May 22, 2010

Israeli apartheid banned at Gay Pride

By Zehavi Abramsky - May 2010.

CANADA - The group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid has been banned from joining in with the Gay Pride celebrations in Toronto. Members of the group can still attend the Gay Pride Parade, etc., but they won't be allowed to enter a float in the parade.

The group promotes peace between Israel and Palestine, but the use of the word "apartheid" has upset Jewish groups because it implies that Israel doesn't treat Palestinians equally.

Which is quite accurate. Palestinians aren't allowed to vote and are basically treated like second class citizens... or more specifically, they're treated as dangerous foreigners who happen to be sharing the same ancestral land.

APARTHEID: A social policy or racial segregation involving political and economic and legal discrimination against people who are not White or Caucasian.

Historically the term is most often used to describe the policy of racial separation used in South Africa from 1948 to 1990. Whites had all the rights to vote, could go anywhere they pleased, etc. Mixed race people had less rights and basically the blacker you were the less rights and freedoms you had.

In Israel and Palestine however its more complicated. The government of Israel has built walls separating Israeli and Palestinian communities, essentially fencing in Palestinians in what is arguably the world's largest concentration camp. The walls are also used to cut Palestinians off from sources of employment, farms, land they own, food, etc. All in the name of protecting Israel.

And we're not talking little walls either. As you can see in the photo here these walls are made so tall that they make the Berlin Wall look small.

These walls are then guarded by Israeli troops. Entrance points to Palestinian towns are well guarded, making it very difficult for Palestinians to leave. There's even been incidents of tunnels (like in the film The Great Escape) dug under the wall so people can get out of there, find food and bring it back to their families.

Sounds familiar doesn't it?

During WWII the Nazis established ghettos to confine Jews and sometimes Romas into tightly packed areas of the cities of Eastern Europe, turning them into de-facto concentration camps. The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest of these ghettos, with 400,000 people. The Ghetto Litzmannstadt was the second largest, holding about 160,000. By keeping them penned in the Nazis were able to control them, starve them of food, refuse them medical treatment, allow them to die of disease and famine... and then photographed them and used the photographs of their deplorable conditions as propaganda to prove to the German people that Jews and Gypsies were sub-human. And they did it all in the name of protecting Germany from the threat of Jewish diseases, Jewish criminals, etc.

The Nazis also rounded up Poles, Ukrainians, other ethnic groups, homosexuals and people with mental problems. Anyone considered a traitor to Germany was either rounded up or shot.

So while the time and place may have changed, and the methods and motivations are also different, we can all see the similarities.

Nazi Germany, Apartheid South Africa, Israel and Palestine. The ugly face of segregation.

The big trick here is that people who support Israel's occupation of Palestinian land get really upset when you compare Israel to Germany or South Africa. I don't mean Jews, because not all Jews support Israel's military or government. I am just referring to "supporters".

Now some people might accuse me of being a self-hating Jew because I don't support Israel. Boohoo. Do you really think I care about that? My grandparents left Poland in 1939. They saw segregation first hand and the way it demoralizes and humiliates people. I'd argue its a war crime.

I think that some people in Israel have reacted to the segregation they felt during WWII and then instead of recognizing it as a bad thing they've gone and used it instead on Palestinians. I am probably not alone in thinking this. There's even a psychological term for this (although I forget the word for it), when someone does something traumatizing to you and you do the same thing to another person.

Its also a form of displacement revenge. They can't get revenge against the Nazis, so instead they take out their revenge on someone else. This displaced aggression isn't very therapeutic however because then the receiving party tends to retaliate and a deadly cycle of violence ensues.

And failing to admit that its all about revenge is another issue. Denialism in this case, denying that there are similarities to Nazi Germany and South African Apartheid, denying that what the Israeli military is doing is wrong, only furthers the problem. It has absolutely nothing to do with protecting Israel. Its all about revenge, paranoia and prejudice.

And trying to censor people and denying that Israel is using apartheid methods to control the Palestinian people isn't going to solve anything. Only discussion and open understanding will solve these problems.

Eventually the walls must come down.

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