Israel should look to South Africa and do the right thing
Earlier this week, I watched a video recorded by Roger Waters, the legendary English recording artist. He was addressing US President Joe Biden regarding Sheikh Jarrah and the president’s unconditional support for Israel. The Pink Floyd star said: “You remember when we said we’re not going to play in Sun City? I thought we had something against apartheid. We certainly did when it was South Africa. Well why haven’t we got something against it now that it’s Israel?”
Israel, under the troubled government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, plans to evict Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, even as police stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque during one of the holiest nights of the entire year. This resulted in clashes; but this time they are different from the past. The occupation is no longer sustainable. Israel needs to take some bold decisions — otherwise its Jewish population faces the same fate as the whites of South Africa.
A wave of violence has taken over the country. The Palestinians will not be content to go back to the negotiating table. They don’t need negotiations with the Israelis; they need solutions that are definitive. For the past 30 years, negotiations have got them nothing but the maintenance of the occupation. I wrote in a previous article that the Palestinians have no one looking out for them but themselves.
Living under occupation is no longer bearable. For the Palestinians, it is do or die. What we see today is a third intifada because there is still no acceptable solution. However, this time the parameters are different. The Palestinians will not rely on the Arabs and will not trust any mediator. The general conditions are favoring the Palestinians. Public opinion has changed globally and Israel is internally weak. Israeli society is more polarized and divided than ever before, as shown by the four recent elections.
There is one truth Israel needs to reconcile with: It cannot keep occupying people who have a strong national belonging. By encroaching into Palestinian land and forcing settlements on Palestinians, while trying to prevent any clashes by segregating the two peoples, Israel is imposing a de facto apartheid situation. B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, in January published a report that accused Israel of being an apartheid state. Human Rights Watch did the same last month. Israel can no longer maintain the segregation and diffuse the accusations of apartheid.
The world is now looking at the root cause of the violence and it is not difficult to see that it is the occupation.
Dr. Dania Koleilat Khatib
It is becoming increasingly difficult for Israel to defend its position. Despite the rockets of Hamas, the world is now looking at the root cause of the violence and it is not difficult to see that it is the occupation. Even in the US, the support for Israel seems shaky. It is unprecedented to see attacks from Democratic lawmakers, whereas previously the support for Israel was taken for granted as a bipartisan matter. Even at a State Department press briefing this week, spokesperson Ned Price showed confusion when a journalist repeatedly asked him whether Palestinians have a right to self-defense.
It would be better for Israel to look at the future than to try and defend an indefensible position. What is the future of Israel? What is the future of the children of Israel? The country has a narrow window of opportunity to preserve what it has built over the last 73 years by making a decent settlement with its neighbor to end the occupation. The Israelis need look no further than South Africa and the end of apartheid there to foresee their future.
What made the situation change in South Africa were riots coupled with international pressure. The international pressure is now increasing on Israel because the public perception of the conflict has changed. The Jewish Israelis should think of their children. Do they want their children to live with widespread pressure on their country’s apartheid throughout their lives?
The Israelis should realize that the world is changing, the status quo is no longer sustainable, and the support they had is no longer available. The country has to make some bold decisions as temporary solutions will not work anymore. The Palestinians need a final decision from the Israelis — a decisive recognition of a Palestinian state and an end to the occupation. Of course, Israel has security concerns, but keeping 4.6 million Palestinians under the thumb will not make those concerns go away. On the contrary, the occupation is a breeding ground for violence against the citizens of Israel. The comparison Waters made between South Africa and Israel is not to be taken lightly. It is more than a romantic line spelled out by an artist — it foretells the future. Israel can spare its children this future if it takes correct and bold decisions today.
• Dr. Dania Koleilat Khatib is a specialist in US-Arab relations with a focus on lobbying. She is co-founder of the Research Center for Cooperation and Peace Building, a Lebanese NGO focused on Track II. She is also an affiliate scholar with the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut.