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Home arrow Israeli Apartheid Structures arrow Worlds Apart - Israel and South Africa
Worlds Apart - Israel and South Africa PDF Print E-mail
Feb 06, 2007 at 12:00 AM
by Chris McGreal [The Guardian, February 6, 2006]

Israelis have always been horrified at the idea of parallels between their country, a democracy risen from the ashes of genocide, and the racist system that ruled the old South Africa. Yet even within Israel itself, accusations persist that the web of controls affecting every aspect of Palestinian life bears a disturbing resemblance to apartheid. After four years reporting from Jerusalem and more than a decade from Johannesburg before that, the Guardian’s award-winning Middle East correspondent Chris McGreal is exceptionally well placed to assess this explosive comparison. Here we publish the first part of his two-day special report.

“Said Rhateb was born in 1972, five years after Israeli soldiers fought their way through East Jerusalem and claimed his family’s dry, rock-strewn plot as part of what the Jewish state proclaimed its ‘eternal and indivisible capital’. The bureaucrats followed in the army’s footsteps, registering and measuring Israel’s largest annexation of territory since its victory over the Arab armies in the 1948 war of independence. They cast an eye over the Rhateb family’s village of Beit Hanina and its lands, a short drive from the biblical city on the hill, and decided the outer limits of this new Jerusalem. The Israelis drew a line on a map - a new city boundary - between Beit Hanina’s lands and most of its homes. The olive groves and orchards were to be part of Jerusalem; the village was to remain in the West Bank...

Four decades later, the increasingly complex world of Israel’s system of classification deems Said Rhateb to be a resident of the West Bank - somewhere he has never lived - and an illegal alien for living in the home in which he was born, inside the Jerusalem boundary...

If Rhateb is not legally resident in his own home, then he is defined as an ‘absentee’ who has abandoned his property. Under Israeli law, it now belongs to the state or, more particularly, its Jewish citizens. ‘They sent papers that said we cannot sell the land or develop it because we do not own the land. It belongs to the state,’ he says. ‘Any time they want to confiscate it, they can, because they say we are absentees even though we are living in the house. That’s what forced my older brother and three sisters to live in the US. They couldn’t bear the harassment.’

There are few places in the world where governments construct a web of nationality and residency laws designed for use by one section of the population against another. Apartheid South Africa was one. So is Israel...”

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Blood and Champagne
EVERY PEOPLE elevate the profession in which they excel.

If a person in the street were asked to name the area of enterprise in which we Israelis excel, his answer would probably be: Hi-Tech. And indeed, in this area we have recorded some impressive achievements. It seems as if hardly a day passes without an Israeli start-up company that was born in a garage being sold for hundreds of millions. Little Israel is one of the major hi-tech powers in the world.

But the profession in which Israel is not only one of the biggest, but the unchallenged Numero Uno is: liquidations.

This week this was proven once again. The Hebrew verb "lekhassel" - liquidate - in all its grammatical forms, currently dominates our public discourse. Respected professors debate with academic solemnity when to "liquidate" and whom. Used generals discuss with professional zeal the technicalities of "liquidation", its rules and methods. Shrewd politicians compete with each other about the number and status of the candidates for "liquidation".

INDEED, FOR a long time now there has not been such an orgy of jubilation and self-congratulation in the Israeli media as there was this week. Every reporter, every commentator, every political hack, every transient celeb interviewed on TV, on the radio and in the newspapers, was radiant with pride. We have done it! We have succeeded! We have "liquidated" Imad Mughniyeh!

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