloud cuckoos. But apartheid was above all a legally encoded system based on biology. There is no such thing in Israel. Israel’s minorities fare better than any others in the region, although the pressures are such that there is no reason for complacency. Israel is also fired upon and hated, returns fire, occupies, oppresses, and kills. It’s not apartheid – it’s something else. Clearly it’s a complex situation. It stands within a complex Middle East. Have a look at the Middle East Pact.

    Caroline Lucas wasn’t drawing a valid comparison when she chucked in the word ‘apartheid’. Daniel Glaser did though, in Glaser, D. J. “Zionism and Apartheid: a moral comparison” in Ethnic and Racial Studies, 26:3 2003. He supported the comparison in part and rejected it in others. He made a lot of the difference in circumstances within the Green Line to that in the Occupied Territories.

    Caroline simply and irresponsibily and populistly (sorry for adverbing) used an incendiary word.


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