Matt McCarten on politics

Matt McCarten is a Herald on Sunday political columnist

Matt McCarten: Mandela's dream yet unfulfilled

Nelson Mandela lies on his deathbed, rightly honoured for his sacrifice in fighting the evil of apartheid.

Unfortunately that doctrine still lingers - in Israel. It's a pity we in New Zealand were reminded of that in the week Mandela started to slip away.

Two events highlight the plight of the Palestinians. A Palestinian from Gaza, Mohammed Assaf, won the Arab Idol singing contest. He had trouble crossing borders and arrived late, but climbed a fence and convinced someone else to let him take their place. On news of his victory, jubilant crowds took to the streets throughout the Occupied Territories. Even fun-hating Hamas saluted him.

Assaf used his 15 minutes of fame by naming himself an international ambassador, calling for an end to the split between Hamas and the secularist Fatah Party. He also called for the end to Israel's occupation.

I suspect the Israelis feel deeply guilty about their abusive role and but just can't confront the reality that their treatment of the Palestinian people is similar to how their forbears were treated by others.

Israel resigns itself to blaming the victims and walling off the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and pretending they don't exist.

Mandela called it for what it is, a form of apartheid. How else would you describe a land of 11.5 million people where 6.5 million with a certain bloodline get full citizen privileges, the few Palestinians living within Israel's recognised borders live under separate laws, and the remaining millions banished to the Occupied Territories get no rights?

Apartheid South Africa tried internal "independent homelands". West Bank and Gaza self-governing entities are fictions, too.

How do we all get out of this mess?

Enter last week Miko Peled, the son of an Israeli general who also served as governor of Gaza. His family is part of the ruling elite in Israel. At his public lecture in Auckland last Sunday he explained his journey from someone who was raised to believe the Jewish people in 1948 rose as heroes from the ashes to form a democratic state. The noble founders didn't hurt women and children, or stole or looted. They asked the Arabs to stay but they left of their own will.

When Peled's niece was killed by a suicide bomber, he went on a personal journey to confront the myths on which he was raised. Peled's grandmother, who is 86, helped him on that journey. In 1948, as a young girl in Jerusalem, she witnessed the mass looting and the forced eviction of Palestinians from their homes that were then given to Israelis.

In the 1967 war the Israelis erased many of the villages in the West Bank and replaced them with exclusively Jewish settlements. The former residents remain stateless and landless in refugee camps. After that victory Peled's father lobbied his Government to grant a Palestinian state or it would never happen. They didn't. Now it is too late.

Peled puts his finger on the obvious conclusion to the Palestinian questions. There can never be a two-state solution. There is only one state. It's called Israel.

Whether people like it or not the Occupied Territories are part of it. The present reality is untenable.

One day soon, Palestinians will be a majority in Israel and its Occupied Territories. The world needs to find its backbone and tell Israel that their silliness must cease and be replaced with a secular democratic state like any civilised society.

Until then, Mandela's dream of one person, one vote is still a work in progress.

- Herald on Sunday

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